Nice perk if you can get it

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Despite an economy drive inside Queens­town’s council and its corporate empire, staff perks still cost ratepayers about $285,000 a year. 

Snow days, life insurance, cell­phone calls and Koru Club memberships all feature in the list of freebies. 

Private use of office vehicles is the costliest perk. 

“There is no way of estimating the actual cost of personal vehicle use,” council corporate services and regulatory manager Roger Taylor tells Mountain Scene in response to an Official Information request. 

Taylor does the next best thing and discloses the Fringe Benefit Tax (FBT) on personal vehicle use – the council’s annual FBT bill is $55,927 and council companies cough up another $86,374. 

At $142,301 all up, personal vehicle use comprises half the cost of all perks. 

Taylor points out staff granted private vehicle use must make those vehicles available for colleagues to drive on official business if necessary. 

Like many other organisations, the council and associated companies Lakes Environmental, Lakes Leisure and Queenstown Airport Corporation offer subsidised health insurance to staff. 

The total cost of subsidising Southern Cross’s basic health cover is $93,147 yearly. 

A Mountain Scene analysis of the official information on perks throws up an inconsistency. 

While staff perks at the council itself are confined to health insurance and vehicle use, council companies are far more liberal. 

Regulatory company Lakes Environmental gives its 70 staff – except chief executive Hamish Dobbie for some reason – an extra day’s leave called snow days. 

This perk costs $12,820 annually, Dobbie discloses. 

Dobbie’s firm also shells out $14,800 yearly for staff memberships of professional bodies. 

Perhaps most unusual, LE also has insurance cover over the lives of its 70 employees. 

Also, Koru Club memberships at $500 a pop are given to three employees at other council companies. Those memberships are for two unnamed Queenstown Airport Corporation executives whilst a Lakes Leisure executive also gets a Koru Club pass. 

Lakes Leisure discloses that 17 employees get free cellphones plus $10 of private calls monthly. 

Six airport staff also have cellphones for what’s termed “reasonable personal use”. 

Friday night drinks cost Lakes Leisure and the airport an estimated $2000 a year each, the companies disclose. 

In its perks analysis, Mountain Scene disregarded Kiwisaver contributions, the cost of morning teas, and staff Christmas functions – Kiwisaver contributions are a legal must for employers, while morning teas and Christmas shouts come free at most workplaces.