Wednesday, April 26, 2017

$7000 booze bill for NZ's Trump bash

Craig McCulloch,

Taxpayers forked out more than $7000 on alcohol for guests at a glitzy party in Washington celebrating US President Donald Trump's inauguration.
NZ-branded napkins at the Washington gala.
According to official documents, New Zealand spent $750 on customised napkins for the Inauguration Gala on 17 January in Washington.Photo: Facebook / NZ Embassy Washington
The government has released a complete breakdown of spending on the function in response to an Official Information Act request, after earlier confirming the total bill topped $80,000 ($US58,247).
Among the costs were $690 ($US478) on VIP pins, $750 ($US520) on customised napkins and $1780 ($US1235) to hire foliage.
More than 320 people attended the four-hour gala on 17 January, including actors, business people and government figures, hosted by New Zealand ambassador Tim Groser.
A February briefing, released along with the cost breakdown, anticipated "intense" media interest and noted that alcohol cost less than 10 percent of the total budget at slightly more than $7000 ($US4890).
That included more than $2500 ($US1765) on spirits and about $650 ($US450) on champagne.
The guests also polished off about 100 bottles of red wine - a 2014 pinot noir from Otago's Peregrine Winery - at a cost of about $1890 ($US1311).
Another $1520 ($US1057) was shelled out to provide white wine - a Cloudy Bay sauvignon blanc from Marlborough and a chardonnay from Neudorf Vineyards in Nelson.
Ten waitstaff and five bartenders helped serve the guests over the night at a cost of about $5900 ($US4110).
The food bill topped $8240 ($US5720) and about $1800 ($US1250) was spent on valet parking.
The largest cost by far was $23,670 ($US16,445) to hire furniture, followed by $8520 ($US5917) for the marquee.
Tim Groser (right) with US actor Jon Voight at the Washington gala.
Tim Groser, right, with US actor Jon Voight at the Washington gala. Photo: Facebook / NZ Embassy Washington
The total bill was covered by the New Zealand Embassy and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade's public diplomacy fund.
The February briefing said the embassy had cleared the budget with the ministry before the event and had "flagged sensitivities".
Funding came from within MFAT's baseline budget and met standard approval criteria, the ministry said.
"The event was considered as a constituency building activity to position New Zealand's interests effectively with the new US administration and Congress."
The embassy noted it had received "positive feedback" from guests about the function including from Air New Zealand's chief marketing officer, Mike Tod.
It also touted the "key US influencers" in attendance, including Mr Trump's chief strategist Steve Bannon and New Zealand-born assistant Chris Liddell.
More than 320 people attended the gala in Washington, hosted by NZ ambassador Tim Groser.
More than 320 people attended the gala, including actors, business people and government figures. Photo: Facebook / NZ Embassy Washington
An article in the Washingtonian in January described the New Zealand Inauguration Gala as the beginning of the "party circuit" for many.
"Ambassador Tim Groser made no attempt to hide his elation about the evening's guest list," the report said.
"He regaled the crowd with the story of how he first snagged Trump's cell phone number (he knew a guy who knew a guy) and professed his own thrill about the end of 'PC' culture."
The article reported that Mr Groser told the crowd, "Getting access to Trump will be everybody's ambition... We have got off to a flying start."

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