Tea and light refreshments: South Canterbury District Councils share entertainment and catering costs

South Canterbury District Councils have spent more than $238,000 on entertainment and catering over the past five years.

The total comes from the numbers provided to The Timaru Herald in accordance with the requirements of the Law on Official Information and Local Government Meetings.

The largest region, Timaru, topped the food and beverage spend with $157,787 – this includes $39,641 in 2019-2020, $38,128 in 2020-2021, $28,788 in 2021-2022, $42,433 in 2022 -2023 and $8,789 for the year to date.

The figures provided by each council cover slightly different periods with a total of $21,818 to Waimate, including $3494 for 2018-19, followed by $5476, $3390, $2182, $4080 in subsequent years and $3192 (partly for 2023-24 .).

The Mackenzie region, the smallest by population, spent $21,382 in 2022-23, almost the total of Waimate’s spending over five years. Mackenzie’s total expenses for 2018-2023 are $72,221. Annual costs beginning in 2018-2019 were $8,732, $12,439, $16,703 and $12,962.

Timaru District Council has spent $699.65 at McDonald's since 2022.


Timaru District Council has spent $699.65 at McDonald’s since 2022.

Timaru’s $157,787 spent included more than $40,000 at two South Canterbury cafes and more than $4000 at a Timaru tavern.

He also spent $3,594 at takeaways, including McDonald’s, Pita Pit, Domino’s, Pizza Hut and Subway.

The council’s communications and engagement manager Stephen Doran said lunches and catering were not provided to members of staff “as a general rule”.

“We also cater for a small number of staff functions throughout the year, such as Christmas, and during Civil Defense events we provide sustenance for staff and volunteers who cannot leave the Emergency Operations Center during the operational period,” he said .

“While we strive to use local caterers where possible, places like Pita Pit and McDonald’s are sometimes the only options available to feed large numbers of people on short notice during emergencies.”

A similar amount was spent at Timaru’s bottle shops, raising $3683 over the same period.

Doran said alcohol was provided for those attending external events organized by the council, such as Business After 5, the official function to welcome the Governor-General and museum openings.

“All alcohol at staff functions is not bought with public funds,” he said.

The Timaru figures show relatively stable spending over the period, with the council forking out $39,641 in 2019-2020, $38,128 in 2020-2021, $28,788 in 2021-2022, $42,433 in 2022-2023 and $8,789 for the year to date.

Richard Pearce's Tavern, where the Timaru District Council spent $4146.52.


Richard Pearce’s Tavern, where the Timaru District Council spent $4146.52.

The figures are broken down by department and list 86 businesses where the council spent $157,787.

Four businesses in South Canterbury accounted for more than 60 per cent of spending, with $33,704 spent at Office Max, $24,293 with Fonterra Brands NZ Ltd, $22,173 at Station Cafe and $18,425 at Sopheze Coffee Lounge and Catering.

The council said the Office Max spend was on tea and coffee, while the Fonterra spend was on milk.

In terms of departments, the figures show council buildings and satellite sites spent the most – $55,039 – $11,060 in the 2020 financial year, $16,649 in 2020-21, $10,945 in 2021-22, $12,677 in 2022- 23 and $3,705 as of July this year.

A department called “public responsibility” spent $44,801 at 44 businesses, including $10,068 at Station Cafe, $7,938 at Sopheze and $5,331.29 at CBay Cafe.

The maintenance and management team spent $19,220, including $5,401 at Station Cafe, $4,146 at Richard Pearse Tavern and $3,703 at Sopheze.

Timaru District Council citizenship ceremony catering in October 2023.

JOHN BISSET/Miscellaneous

Timaru District Council citizenship ceremony catering in October 2023.

In 2021, the engagement and culture department spent $890 on Timaru’s cookie business, Llama Cookie Drama.

In releasing the figures, the Council’s group manager of trade and strategy, Trudy Hurst, explained that the total figures for each year included $3,242.60 for servicing citizenship ceremonies.

“These costs are reimbursed by the Home Office,” Hurst said.

Broken down – over the past four years, $879 has been spent on the ceremonies in 2020, $601.74 in 2021, $430.43 in 2022 and $1,300.44 so far this year.

Waimate Council said their information was “provided within the limitations of the categorization that is available to us in our systems”.

“For example, some expenses may include food but also include a claim for other expenses such as parking. We cannot go into the details without needing additional time. We have included these costs in total to be conservative.

“Furthermore, we note that expenditure incurred on catering involves a variety of recipients, including elected members, guests, staff and the public.

“The majority of costs ($15,294) are related to governance (elected member meetings) and civil defense purposes.”

There was no breakdown in Mackenzie’s council response, but he said the figures were the cost of all entertainment and catering for council meetings, functions, staff celebrations and food and drink costs incurred by staff (lunch, coffees) – in the past five years.


$22,173.01 was spent at The Station Cafe in Timaru.


$22,173.01 was spent at The Station Cafe in Timaru.

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