New Zealand Minister's $1,500 San Francisco SUV Ride Raises Eyebrows

So, it turns out the America's Cup wasn't the spectacular moneymaker we were all promised, repeatedly, ad nauseum


But you can't blame a free-spending New Zealand government official for not doing his part. Kiwi Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee is in hot water back home after spending $1,543 for a day-long, chauffeured  SUV trip during an America's Cup-timed meeting here

New Zealand's Prime Minister, John Key, was forced to defend this use of public money. Key -- who has a hell of a sense of humor -- described the hiring of a driver and large automobile as "appropriate" and "relative." 

Well, perhaps it is the latter -- if the comparison is flagging down an Uber vehicle during Hurricane Sandy

"If you were using it because you were taking advantage of a situation and couldn't be bothered getting in a taxi that's one issue," Key told the media. "But when you're dealing with going big distances in a place where it's not necessarily that practical, lots of businesspeople do that."

That's an odd thing to say, for so many reasons. 

First of all, even a surge-priced Uber wouldn't run that kind of money. Second, San Francisco is blessed with many forms of transportation that don't involve chauffeured SUVs. Third, there are no "big distances" in San Francisco; New Zealand may be a small country, but this is a small city. And, finally, $1,543? What the hell? 

If nothing else, Key seems like a good dude to work for. He also defended his ministers' occasional use of public funds to quaff beers out of the hotel minibars: "It's not impossible that people spend all day working and quite often actually into the night they have meetings, and they get back to their hotel and they end up having some room service and a beer out of the minibar. 

"In the real world, most Kiwis would say that's OK."

Perhaps. And perhaps it depends on your taste in beer.
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