Horizons ex-chairman ‘won’t be keeping’ BMW he just bought

Former Horizons Regional Council chairman Bruce Gordon bought the council-provided, 4-year-old, $97,000 BMW for $42,000.

WARWICK SMITH/STUFF

Former Horizons Regional Council chairman Bruce Gordon bought the council-provided, 4-year-old, $97,000 BMW for $42,000.

The ousted Horizons Regional Council chairman at the centre of a furore over his purchase of the $97,000 BMW that came with the job now says he’s “not keeping it” and denies it is a “luxury” vehicle.

Bruce Gordon paid $42,000 to keep the 2015 BMW X4 Xdrive, 3-litre diesel car, revealed in 2018 to be the most expensive driven by any local government elected official in New Zealand, after the council deposed him as chairman in October.

The vehicle was chosen by Gordon and bought for $97,000 in 2016 for his official and personal use. It had done 84,000 kilometres when he bought it off the council. 

When questioned about the cost of the vehicle in 2018, Gordon admitted it “wasn’t a good look”, but assured Stuff it wasn’t costing the ratepayers anything extra and the vehicle would retain much of its value when the council sold it.

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On Thursday, Gordon denied the car was a “luxury” vehicle and maintained ratepayers got a good deal from the arrangement.

“To me, a luxury car would be something like a $180,000 Audi, not a $42,000 car.” 

The Remuneration Authority in 2018 introduced a cap on how much councils could spend on a vehicle for its top elected official – $65,000 for an electric vehicle, or $55,000 for a petrol or diesel vehicle.

It had been previously reported, and not challenged, that Gordon was paying $27,000 a year toward the cost of the vehicle.

“That would be ridiculous. It was $27,000 over three years,” he said.

That sum would have been his total salary sacrifice if he had remained chairman and continued to use the car until it was due to be traded in at the end of June 2020. 

Instead, his salary sacrifice was $23,402, an amount calculated using a formula in the Remuneration Authority rules to cover the privilege of private use of a council vehicle.

Gordon said as well as docking his salary, the council was able to claim back GST on the original purchase price, and it got a market value price at the end, after he had driven it for three years.

“That means it’s cost the council about $6000 a year.”

When invited to confirm his calculations in writing, Gordon said the whole business was “history” and he could not be bothered. “I’m not keeping it. I don’t care any more.”

The council itself was also reticent about providing details of the deal.

At first it told Stuff the council’s audit, risk and investment committee had approved the vehicle’s sale to Gordon. Then it said it was outgoing committee chairman Gordon McKellar who had done that.

When first asked for the sale price, Gordon refused to answer, and the council referred Stuff to a dealer to get an idea of the price.

When asked what provisions under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act the council was relying on to withhold the price, it released the $42,000 figure.