'Old' govt limos may be kept for Rugby World Cup use

The sale of Government luxury cars may be delayed to allow overseas dignitaries to use then during the Rugby World Cup, it has been revealed.

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The 34 new BMW 7 series limousines, available for ministers, opposition leaders, visiting dignitaries and, occasionally, senior judges, are set to arrive in New Zealand between June and August.

While the vehicles were bought to replace the three-year-old fleet of limousines, some might be retained for VIPs and overseas dignitaries during the September/October tournament.

The Government has declined to identify those VIPS and dignitaries invited to the tournament, fuelling speculation Prince William, his bride-to-be, Kate Middleton, and Prince Harry are on the guest list.

Last month, Government officials, along with specialist security personnel, visited several high-end accommodation providers in Dunedin, which is set to host three World Cup pool games featuring the England team.

The Department of Internal Affairs confirmed it was considering using the older vehicles as part of its Rugby World Cup guest of government programme, a spokesman said.

"Dependent upon the number of guests and programme timings, we will consider using contracted services or the delayed disposal of some current fleet vehicles if our own resources are insufficient to meet requirements," he said.

Details of how much retaining the cars for a further five months would cost were unavailable.

Last night, a spokeswoman for Prime Minister John Key said Mr Key was "aware that there is a possibility that some of the current VIP fleet could be retained for use during the Rugby World Cup".

She said the limousines were not exclusively for ministers and were used by VIPs and visiting dignitaries, such as Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who visited Wellington earlier this year.

While details of the limousine deal were confidential, BMW said it was for a model not available in New Zealand, the BMW 730Ld.

The BMW 730d SE - the next model down - attracted a recommended retail price of $203,500, with the 730Ld featuring extended leg room for rear-seat passengers.

The newer model delivered 20% better fuel efficiency than the 2007 model, and lower carbon emissions.

Labour's internal affairs spokesman, Chris Hipkins, said the Government should keep the current fleet and cancel the new order.

"There is nothing wrong with the old ones; they are only three years old."

Regardless of the World Cup and visiting dignitaries, it was hypocritical for the Government to buy expensive new vehicles while telling New Zealanders to tighten their belts, he said.

The Department of Internal Affairs decided to replace the fleet late last year, after a deal approved by the former Labour Government three years ago.


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