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Category Administration and Management
Type Policy
Approved by Vice-Chancellor
Date Policy Took Effect 27 July 2009
Last approved revision 28 November 2022
Sponsor Chief Financial Officer
Responsible officer Senior Manager Procurement


The Senior Leadership Team (SLT) has agreed on a range of initiatives to further streamline the travel bookings process, beginning 14 June 2021. This Policy/Procedure should be read in conjunction with the memo issued by SLT.

This Policy details the University's position in relation to staff, students and University Council members travelling on University-related business, particularly travel-related expenditure incurred by the University.

Organisational scope

This Policy applies to all staff, students, Council members and any other University representatives travelling at the expense of the University.  Where this Policy conflicts with the terms of an individual employment contract, the employment contract will take precedence.


University representative
Staff, students, Council members of the University of Otago as well as any other persons travelling at the expense of the University.


Please note that this document is currently under review.

1. General guidelines

  1. Travel and accommodation expenditure should be economical and efficient, having regard to purpose, distance, time, urgency, personal health, security and safety considerations. The principles of a justified business purpose, and moderate and conservative expenditure, are particularly relevant
  2. Similar principles of justification to those above in (a), should be applied to the environmental cost of travel. In particular, the impact of greenhouse gas emissions from air travel on climate change should be considered carefully.
  3. Where a provision in this policy is inconsistent with the provisions in an employment agreement, the employment agreement will apply.

2. Travel approvals

  1. Before booking travel, travellers and travel arrangers should ensure that they have obtained the necessary approvals as required by their respective divisional travel approval processes.
    1. Domestic Travel – Expenditure for domestic travel is to be approved by the relevant cost centre Manager or approved delegate.
    2. International Travel – Staff and other University representatives must obtain prior written approval, that includes an estimate of costs and any external funding, for all international travel from:
      1. the Chancellor (in the case of the Vice-Chancellor and Council Members)
      2. the Convenor of the Audit and Risk Committee (in the case of the Chancellor)
      3. The Pro-Chancellor (in the case of the Convenor of the Audit and Risk Committee)
      4. in all other cases, the relevant member of the Senior Leadership Team ( SLT )
  2. As part of any domestic or international travel approval application, travelling staff members must have a contingency plan for work in case of disruption developed and accepted by the approver.  Contingency plans are encouraged for other University representatives where appropriate.
  3. Should there be any unavoidable cost increases between approval and when the booking occurs, re-approval will not be needed. However, any scope change to the original travel request such as an additional route, additional accommodation, or different class of travel, will require re-approval by the applicable approval authority

3. Travel insurance

  1. University travel insurance is required to cover all international travel.  In booking this insurance, please be advised that:
    1. While travel insurance currently covers medical costs arising from COVID‑19, non-medical disruption insurance only covers up to $200 per day with a maximum of $1,400 in total (i.e. If the traveller is delayed or required to isolate due to COVID‑19 at some point on their journey).
    2. The department/unit will be expected to cover any additional travel disruption related costs (such as accommodation, meals and transport) in excess of the $1400 travel disruption insurance provision outlined above for University travellers and therefore the approver should carefully consider the relevant risks and whether the potential costs can be justified.
    3. Staff and University representatives should also be aware of the possibility that permission to travel by the University may be rescinded at short notice if COVID‑19 conditions change in New Zealand or overseas, and that insurance will be withdrawn if the destination country is placed on the Government's no-travel advisory before the journey commences.
  2. The risk level of each destination must be checked on the NZ Government website Safetravel. Where the rating for a country is:
    1. Do not travel – travel is not permitted unless approved by the Vice-Chancellor;
    2. Avoid non-essential travel – travel is not permitted unless approved by the relevant Pro-Vice-Chancellor or Divisional Head.
    Safetravel website
  3. On receiving approval to travel, the Financial Control team, in the Financial Services Division, must receive notice from any University representative who is approved to travel to a “do not travel” or “avoid non-essential travel” destination. This is to allow a specific travel insurance policy to be established covering the additional requirements imposed by these ratings.

4. Air travel

  1. All air travel should be booked in accordance with the University's Travel Planning Procedures.
  2. Travel should be booked well in advance so the expenditure is the most cost-effective available.
  3. Economy class must be used for all journeys for which payment of fares is provided by the University. Any exception requires the prior approval of the Vice-Chancellor, subsequent to endorsement by the staff member’s direct manager and Divisional Head, or the approver specified under clause 2(a) ii 2-4 for senior University representatives.
  4. Where an external organisation has agreed to pay, or reimburse the University, for a university representative to travel at a class above economy, either by paying the full cost of the travel or the full cost of the upgrade, the University representative must provide evidence of this before the travel is confirmed.
  5. Staff and other University representatives are able to personally pay the cost of any upgrade above economy class on the condition that they provide evidence of their payment before the travel is confirmed and the upgrade does not result in any additional costs to the University. Payment by University representatives could include the use of personal air points or other personal rewards.
  6. The use of Airpoints or other reward schemes to purchase flights, upgrades, or other goods and services, cannot be reimbursed by the University.

5. Visas, Inoculations and Passports

  1. Visas, individual country electronic travel authorisations (e.g. ESTA) and inoculations required for University travel will be funded by the University.
  2. Visas, electronic travel authorisations and inoculations obtained for any private travel undertaken in conjunction with University travel will not be funded by the University.
  3. Passport costs for either new or renewed passports will not be funded by the University.

6. Travel club and reward programme memberships

  1. University payment for membership of Air New Zealand Koru Club must be pre-approved by the relevant Pro-Vice-Chancellor or Divisional Head, or by the approver specified under clause 2(a) ii 2-4 for senior University representatives using the Koru Club Membership Pre-Approval Request Form. Applications for university-approved Koru Memberships will only be considered where it can be demonstrated that the staff member or other university representative concerned is expected to make a total of nine return international or domestic trips on Air New Zealand each year as part of their University duties.
  2. Once approval has been obtained, this form should be attached to the PCard payment/statement in Finance One as part of the Koru Membership purchase transaction.
  3. University payment for membership of other travel clubs will only be approved where it can be demonstrated that for University-related purposes, the staff member or other University representative concerned has no option other than to spend considerable time travelling on airlines other than Air New Zealand or its affiliates, and can demonstrate that access to lounges or services as part of such travel essential to their health and wellbeing.
  4. Staff who are not eligible for University funding of Koru Club membership, may join in a private capacity and receive the benefits of the University's corporate membership. Further information can be found in the Air New Zealand Contract information document located within the Approved Supplier webpage.
    Air New Zealand contract information (PDF)
  5. The University will not pay for any travel-related reward programme, except where this is included in the base membership fee for an approved travel club membership.
  6. University funded memberships should not be for a period longer than one year as membership is personal to the individual and not held by the University.

7. Accommodation

  1. Staff and other University representatives staying with relatives or friends as an alternative to using commercial accommodation may pay compensation per day to their hosts up to a value that does not exceed 25 per cent of the cost of commercial accommodation room rates per day in the locality where the staff member is transacting their University business.
  2. The University has approved the use of the “Airbnb for work” programme as an accommodation option.  Bookings for this accommodation type must be made through the MTA as described in the Travel Planning Procedure.
  3. The University will not pay for mini-bar costs, other than in exceptional circumstances.
  4. The University will only pay the costs of laundry and dry cleaning where the business travel exceeds 14 days (excluding Research and Study Leave).

8. Food and drink

  1. In the absence of any contrary provision in employment or other agreements, the cost of meals will only be reimbursed or provided during the period that the staff member is away from their home location on University business.
  2. Guidelines on meals and alcohol are contained in the University's Sensitive Expenditure Procedure and Guidelines.

9. Motor vehicles

  1. Vehicles should be rented from the University’s approved rental car suppliers using either the supplier’s web reservation system (with payment made via the travellers’ PCard), or via the University’s MTA (which can be charged back to the University via the MTA’s consolidated invoice). If the appropriate vehicle is unavailable, then from mainstream rental car providers at the most cost-effective rate.
  2. The most economical and environmentally friendly (i.e. lowest greenhouse gas emissions) type and size of rental car should be used, consistent with the requirements of the trip including the distance to be driven, the terrain and the number of people and type and quantity of goods being carried.
  3. Private use of a rental car is not permitted except in exceptional circumstances, such as reasonable out-of-work-hours use when the staff member or other University representative is away from home and undertaking work for the University. In such cases, the University representative must reimburse the University for any additional costs arising from the private use.
  4. The University will not pay for travel by private motor vehicle where travel by other means is more practical or cost-effective and has better or similar greenhouse gas emissions, such as flying or renting a vehicle. Where private motor vehicles are used for University business, staff members or other University representatives will be reimbursed at the lower cost of the rental equivalent (including petrol costs) or mileage.
  5. The use of taxis (including Airport Shuttle Services and ride sharing apps) should be moderate and cost-effective relative to other forms of transport available to the university representative.
  6. The University will not pay for taxis to be used for travel between the staff member's home and their usual place of work unless this is allowed for in the staff member's employment agreement.
  7. All fines for parking and traffic offences incurred by staff members or other University representatives while using a rental or private vehicle on University business will be paid by the staff member or other University representative. Under no circumstances will fines or other penalties be paid by the University.
  8. Staff are not permitted to use commercial e‑scooter services (e.g. Lime Scooters) for work purposes.

10. Travel to/from the University representative's local airport

  1. When travelling to/from the University representative's local airport, the University representative is encouraged to adopt an airport transfer transport option that is both appropriate and cost effective.  Options for transfer include the use of shuttles, taxis, ride apps, e.g. Uber, and the individual's private vehicle.  When considering local Airport transfer options: (in order of preference)
    1. Travel by private motor vehicle to local airports which will be reimbursed to the shuttle equivalent rate and associated parking charges while the vehicle is parked at airport, or by shuttle.
    2. If the University representative is unable to travel to the airport in their car or the shuttle, the use of taxis or ride apps, due to cost, requires prior approval from the relevant authority as specified under clause 2 (a) above.

11. Tipping

  1. The University will only pay the costs of tipping in countries or localities where tipping is local practice and the tip is reasonable.
  2. Tipping in New Zealand will not be paid for or reimbursed under any circumstances.

12. Communications while travelling

  1. The University will only pay for internet or WiFi use where it is directly required for business purposes.
  2. It is expected that staff or other University representatives will use the most cost effective method of communication.
  3. Except in cases of emergencies, the University will pay for one phone call of up to 5 minutes in length or up to 5 texts per day to a staff members or other University representative's family.

13. Private travel linked with University travel

  1. Staff members and other University representatives may undertake private travel before, during, or at the end of travel paid for by the University, provided that there is no additional cost to the University and that the primary purpose of the travel is business related.
  2. All the costs associated with the private travel, including travel insurance, must be paid by the Staff member or other University representative.
  3. Any work time used for private travel must be booked as annual leave before the Staff member leaves the University. When authorising annual leave, managers should consider the benefit of linking several activities together in one trip rather than creating more emissions by undertaking several trips.

14. Persons accompanying University representatives

  1. Unless specifically provided for in other University policies, the University will not pay the travel costs of persons accompanying a University representative unless that person clearly contributes to the University business being conducted [by the University representative].
  2. Accompanying travel to be paid by the University must be pre-approved by the Divisional Head, with approval from the Vice-Chancellor or the Chief Operating Officer as applicable; or by the approver specified under clause 2(a) ii 1-3 for senior University representatives.

15. Stopovers

  1. Stopovers shall normally only be paid by the University if they have a clear business purpose or are required to make an onward travel connection that is part of the University travel.
  2. Stopovers to be paid by the University, other than those required to make an onward travel connection, must be pre-approved by the Divisional Head. Stopovers relating to the travel of Divisional Heads and other senior University representatives must be approved in line with the approval structure set out in clause 2(a) ii.

16. Disputes procedure

  1. In the event of a dispute relating to this policy arising between staff members and their Head of Department or Divisional Head, either party may refer the matter to the Director of Human Resources for review.

Related policies, procedures and forms

Contact for further information

If you have any queries regarding the content of this policy, procedure or guideline or need further clarification, contact:

Senior Manager, Procurement

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