This morning we received the following press release from the Government:
NZ to contribute to the upgrade of Teufaiva Stadium
4 JUNE, 2014
Prime Minister John Key has today announced New Zealand will contribute around $2 million towards upgrading Tonga’s national stadium in Nuku’alofa ahead of the 2019 Pacific Games.
Why are Kiwi taxpayers contributing to this?
“New Zealand looks forward to working with the Tongan Government to improve Teufaiva Stadium in the lead up to the 2019 Pacific Games and other international events,’’ says Mr Key.
“Teufaiva Stadium is already an important site for domestic rugby, athletics and community events and will be a great venue for the Pacific Games.
“New Zealand supports a fit-for-purpose upgrade of the stadium that will expand its utility while supporting the strong community that participates in current stadium events.
“I’m happy that New Zealand can assist Tonga in its efforts to promote sports and healthy lifestyles in Tonga,” says Mr Key.
We’re not sure that contributing funds to a sports stadium is much of a promotion of healthy lifestyles, but more importantly is this really the highest priority to better the lives of those living in the Kingdom of Tonga? If the goal is to improve health, why isn't New Zealand spending the $2 million directly on health, implementing exercise programmes in schools or encouraging a healthy lifestyle?
The first step in the upgrade work will be a New Zealand-funded feasibility study and design, and technical support for the Tongan Government.
Mr Key made the announcement in Tonga today where he is visiting from June 3-5, as part of the 2014 Pacific Mission.
We would have thought that spending $2 million on a sports stadium is a purely nice-to-have rather than something that makes a difference to the lives of struggling families.
While drafting some comment on the Government's priorities we received the following:
NZ to invest $5 million to rebuild Tongan schools
4 JUNE, 2014
Prime Minister John Key has today announced New Zealand will contribute $5 million to rebuilding schools in Tonga’s Ha’apai islands following the devastating Cyclone Ian earlier this year.
“The $7.5m joint project with the Asian Development Bank and the Tongan Government will have a big impact on the lives of nearly 1,300 students affected by the cyclone,” says Mr Key.
“Getting children back into a regular school is vital for their education, safety and emotional well-being. Education is one of the priority areas for Tonga under the New Zealand Aid Programme and we are very pleased to be able to respond to the Tongan Government’s request for assistance,” says Mr Key.
We couldn’t agree more with the value ascribed to education by Mr Key in this quote.
In January of this year, Cyclone Ian caused extensive damage to infrastructure, public utilities and services, agriculture and housing, as well as severely damaging schools in the Ha’apai island group.
The funding will be used to reconstruct classrooms and staff quarters, and replace school equipment across the island group by 2016.
“New Zealand enjoys a strong relationship with Tonga and the two countries are important regional partners,” says Mr Key.
“There is a significant Tongan population living in New Zealand, so it’s important that we are able to help Tonga in times of need.”
Mr Key made the announcement while visiting Government Primary School in Nuku’alofa today. While in Tonga, Mr Key also met with Tongan Prime Minister Tuʻivakanō and had high level discussions with Tongan members of cabinet.
Mr Key is visiting Tonga as part of the 2014 Pacific Mission. He will visit Niue on Thursday before returning home.
Whilst we applaud our foreign aid obligations being spent on such worthy causes, it doesn’t alleviate our concern around the sports stadium funding.
That $2 million would still be better off earmarked for the core services of government that influence daily life for the people of Tonga.
We're disappointed that our Government is effectively saying funding for the vanity project of a sports stadium is 40% as important as rebuilding Tongan schools and getting children back into regular education.
The Prime Minister has announced an election date of 20 September.
The role of the Taxpayers' Union through the next 194 days is to make sure politicians are promising value for money - and not vote buying through pork barrel politics and government waste.
Without fear or favour, we intend to critique the various promises made with taxpayers' money as well as fight policies that will increase the overall tax burden faced by kiwi households.
If you've not already joined our campaign, you can do so here. It's going to be a lot of fun.
Following yesterday's submission to the Government Administration Select Committee looking at the issue of ten year passports, and release of Jordan McCluskey's briefing paper showing that a New Zealand passport is the most expensive in the world on a per year basis, the PM isn't ruling out change.
TVNZ's reported John Key's comments that the Government is 'constantly having a look at' the passport term and position and 'the arguments for keep it at five years are about security'.
We don't accept that. Canada and the Netherlands, countries which have very similar visa-free requirements around the world have both recently introduced 10 year passports. Is their passport security less than ours??