Yesterday the Prime Minister announced a deal with Hollywood studios that will allow up to 25% tax rebates on film production expenditure within New Zealand.
While we can all applaud our world-class film industry and the jobs the deal will create, why is the film industry so special? Many industries are still suffering from a high dollar and increased international competition. As the Government acknowledges (at least for film producers) tax matters when it comes to business choosing what country to invest - we compete against the world. Why should less high profile or ‘cool’ industries shoulder the burden while the film industry is sheltered – would we better off if the Government worked harder to lower taxes for all?
Click here to comment on this blogpost via the Taxpayers' Union Facebook page. Should we working to become more competitive overall, or should we encourage our politicians to 'cut more deals'? At what point does it become corporate welfare?
Our Executive Director joined Seven Sharp's Heather du Plessis-Allan to check out taxpayer owned company, Transpowers' new $1.2million cafe on The Terrace, Wellington. Click the image below for video on demand.
Not a lot, but according to the government-owned monopoly Transpower, a $1.2million 'cafe-style space' is value for money unlike asking staff to visit the dozen cafes within a few hundred metres of its Wellington office building.
In 2012, the taxpayer owned company spent $1.2million refurbishing its reception and building "The Wire" a place where, according to Transpower CEO Patrick Strange, "we can engage and collaborate with each other, and with our guests."
Back in September, a Taxpayer's Union volunteer asked about the new cafe Transpower had built at 96 The Terrace, Wellington. It seems that calling it a "cafe" caused some offence. Transpower said (even bolding the text to emphasis the point):
The space on the ground level of Transpower House is not a café – it is a space for Transpower staff to meet internally and with our key stakeholders.
Unfortunately, Transpower would not initially tell us how long its lease for the building had remaining. After some haggling, we learned that the current lease expires in 2014.
According to Patrick Strange, yes. It turns out it's coffee that keeps the nations lights on. He told us that it had changed the "whole culture of the organisation" and that the decision to build the cafe was the "best decision" he'd ever made.
Let's call a spade a spade. It is ridiculous for Transpower to justify this amount. The cost works out at around $65,000 per month for the time left on the lease of 96 The Terrace. This is a taxpayer-owned, state monopoly that has thrown money into building an exclusive cafe in the middle of Wellington's CBD. This is while at the same time, it is borrowing more, appealing a Commerce Commission decision with the hope it can charge more.
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The Taxpayers’ Union can reveal that the New Zealand Transport Authority's 'Drive Social' campaign cost taxpayers $1,492,395 on advertising, $985,019 on communications and advertising consultancy fees and $301,872 in other related costs. This website alone cost $186,142.
The 'Drive Social' campaign was organised by NZTA to educate road-users that they “share the road with other drivers” and instructs them to “be considerate” (we're not making this up!).
We think that the funds for these sort of self-evident campaigns would be better spent on improving roads or preventing drink driving. The Taxpayers’ Union asked the NZTA to provide cost-benefit analysis of the campaign. Instead, it could only provide us the costs to the taxpayer and ‘media motoring’ reports.
We can all support advertising efforts to reduce the road toll, but here is an agency spending nearly three million dollars to tell drivers that there are other drivers on the road. It’s bureaucrats spending our money to treat us like like children.
Complete with a condescending tone and nursery rhyme-like music the ‘Drive Social’ website would insult the intelligence of most drivers. Judge for yourself at www.drivesocial.co.nz.
Here is an example of one of the campaign billboards:
The Taxpayers’ Union has welcomed Labour MP Jacinda Ardern’s announcement that if elected, Labour will scrap the Families Commission quango.
Government funding for an organisation churning out reports such as ‘Eating Together at Mealtimes’, is better spent on the frontline. We support Labour’s stance.
The Families Commission was only ever a result of an election deal with a minor party. We are glad Labour realise the need for money to be spent where it will be most effective for taxpayers.
The Families Commission’s ‘Eating Together at Mealtimes’ report is available at http://www.familiescommission.org.nz/publications/research-reports/eating-together-at-mealtimes
Analysis by the Taxpayers’ Union suggests that Marlborough District ratepayers have been duped into paying for an expensive website that is only matched by New Zealand’s largest cities.
Since July 2011, the Marlborough District Council has paid $410,550 for website design maintenance and development costs. In comparison Dunedin City Council spent only $35,520 over the same time period.
“The only council that spent more on web design than Marlborough was Auckland Council” says Jordan Williams, Executive Director of the Taxpayers’ Union.
“Even if we assume that half of Marlborough’s residents have actually visited the site, it would probably have been cheaper for the Council to pay for a taxi for them to visit the office. It is potentially a huge waste of ratepayer money.”
Wellington City, which redeveloped its award winning website earlier in the year spent almost one hundred thousand dollars less than Marlborough.
Spending on website design maintenance and development costs since July 2011 (click here for PDF of image)