Government Waste Celebrated at 2023 Jonesie Waste Awards
Jonesie Waste Awards 2023
In a year fraught with challenges and uncertainties, The Taxpayers’ Union took it upon themselves to shine a light on the spending choices made by our governing entities. Presenting to you, the Jonesies Waste Awards 2023.
Local Government Nominees:
1. Otago Regional Council’s Wallaby Nightmare: Despite pouring more than $2.76 million and dedicating over 26,000 hours, the Otago Regional Council managed to capture only 18 wallabies. Price per wallaby? A whopping $153,422.72. It would’ve been cheaper to send them back to Australia on a private jet each.
2. Far North District Council Has Gone Barking Mad: Far North District Council's transformation of Melka Kennels for 24 dogs, with a budget of $200,000, skyrocketed to $2.4 million for just 10 dogs. That's $240,000 for each dog. And thanks to funds from the Covid “shovel-ready” Provincial Growth Fund grant, we all paid for it.
3. Auckland's Transport Shun Their Services at Our Cost: In 2022, Auckland Transport staff appeared to fly more than they rode their own buses. $189,993.47 went on flights, $27,524.16 on Ubers and taxis, dwarfing the mere $4,778.04 spent on bus services. It seems that Auckland Transport agree with residents that their service isn’t up to scratch.
4. Hamilton's Botched Bus Stop: Hamilton City Council in a joint project with Waka Kotahi, spent $2.5 million on building, tearing down and then rebuilding a bus stop. The project started four months later than planned and went $500,000 over the budgeted cost. Once construction was completed they realised that the concrete path had been laid at the wrong angle making it a risk to wheelchair users. After significant financial investment, they managed to make the bus stop less usable. Eventually, the new bus shelters had to be removed and then reinstalled in order to allow the work to be completed.
5. Horowhenua District Council’s Landfill Liability: Initially estimated at $7,500, the Horowhenua District Council’s consultancy costs for evaluating a landfill's profitability skyrocketed to $895,000 without a formal business plan or contract in sight.
Top Honours for Local Government Wastefulness: The Otago Regional Council!
Central Government Nominees:
1. Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Private School Privileges: Taxpayers have forked out $4,999,823 for private schooling for diplomats’ kids in many countries with similar or superior state schooling to New Zealand. Despite Kiwi state education in ruins, 63 diplomats sent their kids to prestigious private schools internationally on the taxpayer dollar. $74,776.98 was spent in Australia and $817,410.14 in the US. Other countries included China, Korea, the UK, France, Germany, Netherlands, Japan, Ireland and Canada.
2. Let’s Get Wellington Moving, The Gaff That Keeps on Giving: The Cobham Drive crossing spearheaded by Let’s Get Wellington Moving came with a price tag of $2.4 million, with consultancy fees alone amounting to $500,000.
3. Ministry for Pacific Peoples’ Golden Goodbye Gala: The Ministry for Pacific Peoples hosted a $40,000 farewell bash for its former CEO, a lavish affair during tough economic times. The breakdown of the expenses includes $7,500 on gifts, $3,000 on photographers, drummers and flowers. $7,000 on travel and accommodation for specific attendees.
4. Ministry of Health, Penny For Our Thoughts: The Ministry of Health spent $334,000 seeking public opinions on its performance, and developing graphics highlighting the fact that barely anyone thinks they’re doing a good job. One social media graphic they promoted proudly said that only 6% had a positive view of them.
5. Ministry of Education’s Dot Com Bust: The Ministry of Education spent $100,000 on the development of a new website before deciding it wasn’t necessary and never launched it. It appears they began developing the site before realising they were creating a new online hub this year so the site would become obsolete almost immediately. $100,000 with nothing to show for it.
Lifetime Achievement in Waste:
Donovan Clarke, the former Chief Executive (CE) of Toitū te Waiora, a Government Workforce Development Council, faced scrutiny over extravagant overseas expenditures on the taxpayer's dime. Clarke's expenses included lavish meals like lobster feasts and calamari canapés, daily late-night taxi rides, and considerable room service charges at his four-star hotel. Interestingly, the conference he attended was organized by the Council of Ambulance Authorities, chaired by David Waters, Clarke's own chairman. In one instance, Clarke indulged in an extravagant seafood dinner, followed by a taxi ride at 3:36 am to his hotel, only to leave for the airport just three hours later. After landing, Clarke charged taxpayers $22 for breakfast and $80 for access to Singapore Airlines' luxury sky lounge. Many of his expenses were ambiguously labeled, raising questions about the identity of his dining companions. In his first 11 months as CE, Clarke spent $72,862.03 on his taxpayer-funded credit card, more than double the amount of his five CE counterparts combined. Despite Toitū te Waiora's 2022 Annual Report, which Clarke approved, emphasizing its 'Sensitive Expenditure Policy', questions arose about its enforcement or adherence. Subsequent to the arising queries, Clarke was placed on six months of paid leave before resigning after an employment dispute costing taxpayers nearly $328,000 in various fees. The exact amount given to Clarke as part of a severance deal remains undisclosed. Satirically, there's speculation about a dispute over a taxpayer-funded lobster-bib, which remains unconfirmed. The article concludes by hoping that Clarke stays away from taxpayer-funded roles in the future and jests about his extravagant tastes. His cost to the taxpayer has been truly epic. And we hope you agree that he’s a worthy winner.