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Taxpayer Update: NZTA latest money grab 📸🚙 | Wasteful rebrand #9842 🔥📺 | Bye, Grant; hi, Barbara 👋

 

Remembering Efeso Collins 🕊️

Like those across the political spectrum, we were very saddened to learn of the untimely passing of former Auckland Labour Councillor and Green Party MP, Efeso Collins. One of Efeso's strengths was that he tended to reject the polarised politics of the modern age. Our thoughts are with his family, friends and colleagues at this difficult time. You can read our statement of tribute here.

NZTA to clobber Kiwis with millions more road fines 📸🚙

Over the next decade, the New Zealand Transport Agency is planning to expand its speed and traffic camera fleet from around 150 to potentially 800meaning that millions more New Zealanders could be whacked with speeding tickets each and every year.

NZTA has said this is all in the name of safety. Last year they even made a big song and dance about their 'safety cameras' only be designed for upholding 'safety' protocol and not for enforcement or revenue-gathering purposes.

But we know a rat when we see one – and from the looks of it, this appears to be nothing more than another cheap attempt to exploit the average Kiwi for some extra dosh.

No one is denying that safety on our roads is of critical importance, but this proposal is poorly targeted. The vast majority of New Zealanders aren't reckless drivers – and we've all seen speed traps appearing in dangerous lucrative areas.

And these new cameras NZTA are looking to get monitor much more than speed and safety. The Agency's own Privacy Impact Assessment reveals that 'advanced features' such as heat monitoring will be used to enforce compliance of transit lanes – a traffic issue that has no safety impact at all and will solely be used to generate revenue!

After seeing Auckland Transport make fortune on ticketing Aucklanders, it appears NZTA is trying to get in on the action.

Tell Simeon to ensure his transport agency is focused at improving roads, not raising revenue 🗣️

We all know from the state of our highway network that NZTA isn't doing its job. It seems unable to complete projects on time, on budget, or even at all. Now officials are, yet again, distracted from their core purpose, and attempting to grab even more funds from the average Kiwi.

If, like us, you can see that this proposal from NZTA will unfairly target New Zealand motorists while doing little to improve safety, take a minute to send Mr Brown an email to tell him to get his agency back in its lane.

--> Click here to send Simeon Brown an email <--

You read it here first: Robertson Remov[ed] 🚚💸

As revealed by your humble Taxpayers' Union back in November, Grant Robertson’s scored a cushy $620,000 new gig as Vice Chancellor of Otago Uni.

In 2021, Grant Robertson’s place in New Zealand political history was cemented when we awarded him the coveted Lifetime Achievement Award for excellence in government waste at our Jonesies Waste Awards. It was no mean feat to achieve such recognition, but sadly the joke is on taxpayers who will be left to pick up the pieces and pay his bills for generations to come.

It is with some sense of irony that while Mr Robertson left the new Government with a mountain of debt, he too is inheriting control of a university riddled with its own disfunction and growing debt pile.

LEAKED: a former senior Treasury official on Robertson's legacy 😬

Your humble Taxpayers' Union was accidentally CC'd into an excellent appraisal by a former senior Treasury official we ought not name. 

Robertson’s departure is a reminder of how much worse what seems like everything has become under his watch – monetary policy mess ($12 billion lost and inflation to boot) including pathetic RBNZ appointments, neutering the Productivity Commission, banning gas and oil exploration, making us more dependent on Australian coal, fiscal balance in “structural deficit”, spending up by about 6% of GDP since 2017, net core Crown debt up by about 22% of GDP, working age welfare dependency up alarmingly, school truancy and under-achievement, hospitals an organisational mess, nurses and others fleeing to Australia, GP shortages developing, tertiary vocational training a shambles, 6 years on RMA a wasted effort, Treasury looking anaemic. Perhaps $30 billion to buy overseas carbon credits to 2030, while major countries will not keep to Paris Agreement net zero targets.  No material difference to climate change, so at a major cost of NZers material wellbeing. Add to that the destablising’ co-governance that increasingly really meant a co-sovereignty ‘partnership’. And this guy apparently wanted a wealth tax.

To what extent was he a restraining influence? I have no idea.

But he and Labour MPs will now jeer at this government for failing to fix these problems fast.

While we seldom agreed with Mr Robertson, we hope does a better job turning around Otago University’s dire financial situation than he did with New Zealand's economy. He certainly has experience of running an organisation with deficits!

Out with the old, in with the new: Labour's New Finance Spokesperson, Barbara Edmonds 🌹

We are delighted that Labour Party has appointed someone who actually knows a thing or two about tax to be its new finance spokesperson.

Barbara Edmonds, is a former specialist tax lawyer, and is known by some to be a big believer in the broad base, low rate orthodoxy that underpins New Zealand’s tax system – something we wholeheartedly support.

Insider sources have told us that Ms Edmonds was furious with Labour’s GST fruit and vege "policy boondoggle" (credit: Grant Robertson) going into last year's election as she was acutely aware of the cost, complexity and ineffectiveness of creating carve-outs and exemptions in sales taxes. 

Unfortunately, back then Edmonds lost the argument and was forced to publicly defend the unworkable policy. But her new more senior position should enable her to inject more intellectual rigour and practicality into Labour’s tax policy to help create a true battle of ideas. We live in hope. 

And to give Barbara her due, she has also proved willing to engage with those who might disagree with her – a valuable trait for any political leader. When first entering Parliament, she joined us on our podcast, Taxpayer Talkwhere we were impressed by much of what she was saying. In particular, she said that her first interest in tax was learning about how overtaxation was one of the contributing factors to the fall of the Roman Empire – Barbara is always welcome to join theTaxpayers’ Union!

We will be writing to Ms Edmonds offering to work with her in her new role on areas where we might agree and to help promote tax policy that boosts New Zealand's productivity and prosperity and leaves taxpayers with more money in their pockets.

Golden Goodbye: Three Waters Chief Executives receive $710,000 payout package 👋👋👋

Last year, even when Three Waters looked dead in the water, the Department of Internal Affairs' agenda-pushing bureaucrats were beavering away behind the scenes to make the water reforms even harder to unwind.

This week saw the latest example of these underhand tactics exposed. It was revealed that two Chief Executives hired to implement the reforms, Jon Lamonte and Colin Crampton, were signed up to contracts entitling them $710,000 in golden goodbyes when Three Waters was eventually canned after just 10 months in the job.

There's no excuse for redundancy packages worth nearly 11 times the median wage to be handed out at any time. But given these CEOs were on salaries 4.5 times as much as Members of Parliament, and with there being widespread public opposition to the reforms, this costly package was all the more unreasonable.

Sadly, as the new Government navigates through with the backwash of the previous Government's reforms, we can only imagine the redundancy rort is about to get a lot bigger.

And as has been evident from the knots that officials tried to tie around Three Waters, we know the policy fight isn’t over yet either. We'll be working hard this year to make sure the new Government's alternative isn't just Three Waters 2.0.

Taxpayers' Union Investigation: Local Government Commission wastes a hundred grand on new branding 🔥📺

Documents obtained by the Taxpayers' Union reveal that the Local Government Commission (LGC) has wasted $99,000 on a new logo and website at a time when the Government has been asking departments to cut down on their spending.

It seems to have become common practice in recent years for government agencies to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on rebrands and logo changes – even when they can't afford them. But the agencies that undertake these massive rebrands are also doing so against official guidance from the Public Service Commission making it clear that departments should be doing the opposite:

"New agencies, or existing agencies looking to re-brand, should adopt a logo mark that is in keeping with the NZ Govt Identity logo mark. Agencies are also encouraged to consider adopting other elements of the Identity in their branding review or development, helping to create a common Public Service visual identity"

From what we can tell, the Local Government Commission website change happened just weeks after the general election, which also happened to coincide with the Government's strict instruction for agencies to cut their spending. This is a kick in the teeth to the millions of hard-working taxpayers that have been forced to fund this rubbish.

Prior to its makeover, the Local Government Commission was actually one of the few government departments that complied with the guidance!

The new Government has talked extensively about the importance of having a less wasteful public sector. It's about time these costly rebrands are banned for good, so agencies can get their priorities straight and stop funnelling millions into their image.

Taxpayer Talk – MPs in Depth: Dan Bidois

And this week on Taxpayer Talk, we present another episode from our MPs in Depth series where Jordan sits down with newly re-elected MP Dan Bidois.

In this episode, Dan talks about his chaotic life before politics where he went from being a school dropout, to a butcher, to fighting cancer – all before deciding to study economics!

Listen to the episode on our website | Apple | Spotify | Google Podcasts | iHeart Radio

That's it for this week.

Yours aye,

Callum

Callum Signature
Callum Purves
Head of Campaigns

New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union 

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Media mentions: 

Crux 
Confusion, deception then panic - documents reveal QLDC financial mismanagement

Stuff By the numbers: Rising rates adds more pain

Newstalk ZB Afternoon Edition – Monday, 19 February: NZTA Speed Cameras (03:05)

The Spinoff Yup, say voters, just like we told you

Waikato Times Take your pick on rate rises, Aucklanders

Waatea News Tributes flow for Fa’anana Efeso Collins, a good man

Newsroom ‘Go now, in peace’ – Efeso Collins

RNZ Midweek Mediawatch – A clash of polls (08:50)

interest.co.nz The Coalition Government has missed its own honeymoon but has held onto its Election Day support

The Post The candidates who scored the biggest campaign donations

NZ Herald Audrey Young: Top 10 maiden speeches by 2023′s new MPs

Bowalley Road Democracy Denied.

Highest Public Sector Wage Growth on Record Despite Lagging Productivity

 

Responding to a report showing that public sector wage growth is the highest on record, Taxpayers’ Union Policy and Public Affairs Manager, James Ross, said:

“Despite a Government elected to trim the bureaucratic fat, public sector wage growth continues to far outstrip wage growth in the private sector.

“Government employees are taking a larger and larger slice of the pie, and the rate at which they suck in taxes from hardworking people is only accelerating.

“Productivity is failing to keep pace and yet despite this, Government wages keep skyrocketing. It's long past time Wellington bureaucrats started justifying their cost to hardworking taxpayers.”

Wellington Councillors Need to Front Up Over $32 Million Corporate Handout

 

Wellington City Council is set to decide in secret whether to use $32 million of ratepayers’ money to buy the land under the Reading cinema from its current owners - a multinational firm with real estate holdings valued at over half a billion dollars worldwide - and lease it back to them.

Commenting on this, Taxpayers’ Union Policy and Public Affairs Manager, James Ross, said:

“The Reading cinema’s owners are doing just fine all over the globe, so why in Wellington are residents being forced to fork out for a $32 million corporate handout whilst their city’s pipes crumble, rates are hiked and community centres are shut down?

“Whether meetings are in the Council chamber or over a $1,400 luxury meal paid for by hardworking ratepayers, secrecy is always the name of the game when it comes to this dodgy deal.

“Wellington City Council’s culture of secrecy isn’t hiding this rort from anyone, and Councillors need to front up to the public over how they’re wasting Wellingtonians’ hard-earned money.”

MPs in Depth: Dan Bidois

This week on Taxpayer Talk is another episode in our MPs in Depth podcast series where we get to know Parliament's new MPs. In this episode, Jordan sat down with newly re-elected National Party MP, Dan Bidois. 

Dan first became an MP after winning the 2018 Northcote by-election before losing the seat to the red tide of 2020. Now Dan is back in Parliament after reclaiming his seat and speaks with Jordan about his life before politics being a school dropout, a butcher and fighting cancer before deciding to study economics. Dan has had an interesting life and it is clear the challenges he has faced have shaped him into the person he is today. 

Dan's maiden speech can be watched here. Follow Dan on Facebook here.

To support Taxpayer Talk, click here

If you have any comments, questions or suggestions, feel free to email [email protected] 

You can also listen to Taxpayer Talk on Apple PodcastsSpotifyGoogle PodcastsiHeart Radio and all good podcast apps. 

Three Waters Chief Execs’ Golden Handshakes Equal to Almost 11x Median Salary

 

Responding to news that two Three Waters Chief Executives have received a combined $710,000 in redundancy payments, Taxpayers’ Union Policy and Public Affairs Manager, James Ross, said:

“Golden handshakes worth almost 11 times the annual median wage combined after just 10 months of work are just one example of a culture of waste in Wellington. Bureaucrats continued to sign away vast sums of taxpayers’ money well after it became clear unpopular, divisive mega-projects like Three Waters and Let’s Get Wellington Moving would be scrapped.

“Public sector fat cats already earning almost 4.5 times as much as an MP should not be entitled to enormous redundancy payments straight from the back pockets of hardworking Kiwi taxpayers.”

Taxpayers' Union Pays Tribute To Efeso Collins

Taxpayers' Union pays tribute to Efeso Collins

Commenting on the news of the death of Green MP, Efeso Collins, Taxpayers’ Union Executive Director, Jordan Williams said:

“While we may have had different politics, Efeso was always a councillor I - and the Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance - could call and have a constructive conversation with. One of his strengths was that he tended to eschew the polarised politics of the modern age.

“On behalf of the Taxpayers’ Union, and our sister group, the Ratepayers’ Alliance, our thoughts are with his family, friends and colleagues at this difficult time. He will be missed.”

REVEALED: Local Government Commission wastes $100,000 on rebrand right as agencies told to cut back on wasteful spending

 

According to information obtained under the Official Information Act, The Taxpayers’ Union can reveal that the Local Government Commission – the body responsible for overseeing the structure of New Zealand's councils – has spent $99,000 on a new logo and website rebrand despite the Government having recently told agencies to cut back on wasteful spending.

Taxpayers’ Union Researcher, Alex Murphy, said:

“The Local Government Commission (LGC) has almost no interaction with members of the public. The only sort of promotion it is tasked with is when it runs consultations on local government reorganisation proposals. The fact they’d waste a hundred grand on a rebrand stinks of self importance.

“Ironically, when public departments were in the firing line last year for breaking away from standardised government branding, the LGC was actually one of the few departments sticking with the basic format. But it seems they just couldn’t help themselves.

“This spruced up website doesn't improve the life of a single taxpayer. In fact, it only makes government messaging less consistent and identifiable for those who rely on it. CEO, Penny Langley, needs to front up and explain this wasteful spend.”

Kāpiti's wastage seen through Chief Executive's pay rise

 

Commenting on a recent $50,500 pay rise for the Kāpiti Coast District Council Chief Executive, Darren Edwards, Alex Murphy, Taxpayers' Union Researcher said:

"For a council that's ratepayers are already staring down the barrel of a 17% rates hike, a pay rise of over $50,000 for its Chief Executive is simply unacceptable, and it's just as ridiculous to justify this salary boost on the basis that the Chief Executive is not getting paid as much as his already overpaid counterparts.

"The Council only recently was exposed for spending $1 million on grants and loans to subsidise flights from Air Chatham, and just last year, a residents' survey showed 51% of respondents did not believe the council was demonstrating value for money.

"It's clear that Kāpiti's ratepayers have had enough of a council that continues to demonstrate little to no value for money. KCDC urgently needs to review its spending to strip out the waste to reduce the rates burden on its residents."

NZTA must be clearer with speed and traffic camera plans

 

Commenting on NZTA’s proposal to expand the stock of its road safety cameras from 150 to potentially 800 over the next ten years, Taxpayers’ Union, Researcher, Alex Murphy, said:

“There’s no doubt that having safer roads is critically important, but this ploy from NZTA to potentially triple the number of tickets brought in per year seems more like another revenue-gathering exercise than effective road safety policy.

"How is buying cameras with heat-mapping technology to monitor the inside of a car consistent with a strictly safety-first approach?

“The Transport Minister needs to be much clearer with NZTA that their job is to deliver the most effective road safety policy – not introduce a stealth tax on New Zealand motorists."

Taxpayer Update: Govt locking-in Labour's spending legacy? 😳 | RIP 3Waters 🪦 | $1,400 secret dinner deal 🤤

New Government locking-in Labour's mega-spending? 😳🔒💸

In the lead up to the election, all three Coalition partners campaigned strongly against the astronomical increase in public spending under the previous Government, and promised they would rein in the public service departments to cut out waste.

On the campaign trail, Christopher Luxon time and again picked on the massive staffing increase at the backroom Public Service, which collectively has grown by 15,000 since 2017.

And as National put it in its pre-election fiscal plan (our emphasis):

Labour inherited a very tidy set of books from National in 2017. But since then, Labour has increased spending by 80 percent and seen debt blow out from $5 billion in 2019 to $104 billion in the latest forecast.

Yet, despite all that pre-election signalling, the new Government's only proposal to address Grant Robertson's monumental growth in the costs of Wellington is to cut the budgets of [checks notes] some Public Service departments by 6.5% or (in a limited number of cases) 7.5%...

Worse still, Finance Minister Nicola Willis is tasking the departmental CEO’s to lead the process and deliver ‘proposals’ on how best to reduce their budgets. That is akin to asking the foxes to guard the hen house and is politically dangerous.

We need only see recent news reports to see how bureaucrats can (and will) threaten politically sensitive frontline services to understand how they will protect their patches – and the empires the same CEOs have created...

Tell Nicola Willis to ignore the media and special interests: ✂️ Grant Robertson's spending back to an affordable level 💰

If you agree that Ministers (not the CEOs/officials responsible for the fiscal mess!) should be going through line by line spending to determine exactly what savings can and should be made please take 30 seconds to send Ms Willis an email using our online tool here.

Ask Nicola to cut spending

👉 📧 Click here to send Nicola Willis a personalised email 📧 👈

RIP Three Waters 💦🪦 

In case you missed the news this week (or the death notice in today's Weekend Herald) Three Waters was finally scrapped with the passing of the third and final reading of repeal legislation this week.

It took a gruelling two and half year campaign, more than 50 campaign events, hundreds of thousands of signatures to our petition, and 65,000 printed, hand-delivered submissions to the Select Committee, but together we forced Wellington to Scrap Three Waters.

To mark the success of what is probably the biggest people-power policy victory so far – and protecting local democratic control of ratepayer funded assets – we are holding a (tongue firmly in cheek) Three Waters funeral and wake (complete with traditional tea, coffee and biscuits) at 4pm on Monday at our Wellington offices to mark the passing of Higher Water Costs, More Bureaucracy, No Local Control, and Less Democracy.

book of condolances

For those unable to make it, we've also launched an online book of condolences for you to send your regards to the now deceased Water Services Entities Act. Click here to add your comments to the official Three Waters book of condolences.

On a more serious note, thank you to you – and, quite literally, the hundreds of thousands of Kiwis – who said "No" to Nanaia Mahuta's outrageous attempt to take ratepayer-owned local water assets and put them into unaccountable co-governed entities.

Wellington Mayor’s secret meeting with multi-millionaire cinema owners a boozy affair 🍾

Dinner on the Wellington City ratepayer

Last year it was revealed that Wellington City Council's Mayor Tory Whanau and Chief Executive Barbara McKerrow were having secret meetings with the mega-wealthy foreign owners of the Reading Cinema complex just weeks after the Mayor was sworn in to office.

Those secret meetings led to ratepayers funnelling $32 million into purchasing the land underneath the now abandoned building with Reading being allowed to renovate and continue to operate the property.

But according to new information ratepayers were picking up the tab! Wellington seafood restaurant, Oretga, left ratepayers footing the bill for a whopping $1,400 buffet – with almost a quarter of the final bill made up of alcohol.

Taking international mega wealthy entertainment and property tycoons out for dinner to give them corporate welfare handouts is bad enough. Having ratepayers pick up the food and grog tab is salt into the wound.

No wonder the Council is in financial turmoil.

Should websites be taxed for linking to NZ media websites? 🤔

James at Select Committee

On Thursday, our Policy Manager James Ross submitted on the Fair Digital News Bargaining Bill, which aims to crackdown on big companies such as Google and Facebook who link to news sources online.

Members of the media are flocking to defend this planned shakedown of the big digital platforms, despite already being able to opt out of having their content shared if they want to. It's clear this isn't about fairness, it's about Media CEOs and big wigs deciding their slice of the pie isn’t large enough.

Dr Eric Crampton wrote about the Fair Digital News Bargaining Bill back in August, showing how a similar attempt to screw the scrum in Canada went down (hint: not very well).

With the new Minister, Melissa Lee, shouting about how poor this bill was before the election, most assumed it was as dead as a dodo. But if there’s one thing we’ve learnt here, it’s that you can never expect too little from the Government. 

If it passes, the Bill is so poorly defined that even your humble Taxpayers’ Union’s newsletters could be forced to wind up! Linking to leftwing news websites like The Spinoff or even just Stuff and the NZ Herald websites would see us taxed to subsidise their newsrooms.

Watch James' submission here.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend,

Jordan

Jordan_signature.jpg
Jordan Williams
Executive Director
New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union.

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Media mentions: 

Waikato Times Mayor admits proposed rate hikes ‘not sustainable or affordable’ for many in community.

The Platform David Farrar Discusses Latest Political Polling

Chris Lynch Media Proposed rates hike: ‘irresponsible financial management’

Stuff Mackenzie pensioners feel rates heat, consider selling homes

The Spinoff A vital and perilous day for the news media in New Zealand

The Press Media bosses plead for help in arm wrestle with internet giants

RNZ Media bosses urge MPs to 'level playing field' with big tech

BusinessDesk News publishers plead for online news bill rescue

NBR Use law to get tech giants to stump up or we’ll be gone: media

Stuff NZ politics live: Will the Government make tech giants pay for news?

NZ Herald Niwa committed to low emissions despite $700k spend on four ‘luxury’ utes

Stuff What minister said as media leaders stated case for making tech giants pay for news

Duncan Garner Podcast 'The Week That Was' with Damien Grant and Cassie Roma

The Platform Mihi Forbes and the great Atlas conspiracy

NewsHub Niwa defends buying four Chevrolet Silverado utes valued at $172,000 each

Stuff ‘I’m not involved,’ says Conscious South Canterbury campaign contact

Money to Burn: Hutt City's Half-Baked Climate Initiative

 

The Taxpayers' Union lambasts Hutt City Council's recent unveiling of a Low Carbon Acceleration Fund as a misguided venture. Promising up to 50% co-funding for carbon-cutting projects in Lower Hutt, the initiative splashes cash in the face of common sense and the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).

Oliver Bryan, spokesperson for the Taxpayers’ Union, said, “The council's Low Carbon Acceleration Fund takes a wild swing and misses by a country mile, embodying the epitome of feel-good, virtue-signalling politics without the payoff. This venture into environmental finance is an expensive folly, blatantly ignoring the ETS's comprehensive strategy for reducing emissions efficiently through a market-driven approach.”

“This initiative not only misunderstands the mechanics of meaningful emissions reduction but also squanders taxpayer money under the guise of local action, which, thanks to the ETS, ends up redundant. It’s crucial to underline that with the ETS's nationwide cap on emissions, the fund's local reductions will make no reduction to net emissions or be of any benefit to the environment. Meanwhile, Hutt City residents are left to ponder the value of their skyrocketing council rates, which surged over 12% between 2022 and 2023.”

Whanau and McKerrow's $1,400 secret dinner deal makes a mockery out of Wellington ratepayers

 

Commenting on a lavish $1,400 seafood dinner between Wellington City Council Mayor Tory Whanau, Chief Executive Barbara McKerrow, and the heads of Reading Cinema - Ellen and Margaret Cotter - which was part of a secret business meeting for the Council to purchase the land under the Reading Cinema Complex, Taxpayers’ Union Researcher, Alex Murphy, said:

"It was outrageous enough to find out that Whanau and McKerrow had flown the Cotter sisters out to Wellington for a secret business meeting just 4 days after the Mayor was elected, but it’s made all the more embarrassing to now discover that thousands of ratepayer dollars - a quarter of which was just spent on booze - was splashed around to seal the deal.

"And while the cost of this dinner is wasteful enough, the upshot from that meeting will be even more painful for ratepayers, with the Council set to spend $32 million on purchasing the land under Reading Cinema. It was clear from the Town Hall debacle that the Mayor didn't understand sunk costs, but surely even she could have figured out that investing a few thousand ratepayer dollars into a dinner didn’t mean she had to buy the whole property!

"Wellington City Council’s leadership has time and again shown itself to be irresponsible with ratepayer funds. It’s about time the books are opened, and Wellington's council heads are held to account for their continued wasteful spending and underhanded behaviour."

Taxpayers’ Union welcomes Three Waters announcement

 

Commenting on the Government’s three-stage legislation plan to replace Three Waters and the appointment of a Technical Advisory Group, Taxpayers’ Union Head of Campaigns, Callum Purves, said:

“We welcome the clarity on how exactly the new coalition proposes to repeal and replace Three Waters with an alternative that retains democratic accountability and local control.

“From what we’ve seen, the Government’s approach is very similar to our own work and model, developed by our earlier Technical Advisory Group, chaired by former Local Government New Zealand CEO and adviser to Communities4LocalDemocracy, Malcolm Alexander. We look forward to working collaboratively on improving the delivery of local water services while both achieving affordability and retaining democratic accountability."

Wellington Council’s Refusal to Scrap Pet Projects Puts Frontline Services at Risk

Commenting on Wellington City Council preparing to vote on a number of cost-cutting measures, Taxpayers’ Union Policy and Public Affairs Manager, James Ross, said:

“Councils have a favourite little trick. When it comes time to justify enormous rates hikes, they start hacking away at frontline services to plead poverty. Wellington City Council is no exception.

“Slashing away at library services, community centres and ramping up parking fees whilst hundreds of millions of dollars are still being wasted on revamping the Town Hall is a cheap ploy that ratepayers can see right through.

“At last count over 450 staff at Wellington City Council are on over $100,000 a year. Before the council starts cutting services, it should be scrapping its enormously wasteful pet projects and trimming back its bloated bureaucracy.”

NEW POLL: Big boost for ACT would allow Centre-Right to govern without NZ First

 

National is up 2.6 points on our last poll in November 2023 to 39.6% while Labour drops marginally to 27.9% (-0.4 points). ACT is up significantly to 13.7% (+5.6%) while the Greens are down substantially to 9.0% (-4.8 points).

The smaller parties are NZ First on 5.0% (-1.0 points), Te Pāti Māori on 2.3% (-1.1% points), and others combined were on 2.5%.

This month's results are compared to the last Taxpayers' Union – Curia poll conducted in November 2023.

National is up 3 seats on November 2023 to 49 while Labour is unchanged on 35 seats. ACT has jumped up 7 seats to 17 while the Greens are down 6 seats to 11. NZ First is down 2 seats to 6 while Te Pāti Māori is unchanged also on 6 seats.

This calculation assumes that all electorate seats are held. A Parliament on these figures would have an overhang of 3 seats and a total of 123 seats.

The combined projected seats for the Centre-Right of 72 seats is up 8 from November 2023 while the Centre-Left is down 7 seats. This is the biggest gap between blocs since Sep 2021 when the Centre-Left led by 27 seats.

On these numbers, National and ACT could form a majority government on their own without the support of NZ First.

Christopher Luxon drops 4 points on November 2023 to 29% in the preferred Prime Minister stakes. Chris Hipkins is up 1 point to 19%.

David Seymour increases 6 points to 10% while Winston Peters is up 1 point on 6%. Chlöe Swarbrick is also on 6% unchanged from November 2023.

More detailed results, including 'country direction' data and our new 'government approval' rating, are available on our website.

Taxpayer Update: NEW POLL Big boost for ACT 🟡📈 | Taxpayer funding of suspected militants paused ⏸️💰 | Wellington in chaos ✂️

In this week's Taxpayer Update, we celebrate another Taxpayer Victory that ensures your money isn't being spent on creating conflict and reveal, yet again, more issues at Wellington City Council. 

But first, after a post-election Summer break, our exclusive Taxpayers' Union – Curia poll is back!

NEW POLL: Big boost for ACT sees Nats and ACT able to govern alone 🟡📈

February's Taxpayers' Union – Curia poll was conducted over the period including Waitangi Day. ACT's proposed Treaty Principles Bill might have been receiving a lot of heat in the media, but it doesn't seem to have done the party any harm in the polls. In fact, these results suggest the opposite.

Decided Party Vote over time

National is up 2.6 points on our last poll in November 2023 to 39.6% while Labour drops marginally to 27.9% (-0.4 points). ACT is up significantly to 13.7% (+5.6%) while the Greens are down substantially to 9.0% (-4.8 points).

The smaller parties are NZ First on 5.0% (-1.0 points), Te Pāti Māori on 2.3% (-1.1% points), and others combined were on 2.5%.

Here is how these results would translate to seats in the Parliament:

Seats

National is up 3 seats on November 2023 to 49 while Labour is unchanged on 35 seats. ACT has jumped up 7 seats to 17 while the Greens are down 6 seats to 11. NZ First is down 2 seats to 6 while Te Pāti Māori is unchanged also on 6 seats. Parliament would have 123 seats as it does now due to an overhang created by the Māori electorates.

The combined projected seats for the Centre-Right of 72 seats is up 8 from November 2023 while the Centre-Left is down 7 seats. This is the biggest gap between blocs since Sep 2021 when the Centre-Left led by 27 seats.

Victory for the taxpayer: NZ Government pauses funding for UN agency linked to terrorism in Gaza ⏸️💰

UMRWA

Last week saw a quick taxpayer victory following a fast response campaign from the Taxpayers' Union after news broke that UNRWA employees are not just implicated in the 7th October massacres in Israel, but – according to reporting by the Wall Street Journal – 10% of UNRWA employees are linked to terrorist groups including Hamas.

While minds may differ on the Gaza conflict, when an agency we as taxpayers are funding is being accused of funding terrorism, it's certainly right to hit pause and take a proper look! The Government agreed. Within a day of our campaign, the Government announced it was pausing taxpayer funding for UNRWA until it can be confident that the relief agency's staff are not linked to terror activity.

The New Zealand Government now joins Australia, Canada, Britain, the EU and others in looking to divert funding away from UNRWA to organisations like the Red Cross and World Food Programme.

Thanks to those who added their voice, wrote to Ministers, and reminded the Government that Kiwis expect our foreign aid budget to be spent working for humanitarian relief, not fuelling the conflict.

More Chaos in Wellington City Council ✂️

Absolutely Positively Wellington

Last week, Wellington City Council proposed a number of cost-saving measures to free up funds for its ailing water infrastructure.

Unfortunately, it seems the Council is going after core services people value such as the libraries before the glaringly obvious vanity projects are put on the chopping block.

Take, for example, the news Wellington City Council is spending an ‘undisclosed’ amount of money to install bilingual parking meters:

Wellington City Council has decided to replace its parking meter system at a cost it will not disclose, despite paying $1.5 million to install a new sensor network as recently as 2016.

The new pay-by-plate meters that went live this month are a paperless system that uses a vehicle licence plate number, rather than a numbered car park, to record parking time and payment.

The meters also offer the choice of English or te reo Māori instructions, which the council says supports its commitment to Pōneke becoming a bilingual city.

[continue reading on the NZ Herald here]

Your humble Taxpayers' Union has had to use the new meters (they are right outside out office). The 'new' meters are clunky, and clearly a step down from the old ones. Instead of an off-the-shelf solution, the boffins at the City Council had these custom build so that you can pay your parking taxes using te reo prompts.  Strangely, we're yet to meet a Wellington ratepayer saying ka pai! 👏

And Wellington Water can’t be trusted either… 🚰

At about the same time, a scathing report into Wellington Water’s operational performance shambles was released. It shows Wellington Water is incapable of delivering its services efficiently, failing to sufficiently report on the quality of its operations, failing to meet key contract obligations with Wellington City Council. Despite spending 71% more on maintenance year on year, the quality is getting no better!

It’s now evident that the water provider needs a complete overhaul to get its priorities straight and spend its money efficiently.

Our replacement to the last government's Three Waters can't come soon enough!

And the Council secrecy continues… 🤐

Secret Council Workshop

Long time readers will recall the endless tales of cloak and dagger with Wellington City Council, where Council officials have hidden critical reports and key information from elected officials. True to form, officials tried to bury the bad news and refused provide a copy of the draft Wellington Water report to councillors who had previously only been shown parts of it on a screen during a closed workshop.

To state the obvious, how can we expect good governance at local town halls, when those who are supposed to be in charge (and accountable to ratepayers at the ballot box) are being drip fed information. Here at the Taxpayers' Union, we are working with some of New Zealand's most respected councillors to give elected officials more rights to go round their CEOs and access information (even if it isn't welcome news). More to come on this...

Nearly 15,000 Signatures on Petition for Media to Return Taxpayer Funding 📝

Public Interest Journalism Fund

With the pandemic over, and most media companies back in the black, we say they should do the right thing and return their Public Interest Journalism Funding (PIJF) to protect their independence and the public's trust.

While people hold a range of views as to whether this funding undermined the actual independence of newsrooms, what is undeniable is that the perception of independence was certainly eroded. 

Our petition calling for the media to help restore public trust and confidence in their profession by paying back all taxpayer funding has almost hit 15,000 signatures. If you haven't already signed, add your name here so we can get it over the line.

MPs in Depth: National MP Greg Flemming🎙️

Taxpayer Talk: Greg Fleming

The latest episode of Taxpayer Talk is another edition in our MPs in Depth podcast series where we get to know Parliament's new MPs. In this episode, Jordan sat down with newly elected National Party MP, Greg Fleming. 

Greg tells us about his journey into politics and how he formed his political ideology, starting with an egg business at age nine and eventually leading to his founding of the Maxim Institute think tank. 

This podcast gives a fascinating insight into what makes Greg tick and is well worth a listen. 

Listen to the episode on our website | Apple | Spotify | Google Podcasts | iHeart Radio

Other News in Brief ⏰

  • We challenged the Government to go further and faster in reducing the size of the public service to help get inflation and interest rates under control. We also slammed them for asking department CEO's – the same people responsible for staff numbers ballooning by up to 50% – to identify cost savings rather than having Ministers going through with a fine tooth comb to identify those wasteful projects that the CEOs don't want cut. 
  • ACT called for a simpler and flatter tax system with fewer income tax brackets. We responded by urging them to be more aspirational and aim for a flat tax instead which would be simple, fair and encourage productivity while allowing people to keep more of their own money.
  • Nicola Willis's app tax was dealt a blow when it was revealed that she had not read a joint letter from the large app-based service providers requesting an urgent meeting to discuss how unworkable the new tax will be. We told National to focus on cutting waste, rather than hiking taxes on summer holiday Airbnbs.  

That's it for this week.

Yours aye,

Callum

Callum Signature
Callum Purves
Head of Campaigns

New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union 

Donate

Media mentions:

NZ Herald 
Act Party supports calls for Tauranga’s commission to act in caretaker role

SunLive ACT backs call to make commissioners "caretakers"

NewstalkZB The Huddle: Why haven't MFAT pulled their funding from NRWA?

Kiwiblog Taxpayer funded conspiracy theories

BusinessDesk Business of Government: marking your own homework, silo mentalities and more ...

Newsroom Nats’ summer slumber lets ‘rabid dog’ run amok

NZ Herald Napier City Council indicates possible record rates rise for Napier

Wairarapa Times-Age
Lobby group's wages war

Newstalk ZB Morning Edition: 02 February 2024 – Selwyn proposed rate hikes (02:27) 

BusinessDesk On the Money: Milky bonds, flamboyantly dressed accountants and more ...

Newstalk ZB The Huddle: What else can we expect ahead of Waitangi Day

NZ Herald Act launches Treaty principles referendum campaign to twist National’s arm

NZ Herald Treaty of Waitangi: Christopher Luxon cannot stop voters having their say on Act’s bill

Waikato Times Hamilton rate hikes set to ‘crush’ whānau, MP warns

Press Releases:

Taxpayers’ Union Calls On Public Service Cuts To Go Further, Faster

Income Tax System Should be Flat, not ‘Flatter’

Taxpayers’ Union calls on NZ Government to follow international counterparts and pull UNRWA funding

Wellington Ratepayers Reliant on Leaks for Info on Leaky Pipes

New Zealanders elected a Government to cut waste, not have Ministers take lazy route and delegate to CEOs

Taxpayers’ Union Welcomes New Zealand Joining EU & International Partners in Pausing UNRWA Funding

National Party U-Turn Robbing Kiwis of a Summer Holiday

Double-Digit Rate Hikes Across Councils Cannot Become The Norm

New Zealand Must Advocate For Tobacco Harm Reduction At COP10

Government Could Reduce Prices With The Stroke Of A Pen

Red Tape Won’t Keep Rooves Over Wellingtonians’ Heads

Hamilton City Council’s Never-Ending Rate Hikes Are Unjustifiable

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Police and Te Whatu Ora need to be put back in their lane

 

The Taxpayers’ Union is slamming today’s news that the Police and Te Whatu Ora Health NZ allocated a $60,000 legal war chest to fight a Wellington pub owner – all for the sake of a bar having to close an hour earlier.

“CBD crime is growing, our health system is a shambles, yet these zealots within the bureaucracy see fit to play morality police and try to scapegoat responsible hospitality operators,” says Connor Molloy, the Taxpayers’ Union lifestyle economics spokesman.

“This is bullying of a small business, pure and simple. And it’s not like it is a one off. For years, the Police – the Wellington Police in particular – have ignored the constitutional convention that the Police are there to enforce the law, not lobby. The Police use their considerable power and resources to browbeat the Council and District Licensing Committee.

“Given this outrageous example, we will be seeking a meeting with both the Police and Te Whatu Ora leadership to urge them to pull their head in, ensure taxpayer money is going to core services, and officials are staying in their lane.”

Hamilton City Council’s Never-Ending Rate Hikes are Unjustifiable

Responding to Hamilton City Council's proposed increase of 25.5% for the 2024/25 financial year, and subsequent 14.1% rate hikes for the following four years, Taxpayers’ Union Head of Campaigns, Callum Purves, said:

“While Hamilton City Council might be trying hard to sell the idea that there is no other choice when it comes to funding its water infrastructure, it’s evident that the financial crisis it now finds itself in has been driven by years of wasteful spending.

“Just last year, our 2023 Ratepayers Report revealed the Council had spent over $315m on contractors and consultants – more than three times that of Auckland Council – and pays nearly a quarter of its staff salaries over $100,000. It’s that there is still plenty of fat the Council could trim to allow investment in vital infrastructure while protecting ratepayers from eye-watering rate hikes.

“Double-digit rate hikes have become a worrying trend across New Zealand’s local councils and now you’d be hard-pressed to find any council with a rate increase below the level of inflation. It’s high time our local authorities start cutting back on the nice-to-haves and stop expecting ratepayers to keep bailing them out."

Red Tape Won’t Keep Rooves over Wellingtonians’ Heads

Wellington City councillors have been given advice recommending they alter the district plan to prevent housing intensification across huge swathes of the city.

Commenting on this, Taxpayers’ Union Policy and Public Affairs Manager, James Ross, said:

“Wellington is deep in a housing crisis, and whether you’re looking to buy or rent there simply is not enough to go around. Prices are skyrocketing, and the only solution to this is to build more homes.

“Red tape has stifled development for decades. The crisis won’t end without serious RMA reform from central government, but that doesn’t mean the council can’t make it worse. The advice given to councillors would push Wellington’s housing market to breaking point.

“Wellingtonians need rooves over their heads, and so the city needs to build up and build out. As much as the council might like to try and bury its head in the sand, not building at all is not an option.”

Government Could Reduce Prices with the Stroke of a Pen

 

Responding to calls for the Government to scrap New Zealand’s remaining import tariffs, Taxpayers’ Union Policy & Public Affairs Manager, James Ross, said:

“Tariffs are a tax on consumers, and if there’s one thing Kiwis don’t need during this cost-of-living crisis it’s the Government increasing the price of goods even further.

“As well as driving up prices and the costs of doing business in New Zealand, our tariffs quite literally cost the Government more to administer than they raise in revenue. They are a millstone around our country’s neck stifling competition and holding back growth.

“The folly of import tariffs is clear, and cash-strapped shoppers should be jumping with joy at any attempts to follow Singapore’s example in becoming a free trading nation.”

New Zealand Must Advocate for Tobacco Harm Reduction at COP10

 

The Taxpayers’ Union is calling on New Zealand’s delegates to the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) to oppose dangerous calls for further regulation and taxation of reduced-harm alternatives to smoking.

Speaking from Panama, where the Tenth Session Conference of Parties (COP10) to the WHO FCTC is being held, Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager and spokesperson for Lifestyle Economics, Connor Molloy, said:

“New Zealand is a success story in terms of getting smokers to quit. A big part of that is allowing consumers to choose less harmful alternatives to smoking.

“New Zealand’s delegates must oppose all attempts by the WHO to equate the harm of traditional cigarettes with that of alternatives that are scientifically proven to be safer such as vaping, heated tobacco and snus. The delegates must be commended for acknowledging the role that evidence-based harm reduction measures have played in reducing New Zealand’s smoking rates, but we are concerned they are not going further to publicly challenge the WHO’s dangerous opposition to reduced-harm products.

“Supporting, or accepting, WHO proposed rules to restrict reduced-harm alternatives would be a step backwards. Ironically, these proposals would play into the hands of “Big Tobacco” and are totally counter to New Zealand’s Smokefree 2025 aspiration.

“The only reason the New Zealand Government would go along with the WHO’s proposals is to keep more people smoking and collect more tax. That is morally wrong.”

MPs in Depth: Greg Fleming

This week on Taxpayer Talk is another episode in our MPs in Depth podcast series where we get to know Parliament's new MPs. In this episode, Jordan sat down with newly elected National Party MP, Greg Fleming. 

Greg tells us about his journey into politics and how he formed his political ideology, starting with an egg business at age nine and eventually leading to his founding of the Maxim Institute think tank. 

This podcast gives a fascinating insight into what makes Greg tick and is well worth a listen. 

Greg's maiden speech can be watched here. Follow Greg on Facebook here.

To support Taxpayer Talk, click here

If you have any comments, questions or suggestions, feel free to email [email protected] 

You can also listen to Taxpayer Talk on Apple PodcastsSpotifyGoogle PodcastsiHeart Radio and all good podcast apps. 

Double-Digit Rate Hikes Across Councils Cannot Become the Norm

The Taxpayers’ Union is slamming Selwyn District Council for proposing a 16% rate hike in the first stage of a cumulative 45.89% rates hike over three years.

“Yet again we are seeing a council completely fail to be prudent with its spending proposals, and is now asking its already-burdened ratepayers for an extra arm and a leg to bail them out,” Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, says.

“From a council that just last year was able to keep its rates increase under the level of inflation to now looking at dropping double-digit rate hikes for the next three successive years is an unacceptable turn of events that has blind-sided Selwyn’s ratepayers.

“The council should be tightening their belt like households all across the district are forced to do when costs rise. This includes trimming the fat in the Council’s back office bureaucracy, letting go of gold-plated vanity projects and seriously considering the sale of under-utilised or unnecessary assets.”

National Party U-Turn Robbing Kiwis of a Summer Holiday

Commenting on the news that Nicola Willis’ office failed to respond to a joint letter from accomodation providers requesting an urgent meeting over plans to introduce an App Tax from April this year, Taxpayers’ Union Policy Adviser, James Ross, said:

“A bit of backbone from the National Party wouldn’t go amiss. Their own campaigns from last year prove that they know how damaging the App Tax will be to Kiwi consumers and businesses alike.

“Whether the meeting request got lost in an administrative mix-up is irrelevant. National’s own messaging shows that they already knew the facts laid out in this letter.

“It’s easy to sling stones from opposition, but National protecting Labour’s unsustainable high-tax legacy is failing the voters who put their faith in the party at the ballot box.

“Rather than taxing hardworking Kiwis out of being able to afford a summer junket, the Government needs to get serious about slashing Wellington’s over-bloated bureaucracy to plug the fiscal gap.”

Taxpayers’ Union Welcomes New Zealand Joining EU & International Partners in Pausing UNRWA Funding

 

The Taxpayers’ Union is welcoming the Prime Minister’s announcement that New Zealand’s latest round of UNRWA funding is being suspended pending the results of a UN inquiry.

Commenting on this, Taxpayers’ Union spokesman, Jordan Williams, said:

Overnight reports from the Wall Street Journal suggest that 10% of UNRWA staff have connections to Hamas and other militants. Kiwi taxes have been directly funding terrorism.

“The decision to join our international partners including the European Union in pulling the plug on UNRWA pending investigation was the right one.

“Funding can now be reallocated to New Zealand’s other partner organisations working in the region including the Red Cross and World Food Programme. Kiwis expect our foreign aid budget to be spent working for peace, not fuelling the conflict.”

New Zealanders elected a Government to cut waste, not have Ministers take lazy route and delegate to CEOs

 

The Taxpayers’ Union is slamming the approach of Government Ministers asking public sector CEOs to find just 6.5% of savings and is telling Ministers to do what they promised: go through their departments’ spending with a fine tooth comb and ensure value for money.

“The Government is asking the foxes to guard the hen house,” said Taxpayers’ Union spokesman, Jordan Williams.

“In many cases, the Government is tasking the very same CEOs who increased staff numbers by more than 50% under the last government to now find savings.

“This 6.5% across the board reduction is pathetic. Ministers were elected to go through spending and ensure value for money.

“It is also politically dangerous. CEOs will find savings in politically painful areas like frontline services to justify no further cuts. In reality, Minister’s should be taking to Wellington’s back offices with an axe. Relying on CEOs to achieve an arbitrary target is lazy and dumb.”

Wellington Ratepayers Reliant on Leaks for Info on Leaky Pipes

 

Responding to news that Wellington Water has requested $2.5 billion in funding from Wellington City Council, Taxpayers’ Union Policy Adviser, James Ross, said:

“When even elected Councillors are treated like children and only allowed to see snippets of a ratepayer-funded secret report into Wellington Water’s failures, Wellington’s closed-shop bureaucracy is spitting in the face of local democracy.

“This isn’t the first time Council officials have stifled information to railroad decisions. A crucial KPMG report was buried until just two days before the long-term plan vote, a report on the town hall’s $147 million blowout was shoved down the back of the sofa for months, and ratepayer-funded legal advice over airport share sales was hidden from elected representatives.

“Despite their culture of secrecy, we can all see the Council isn’t working. Before even considering doling out billions of dollars, Wellington needs to open the books to show some respect for the ratepayers who pay their wages.”

Taxpayers’ Union calls on NZ Government to follow international counterparts and pull UNRWA funding

The Taxpayers’ Union has launched a petition calling for the Government to scrap continued funding of UNRWA, following revelation in recent weeks about connections to terrorism in the Isreal-Palestine conflict. 

Jordan Williams, a spokesman for the Taxpayers’ Union said:

“New Zealanders should not be forced to fund any aid organisation where there are serious allegations of money being funnelled into terrorism. There are plenty of other not-for-profits able to do the job without the politicisation.”

“In addition to the new allegations relating to UNRWA participating in the the 7th October attacks, previous concerns have been raised about UNRWA inciting radicalisation through obscene hate-filled publications.”

“New Zealand should join the governments of Australia, Canada, Britain, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Finland, the Netherlands and the US and pull taxpayer funding of UNRWA.”

The petition can be signed at www.taxpayers.org.nz/petition_unrwa

Income Tax System Should be Flat, not ‘Flatter’

 

The Taxpayers’ Union is backing ACT leader David Seymour’s calls for a simpler tax system but says it should be flat, not just ‘flatter’ than the status quo.

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

“There are billions of dollars of waste in government that could be eliminated in order to fund tax relief.

“There are many largely useless departments that could be eliminated in their entirety while the remainder should be zero-based and reassessed asking ‘if this job or programme did not exist today, would we decide to create it?’ If the answer is no, it should be cut.

“A flat-tax system is simple, fair and encourages productivity while allowing people to keep more of their own money. New Zealand should be striving for the world’s most efficient and competitive tax system through wholesale reform, not temporary tax relief that will eventually be eroded away through bracket creep.”

Taxpayers’ Union Calls on Public Service Cuts to go Further, Faster

 

The Taxpayers’ Union is calling on the government to go further and faster with its demands for reductions in spending by government departments.

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

“Demanding a 7.5% spending reduction from departments that have ballooned by over 50% in the last six years is laughable. These departments are so bloated, every job and function should be under consideration for cost savings. The proposed figure is not nearly enough.

“Government spending has increased by 67% since 2017 yet the quality of public services has continued to decline. The proposed cuts would still leave government spending at a level that would make Grant Robertson’s early budgets look like austerity in comparison.

“Kiwis are struggling with high inflation and high interest rates, it is time for the government to show what responsible fiscal management looks like rather than just tinkering at the edges.”

Taxpayer Update: Inflation dips 📉 | Mayor Mauger's Commonwealth Fantasy🏅 | More NZTA’s budget blowouts 🤑

If you're in Auckland for their long weekend – come along and meet the team on Monday at Mission Bay (see details at the end of this email). 

Thanks to Connor for holding the fort. Sadly while I have been away, the examples of waste and excess have just kept coming. But let's start with a little bit of good news. 

Inflation dips, but it's mostly from overseas 📉

Inflation is finally dropping, and about time too. This week's figures showed inflation has is now down to 4.7% from 5.6% the previous quarter. This will come as welcome news to those struggling with the cost of living.

But that’s where the good news ends, I’m afraid.

For the 31st month in a row, inflation remains well outside of the 3% target range and far from sustainable levels. Our high inflation is being propped up by “non-tradeables”, which surprise, surprise is the area most affected by government spending...

Digging deeper into the figures out this week - while the rest of the world's inflation is easing (i.e. our 'tradable goods'), New Zealand's domestic inflation (termed 'non tradables') remain stubbornly high. That means that, on average, New Zealand is likely to face higher interest rates for longer, compared to our trading partners. 

High inflation: All roads lead back to Wellington 👀

As a proportion of the economy, New Zealand's response to COVID was among the highest in the world. And, once the lockdowns were over, New Zealand still lags behind in getting inflationary government spending back under control!

That's why the New Zealand Government Debt Clock is still racing, and the Reserve Bank is still imposing high interest rates. Until the new Government gets serious about tackling the culture of waste and out-of-control deficit spending they have inherited, that’s not going to change anytime soon.

Bad news for those with mortgages...

Sir Humphrey would be proud: Unelected bureaucrats setting up new Ministers again 🧑🏻‍💻

Casey Costello

When new governments are elected, ideologically-driven bureaucrats often disagree with the policies that have a democratic mandate to implement. But unlike the US  – where a new administration can replace/appoint most of the leaders of government agencies – New Zealand has a politically neutral public service.

Or so they claim...

Before Christmas, we saw the leaks about the so-called ‘fair pay’ agreement changes and, more recently, the Treaty Principles Bill – clearly aimed to undermine policies that were explicitly campaigned on by the parties making up the new Government.

This week it was Casey Costello's turn. Radio NZ was clutching its pearls after it obtained a document that purported to show that the new Associate Minister of Health, Casey Costello (our former chair), had asked officials for advice on freezing tobacco excise.

It looks to be a carefully calculated sting operation by the bureaucrats.

From the reporting of the story, you would think that Casey had instigated research into this policy area, but that is not quite the full story. Unelected officials proactively offered to provide the Minister with advice on the implications of increasing and not increasing tobacco excise along with inflation prior to the annual decision having to be made. When the Minister agreed, it appears Ministry of Health officials created the advice about freezing tobacco taxes 'which she had asked for' and leaked this certain sections to the media, which predictably had a meltdown. 

These sorts of policy advice papers and documents would have been made public in time anyway, but jumping the gun through selective leaks creates a strong incentive for Ministers not to seek official's advice or do their job.

In fact, we think the new Government has a real problem on its hands: The professionalism (or lack thereof) by the bureaucrats across dozens of government agencies risks undermining the decision-making process and having a chilling effect on constructive communication and the need for Cabinet government to be based on well-informed decision making. 

This behaviour from some officials is nothing more than a political hit-job seeking to make it harder for the Government to unwind the past six years of wasteful, bureaucratic and ineffective policy. We say that unless unelected bureaucrats can act impartially and support the government to implement policies even if they disagree with them, they need to find a new career. 

Nicola Willis has a big decision to make when it comes to appointing the new Public Service Commissioner in just a few months. We need someone willing to tackle The Blob head on.  And the names reportedly being considered do not inspire confidence. Watch this space...

Mayor Mauger Needs to Learn to Walk Before Joining the 100m Sprint 🏅

Christchurch Commonwealth

Christchurch is a city on the mend, but now in what seems to be a vain attempt to prove something to the world, the Mayor is gunning to throw so much of that progress away.

Across the ditch, the State of Victoria has had to bail on its plans to host the Commonwealth Games thanks to the insurmountable cost. Alberta in Canada had to pass up the opportunity because it was simply unaffordable, even for a province loaded with oil money. Now the Christchurch Mayor – an area with less than 10% of the population of either of these two – is proposing local ratepayers pick up the baton.

Christchurch Council is $25k per residential ratepayer in debt, bridges still haven’t been fixed since the earthquake, and the Council is already planning 15.8% rates hikes this year alone. Even for those who would love to see the Commonwealth Games back in the Garden City, the council simple does not have spare billions to blow on a one-off event.

Mr Mauger, before trying to prove to the world that Christchurch is back on its feet, should perhaps try proving this to Christchurch residents.

NZTA’s incompetence on display yet again with budget blowouts 🤑

Mt Messenger

This week showed once again that The Agency Formerly Known As Waka Kotahi struggles to be prudent with our money.

It might sound like déjà vu, considering that just last week Connor told you about the near-comical downfall of Auckland Light Rail – a project which after 6 years and $228 million spent didn’t have a single metre of track laid – but unfortunately it turns out that New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) has been haemorrhaging funds on its other trademark projects just as badly.

Earlier this week, we heard that the NZTA has already blown through nearly two thirds of its $280 million budget for the Mt Messenger highway without a single kilometre of tarmac built.

The bypass was initially meant to be completed 2 years ago, but now will likely push out to at least 2026 and is set to majorly blow out in costs. Out of the $172 million spent so far, only around $100 million has been used on actual construction.

But it doesn’t stop there…

Months of road closures for clip-on footbridge 💸

Clip on Bridge

In Waikanae, another costly NZTA debacle is unfolding with a $2 million ‘clip-on’ shared pathway to be attached to Waikanae Bridge. As of this week, work on this heavily overdue project is finally underway, but the bridge will now be closed heading southbound for at least the next 5 months, and possibly longer, for work to be undertaken.

Considering the enormous cost of the project, coupled with the major traffic disruptions it will burden the region with, we also question whether more cost-effective alternatives that would have prevented the current bridge from being closed could have been used instead.

Judge for yourself! Official Information from Kapiti District Council revealed that a similar stand-alone bridge a few kilometres downstream was erected in 2009 for just $178,672. See the plans here. This new ‘clip-on’ approach will cost at least 10 times that amount, and that’s assuming everything goes to plan.

It’s been clear for several years that NZTA has lost its way and has wholly failed to demonstrate any value for money. We’re calling on the new Government to ensure our transport agency gets back to focussing on delivery and ensuring our roads are adequately maintained first before embarking on outlandish gold-plated developments. A clear out of what appears to be a lacklustre board would be a good start.

Other News in Brief ⏰

  • Jordan appeared in a recent edition of the Different Matters podcast hosted by friend of the Taxpayers' Union, Damien Grant. He discusses our recently published book The Mission: 10 Years of the Taxpayers' Union, which is available to purchase here
  • James threw our support behind calls on Minister of Local Government, Simeon Brown, to restrict the powers of the unelected, undemocratic, unaccountable Tauranga commissioners ahead of a return to democracy in July. It is unacceptable for long-term decisions to be made now before local residents have been given to have the chance to have their say on the future direction of their city.  

One more thing...

Debt Clock

While it may be a long weekend for Aucklanders, sadly one thing that won't be taking a holiday is our national debt, which will rack up more than $75 million on Monday's public holiday alone. We'll be out in Mission Bay with the Debt Clock and holding sausage sizzle to do our bit to help pay down the national debt. Come along and buy a sausage – we need to sell an awful lot of them!

Yours aye,

Callum

Callum Signature
Callum Purves
Head of Campaigns

New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union 

Donate

Media mentions:

Wairarapa Times-Age Delays for rating

foodticker “Small fry” grocery pricing investigation not enough – TaxPayers Union

Press releases:

Taxpayers’ Union Welcomes Withdrawal Of Voting Age Bill

Return To Democracy In Tauranga Cannot Be Put In Danger

Mayor Mauger’s Christchurch Commonwealth Games Plan a Swing and a Miss

NZTA’s $2 million ‘clip-on’ footbridge wasteful and disruptive

Inflation Well Outside Target Range Still Punishing Struggling Kiwis

Small-Fry Grocery Pricing Investigation Won’t Stop Spiralling Food Prices

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taxpayers’ Union Welcomes Withdrawal of Voting Age Bill

Reacting to the Government’s announcement that they are withdrawing a bill from the previous Government that would have lowered the voting age for local body elections to 16, Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

“Changes to the rules of the game in any democracy should be decided by the people, not by politicians who have the incentive to screw the scrum in their favour.

“While reasonable minds can differ on the merits of lowering the voting age, introducing such a significant piece of legislation in the dying days of Parliament and closing submissions just six days after the general election is nothing more than bad-faith electoral reform.

“Proponents of lowering the voting age should work to win over public support before any bill is introduced in the future and allow the decision to be made by voters, not self-interested politicians.”

Return to Democracy in Tauranga Cannot be Put in Danger

The Taxpayers’ Union is throwing its weight behind calls for the powers of Tauranga’s unelected Commissioners to be curtailed in the run-up to the return of democracy to the city, and urges Local Government Minister Simeon Brown to step in.

Commenting on this, Taxpayers’ Union Policy Adviser, James Ross, said:

“Unelected Commissioners in Tauranga have spent years tossing around ratepayers’ money with reckless abandon, all safe in the knowledge that they will never be accountable to the rate-paying public.

“Although it is three-and-a-half years too late, democracy will be returning to Tauranga this year; the Commissioners cannot be allowed to put that in jeopardy. The long-term plan will set the city’s course for the next decade, and this must only be decided by the elected representatives of Tauranga residents.

“We’re already seeing the damage at a national level that an outgoing government can inflict by signing long-term contracts that they know will be overturned. This is damaging to both business confidence and to the public’s back pockets, and this cannot be allowed to be inflicted on the city by Commissioners without an electoral mandate.”

Mayor Mauger’s Christchurch Commonwealth Games Plan a Swing and a Mis

Commenting on Christchurch City Council’s plans to bid to host the Commonwealth Games, Taxpayers’ Union Policy Adviser, James Ross, said: 

“Mayor Phil Mauger wants to show the world that Christchurch is back on its feet. But he’d be better off proving this to Christchurch residents first. 

“With the Council group neck deep in around $25,000 in debt per residential ratepayer and expected rates rises well into the double figures, Christchurch is in no position to be throwing billions of dollars in ratepayers’ hard-earned money into the wind on games which have already been canned across the ditch for proving far too expensive.

“Whilst core infrastructure like the Pages Road Bridge is still to be fully repaired following the earthquake, the Council even considering wasting billions on exorbitant vanity projects is an insult to the residents who have worked so hard to bring their city back from the brink.” 

NZTA’s $2 million ‘clip-on’ footbridge wasteful and disruptive

 

The Taxpayers’ Union is calling on the government to direct the New Zealand Transport Agency to reassess expensive projects that are overly disruptive following the commencement of construction of a clip-on footbridge in Waikanae that is set to cost almost $2 million and disrupt traffic for five months.

Commenting on the project: Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

“This multi-million-dollar ‘clip-on’ has been in the works for years, and now will cause several months’ worth of traffic disruptions to one of the region’s busiest roads, inevitably steering much-needed customers away from local businesses. Given the enormous cost of the project, as well as the significant disruptions to traffic, we question whether this is really money well spent from NZTA, or just another one of its idealistic fantasy projects set to blow out in costs and delays.

“In 2009, Kāpiti Coast District Council managed to erect a fifty-metre-long stand-alone footbridge for just a few hundred thousand dollars. Instead of using that same initiative here, this ‘clip-on’ approach will cost over ten times that amount, assuming it actually stays under budget.

“NZTA is building up a depressing reputation of waste and inefficiencies. Just yesterday we saw how the agency blew through 60% of its Mt Messenger budget without a single kilometer of roading having been completed. If the new Government is serious about tightening its spending belt, it needs to demonstrate to New Zealanders that projects like these are being done efficiently and with the local community front of mind.”

Inflation Well Outside Target Range Still Punishing Struggling Kiwis

 

Responding to today’s release of the latest Consumer Price Index (CPI) figures, Taxpayers’ Union Policy Adviser, James Ross, said:

“Despite the fall in the Consumer Price Index, inflation still remains well outside the target range for the 31st month in a row. Even with a punishingly high Official Cash Rate, the deadly combination of high inflation and high interest rates is still lingering on.

“This inflation is driven by unsustainably high Government spending, and this culture of waste in Wellington is working at loggerheads with efforts from the Reserve Bank to control spiralling costs.

“It’s hardworking Kiwi families struggling under the cost-of-living crisis who are still being made to shoulder the burden of a Government which isn’t willing to make the tough choices. Those same families won’t see any improvement until this Government gets serious about slashing the reckless and inflationary overspending it has inherited."

Small-Fry Grocery Pricing Investigation Won’t Stop Spiralling Food Prices

Responding to a Commerce Commission investigation into promotions and pricing in the grocery sector, Taxpayers’ Union Policy Adviser, James Ross, said:

“Unclear pricing at grocery chains is of course an issue, but it is small fry compared to the anti-competitive regulations which allow grocery chains to charge extortionate prices for the things households can’t go without.

“Overregulation allows for the grocery duopoly to engage in cartel-like price setting unchallenged, leading to bumper profits for the fat cats at Foodstuffs and Woolworths, and spiralling shopping bills for the rest of us.

“Effective bans on foreign investment and overly restrictive resource management rules under the RMA mean that this isn’t going to change anytime soon, no matter how many trivial changes the Commerce Commission kindly suggests.

“Rather than picking around the edges of the grocery duopoly, the Government must spend its time implementing the sweeping reforms needed to end the stranglehold the big two grocery chains have over struggling Kiwi families.”

Taxpayer Update: Kainga Ora's Failures 🏠🔥 | Auckland Tramway Scrapped 🚆✖️ | Our Own Misinformation Project 🇦🇷🤥

As you'll see that while many politicians (and just about all the Wellington bureaucrats!) are enjoying long holidays, our team are back at work exposing waste, fighting for more more taxpayer victories, and promoting sensible improvements for how your money is spent.

Thousands of Brand New State Houses Sitting Empty 🏠🔥

Despite the state housing waitlist being more than 30,000 people long, thousands of brand new state houses have been sitting empty, some for months at a time. Taxpayers spent millions on building and purchasing these properties, so they should be filled rather than left to collect dust.

Of course, the wider issue is the state of bureaucratic regulation in the housing sector that effectively makes it illegal to build a cheap house. The chaotic mess of red tape creates unworkable, unnecessary and ineffective restrictions on building and renting homes. This drives up the costs of housing and forces people onto that waitlist.

It is clear that big and centralised government is not good at getting people into affordable housing. It is a scandal that for a country with a small population, and plenty of land, housing is among the most expensive in the world.

The new government has talked a good talk on cutting red tape and simplifying our planning laws such as the Resource Management Act. This year, one of our major focuses will be on ensuring they follow through. New Zealand cannot afford another generation without access to affordable housing, both for renters, and those who want to build or buy.

In terms of social housing, rather than trying, yet again, to fix Kāinga Ora and its centralised model, we say the Government should be focused at enabling (including funding) local community groups to provide both high quality housing and social services as they are likely to deliver far better value for the taxpayer long term. 

Because empty houses is not the only failure happening at Kāinga Ora...

Kāinga Ora's $2 Million Cost Blowout on Ridiculous Housing Project 🚧🧱

You would think that, to the extent to which central government should be responsible for building houses, they would actually build them in areas where they are most needed and have appropriate social services nearby. Think again...

On Thursday, we called out a cost blowout on a state housing development that shows everything wrong with Kāinga Ora. The development which would create 44 residential houses in Ohakune was originally intended to cost $5.2 million but has since blown out by 44% to $7.5 million. This supposedly post-COVID lockdown 'shovel-ready' project has been in the pipeline since 2020 yet four years later we are yet to see a single shovel hit dirt!

The cost blowout comes as no surprise given the Auditor-General slammed the 'shovel ready' slush fund for its poor decision making and continuous wastage of taxpayer money.

There are countless reasons why this project should never have been approved in the first place. For a start, approving a 44-house development in a small town where there are only 11 families in Ohakune on the housing waitlist, is questionable when thousands of people remain in taxpayer funded hotels temporary housing across the country. Surely a development of this scale should go where it is most needed?

To make things worse, Ohakune has virtually no social services and no local GP so the wrap-around services that will be needed for some of these families will simply not be available. 

The funding for this project was originally tuned down twice due to its unviability with one of the early due diligence reports deeming it a "no go". But when COVID came along, the bureaucrats hit 'go' anyway.

It is clear that things are seriously bad at Kāinga Ora. We understand that the new Minister, Chris Bishop, has written to them outlining his expectations but if things don't turn around soon, the Board will be sacked. Good.

The Taxpayer-friendly "Disinformation Project": Stop Bureaucrats from Describing Taxpayer-Funded Services as 'Free' 🇦🇷🤥

Too often Government agencies mislead the public and disrespect taxpayers by claiming that many public services are ‘free’, when they are in fact taxpayer-funded. 

Whether it is 'free' prescriptions, 'free' first year university, or 'free' healthcare, the truth of it is that the money needs to come from somewhere – you the taxpayer.

While there are strong arguments for the taxpayer to cover the costs of some services up front, to dishonestly label those services as free is disrespectful to the hardworking Kiwis footing the bill. It is political disinformation, and it's time it stopped.

So, hot on the heels of a similar proposal from new Argentinian President Javier Milei, the Taxpayers' Union this week launched a petition calling on the Government to ban public servants from using the word 'free' when referring to taxpayer-funded institutions. 

Words matter. Every election we see politicians trying to bribe voters with promises of "free this", or "free that" but, at the end of the day, there is no such thing as a free lunch. We suspect that if they said taxpayer-funded instead, we would see a lot more people looking at these policies with a critical eye.

Of course, political parties can campaign however they like (that's why we work so hard to counter the political spin-doctors during the election campaign) but once a party is in Government, they must communicate truthfully and transparently with taxpayers. If we can't trust the government to be honest, public trust in our democratic institutions is eroded.

Join the call for honesty by signing the petition here.

Auckland Dominion Road Trams Scrapped – Saving $15,000 per Household 🚆✖️

This week we also celebrated the Government finally pulling the plug on Auckland Tramway, sorry, "Light Rail", which saw hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer money wasted with absolutely nothing to show for it.

Since its inception, the tramway has racked up a near quarter of a billion-dollar bill in consultant fees and building purchases, yet in all that time we still didn't see a single metre of track being laid!

In the midst of a cost-of-living crisis, there was simply no justification for the Government to continue reaching deeper into Kiwis pockets, especially when the budget was only continuing to skyrocket. Advice to the Minister showed costs could reach as high as $29.2 billion, or $15,000 for every household in the country!

This is a necessary first step from the Government in what we hope will be further moves to tighten its belt and cut back on wasteful pipe-dream projects. But if the new coalition is really serious about slashing waste, it needs to address another glaring problem, which is how these non-roading initiatives continue to raid the National Land Transport Fund (NLTF).

We’ve long called for the NLTF, which is funded by fuel taxes and road user charges, to go back to funding exclusively  what it is actually meant for: roading infrastructure. We're calling on the Government to properly ring-fence the fund, and ensures it does not continue to be pillaged for projects irrelevant to the purposes of our roading network, such as rail and cycleways. More to come on this in the coming months...

Farewell to our Australian Intern, Rhys Budge 👋🇦🇺

Last year, Rhys Budge jumped across the ditch from Australia to join us for a couple of months on an internship thanks to a bursary from our friends at the Mannkal Economic Education Foundation, a freemarket organisation in Perth. 

Rhys has been a fantastic addition to the team who has been involved in a wide range of research and investigations tasks during his time here. Rhys was responsible for research and producing our Nanny State Approved Christmas Feast report and has written another soon to be released reports on MP pay and the eye-watering costs of government branding and website 'refreshes'.

Rhys heads back to Australia to finish his studies in economics and finance and we know he will go on to do great things. We wish him the best of luck!

Rhys has written a blog post about his time at the Taxpayers' Union which you can read here.

Support the Next Generation of Fiscally Prudent Political Leaders 🧒🧠

As someone who started at the Taxpayers' Union as an intern, I know the value of being able to learn about and apply 'radical' ideas such as democratic accountability, transparency, and limited government. 

Being a student in a city like Wellington, the Taxpayers' Union internship allowed me to escape the echo-chamber of thought that plagues universities and is an opportunity for free discussion, lively debate, and being part of a great team.

Unlike the political parties (we're looking at you Labour!), we pay our interns. And, as you will see in the coming weeks from some of Rhys' work, they produce great research that holds the government to account and exposes government waste. 

If you would like to support the Taxpayers' Union internship programme, you can chip in to help fund an intern here.

Other News in Brief ⏰

Callum is back from seeing his family Scotland this weekend, so it'll be my turn to take some summer leave. I've enjoyed leading the campaign team over the holidays and can't wait for more policy wins this year.

Thanks for your support,


Connor Molloy
Campaigns Manager

New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union 

Donate

Media mentions:

NZ Herald Govt announces review of Kāinga Ora, Christopher Luxon responds to criticism over publicly-funded te reo lessons

NZ Herald Former transport minister Michael Wood lashes out at National for scrapping Auckland light rail

Rural News Clocking-up debt

Stuff Why the South Island’s slow shrinking could require Parliament to grow

NZ City The Taxpayers' Union wants more changes to how our road user charges work

Spending Time with the Taxpayers’ Union: An Aussie Summer Intern’s Inside Scoop

Rhys Budge interned at the Taxpayers' Union from November 2023 until January 2024. He is currently finishing his Bachelor of Commerce, majoring in Economics and Finance at Curtin University in Perth, Australia. 

For the past 10 weeks, I have had the pleasure of joining the Taxpayers’ Union out on the frontlines in their battle against government waste. 

Friend of the Union and fellow advocate for liberty, the Mannkal Economic Education Foundation, offered to support my journey from Perth, Western Australia to the TU office in Wellington as part of their 2023 scholarship program.   

The Taxpayers’ Union’s mission really stood out to me. I loved that the New Zealand taxpayer had an advocate out there fighting for their interests – all the while showing such a task could be achieved in a fun, humorous, and well-spirited way. I gratefully accepted the opportunity and made the journey across the Tasman in early November last year. 

Intern Rhys Budge with the Debt Monster

Upon arriving, I was introduced to the team and given a project to get me started. For the coming holiday season, the Taxpayers’ Union wanted to know what our Christmas day meals would look like if people really abided by the New Zealand Government’s diet guidelines – similar to something put out by the UK Taxpayers’ Alliance. Having casually explored the effectiveness of different diets in the past, I hoped some of my prior knowledge could help me in deciphering the hundreds of pages of New Zealand Government diet guidelines I went on to find. Needless to say, it did not. 

Over a month later and after making lots of Excel spreadsheets, I had finally come up with a festive feast just in time for Christmas. It was grisly, it was boring, but even still, it did not satisfy every single parameter required to be truly government approved (for that I probably needed a whole year and a hell of a lot more spreadsheets). 

Thankfully though, I did more than just stare at figures showing the sodium levels and saturated fats within our foods while I was with the Union. I spent a lot of time researching and writing on other topics including, MP pay, government branding, and government website standards. Knowing such research has the potential to kick-off or contribute to a wider conversation that can really make a positive difference in people’s lives is a humbling thought. It is a privilege to be in such a position, and seeing how hard the Union staff work, you get the sense they all see it that way too. 

The Taxpayers' Union ute on the Desert Road

What I have really enjoyed has been meeting many of you, the great supporters of this organization. After volunteering to help with some of the 'on the ground' campaign field-ops, I was tasked with the Taxpayers’ Union Ute (which, if you haven’t seen, is impossible to miss), and I found myself meeting and shaking hands with supporters seemingly wherever I pulled up and parked. I appreciated hearing your personal stories and how much you value the work coming out of the Taxpayers’ Union. Similar sentiment was also shared among those of you I met at the Taxpayers’ Union 10th anniversary gala at Gibbs Farm. I could see how you all shared a common desire to see a government that shows respect for your hard-earned dollars. I felt lucky to have had the opportunity to contribute towards this goal for you all, even for just a short while. 

As my time with the Union now comes to an end, I would like to express my thanks to the Taxpayers’ Union for welcoming me into the team from day one. I look forward to seeing the fruits of your hard work behind the scenes come out over this new year as you continue advancing New Zealand in a positive direction. I am eager to see how some of my unfinished projects turn out after they are placed into the hands of another capable intern. Something tells me though that I’m not going to be able to keep my hands off, even if it means working on it remotely all the way from down under. 

Finally, I would like to thank Mannkal for supporting me during my time here. I feel fortunate to have been given so many incredible opportunities over this past year and it is only through the generosity of people passionate about liberty that I get to do something like this. 

$2 Million Cost Blowout for Senseless Development Demonstrates Everything Wrong with Kāinga Ora

The Taxpayers’ Union is dumbfounded by the endless examples of failure at Kāinga Ora – Homes and Communities that continue to come to light. Ruapehu District Council and Kāinga Ora’s $5.2 million housing development has blown out by over $2 million to $7.5 million according to a Crown Infrastructure Partners’ contracted projects document.

Commenting on this development proposal, Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy said:

“Just last month, an Auditor General report rightly slammed the decision-making and delivery process behind the previous Government’s covid ‘shovel-ready’ slush fund, and this is a prime example of why.

“The rationale behind this development project was flawed from the get-go. So much so that the initial proposal was turned down twice from Crown Infrastructure Partners due to the unlikelihood of it delivering planned outcomes and benefits, with the site even deemed a ‘no go’ on one of their early due diligence documents.

“It has also been blatantly apparent that both Council and Kāinga Ora have failed to engage with the community, with even Ruapehu’s own Councillors admitting how poor the consultation process has been.

“Ohakune has virtually no social services, no local GP, and a population of just over 1,500 people. With just 11 families on the current Ministry of Social Development Housing Register in Ohakune, it would have made far more sense to absorb applicants into existing stock, and reduce barriers to renting out existing private properties.

“Even this morning, we saw reports of more than a thousand new Kāinga Ora homes sitting completely empty. The failure of Kāinga Ora to deliver sufficient housing while continuing to waste money demonstrates why the Government should not be involved in house building and should instead cut cost-bloating red tape to allow a housing market which can deliver affordable homes.”

NOTES TO EDITORS:

In July 2020 (see page 2), Ruapehu District Council applied for Infrastructure Reference Group (IRG) funding to Crown Infrastructure Partners (CIP) for a ‘shovel ready’ project to enable the delivery of more affordable social housing in the district. It was initially turned down, as it was deemed unlikely to deliver outcomes or benefits, and that empty sections would potentially sit unoccupied.

Due Diligence Matrix was conducted in September 2020 looking into potential sites, where the eventual Tei Tei Drive option was deemed a ‘no go as a priority site.’

After being turned down a second time in December 2020, RDC applied once more in August 2021which was eventually agreed to by the Minister and the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development. Both an agreement between Kainga Ora and MHUD and Kainga Ora and RDC were signed on April 1 2023.

The cost of the development has now run out to $7.5 million, more than $2 million over the initial funding proposal.

Minutes from a Ruapehu District Council meeting on September 27 outline admissions from councillors that the local community had not been consulted thoroughly enough. (See page 5 onwards)

Kāinga Ora failings on display once again with thousands of vacant properties

The Taxpayers’ Union is astounded at the failure of Kāinga Ora to deliver for Kiwis with reports of more than 1000 empty new homes sitting empty for four months last year.

Commenting on Kainga Ora’s vacant properties, Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

“At a time when tens of thousands of applicants are stuck on the housing register, there is no reason why any new homes that are perfectly ready to be used should not be filled as soon as possible.

“As has been evident for years, many of these vacant properties are only collecting dust, and racking up millions in maintenance costs while they go unused. Kāinga Ora needs to get its act together and start delivering Kiwis with more efficient and timely access to housing.

“It is also clear that wider reform of Kāinga Ora is needed. The Government will never deliver houses as cheaply or efficiently as the private sector so they should instead focus on reducing the barriers to build and rent properties while also helping those with genuine need to find suitable private accomodation."

Taxpayers’ Union Calls on Government to Ban Bureaucrats from Using the Word ‘Free’

Hot on the heels of Argentinian President Javier Milei insisting on honesty from Argentinian officials, the Taxpayers’ Union has today launched a petition calling on the Government to ban public servants from using the word free when referring to taxpayer-funded public services.

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

“Describing public services as ‘free’ when New Zealanders all across the country are paying for them through their taxes is misleading and deceptive.

“There are strong arguments for the taxpayer to cover the costs of some services upfront, but to dishonestly label those services as free is disrespectful to the hardworking Kiwis footing the bill. It is political disinformation, and it’s time it stopped.

“Words have power. Government agencies misleading Kiwis erodes public trust in our institutions.”

Road User Charges for EVs Welcome – Fuel Tax Cuts Must Follow

Responding to the Government’s decision to introduce Road User Charges (RUC) for Electric and Hybrid Vehicles, Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

“The user-pays system for our roads has been eroded with more and more of the National Land Transport Fund (NLTF) being used for areas unrelated to roading while an entire class of road users has been excluded from paying anything at all.

“Applying RUC to EVs removes a senseless distortion that did not reduce transport emissions which are already governed under the capped Emissions Trading Scheme.

“The Government must now commit to redirecting all NLTF funding to road upgrades and maintenance and any surplus should be used to reduce the fuel excise and RUC rates.”

Taxpayers’ Union Slams Calls for Further Taxpayer Funding of Political Parties

 

Responding to today’s release of the Final Report of the Independent Electoral Review, Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

“The recommendation from the Review to increase funding for political parties is morally wrong, and erodes grassroots democracy.

“No taxpayer should be forced to fork out money to fund parties they find morally reprehensible. People pay taxes so that it can be spent on quality public services, not party propaganda.

“If parties can rely on guaranteed money from the taxpayer, they become less reliant on membership dues and fundraisers. This reduces the incentive for parties to be responsive to their members’ values and will lead to less accountability.

“Incumbent political parties already receive substantial taxpayer funding through the broadcasting allocation and the ability to use Parliamentary Service funding for political advertising that is not even subject to our Official Information laws. Rather than shifting the money around and adding even more taxpayer funding into the mix, all taxpayer funding for political parties should be scrapped.

“We call on all political parties to publicly reject the recommendation for further taxpayer funding of political parties and urge them to go one step further by removing the broadcasting allocation and the ability to use taxpayer funds for blatantly political advertisements.”

Taxpayers’ Union Celebrates Scrapping of $15k-per-Household White Elephant

Responding to the announcement that the Government is finally pulling the plug on Auckland Light Rail, Taxpayers’ Union Policy Adviser, James Ross, said: 

“Nearly a quarter of a billion dollars has been burnt without a single metre of track being laid. Auckland Light Rail has been a failure from the get-go, and taxpayers up and down the country will be cheering at the news the project is finally getting a long-overdue resignation to the scrapheap. 

“Vanity projects like this have no place, but doubly so during a cost-of-living crisis caused by irresponsible Government spending. With a blowout budget estimated to reach almost $15,000 per household, struggling Kiwi families will be overjoyed at no longer having to scrimp and save to subsidise exorbitantly overpriced nice-to-haves in Auckland.” 

Taxpayer Update: NZTE's Yoga classes + kids games 🧘🎲| More Uni Waste 🚧 🏗️ | The Tax on Your Summer Road Trip 🔥⛽

We hope you've had a relaxing summer break. Unfortunately, Government waste doesn't pause for summer and while Callum is still in Scotland visiting family, the rest of the Taxpayers' Union team have kept up the effort to find and expose government waste while standing up for taxpayers.

This week's taxpayer update covers the 'best of the worst' of waste we uncovered since Christmas... Happy New Year!

NZTE's spending your money on yoga, singing contests, scavenger hunts and even "paper, scissors, rock tournaments" 🧘✂️👀

We start with New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE). Thanks to a confidential tip-off to your humble Taxpayers' Union, we've obtained official documents showing that rather than getting serious work done, NZTE have used 'Regional Team Meetings' as an excuse to holiday blow out the budget on luxury accommodation, extravagant food and (frankly) what can only be described as children's activities.

Judge for yourself the activities paid for by taxpayers at just seven meetings costing taxpayers $809,450 over the past two years. Here are some of the agenda items:

Reading the information response, we thought someone was playing a joke. Rock, paper, scissors tournaments, silent discos and scavenger hunts? You couldn’t make this stuff up.

Taxpayer funded yoga

How this kind of expenditure was allowed to go on across multiple years is simply unfathomable. We say it is time for NZTE to grow up, front up and stop acting like children.

Universities Pouring Even More Money into Wasteful Projects Despite Financial Woes 🚧 🏗️

New Zealand's universities are in financial dire straits with low enrolments and shockingly high deficits. Yet despite a need to rein in spending – we've discovered that university leaders continue to blow budgets on vanity projects instead of focusing on core education.

A prime example is Victoria University of Wellington, which, despite announcing a financial crisis last year leading to staff layoffs and course cancellations, continues to spend heavily on a ‘Living Pa’ project. This sustainability-focused building has seen costs escalate from $35 million to an estimated $60 million. 

Wellington's The Post (Stuff.co.nz) covered our exposé that yet another $8 million was approved in December.

For a university that is constantly crying out for more taxpayer funding, they sure have a lot of extra money to blow on vanity projects such as this. Ironically, the cost blowout of the ‘Living Pa’ project is almost the same as the University's deficit that led to the job losses!

In response to us labelling the building a 'vanity project', The Post/Stuff went to the University for comment. Incredibly, Professor Rawinia Higgins, deputy vice-chancellor Māori, said that despite the ballooning costs she was appreciative that it is effectively too late to cancel!  

“The financial sustainability project has put a lot of pressure on everybody. We are fortunate the pā was already in flight,” [...] 

"When complete, the living pā will be a place for the “big conversations”, Higgins said.

There is a need for a 'big conversation', but we're not sure Prof Higgins thinks it should be about cost control!

Designed to be a sustainable living building, the three-storey pā is being built with minimal use of concrete and steel.

It will have a glazed facade, engineered timber cladding, solar array on the roof, and a closed loop water system. It must generate all its own energy, have its own water systems, be entirely carbon neutral and have used non-toxic materials.

Once completed it will be home to Te Kawa a Māui (School of Māori Studies), Māori student services, while also housing collaborative working, teaching, and marae engagement spaces to advance teaching and research models that draw on mātauranga Māori and emerging science and technology.[...]

Higgins (Tūhoe) saw how the building served as a “bridge” of understanding to who Tūhoe were as a people.

“To me that’s what learning should be about ... finding a bridge or commonplace that brings people together.”

Higgins said they had been “very deliberate” about the pā’s design so as not to detract from the wharenui which would be the “jewel of the crown in the whole complex”.

[...] Positioned in the heart of the campus, the pā will become a “beacon for Māori students”, with the wharenui no longer hidden behind “what used to be some very old colonial looking buildings”.

[...] With the building shape more evident, Higgins hoped it would provide a sense of hope about the university’s future.

But it isn’t just Victoria University... Otago claims that asking about the cost of a $110k sculpture is "culturally insensitive" 🤯

This week, we were in the Otago Daily Times calling out Otago University for spending $110k on a sculpture despite their own financial woes.

What’s worse is that the University refused to share how it spent the money until the Chief Ombudsman got involved to force their hand. They claimed that the request for the cost of the sculpture was “of a vexatious nature and culturally insensitive.”

We say it’s high time our tertiary institutions get back to delivering on their core purpose, and putting pretentious pet projects to one side. Nothing is more important to the future of our country than the provision of education. It is critical that our Universities focus (and focus their limited budget on) education and research.

Taxpayers Forking Out to Provide Foreign Aid to Countries with Space and Nuclear Programmes! 🚀 💥

In case you missed it over summer, Newstalk ZB covered our exposé that Kiwi taxpayers are spending millions on foreign aid to countries wealthy enough to have their own space and nuclear programmes!

For example, in the same year that India landed a spacecraft on the moon, they received $1,178,000 from Kiwi taxpayers, Indonesia has been granted a whopping $25,068,402.67 and Pakistan has been given $3,500,000.

On Newstalk ZB, our investigations coordinator Oliver argued that if a foreign government has enough money to invest in ambitious space programmes, it should not expect to be receiving funding from taxpayers that is earmarked for helping the world’s poorest. We say that New Zealand's limited foreign aid budget should be directed to those who need it most and, in particular, our Pacific Island neighbours.

Half the Cost of Your Summer Road Trip Went Straight to the Government Coffers! 

If you managed to get away for a road trip over the summer break, unfortunately it was unlikely that you were able to escape the grip of big government with almost half of the pump price of petrol being taxes. 

That's right, we revealed that 48% of the cost every time you fill up the car is tax that goes straight to the government – in Auckland it's more than 50% thanks to Labour's regional fuel tax!

Wellingtonians wanting to escape the city and head to Taupō for a few days will be forced to stump up $86 in fuel taxes for the journey. One of our young staffers decided to head to the Rhythm and Vines New Years festival in Gisborne and got stung with $120 in fuel taxes!

For many, the summer holiday period is the one time of the year that they are able to get off work and enjoy time with friends and families. After the costs of a more expensive Christmas this year (thanks to Grant Robertson and Adrian Orr), on top of exorbitant fuel taxes, the prospect of a summer getaway is unfortunately becoming less and less viable for many families. 

Now many people would be happy paying fuel taxes, if the money was actually spent on fixing and maintaining the roads, but anyone driving anywhere this summer can't have got very far without hitting sections of road riddled with potholes. Instead, the government continues to blow fuel excise revenue on projects completely unrelated to driving such as coastal shipping, cycle tracks and public transport pet projects. 

Share Secrets, Expose Extravagance: Are You Aware of Wasteful Spending?

Many of our waste stories come tip-offs from supporters like you, or from within the bureaucracy itself.

If you're aware of examples of government departments or local councils engaging in extravagant, inappropriate or wasteful spending that you think we should investigate, please send us a confidential tip-off with what you know. You can do so on our tip-line by clicking here.

Other News in Brief 

  • We called on the government to get rid of road-related excise taxes from marine fuel for recreational boaties. Currently, boaties pay all the same fuel taxes as motorists despite boats not being operated on the road. We suggested a similar claims process to that used by commercial fishing operators. 
  • We revealed that police officers filled up their cars with the wrong fuel 19 times in the past year, costing taxpayers almost $8000 to fix the damage. This is despite spending thousands of dollars over the past few years fitting the vehicles with attachments that are meant to prevent exactly this from happening!
  • ACC's lavish and patronising 'Have a Hmmm' campaign was revealed by us to have cost $2.4 million over just 7 months. We are asking questions to see whether this actually lead to a measurable reduction in injuries or if it was a costly and ineffective exercise.
  • The Ministry of Health was taken to court over incorrectly threatening a business after they misinterpreted their own regulations. We revealed that this legal action cost taxpayers $250,000, something that could have been easily avoided if the Ministry had accepted the businesses offer to meet and resolve the issue.
  • We dug into the police's $320,000 podcast and it turns out only 15,400 people downloaded it – that's $21 per download! We even invited them on our podcast, Taxpayer Talk, last year to promote being a cop, but they passed. Similarly, we also revealed the police have no clue how many folks used their $634,000 recruitment app. 

One More Summer Read? 📕

We've absolutely loved getting feedback over summer from people reading The Mission: The Taxpayers' Union at 10.  We even had a few text messages from Cabinet Ministers telling us they're reading the book (apparently it is a better read than the mountain of gloomy Ministerial briefing papers!).

If you haven't yet grabbed your copy, click here to get yours today.

Thanks for your support and all the best for the year ahead,


Connor Molloy
Campaigns Manager

New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union 

Donate

Media coverage:

NZ Herald Govt announces review of Kāinga Ora, Christopher Luxon responds to criticism over publicly-funded te reo lessons

Otago Daily Times Taxpayers foot bill for Luxon's reo Māori lessons

RNZ The Panel with David Cunliffe and Nalini Baruch (Part 1)

RNZ PM in hot water over tax payer funded te reo tuition

NZ Herald Gerry Brownlee off to a solid start as Speaker - Audrey Young

Rural News Tough times 

interest.co.nz Finance Minister Nicola Willis wants Treasury to report fiscal risks more clearly

MSN Fireworks in Parliament over Govt's mini-Budget

Otago Daily Times Criticism by Taxpayers' Union 'embarrassing'

BusinessDesk On the Money: the taxi waits for no one, Cecilia's in the market, hear Jordan, and more

Stuff Damien Grant: Being in Opposition can be a gift, but it's time which must be used wisely

Stuff Which council staff are earning more than $100,000?

Timaru Herald Waitaki council rejects 'vanity project' claim about $32m Ōamaru event centre project

The Post Costs jump $26m on Victoria University’s Living Pā project

Stuff Is $100,000 still a big salary in 2023?

NZ Herald Claire Trevett: National leader Christopher Luxon’s dire interview of no answers

ChannelLife Taxpayers' Union slams NZ Police's Virtual Cop app

Basset, Brash & Hide JOHN RAINE: Ministerial Spring Cleaning and the Parable of the Rowing Eight

Newstalk ZB Taxpayer Union questions prior Foreign Aid spending; urges focus on 'Pacific friends'

Newstalk ZB Afternoon Edition: 05 January 2024

Basset, Brash & Hide GRAHAM ADAMS: TVNZ’s naked bias on display

Otago Daily Times Secrecy shows ‘lack of respect’ for taxpayers

1 News Felix Desmarais: Ten faces to watch in politics in 2024

Otago Daily Times Learning to answer questions

Accountability Needed over Disastrous Failure to Care for Te Urewera

The Taxpayers’ Union is demanding accountability from the Department of Conservation (DOC) and the Te Urewera board following a ruling by the High Court that the burning and removal of the huts in Te Urewera was unlawful.

According to information obtained under the Official Information Act, The Department of Conservation continues to resource the operation of Te Urewera to the tune of around $2.1m a year given to Te Ura Taumata, and also pays over $100,000 annually to the Te Urewera Baord to manage the operation.

Commenting on Te Urewera’s management and operational issues, Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

“Since Te Urewera was handed over to Ngai Tūhoe nearly a decade ago, taxpayers have coughed up tens of millions of dollars to resource the upkeep and development of the area, yet the governing body has now been found to have failed to adhere to its obligations under the Te Urewera Act, destroyed the majority of critical huts in the area, and has conducted all of its work without an operational plan for the last two years.

“There have already been growing concerns from conservationists over the demise in monitoring of endangered bird species as well as insufficient pest control, but with the governing body now actively disregarding their legal obligations, it’s clear that the current leadership arrangement and operational structure is simply untenable.

“In the first instance, DOC’s director general must be held accountable for what has evidently been an appalling failure to oversee the management of Te Urewera. Additionally, an independent review into Te Urewera’s finances and operations must be conducted to determine whether the current monetary allocation has been spent responsibly and in accordance with legal obligations.

“As it stands taxpayers are essentially being forced to fund an operation with no plan, no checks and balances, and no evidence of success. It is vital that if Te Urewera continues to be resourced by taxpayers, it’s board and operational entity must deliver tangible results and effectively carry out its legal obligations. Currently, to the detriment of taxpayers, it appears to be doing neither.”

Wellington Water Must Sack Employee Caught Bragging about Wagging Work Amidst Water Crisis

Commenting on a Wellington Water employee posting footage of themselves on social media bragging about ‘slacking off’, doing no work whilst still getting paid, Taxpayers’ Union Policy Adviser, James Ross, said:

“In November alone, of over 3,800 leaks in the region, around 3,050 were left unattended. 44% of the region’s water is lost to leaks, and now residents are being told to buy emergency 170-litre water tanks to tide them over during a looming summer water crisis.

“Whilst Wellingtonians panic over how they’re going to get by this summer, the very same people who are responsible for this situation are filming themselves swanning about at the gym, going to the cinema and meeting up with friends all the while pretending to be working.

“The council engineer’s self-proclaimed wagging-off routine of lounging around on the sofa whilst ‘working from home’ or staring blankly at an empty computer screen should have been obvious to any manager worth their salt.

“The evidence is clear and the engineer must be fired without delay. But clearly Wellington Water’s problems go much deeper than one lazy engineer, and a full investigation is needed to root out any more bureaucrats who feel like the ratepayer owes them a free living.”

Taxpayers’ Union Calls on NZ COP10 Delegates to Reject Misguided WHO Vaping Call to Action

The Taxpayers’ Union is calling on New Zealand’s delegates to the Tenth session of the Conference of the Parties (COP10) to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control to reject the latest WHO call to action on e-cigarettes which ignores scientific evidence and will see more people suffering from smoking related illnesses.

“The call to action by the WHO is misguided and puts ideology over evidence. New Zealand’s incredible success in cutting smoking rates is off the back of smokers switching to vaping - as a reduced harm alternative, or pathway to quit.”

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

“This politicisation of health advice runs the real risk of being an own goal and discouraging smokers from switching to vaping as a safer alternative. Ironically, the WHO is playing into the hands of big tobacco. In New Zealand - along with similar countries such as the UK and Canada - there is explicit recognition by health experts of vaping as an effective smoking cessation tool that is less harmful than cigarettes.

“We share the concerns of many in relation to children accessing vaping products, however the evidence from ASH shows that in New Zealand the number of young people vaping is already on the decline. Rather than throwing the baby out with the bath water, we must therefore be cautious about heavy-handed regulation that risks reversing our current trend of declining smoking and youth vaping rates. Efforts should instead focus on stronger enforcement measures such as stings to weed out those retailers illegally selling to those under the age of 18.

“The WHO’s tacit endorsement of banning vaping outright shows just how unserious they are about tobacco harm reduction. Even at their ‘minimum’ recommended level of regulation, proposals such as complete flavour bans and higher taxes will remove much of the incentive for smokers to switch to safer alternatives. New Zealand must not fall for WHO fear-mongering and instead continue our evidence-based, health-focused approach to tobacco harm reduction and reject this latest call to action.”

Otago Uni’s Lack of Transparency Reveals Much Deeper Problem

Responding to the Chief Ombudsman's comments that the University of Otago initially refusing to release information regarding the cost of commissioning a sculpture was unjustified, Taxpayers’ Union Policy Adviser, James Ross, said:

“Otago Uni refusing until pressured to share how it spent over $110k on a sculpture clearly shows a lack of respect for the taxpayers’ back pockets, but the issues go far beyond that. The way in which this obstinance was dealt with hints to much deeper problems across the public sector.

“When information might embarrass a public body, they can simply refuse to release it despite being legally required to do so. This can be referred to the Ombudsman, who may pass judgment six months or even over a year later. By this point the story has more-often-than-not died and those bureaucrats who stuffed official information down the back of the sofa get away with their ploy scot-free.

“New Zealand needs a faster, leaner Ombudsman's office with some teeth to bring accountability back to the public sector. But that’s just the start, and major Official Information Act reform is needed to stop entire departments such as the Parliamentary Service from being able to hide behind the curtains.”

Taxpayers’ Union Slams Extension of Corporate Welfare for Gaming Industry Fat Cats

The Taxpayers’ Union is slamming the National-led government for giving in to well-connected gaming lobbyists and continuing to subsidise the gaming sector to the tune of tens of millions of taxpayer dollars each year.

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

“Subsidising an infant industry doesn’t help it to grow up. Instead, you end up with a lazy adult still living in mum’s basement and doing nothing productive. Giving an industry money when it can’t stand on its own two feet may prop it up, but it also swells the size of the subsidy required to keep it afloat. This vicious cycle forces taxpayers to fork out more and more each year.

“Investment should be occurring where it makes the most sense, which is best determined by markets not Ministers. The only way to ensure money is being allocated efficiently is by letting people decide for themselves what they value.

“Subsidising one sector simply forces the allocation of resources away from industries that are more productive or where New Zealand has a greater comparative advantage. Politicians are falling into the same trap as they did with the film sector by growing an industry dependant on subsidies that then become near impossible to remove.

“We call on ACT to stick to their principles and push back against the Government’s approach of subsidising the wealthy elite and instead cut all corporate welfare to fund an across the board reduction in the company tax rate for all businesses.”

Ministry of Health vaporises $250,000 after incorrectly threatening retailers

The Taxpayers’ Union can reveal that the Ministry of Health spent $249,267.50 on legal fees for a court battle against a vaping retailer who they wrongly threatened for selling non-compliant products.

The issue arose from the Ministry of Health incorrectly interpreting their own regulations in relation to maximum nicotine salt levels, eventually leading to an expensive court case where the Ministry conceded they were in the wrong.

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:  

“The Ministry appears to have been playing silly buggers here after refusing the retailer’s repeated requests to meet with them to clear the issue up – something that would have saved the taxpayer hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“The Ministry’s justification for refusing to meet with the retailer is laughable. Despite having met with the company in the past, the Ministry tried to use the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control as reason for it not being appropriate to meet. The issue with that is that it does not apply to vaping suppliers.

“It is especially damaging for business confidence when retailers are threatened despite following the letter of the law. Fortunately, this company was willing to challenge the threats but a similar situation could easily result in a business being too scared to do business in New Zealand.

“If we want people to start businesses in New Zealand, we can't force them to put up with the incompetence of regulators who put people in a position where they, despite their best efforts, can’t be certain that they are obeying the law. The Minister of Regulation must figure out what went wrong here and ensure it doesn’t happen again.”

New Zealand Sending Millions in Foreign Aid to Countries with Space and Nuclear Programmes

The Taxpayers’ Union is questioning why New Zealand taxpayers are forking out millions of dollars in foreign aid to countries that have state-sponsored space and nuclear weapons programmes.

A recent Taxpayers’ Union OIA reveals that in the past year, India has received $1,178,000 from Kiwi taxpayers, Indonesia has been granted a whopping $25,068,402.67 and Pakistan has been given $3,500,000."

Oliver Bryan, Investigations Coordinator at the Taxpayers' Union, said:

“It is concerning to see the government’s priorities in relation to foreign aid with millions of dollars going to countries who have state-sponsored space and nuclear programmes.

“If a foreign government has enough money to invest in ambitious space programmes, it should not expect to be receiving payments from New Zealand taxpayers that is earmarked for helping the world’s poorest.

"Our new Ministers must reconsider and refine our aid policies, putting genuine need at the forefront."

Taxpayers’ Union calls for an end to marine fuel tax

The Taxpayers’ Union is calling on the government to give boaties a break and bring fairness to how they are taxed by ending road-related taxes on marine fuel.

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

“Boaties enjoying their time out on the water this summer are being hit twice by the government’s punishing 48% fuel taxes. First when they fill up the ute, and again when they fill up the boat.

“When Winston Peters said he’d never seen a Waka on the road he was onto something. It is completely unfair that boaties should have to pay for the upkeep of roads that they don’t even drive on. He, and the government should commit to scrapping the tax on a beloved pastime of many Kiwis.

“Those using fuel for off-road commercial purposes such as fishing can already claim back their fuel tax, all we are asking is that a similar claims process be provided to recreational boaties too.”

Police have no idea how many people downloaded $634,000 app

The Taxpayers’ Union is shocked to discover that the New Zealand police have no idea how many people downloaded their $634,000 ‘Virtual Cop’ app intended for recruiting new police officers.

The costs of the app included $315,000 on concept creation and development, $265,000 on the development of new experiences and $54,000 on gear and hardware.

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

“Despite spending hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars on the app, we have no way of knowing whether or not it was actually worth it.

“With such a significant level of investment, you would think that at least the app would be a high-quality and enjoyable experience. Unfortunately, the reviews say otherwise,

“One user stated in a review entitled ‘Boring’ that the app had ‘probably some of the worst graphics I have ever seen, even my potato has better graphics. I like the idea but the game seems really budget. It’s got stupid and boring mini games. Overall it’s a boring and trash game DON’T GET’ – not exactly glowing feedback.

“Many other similar comments express frustration at bugs in the game suggesting it is not well developed and a waste of taxpayer resources. A sense check is needed at the police with the number of overzealous campaigns focusing too much on wasting money and not enough on catching criminals.”

Kiwis urged to get away for one last holiday before National’s app tax kicks in

The Taxpayers’ Union is encouraging Kiwi’s to get away for one last holiday before National’s app tax kicks in this year.

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

“Kiwis better make the most of their stay in an Airbnb or bach rental because it is about to get a lot more expensive. Adding GST to the cost of app-based services like Airbnb and Uber is distortionary, unfair and will punish Kiwis with higher prices.

“Despite campaigning strongly against the app tax, National’s dramatic u-turn will see families paying more to be a part of an increasingly digitised economy. Rather than cutting wasteful spending to fund its tax cuts, National is trying to do a bait and switch by reducing taxes in once place while hiking them up somewhere else.

“This year, the Taxpayers’ Union will campaign strongly against the new app tax, urging the National to revert to their original position while in opposition of opposing the app tax and to scrap it completely."

Relief at last: Taxpayers’ Union celebrates end of the regressive, ‘reverse Robin Hood’ ute tax

The Taxpayers’ Union is today celebrating the end of Labour’s ute tax and tesla subsidy that saw money being taken away from hard-working farmers and tradies and given to Wellington champagne socialists buying Teslas.

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy said:

“At last this costly, ineffective and unfair tax has come to an end. Not only did it punish those who had little choice but to drive a high emitting vehicle but it didn’t make a shred of difference for the climate either.

“Transport emissions are already governed under New Zealand’s capped Emissions Trading Scheme so any reductions from driving cleaner vehicles will simply free up carbon credits to drive up emissions elsewhere in the economy.

“While the removal of this tax will be a welcome result for many of those wanting new utes, it will offer little reprieve to those farmers and tradies who lost vehicles in the flooding last year and were forced to pay thousands of dollars more for a replacement.

“The Taxpayers’ Union is willing to meet with any journalist or MP to explain how the ETS works and help work towards the lowest-cost pathway to emissions reduction.”

New Year’s Resolution: Taxpayers’ Union calls for more transparency in the New Year

The Taxpayers’ Union is calling on politicians and public servants to commit to increased transparency and accountability as we head into the new year by reforming the Official Information Act and improving proactive release policies.

Taxpayers’ Union Policy Adviser, James Ross, said:

“The Government must start the new year delivering on its commitment of fiscal responsibility and reducing government waste. A core part of that is ensuring that taxpayers are aware of how their money is being spent to ensure value for money and demand accountability for poor spending choices.

“The first step must be beginning work to reform our long out of date official information regime. Expenditure by the Parliamentary Service and individual MPs must be brought within the scope of the OIA and the grounds for refusal across all public agencies must be narrowed.

“More widely, departments should be told by Ministers to proactively and regularly release details of all non-payroll financial transactions to allow close scrutiny of expenditure. Most of this information is already collected and the practice is common in many US states.

“For too long, taxpayers have been forced to rely on the leaks from the inside or fortunate OIA requests to become aware of egregious abuses of taxpayer money. If this government is committed to cutting waste, they should allow us to help.”

Tuning into Waste: NZ Police's $320K Podcast Gamble Falls Flat

The Taxpayers' Union is questioning the rationale behind the New Zealand Police's extravagant expenditure of $320,000 on their 'Offbeat' podcast series. The series has garnered a mere 15,400 downloads since its launch, costing taxpayers approximately $21 per download.

Oliver Bryan, Investigations Coordinator at the Taxpayers' Union, said:

“The $320,000 would be far better spent on visiting high schools and encouraging students to join the police and answering student’s questions. Any kid dedicated enough to endure an episode of the podcast is one who is likely to join the police anyway.

"It's concerning to see that despite the podcast's availability on multiple platforms—Spotify, iHeart, and Apple—yet it still failed to attract a larger audience. What's even more egregious is that of the $320,000 total campaign cost, a staggering 57% was allocated to advertising, which still yielded poor results."

"While it may be too early to determine if the downloads will translate into recruitment, at only 15,000 downloads since its launch it seems unlikely that there will be a high enough conversion rate to justify this extravagant expenditure.

“Unless the Police can demonstrate a direct and meaningful impact of this podcast on recruitment, it's safe to say that this project is an egregious misuse of taxpayer money."

ACC's 'Have a Hmm' Campaign: Patronizing, Inefficient and a Lavish Expenditure

Taxpayers’ Union Official Information request can reveal that ACC's 'Have a Hmm' campaign has cost taxpayers an astounding $2.4 million from January to July 2023. The campaign's primary objective is to encourage individuals to exercise caution before engaging in potentially risky activities in order to prevent injuries.

Oliver Bryan, Investigations Coordinator at the Taxpayers' Union, said, "ACC’s 'Have a Hmm' initiative appears to be an extravagant undertaking with minimal results, essentially patronizing the taxpayer and billing us for the privilege."

“As part of the campaign, social media videos were created, featuring scenarios such as one person contemplating whether to jump off a waterfall and another pondering the idea of climbing household furniture. This patronizing style of messaging not only raises questions about the campaign's effectiveness but also calls into question its respect for the public's intelligence. The fact that this video series alone cost $549,590, including production expenses of $239,165, gives the impression that this campaign was designed to irritate rather than assist.”

"Despite the campaign's lavish budget, engagement levels have been surprisingly lacklustre. Only 10,640 individuals completed the 'Attitude to risk' quiz, amounting to an approximate cost of $225 per quiz completed."

“Every year, government agencies spend millions of dollars on expensive advertising campaigns with no accountability as to whether this money is delivering results. The new government must ensure that these campaigns actually reducing injuries and if they aren’t the funding for them should be cut.”

New year tobacco tax hike will pile more costs onto smokers and increase crime

The Taxpayers’ Union is warning of the social costs and impacts on crime of this years’ 5.64% increase in tobacco excise tax.

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

“The goal of reducing smoking and preventing smoking-related illnesses is a laudable one but this latest tax hike will do little more than punish people and drive up crime.

“Those still smoking are the most committed smokers who understand the risks and more than pay their way. This latest hike is unlikely to push them to quit. Instead, the hike will push more smokers to the black market to source untaxed, unregulated tobacco where the proceeds can be used to finance organised crime.

“Already, one in eight cigarettes smoked in New Zealand comes from the black market, this will only make the problem worse. As demand for illicit tobacco increases, retailers are more likely to be targeted in what are now highly-lucrative robberies.

“It is worth noting that it is not just the smokers who suffer from these tax hikes. Their families feel the burden too with less money is left over at the end of the week for other things once cigarettes are paid for.

“A better approach would be to follow what is already working by continuing to promote vaping as an effective and less harmful smoking cessation tool.”

Victoria University of Wellington’s now $60m Living Pā is a disgrace to staff and students

The Taxpayers’ Union can reveal that University Council at Victoria University has approved an $8 million increase to their already massively over-budget Living Pā project, bringing the total spend to around $60 million – nearly twice as much as the initial $35m price tag set out in 2019.

According to an OIA and subsequent email correspondence, the institution has spent $27,175,000 so far, including $5,550,000 in consultation costs. It plans to have the entire project finished by the end of 2024.

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

“At a time when the University is struggling with record-low enrolments, low revenue, and sky-high deficits, it continues to recklessly funnel money into a needless vanity project where the budget alone could cover the university’s entire fiscal hole, and then some.

“The University Council must be financially illiterate if it thinks that continuing to pour funds into this wasteful endeavour will result in anything other than more blowouts and more pressure on staff and students.

“The Living Pā project has been a financial disaster from the get-go. Following the pandemic, the budget increased by nearly $20 million to accommodate ‘rising building costs’, and will now cost nearly two times as much as was initially planned.

“Over the last 2 years, Wellington’s University has been churning out shockingly high deficits, subsequently forcing hundreds of its staff into resignation to ‘keep costs down.’ It’s a damning insult to students, staff, and New Zealand taxpayers, that the University Council has continued to prioritise a wasteful development project over the provision of education.

“Victoria University should halt all work on the Living Pā, get a hold on its finances, and instead of selling out its staff for the sake of a new building, focus on what our tertiary institutions are really meant for.”

Fuelish Mistakes as Police Put Wrong Fuel in Cars 19 Times This Year

The New Zealand Taxpayers' Union is expressing astonishment at an OIA response revealing that police vehicles have been incorrectly fuelled 19 times in the past year, incurring costs of $7,570.48 for the taxpayer.

Oliver Bryan, the Investigations Coordinator at the Taxpayers' Union, said:

“Filling a vehicle with the correct fuel is a routine task accomplished daily by thousands of New Zealanders seamlessly. The fact that our police, expected to demonstrate meticulousness and thoroughness, have consistently stumbled in this fundamental duty is perplexing and, frankly, absurd.

“Police have spent the last couple of years spending taxpayer money on fitting “dieselhead” devices to their vehicles yet the misfuelling has continued. Either the modifications were ineffective and a waste of taxpayer money or those refuelling their vehicles showed a magnificent display of incompetence.

"This scenario would be laughable if it wasn’t taxpayers’ money. When taxpayers fund vehicles for the police, they expect that property to be treated with respect.

"Taxpayers are owed an explanation and a pledge to avert such preposterous errors in the future. That would seem an ideal New Year’s resolution for our Police Force.”

Mind-blowing $800,000 on ‘Team Meetings’ by NZTE

The Taxpayers’ Union is astounded at the staggering cost of New Zealand Trade and Enterprise spending $809,450 seven ‘Regional Team Meetings’ over two years, but the cost breakdown is even worse.

Taxpayers’ Union OIA can reveal:

  • Meals for these 2-3 day meetings totalled $185,696 and averaged $217 per person, per day, but for some meetings were as high as $296 per person per day.
  • Accommodation costs totalled $292,295
  • Key agenda items for the meetings included:
    • Rock, Paper, Scissors Tournament
    • Silent Disco
    • Scavenger hunt
    • Yoga
    • Song contest
    • Team Trivia Night
    • Animal Sanctuary Visit
    • Wellbeing Teambuilding challenge
    • Creativity session
    • Personal purpose and reflection time

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

“Despite the exorbitant costs charged back to taxpayers, it seems like the jaunts were little more than children’s holiday camps rather than getting down to business.

“Reading the information response, we thought someone was playing a joke. Rock, paper, scissors tournaments, silent discos and scavenger hunts? Seriously? You couldn’t make this stuff up.”

“How this kind of expenditure was allowed to go on across multiple years is simply unfathomable. It is time for NZTE to grow up, front up and stop acting like children.”

Taxpayer Update: What you made possible | Healthy Christmas Lunch? | The Tax on Christmas

As we wrap up the year and before the staff knock-off, the team are reflecting on a challenging but successful 2023 and looking to the year ahead. 

Some highlights of what our supporters made possible this year

How we Scrapped Three Waters

  • The pressure from the public surrounding Three Waters became too much for the Government. Our polling when Chris Hipkins became PM revealed we had turned it into the number one policy voters wanted Hipkins to scrap – including among Labour supporters. Labour substantially watered down their Three Waters policy (but still kept the worst elements). 

  • Labour were so worried, they re-branded Three Waters to 'Affordable Water Reform'.  But no one was fooled...

  • National and ACT's Three Waters proposals were in line with our alternative.

  • We made significant progress in drafting our replacement Three Waters bill which will end co-governance, restore local ownership and lead to higher quality, more efficient delivery of water services. 

And in the new year, the work will continue. We've scrapped Three Waters – but we need to ensure the replacement is up to snuff.

Three Waters 2.0 – Stopping David Parker's 'Central Planning Committees' power grab

And more...

A Christmas feast that satisfies the government health tsars

While Kiwis are busy preparing for a day of eating and drinking with loved ones, one of our interns has been busy preparing a Christmas feast that abides by all of the government’s dietary and health guidelines.  

Among the hundreds of pages of guidance and bureaucratic jargon, there is a whole range of health guideline suggesting that the almighty health overlords know how you should live your life better than you yourself. 

And the result is frankly depressing. You're gonna have to put the Christmas ham away, and alcohol? Don't even think about it. 

For breakfast, you're allowed two wheatmeal slices of bread with 40 grams of peanut butter and a 200ml cappuccino with 100ml of milk on the side.

Then, for your ‘big’ (government approved) Christmas Lunch, the official government guidelines would let you have 60 grams of roast lamb, topped with 3.4 grams of gravy, 1 unsalted baked potato, 2 unsalted baked kumaras, 1 carrot, 1 broccoli, and 15ml of cheese sauce to drip on top. You’re also allowed to have a pint of alcohol-free beer to wash it all down. Yum!

For dessert, we’ve lined up 19 grams of pavlova, to be served with a banana, half a kiwifruit, 1 strawberry, and topped with 8 grams of whipped cream. You’re also welcome to have half a mince pie, half a slice of fruit cake, and a quarter of a scoop of vanilla ice-cream (with no added sugar of course).

And for dinner... don't be silly. After those three meals you've nearly exceeded your government-approved daily limit and you'll be left with a handful of small snacks to tide you over through the night. 

If you're up for a sad Christmas this year, or you're just interested to see what the Ministry of Health does with its time, you can read the full report here. 

The Tax on Christmas 

For most of us, Christmas is about giving. But, for the Tax Man, it’s all about taking. Connor wraps up the year with a special video revealing the incredible reach of the “Tax on Christmas”.

Looking for some summer listening?

This year we released 19 new episodes of our podcast, Taxpayer Talk, featuring MPs, councillors, bureaucrats, policy experts, Taxpayers' Union board members, a Lord, and more. 

If you find yourself with any spare time over the break, you can catch up with Taxpayer Talk on our website | Apple | Spotify | Google Podcasts | iHeart Radio

One last thing🎅🏻🎄

As you've seen {{recipient.first_name_or_friend}}, no one can say we haven't worked hard this year! But everything done and accomplished has been thanks to the support of hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders who support our work, and the tens of thousands who donate and make our work possible. 

If you agree that it is important that we keep up the momentum next year –  and ensure the government delivers the fundamental reforms required to get New Zealand back on a path to prosperity – please embrace the holiday giving spirit and chip in to our 2024 fighting fund with an end of year donation.

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From all of the team at the Taxpayers' Union, wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Jordan

Jordan_signature.jpg
Jordan Williams
Executive Director
New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union.

 

Media coverage:

NZ Herald Govt announces review of Kāinga Ora, Christopher Luxon responds to criticism over publicly-funded te reo lessons

Otago Daily Times Taxpayers foot bill for Luxon's reo Māori lessons

RNZ The Panel with David Cunliffe and Nalini Baruch (Part 1)

1 News PM denies his taxpayer-funded te reo Māori lessons are hypocritical

RNZ PM in hot water over tax payer funded te reo tuition

NZ Herald Gerry Brownlee off to a solid start as Speaker - Audrey Young

Rural News Tough Times

Interest.co.nz Finance Minister Nicola Willis wants Treasury to report fiscal risks more clearly


Taxpayers’ Union reveals Nanny State-Approved Christmas Feast

While Kiwis are busy preparing for a day of eating and drinking with loved ones on Monday, the Taxpayers’ Union has been busy preparing a Christmas feast that abides by all of the government’s dietary and health guidelines.  

The Nanny State-Approved Christmas Feast has been prepared following a comprehensive analysis of hundreds of pages of government health advice, and hours of trial and error perfecting the perfect Christmas meal that every Health New Zealand bureaucrat should be happy with. The full report can be read here.   

The Christmas feast contains four courses to enjoy throughout Christmas Day (Breakfast, Lunch, Dessert and evening snacks) and abides by the recommended maximum daily intake of calories, sugar, sodium, protein, carbohydrates and fats for a male aged 31-50 who partakes in light exercise.  

Christmas breakfast consists of two slices of wholegrain toast topped with 40 grams of peanut butter, coupled with your usual morning cappuccino (only this one contains lite milk). 

Christmas Breakfast

Christmas lunch consists of a succulent unsalted 60 grams of lamb roast (with the fat removed), cooked with two teaspoons of olive oil. Also fresh from the oven we have an unsalted baked potato, two unsalted baked kumaras, 61 grams of carrot, and 140 grams of cooked broccoli. Top this meal off with a generous 15ml of cheese sauce, 3.4 grams of gravy, and wash it all down with a pint of alcohol-free beer – you deserve it! 

Christmas dessert features many of your Kiwi Christmas staples, with 19 grams of pavlova, half of one piece of fruit cake (25 grams), one strawberry, one banana, one kiwi fruit, one quarter of a scoop of vanilla ice cream (the no added sugar kind), half of a fruit mince pie (27 grams), and to close the show – 8 grams of whipped cream. 

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, says: 

“Taxpayers are sick of having politicians and bureaucrats telling them how to live their lives. This Christmas, we’re revealing how sad and boring life would be if we took everything the Government said at face value.  

“Our analysis of the health guidelines showed just how strict these complex heath guidelines really are. The worrying thing is that it is often those very guidelines written with advice from lobbyists that are then used by those same lobbyists as justification to call for taxes and restrictions on sugar, salt or whatever the next target of these activists is.  

“If government health overlords had their way, families all across New Zealand would be missing out on the most festive day of the year. Rather than getting into the Christmas spirit, the government has become the Grinch instead.  

“There is a lot more to wellbeing than just people’s physical health. People trade off their health all the time for things they enjoy, and they should be free to do so. Of course, having clear guidance helps people to make informed decisions but what we get from the government is hardly easy to understand.  

“Recommended maximum daily intakes are hidden among hundreds of pages of documents and is often out of step with other countries or the latest health research. 

“In the age of the internet when information is so readily accessible, government health agencies would be better to be linking to reputable sources of health guidelines than spending millions replicating work to come up with their own.  

<<< Read the full report here >>>

Revealed: Holiday motorists being slammed by fuel taxes over summer break

The Taxpayers’ Union can reveal that taxpayers will be paying in 48.08% of the pump price in fuel taxes these summer holidays and in Auckland the figure is 50.22% thanks to the Auckland Regional Fuel Tax.

Driving a 2014 Honda Accord with petrol costing 266.6c/L (278.1 c/L in Auckland), taxpayers will be paying $76.74 in fuel taxes for a 60-litre refuelling.

Commenting on these figures, Taxpayers’ Union Policy Adviser, James Ross, said:

“Families and holidaymakers gearing up for their summer holidays have got a nasty surprise for them waiting for them. Despite many having to scrimp and save all year during a cost-of-living crisis to pull together enough money for a well-earned Christmas junket, the taxman isn't going to make it any easier.

“Wellingtonians heading out of the city up to Taupo will have to stump up $86 in fuel taxes straight into the Government coffers. Those fancying a rave in the sun at Rhythm and Vines are instead looking at over $120 just in tax to get there and back again.

“Christchurch residents journeying to Queenstown for a scenic getaway will certainly be feeling the burn of nearly $110 in fuel taxes alone before any other costs have even been accounted for. If you fancy a bit of fishing down in Milford Sound then you’re looking at over $170. Let’s just hope you’re not planning on towing your own boat down.

“For Auckland residents, it’s much worse. The regional fuel tax adds on an additional 11.5 cents per litre (including GST).

“Holidaymakers rifling through their wallets for a spare ten bucks for some fish and chips will have the government to thank when all they find is dust and moths. While families struggle to afford a holiday, it’s saddening to remember that instead of being spent on improving the roads to at least make the journey more tolerable, much of the fuel tax revenue is spent on areas completely unrelated to roads.”

David Parker’s Central Planning Committees on the Policy Bonfire

Responding to the repeal of the Natural and Built Environment Act and Spatial Planning Act, Taxpayers’ Union Policy Adviser, James Ross, said:

“David Parker’s resource management reforms tried to strip consenting, planning and resource management powers away from local communities and place them in the hands of unelected, co-governed regional planning committees.

“We saw with the creation of the failed Te Pukenga, centralisation of the health system and the ballooning costs of Three Waters just how costly and ineffective the ‘Wellington knows best’ approach is. The last Government had an obsession with centralisation at any cost, and it is promising to see the new Government on track to reverse that trend.

“Scrapping the NBEA and SPA will keep planning in the hands of local communities, and this will be welcomed with open arms by anyone who values democratic accountability. Forcing the incoming Government to scrap these power-grabbing pieces of legislation is a huge victory for grassroots Kiwi activism, but it won’t fix the underlying problems in the RMA itself.

“The RMA has fuelled a crippling housing and infrastructure crisis. We can’t unlock New Zealand’s potential for development and growth without taking an axe to all this red tape, and there’s a long road ahead of us before New Zealand gets the meaningful RMA reform we need to get New Zealand building again.”

Not since Mike Moore have New Zealanders been lied to like this – Grant Robertson should apologise

The release of today’s Half Year Economic and Fiscal Update confirms the worst kept secret in Wellington; the fiscal challenges ahead are much worse than the public were told about prior to the election. 

From the Treasury lock-up, Executive Director of the Taxpayers’ Union, Jordan Williams, said: 

“Treasury has confirmed that the last government put New Zealand on a completely unsustainable fiscal path. Grant Robertson should be ashamed, as not since his mentor Mike Moore has a government been so dishonest with the public about what was really going on. He should be issuing an apology.” 

“It is very clear that tough decisions – and a brave Minister of Finance – are necessary to get the books back into shape.” 

“The economic backdrop is nearly as bad, with high net migration dragging us into positive growth – but only just.  On a per person basis, New Zealand still faces getting poorer in the short term.”   

“Now that we know that the Pre-election Economic and Fiscal Update was in fact a fantasy land, we need to ask ourselves how our fiscal reporting model and institutions have failed taxpayers.” 

“After Mike Moore lied to New Zealanders about the state of the books in 1990, the Fiscal Responsibility Act was put in place to ensure there were no post-election ‘nasty surprises’ like those which we have seen today.  Like back then, it is not so much the numbers, as the laundry-list of fiscal risks that are only seeing the light of day now. Items that Treasury has disclosed today were absent from the pre-election update; that is clearly not good enough.” 

“This feels a lot like 1990, which led to Ruth Richardson’s ‘mother of all budgets’ the following year. Budget 2024 is going to require Nicola Willis to be made of stern stuff.” 

“While responsibility for the poor state of the books rests with Grant Robertson, Treasury too must accept some responsibility for the lack of transparency.” 

“Under the last Secretary, Treasury became far more politicised and less reliable.  The new Secretary is an improvement, but this dropping of the ball in not being willing to deliver unwelcome news prior to the election suggests she has a long way to go to get Treasury’s former status back.” 

“We have previously called on the Government to conduct a ministerial or government inquiry into Treasury’s performance and public finance transparency. Today’s documents demonstrate the reason it is needed.” 

Waitaki Ratepayers Left Holding the Bag for Oamaru Vanity Project

Waitaki District Council has approved the $32 million Network Waitaki Events Centre in Oamaru, despite lacking a sound funding plan.

The Council has pledged $15 million to the project, which when combined with the input of some outsider funding, still leaves a $2.7 million shortfall as well as an additional unfunded $4 million for the second stage of the project.

Commenting on this, Taxpayers’ Union Policy Adviser, James Ross, said:

“Waitaki District Council have now decided to rush headfirst into the Event Centre project with next to no regard for those pesky things called finances. Given their current financial position, this will likely mean borrowing at high interest rates and figuring out the details later.

“The Waitaki Ratepayers & Residents Association have been calling on their council from the beginning to come up with a workable plan that does not involve demands for ratepayers to foot the bill. No one will be shocked to learn that calls to put the back pockets of ratepayers first are falling on deaf ears.

“With 20% of staff on salaries above $100,000 and an annual consultant and contractor bill of over $34 million, rather than lumping ratepayers with this enormous bill in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis the Council must instead cut back on its bureaucratic bloat.”

Hiring Mandarins Not Medics Sees Te Whatu Ora Failing Most Vulnerable Kiwis

Figures released show that there are currently 60,000 people who have been waiting for more than four months to be seen for a first appointment with a health specialist. This is up from 36,000 from just last year.

Commenting on this, Taxpayers’ Union Policy Adviser, James Ross, said:

“Te Whatu Ora’s failure to fulfil its core function – to provide urgently needed healthcare to those most in need – is just the latest symptom of the same sickness that has overtaken much of the public sector. Government spending on health has been untargeted and ineffective and the decision to completely restructure the health system during a pandemic seemed reckless at best; now the chickens are coming home to roost.

“Since 2017, spending on health has rocketed by around 80%, but over the same time outcomes have been in freefall. It’s no coincidence that in the same six years, the number of pencil-pushing managers in health, education and social services has increased at nearly twice the rate of frontline staff.

“All this money wasted on bureaucrats could have been spent cutting waiting lists. Instead, Labour’s parting gift to New Zealand has been a failing health system and a wait-list blowout of 60% over just a single year. Timely delivery of vital services must be the top priority.”

Parker’s Preferences Act for the Chop before Christmas

 

Responding to news that David Parker’s Tax Principles Reporting Act is due to be repealed under urgency, Taxpayers’ Union Policy Adviser, James Ross, said:

“David Parker claimed that his 7 ‘tax principles’ were universally agreed upon. Given the degree of backlash, it's clear these actually amounted to little more than the personal preferences of one man with very little idea of what effective legislation looks like.

“With such nebulous and subjective concepts as “equity” and “flexibility” being offered as pillars of the tax system without any prior public consultation whatsoever, this shameless power play was always destined to fall at the first hurdle. Politics aside, this poorly designed act simply could not work in practice.

“This act was nothing but an attempt to shut down democratic debate about what our tax system should look like. Trying to legally define Labour Party opinions as objective fact and hand the power to dictate tax policy to an unelected and unaccountable commissioner should never have been allowed to stand in a modern democracy.”

Luxon should pay back Te Reo tuition fees

 

The Taxpayers’ Union is calling on Prime Minister Christopher Luxon to pay back the cost of his Te Reo tuition fees following revelations that he has been getting his lessons paid for by the taxpayer.

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

“Prime Minister Luxon has clearly been caught out saying one thing but doing another. He should do the right thing and pay the money back.

“Taking taxpayer money for Te Reo lessons while criticising public servants for doing the same undermines the credibility of the Government who proclaims to be focused on reducing wasteful spending. The culture of respect for taxpayers’ money must be set from the top.

“If a proficiency in Te Reo is necessary, of course tuition should be funded by the taxpayer but there is no real justification as to why Mr Luxon should have taxpayer funded Te Reo that would not also apply to public servants. If Mr Luxon wants to learn Te Reo, he should do so from his own pocket.”

Taxpayer Update: Taxpayer Victory Trifecta! 🎉 | Climate Change Commission must go 🤢✂️ | NZ still in recession📉💲

The Parliamentary Press Gallery had their end of year knees-up that went well into the night on Wednesday, and most of the major news shows have have now wrapped up for the year. 

But the political year is far from over! Indeed, the real moment of truth on whether Nicola Willis is serious about getting the economy back on track by slashing the costs of government will come with her so-called mini-budgetmicro-budgetnano budget out on Wednesday.

Nano budget

Grant Robertson's fiscal traps: How bad are the books? 🧾

At the same time we see the Nano Budget, we'll also get to see the latest set of books from Treasury on the Government's true fiscal situation. As Jordan talked about on Newstalk ZB on Thursday with Heather du Plessis-Allanwe are hearing about more fiscal landmines all over Wellington  – with the KiwiRail Cook Strait mega-ferries mega-cost overrun being just one of many.

Your humble Taxpayers' Union will still be at work and inside the Treasury lock-up to report to you the moment the embargo is lifted on Wednesday. Just how large will the sea of red ink be that Mr Robertson has left us (and our kids).  

Tick tock, tick tock... goes the national debt clock... 👀

Taxpayer Victory Trifecta! Previous Government's policies scrapped 🎉

Much of Wellington is already off on their pre-booked summer fiestas because, by this time of year Parliament is usually winding down. But the new Government's rubber is just hitting the road with its 100-day plan, and announcement that the summer (at least for Wellington) is to be cut short.

Not only will Parliament be back in January (we can't recall this being the case in a generation), but Christopher Luxon is calling Cabinet back to the Beehive to meet in the second week of January!

Earlier this week in a Wellington cafe, one of our staffers overheard the grumblings of a very grumpy mandarin who had made the usual seven week-long summer holiday booking and was very upset at the prospect of having it cut short. 

Welcome to the real world, Sir Humphrey!

Reserve Bank refocussed on tackling inflation 📈🏦

Reserve Bank

New Zealand was world leading with the creation in 1989 of a Reserve Bank with a single mandate of keeping inflation down. Scores of countries around the world have followed our lead. But the last Labour government sought to tinker with the system and give the Bank another target of keeping unemployment low. And we all know how that worked out. 

The problem is that Grant Robertson had effectively given Reserve Bank one lever – setting interest rates – and asked the Governor to pull it in two different directions. Up to bring inflation down or down to bring unemployment down. Clearly the experiment failed and inflation has spiralled out of control over the past two years – helped of course by Mr Robertson’s own fiscal recklessness pouring money into wasteful projects that simply make inflation worse. 

The new Government's return to the single mandate is a good first step towards getting inflation (i.e. the rising costs of living) under control. But, if the new Government is serious, the next step must be slashing wasteful spending. That's why Nicola Willis's nano budget on Wednesday is so significant.

Unfair Pay Agreements scrapped 📄

Fair Pay Agreements

Also this week we saw the repeal of Labour so-called 'Fair Pay Agreements'. 

This is the right thing to do. A bit like the 'Public Interest Journalism Fund', 'Fair Pay Agreements' are the opposite of what it says on the tin. Labour's scheme would have effectively forced compulsory unionism across the entire economy, stifling productivity, creating complexity and reducing labour market flexibility.

You can’t sustainably increase wages by simply increasing costs on employers. The only path to a high-wage economy is to ensure productivity increases. The last government was putting the cart before the horse. 

Making it harder (more expensive) to employ people with a 'one-size-fits-all' approach disproportionately harms the very people that government claimed it wanted to help – such as young people and those on the outer edges of the job market.

Workers have voted with their feet in rejecting unionism over the past 30 years with membership reducing from almost 50% of employees in the 1980s to less than 20% today. On the other hand, there is one union that is both worth joining and is making sure Kiwis can take home more after-tax income and promoting policies that improve New Zealand's productivity and prosperityMaybe you should join up... 😉

We Axed the Ute Tax 🪓🛻

Ute Tax

And we celebrated a taxpayer victory following our two-year campaign to 'Axe the Ute Tax'. Jacinda Ardern's tax unfairly hit farmers and tradies in order to subsidize flash new Teslas for Wellington and Remuera elites. The tax saw thousands of dollars piled onto the cost of a new ute, and other emissions-emitting vehicles, despite the fact that many people who use these vehicles have no other option. 

While Labour and the Greens loved to claim that this tax was reducing emissions and preventing climate change, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Our Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) caps New Zealand’s emissions at a set level that gets reduced over time. Any emissions reductions in the transport sector brought about by subsidized electric cars simply frees up emissions to occur elsewhere in the economy.

The video Julie Anne Genter needs to watch! 📺 🚲

We can't tell whether the Green Party MPs flailing about claiming that the scrapping of Tesla subsidies and the Ute Tax will cook the planet, are being dim or dishonest.

We suggest they take a few minutes to watch this fantastic video by our Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, on how the ETS works and the 'waterbed effect'.

Connor's ETS video - Green MPs would learn a thing or two!

Speaking of climate change, it seems the Climate Change Commission has drunk the Kool-Aid too. 

Put it out of its misery and cut it: Climate Change Commission swerves out of lane to tackle social justice ✂️

Climate Change Commission

You would think that the Climate Change Commission would have its focus squarely on reducing New Zealand’s emissions right? Wrong.

Their latest report out this week – 2023 Advice on the direction of policy for the Government’s second emissions reduction plan – dives headfirst into a range of issues well outside their remit. Road injuries? Social justice? Population health?  You name it, it's in there.

Here we thought the climate change officials wanted us to ride to work to save the planet. But now that electric cars are coming along, that's still not good enough. We must ride to work (or take public transport) because it's good for us. The Climate Change Commission cites studies that suggest the new goal is to reduce crash injuries. 🤦‍♂️

Sure, some of these things might be worthwhile causes but we have literally tens of thousands of bureaucrats in other agencies who are meant to be dealing with that stuff 

To the extent that the Commission does focus on emissions, they even get that part wrong. Rather than focusing on net emissions (the total amount of emissions from things like car exhausts minus any reductions such as from trees), they instead focus solely on the total gross emissions without looking at the other side of the equation. It should not matter if emissions are reduced by someone sucking one tonne of carbon out of the atmosphere or emitting one tonne less in the first place, the effect is the same. The Commission's obsession with forcing people to change how they live their lives and run their businesses is absurd, ineffective and expensive. 

This week ACT’s climate spokesperson called for the Commission to be scrapped completely. We agree. 

Recession: GDP figures make for grim reading 📉💲

GDP Figures

The latest batch of GDP figures were released on Thursday. It doesn’t take an economist to tell you that Kiwis have been doing it tough recently, but this data backs it up and then some. For four quarters on the bounce now, New Zealand’s economy has shrunk on a per person basis.

While immigration has kept our head nearly above water on the headline figures, on a per person basis (which is the only measure that matters in the long term) our standards of living are in free fall.

This goes to show the damage that an anti-growth government can cause when they do everything in their power to stifle innovation and growth, and drive investment running for the hills. Grant Robertson made his bed but its the rest of us that are having to lie in it.

It’s all well and good making noises about responsible finances, but that’s not going to be anything close to enough to turn the ship around. We say the new Government needs to commit to shrinking the cost of government further and faster, and to slashing the red tape which is holding our country back.

Auditor General blasts previous government's spending 💥💰

AG Report

If there’s one thing in this life you can rely on, it’s that Government projects will run over time and over budget. So it shouldn’t be too hard to imagine what happened when Jacinda’s mob created a multi-billion dollar slush fund to chuck money hand over fist at any project that wanted it.

It’s not often you’ll find me taking the side of a bureaucrat, but when even Wellington wonks are telling you that perhaps spending vast sums of money without any idea what you’re spending it on is a bad idea, you ought to listen. 

Jacinda got her headlines and we got the bill. A $15.9 billion ($8,092 per household) bill to be precise.

The latest Auditor General’s report made the wildly outlandish recommendation that perhaps this shouldn’t be allowed to happen again. We have been promised that Shane Jones's new Regional Infrastructure Fund will be different this time, but you can be rest assured that the Taxpayers' Union will be keeping a very close eye.

The Interislander Ferry fiasco is another example of a ludicrous Government cost blow out. The costs are already four times what was originally quoted and we all know the blowout wasn’t going to end there. So well done to Nicola Willis for pulling the plug this week.

News in Brief 

One more thing: Casey Costello’s maiden speech to Parliament

Earlier this week, we had the pleasure of watching our former Chair, now NZ First MP Casey Costello give her maiden address to Parliament.

TU Office

I know a lot of our supporters will be interested in Casey’s path to Parliament and her words about the Treaty, public service, and not tiptoeing around difficult conversations.

Casey Maiden Speech

Watch her maiden speech here.

Merry Christmas 🎅🏻🎄

I'm heading to the UK to visit family for a few weeks so this is my last missive before the festive period. Jordan and Connor will be holding the fort while I am away.

May I take this opportunity to thank you for your continued support throughout the last year (and hasn't it been a big one?!) and wish you and your family all the very best for Christmas and 2024 when it comes. 

See you on the other side!

Yours aye,

Callum

Callum Signature
Callum Purves
Head of Campaigns

New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union 

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Media coverage:

Wairarapa Times-Age Rates relief is unlikely says review

Newstalk ZB Tory Whanau: Wellington's mayor on her drinking problem, commits to a life of sobriety

The Spinoff Our bold political predictions for 2023, revisited

Newstalk ZB The Huddle: Was it a good idea for the Government to scrap the Interislander ferry project?

Newshub Leaving presents for Department of Conservation's former director-general Lou Sanson cost more than $5000


Press releases:

Taxpayers’ Union calls for outcomes-focused mental health spending rather than a cash splash

Government Must Let Film Subsidies Fall Off Fiscal Cliff - Taxpayers’ Union

Too Little Too Late From Meddling Treasury Mandarins

Bay Of Plenty Paves Way For Councils To Sell Off Their Assets As Rates Soar

Tory Whanau Is Out Of Touch With Struggling Ratepayers

Poor Leadership Putting Democracy At Stake In Wellington

Taxpayers’ Union Backs ACT’s Calls To Scrap Climate Change Commission

Government Applauded For Turning Off The Tap For KiwiRail’s Doomed Ferries

Judith Collins Crushing Taxpayers With Latest Round Of Corporate Welfare

Scathing Auditor General Report Backs Up What We All Saw Coming From Massive Infrastructure Fund

New Zealanders' Standard Of Living In Freefall

Taxpayers’ Union Welcomes Announcement Of Three Waters Repeal – Still Work To Do

Waipā Council 'Clock-Up': A Huge Budget Blowout

Waipā District Council has set the hands of fiscal irresponsibility spinning with the historic town clock refurbishment in Cambridge. Originally budgeted at a modest $450,000, this project has wound up to an astounding $721,000.

Investigations Coordinator at the Taxpayers’ Union, Oliver Bryan, said, “The Council seems to be aiming for a Guinness World Record in money burning. We’re not just talking about tightening a few screws here – this is the Big Ben of budget blunders.

“It would take several ratepayer lifetimes, about 225 years, to cover the cost of this towering mistake. It’s almost as if the Council expects residents to pay a ‘time tax’ spanning centuries, a fiscal legacy that outlasts the very clock they’re attempting to preserve.

“This isn’t just a wake-up call; it’s a siren. It’s high time the Council reset its priorities. This is not just a blow to the budget; it’s a blow to the trust that the community places in the council to manage their rates wisely.

“The Council needs to wind back this project and rethink their approach before Waipā ratepayers find themselves with higher rates and a never-ending debt spiral.”

DoC's Grand Goodbye For Outgoing Boss: A Whale of a Farewell Gift Spree!

The Taxpayers’ Union expresses deep concern over revelations that Department of Conservation (DoC) spent $5,159 on retirement gifts for its former director-general, Lou Sanson.

Oliver Bryan, Investigations Coordinator at the Taxpayers’ Union, said, “Whatever happened to the usual whip-round of the staff? The cost of the parting gift is staggering: it's more than a third of what was previously shelled out for a DoC turtle funeral. This clearly shows that the organisation is still imbued with a culture of disrespect for taxpayer money.

“The Department of Conservation's lavish spending on retirement gifts is just the latest in a series of tone-deaf and extravagant expenditures by public agencies across the country. This type of behaviour, which has become all too common in recent years, demonstrates a disturbing lack of regard for the public's money.

“At a time when New Zealanders are facing increased financial hardships and struggling with the rising cost of living, such wastefulness is not just irresponsible, it's an insult to every taxpayer in the country. It's high time this ended and the new Government needs to get a handle on this.”

Taxpayers’ Union welcomes announcement of Three Waters repeal – still work to do

The Taxpayer’s Union is today welcoming Local Government Minister Simeon Brown’s announcement that the Government will scrap Three Waters in the new year but says there is still work to be done to ensure that its replacement protects property rights, ensures sustainable investment and infrastructure and removes undemocratic co-governance.

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

“We have spent the better part of two years campaigning to stop Three Waters including a nationwide roadshow, more than 100,000 petition signatures and almost 70,000 submissions to the select committee. The announcement to repeal Three Waters is a welcome one, the Department of Internal Affairs should immediately halt all work relating to Three Waters in order to prevent further wastage of taxpayers’ money.

“But there is still work to be done. The Taxpayers’ Union’s technical advisory group, chaired by Malcolm Alexander has been working hard drafting replacement legislation, which will be presented to the Minister in the near future. There is no point repealing Three Waters if its replacement is just a watered-down version of Labour’s proposal. We encourage the Minister to engage constructively with those in the local government sector and experts, including our Technical Advisory Group.

“While we remain optimistic, we will not rest until we see Three Waters repealed and a workable replacement has been passed through all stages of the house.”

New Zealanders' Standard of Living in Freefall

Responding to today’s release of the Q3 2023 GDP figures, Taxpayers’ Union Policy Adviser, James Ross, said:

“New Zealanders have years of economic mismanagement by their government to thank for them getting poorer and poorer by the day. In just the 3 months to September alone, GDP per capita fell by an eye-watering 0.9%. With GDP per capita plummeting for the fourth quarter in a row, our standard of living is in freefall.

“In a country which already has one of the lowest productivity levels in the developed world, an anti-growth government has been doing everything it can to stifle innovation and growth; this strategy is now bearing its sour fruit as New Zealand is deep in the belly of a crippling per capita recession.

“There’s no more time to waste, and the simple fact of the matter is that Kiwis cannot afford three more years of the same ruinous economic negligence. National need to quit just paying lip service to the idea that an economy should grow, and to do so they must commit to significantly shrinking the cost of government and slashing the red tape which is holding our country back.”

Scathing Auditor General Report backs up what we all saw coming from massive infrastructure fund

Responding to the latest Controller of the Auditor General report criticising the decision-making process that led towards $15.9 billion worth of investment projects to be delivered over the pandemic period, Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

“It should have been obvious to the then Labour-led Government that rapidly pulling together a bunch of massive infrastructure projects, against advice from officials, was a recipe for disaster. Sadly, it seems that the ministers of the day were more concerned with the glamour of an announcement than they were with ensuring that they would actually receive value-for-money from their investment.

“We could see from the outset that without focused timeframes and transparency measures, the fund was always doomed to fail. Now, more than 3 years later, many of the various projects have blown way over budget and are either still ongoing, haven’t been started, or have been ditched altogether. The dismal rollout of this fund only highlights the outrageous disrespect the previous Government had for taxpayer funds.

“We welcome the Auditor General’s recommendation for Treasury to provide more regular updating on the delivery of major capital spending projects. Given the complete failure from the previous Government to deliver on their infrastructure promises, it is critical that taxpayers can be sure their money is being spent effectively and responsibly going forward.”

Judith Collins crushing taxpayers with latest round of corporate welfare

The Taxpayers’ Union is slamming today’s announcement from Judith Collins that the Government is doling out more corporate welfare via Callaghan Innovation instead of cutting waste and delivering tax relief to hard-working New Zealanders.Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

“Any hope that this Government would be one for the taxpayer rather than caving in to crony capitalism and its special interests is fast going out the window.

“Grants like these simply pick winners by gambling with taxpayer money rather than allowing the market to determine what businesses should succeed based on their ability to provide a product people want at a price people are willing to pay.

“Arguments that we need more taxes, such as the app tax, ring hollow when millions of dollars are frittered away giving millions in handouts to those who need it least. Wasteful spending like this simply fuels the cost-of-government crisis, driving up inflation for the struggling taxpayer.

“Judith Collins and Christopher Luxon have some serious explaining to do – are they going to be a government that supports free markets and private enterprise or one that puts a select few special interests ahead of the taxpayer? We urge the ACT Party to stick with their historically principled stance of opposing corporate welfare and push from inside Cabinet for this kind of buffoonery to come to an end.”

Government applauded for turning off the tap for KiwiRail’s doomed ferries

 

Reacting to the announcement from Finance Minister Nicola Willis that KiwiRail’s request for additional funding to replace the InterIslander ferry fleet, Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

“We applaud the government for turning off the tap for this KiwiRail project that has gone well off track. With costs ballooning from $775 million in 2018 to approximately $3 billion today, it is clear that KiwiRail does not have the competence to deliver a project on budget and the tap of taxpayer money should be turned off.

“Nicola Willis has done well not to fall into the trap of the sunk cost fallacy that catches out far too many politicians. Committing even more money to this doomed project would be a bad idea even if we were in good economic times. In the context of the current cost-of-living crisis and eye-watering levels of government debt, it would be completely reckless and irresponsible to allow KiwiRail to continue with the ferry fleet replacement on the taxpayer dime.“

This announcement comes in stark contrast to the Auditor General’s report released today highlighting a complete disrespect for the taxpayer from the previous government in relation to various infrastructure projects that blew massively over time, over budget or were never completed. The ability to say no to wasteful spending is one of the most powerful tools Ministers have and hopefully this will send a strong message across the entire public sector – the time for wasting money is over.”

 

Taxpayers’ Union backs ACT’s calls to scrap Climate Change Commission

Responding to the Climate Change Commission’s latest report providing advice on the direction of policy for the Government’s second emissions reduction plan, the Taxpayers’ Union is backing the ACT climate change spokesperson, Simon Court, in his calls for the Commission to be scrapped.

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

“The latest report from the Commission reveals their incoherent obsession with gross emissions reduction rather than simply reducing the country’s net emissions – a viewpoint that will do nothing more than make the fight against climate change more challenging and expensive to no material gain.

“The Commission has recognised that if they can’t demonstrate why they should exist they will be scrapped, so with emissions reduction already dealt with under the ETS they are scrambling to find any other reason to justify their jobs, regardless of whether or not this has any relation to climate change. The Climate Commission has no business wading into road injury policy and social equity. We already have tens of thousands of bureaucrats in other government agencies dealing with this stuff, the Climate Change Commission adds no value whatsoever and therefore must be scrapped.

“The new Climate Change Minister must restore confidence in the ETS by making sensible changes that allow it to function as a free and open market. Removing arbitrary minimum and maximum price controls, along with allowing international offsets and introducing a universal carbon dividend would all work to make emissions reduction cheaper and more politically durable.”

Poor Leadership Putting Democracy at Stake in Wellington

Responding to the increasing number of calls for a Crown Observer to be installed in Wellington City Council, Taxpayers’ Union Policy Adviser, James Ross, said:

“Budget blowouts and service failures are just par for the course in Wellington these days, and people are starting to notice. Calls for a Crown Observer are getting harder to ignore, and this is setting the city on a very slippery slope.

“A Crown Observer might be little more than putting WCC on the naughty step at first, but as the council’s finances continue to slide further out of control whispers about installing Commissioners are starting to follow.

“WCC’s only saving grace at the moment is that they are accountable to ratepayers every three years. As inept as the council are proving to be, Wellington cannot end up like Tauranga. Whanau and McKerrow’s mismanagement is now putting the future of local democracy at risk.

“If councillors lack the spine to chuck a failing Mayor and Chief Executive, then ratepayers need the right to elect a council that will ASAP. Recall elections must be a top priority of the new government, as Wellington simply cannot afford to wait another two years.”

Tory Whanau is Out of Touch with Struggling Ratepayers

Responding to Wellington Mayor Tory Whanau’s comments regarding Chief Executive Barbara McKerrow on NewstalkZB this morning, Taxpayers’ Union Policy Adviser, James Ross, said:

“The incompetent Wellington City Council Chief Executive was last year granted an almost $50,000 pay rise, and Mayor Whanau has the gall to claim that this amount “really is nothing”.

“Tory Whanau would do well to remind herself that 16 residential ratepayers’ entire rates bill for the year is not “nothing”. Wellington residents struggling through a cost-of-living crisis need to look no further than this to see the disdain in which they are held by senior figures at their own council.

“Defending this inexcusable payout by claiming that Chief Executive Barbara McKerrow is a high performer simply doesn’t stack up. Instead, McKerrow has time and again prevented the flow of official information to elected representatives in what seem to be attempts to push her own agenda, leading to repeated budget blowouts such as the extra $147 million rushed through for the Town Hall in October.

“Whanau insists the council has been well managed, but the crumbling roads, leaking pipes and dying high street whilst hundreds of millions are wasted on senseless vanity projects tell a completely different story.”

Bay of Plenty Paves Way for Councils to Sell Off Their Assets as Rates Soar

 

Responding to reports that the Bay of Plenty Regional Council plans to sell half of its shares in the Tauranga Port, Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

“This is a sign that Bay of Plenty regional councillors have their finger on the pulse and are putting ratepayers first. Councils all around the country should be taking the opportunity of the cost-of-living crisis to sell off assets and deliver rates relief to families.

“But the council should go further and sell their entire stake in the port, rather than just some of the shares. Councils have no business in owning ports. If ratepayers wish to invest in the port personally they are free to do so, there is no reason why the council would be able to invest ratepayers’ money better than ratepayers themselves.

“As they propose some of the highest rates rises in New Zealand history, Christchurch, Wellington, Hamilton and others should also be making asset sales and reminding themselves that they should be putting the livelihoods of their ratepayers first.”

Too Little Too Late From Meddling Treasury Mandarins

 

Responding to comments from Treasury officials suggesting that returning the Reserve Bank of New Zealand to the single mandate could undermine faith in its political independence, Taxpayers’ Union Policy Adviser, James Ross, said:

“RBNZ has failed for 29 months on the bounce to hit its inflation targets, and it is clear that Labour’s dual-mandate experiment has failed. Prices have been spiralling uncontrollably for years on end, and it is ordinary working Kiwis who have been made to suffer. This crippling instability is what undermines faith in the New Zealand economy.

“If Treasury officials were genuinely concerned about RBNZ’s political independence, then the time to raise this was when Labour decided to vandalise our world-leading system for their own political gain and not as New Zealand tries to return to the status quo.

“Retaining the Monetary Policy Committee is not an acceptable compromise. For far too long, Adrian Orr has been able to hide behind his lackeys and avoid any fallout for his failures, but it’s high time we returned some accountability to the top.”

Government Must Let Film Subsidies Fall Off Fiscal Cliff - Taxpayers’ Union

 

The Taxpayers’ Union is calling on the Government to let film subsidies come to an end as the corporate welfare programme hits its fiscal cliff next year.

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

“Film subsidies are a sad legacy of the Key government that saw the pockets of wealthy elites being lined, rather than making New Zealand a more attractive place for all businesses and industries to operate.

“Robbing Joe Bloggs to pay James Cameron was never a prudent use of taxpayer money, it is time for this farce to end. The film industry must be able to stand on its own two feet rather than sucking money away from more productive areas of the economy.

“National campaigned on cutting back on wasteful spending, now will be the test to see if they have the intestinal fortitude to carry through on that promise. We urge ACT to maintain their principled opposition to handouts for the film sector and push strongly in Cabinet to bring this funding to an end."

Taxpayers’ Union calls for outcomes-focused mental health spending rather than a cash splash

 

Responding to reports that a landmark $2 billion investment in New Zealand’s mental health system by the Ardern government has had little effect on services and delivery, Connor Molloy, Campaigns Manager at the Taxpayers’ Union, says:

“We warned at the time that the incredible amount of taxpayer funds that were being invested could disappear into a black hole. Unfortunately, we were vindicated with a prescient reminder that improving health services takes much more than a mega cash splash – it requires smart investment and a game plan to ensure that not a single cent goes to waste.

“It seems as if these funds were channelled into various government departments with spurious attachment to mental health treatments, rather than being targeted towards New Zealand’s struggling health system as it should have been. Setting aside approximately $480 million for Kāinga Ora to respond to mental health issues is a symptom of the endemic bloat of the public service, with every department and office a one-stop shop for every need and want.

“Bravery is needed from Matt Doocey, the new Minister for Mental Health. If a programme is not working, it must have its funding cut so that the money can be redirected to more impactful areas rather than letting fear of backlash drive continued expenditure on ineffective programmes. Additionally, with mental health being unique to each individual, it would be prudent to allow more choice and control for New Zealanders over the services they receive by allowing them to take their public funding to the provider of their choice, rather than being damned to the waiting list in the public sector.”

Taxpayer Update: National’s App Tax U-turn📱🤑 | The cost of COP 🌬️💸 | Brooke vs. The Blob 🩷👾

Nicola Willis adopts 'App Tax' policy previously slammed by Nicola Willis 👀📱

Well, that didn't take long, did it? The new Government's backsliding has begun in earnest. Despite comments as recently as last week that "except for" the changes made in the coalition agreements, the National Party was sticking to its pre-election "fiscal plan".

But apparently not...  A wise woman once said:

“Airbnb have estimated that Labour’s new tax could have a half-billion dollar hit on the New Zealand economy. A $400 accommodation bill for a weekend away booked through a digital provider could be up to $60 more expensive.

“Rather than hitting multinationals as Labour claimed it would this tax will instead hit Kiwi app users and the Uber drivers, Bookabach providers and the like who use apps to connect with their customers.

We will fight against this new tax every step of the way. National opposes the App Tax and if elected we will reverse it.

Those were the words of one Nicola Willis just prior to the election. But the newly minted Minister of Finance has made an about turn and is set to pass legislation to enable the App Tax from 1 April.

This isn’t a tax on the big players like Uber and Airbnb as they already charge GST on their service fees – this new tax is set to be charged to the little guy (the Uber drivers etc). Inland Revenue has told the Government that this cost will be passed entirely onto consumers, which means higher prices for you.

How the new tax will work 🤑

Businesses are only required to register for and charge GST when their revenue is more than $60,000. The new tax will force providers of app-based services (such as ride-share drivers and Airbnb hosts) to charge GST even if a provider earns just a few hundred dollars. 

For many, being an Uber driver or Airbnb host is a side hustle to help make ends meet, not a full-time gig. Higher prices will see less people using these services and is economically unprincipled. How is it fair that a taxi driver earning $50,000 isn’t required to charge GST but a part time Uber driver earning $10,000 will? 

While in opposition, Nicola Willis labeled the tax as “simply another tax grab from Labour to fuel their wasteful spending.” So much for tackling the wasteful spending!

What about sales of goods through apps such as Trademe and Facebook Marketplace? 🧾

This is a question we are already fielding and the answer remains unclear (the IRD are still working on the details!). While there is a carve out for second-hand goods, those who sell even a small amount of new goods through online auction sites, or intermediaries such as Shopify, appear to be caught by this new tax.

That means that a part-time home baker who sells a few thousand dollars of jam at a stall doesn't have to register for GST, but the moment they do so online through an app, they will have to charge GST. How is that fair?  

Nats caught trying to rewrite history? 🤐

Hypocrisy in politics is one thing, but it's the coverup that always comes back to bite. National hasn't just made a screeching U-turn, it is trying to purge the internet of references to its previous opposition to the App Tax.

The National Party even set up a petition against the change.

App Tax website

But don't look now...

ScreenshotHere's an alternative to the tax grab ✂

Here at the Taxpayers' Union, we always aim to be helpful. Today we are writing to Ms. Willis to point out that if she needs the money, she could, for example, get the same amount of savings that revenue from the new tax will generate by sacking slightly over half of the extra 661 bureaucrats hired just at the Ministry for the Environment since 2017. You're welcome! 💁‍♂️

Hot AIR: More climate hypocrisy from the previous Government 🌬️💸

James Shaw at COP27

Just like Christmas, the annual COP climate jamboree seems to roll around quicker each year. While this year's delegates are sunning themselves in Dubai, we can reveal the bill for last year's trip.

MFAT sent a delegation of ten to the COP27 climate conference for the princely sum of $201,496.59, complete with business class flights and accommodation costs ranging from $10,762.95 to $12,781 each.

Without commenting that it now takes nearly a year for this sort of information to come to light, the irony is that the official government guidance that comes from these climate conferences on international travel suggests that New Zealanders (by that, they mean you!) should avoid business class travel due to its larger climate footprint. 

Brooke versus The Blob 🩷👾

You may remember from back in June that Department of Internal Affairs officials had been found secretly altering Three Waters legislation to suit their own agenda. Parliament be damned!

Just 10 days in to the new Government, it seems the mandarins are at it again and are already trying to play puppet master by leaking the Cabinet Paper on Fair Pay Agreements in an effort to undermine democratic decision making. 

The blob

Let’s be clear: Ministers are elected representatives with a democratic mandate, and officials, no matter how highly they think of themselves, are there to facilitate that. Nothing more, nothing less. And it’s certainly not to dictate policy from their Ivory Towers. 

We say heads should roll over this to send a message to the bureaucrats that they don’t run the show anymore. With Three Waters, central planning committees, and public sector cuts still to battle over, Ministers are going to have a tough fight against the blob over the next three years.

Congrats to Brooke van Velden for leading the charge.

One for the Price of Two? Seems about right for Wellington 🧐💰

Julia Amua Whaipooti

Why have one person running the utterly useless and unnecessary Human Rights Commission when you can have two? Well, that's exactly what they did this week with the appointment of Julia Amua Whaipooti to 'share' the role of chief executive with the one they already have to, in their view, uphold the Treaty. 

Two shared CEOs will now be overseeing such vital rights-protecting work as demanding economically-illiterate rent controls and establishing a cloak-and-dagger Independent Accountability Group charged with snuffing out free speech online. 

Two people are sharing a role, but at least they’ll be sharing a salary, right? Don’t be silly, this is Wellington we’re talking about. The half-job was advertised with a gob-smacking salary of $287,000, almost two-thirds more than a MP. It’s good work if you can get it, eh...?

Our policy man, James, spoke to Stuff about the appointment.

While new Justice Minister, Paul Goldsmith, has condemned the appointment and said he will not re-appoint the Human Rights Commissioner, ACT's policy of scrapping the Commission all together did not survive their agreement with National. The coalition should get real on this one and abolish the taxpayer funding of the far-left campaign hub named the Human Rights Commission.

News in Brief 

And one more thing: Still looking for that Christmas stocking filler? 📖🎄

TU@10 Book

Last week we launched a book to mark our 10th anniversary: The Mission – The Taxpayers’ Union at 10. With your support, together we have grown the Taxpayers' Union to the largest centre-right pressure group in New Zealand. This book by political author and journalist David Cohen gives you a behind-the-scenes look at how we made this happen. 

This warts-and-all book charts our highs and lows with insights from our co-founders, key staff, and high-profile board members, including new cabinet minister Casey Costello and former finance minister Ruth Richardson. The book also features a foreword by former Finance Minister and Prime Minister Sir Bill English.

If you have family or friends who are supporters of the Taxpayers' Union or simply buy into our mission of lower taxes, less waste, and more accountability, then this would be a great stocking filler. Order now to get your copy in time for Christmas.

Yours aye,

Callum

Callum Signature
Callum Purves
Head of Campaigns

New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union 

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Media coverage:

RNZ 
Taxpayers' Union offer to redesign Government department logos for free

Newstalk ZB Afternoon Edition: 01 December 2023 (2:33)

Newstalk ZB Taxpayer Union Offers Free Re-Brand For Government Departments

NZCity The Taxpayers Union has offered themselves up to re-brand Government departments on the cheap

The Post The Wellington Power List

Waikato Times Political insiders lift the lid on what lobbyists do in the shadows

Basset, Brash & Hide LORD HANNAN: Equality, the Treaty, and imported problems

Politik Cooking the books

TVNZ PM has 'every confidence' in Cabinet as leak inquiry launched

The Post Council chief executive’s $50k pay rise in the midst of budget cuts

RNZ Te reo Māori: Govt seeks to halt extra pay for public servants fluent in the language

NZCity The Taxpayers Union argues implementing the app tax will hurt both customers and providers

The Press Motorists losers, environment winner from $1b carbon auction flop

Stuff Human Rights Commission appoints shared leader to honour Te Tiriti

Newstalk ZB The Huddle: Can Police Commissioner Andrew Coster meet expectations?

National Trying to Rewrite History by Removing App Tax Website and Press Release

The Taxpayers’ Union is calling on the National Party to front up to consumers who will face 15% higher prices for some services from the likes of Uber, Airbnb and food delivery apps after their app tax U-turn rather than trying to erase all traces of their past opposition to the tax.

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

“National is trying to pull the wool over New Zealanders’ eyes by removing references to the App Tax from their website including their Axe the App Tax microsite and associated press release.

“This new tax will mean that a $300 Airbnb for the weekend could soon cost $345 or a $20 Uber will be pushed up to $23. National must front up and explain why they took the principled position and campaigned against the tax while in opposition but have now u-turned when in Government.

“The size of Government and wasteful spending has grown massively over the past 6 years and there is ample room to find savings rather than needing to impose even more costs on hard-working families. National must recommit to axing the app tax."

Wellington Mayor Tory Whanau’s Platitudes Ring Hollow

Responding to news that Wellington City Councillors have voted down a proposal to reduce business rates in the capital, Taxpayers’ Union Policy Adviser, James Ross, said:

“When Mayor Tory Whanau comes out with a line like ‘I couldn’t in good conscience allow the cost to be put on households’, ratepayers know she’s just blowing hot air. Whanau has never had any qualms whatsoever lumbering the extortionate costs of her vanity projects on hardworking Wellington families.

“Take a town hall revamp costing every household over $4,000. Where were her objections then? Or where were they for the billions being wasted on Let’s Get Wellington Moving?

“Between some of the highest business rates in the country relative to residential rates and the inability for companies to navigate WCC’s byzantine bureaucracy, the costs of doing business in Wellington are exorbitant. When prices jump as a result, who does the Mayor think pays?

“Business rates and residential rates both need to come down to breathe some life back into the struggling city, but that can only happen once the Council stops burning billions on wasteful pet projects.”

$700k "Adult Toy Store" Bus Stop Stretching Hamilton City Council’s Budget Hole

Responding to Hamilton City Council’s decision to spend $700,000 moving and re-developing a bus stop due to its location outside an adult toy store, Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

“Only a couple of weeks ago, Hamilton City Council advised that they were looking to make savings to slash debt and finally balance the books. If the Council was actually serious about righting the ship, they wouldn’t spend a moment considering this outlandish upgrade. Sadly, it’s clear that Hamilton City’s councillors are completely unwilling to do anything more than pay lip service to fiscal restraint.

“While the relocation of the bus stop may be justified given the backlash from where it is currently situated, the problems were easily foreseeable and it should never have been built there in the first place. The Council could quite easily repaint a few road markings and dig a new hole for the sign at next to no extra cost. Instead, Hamilton ratepayers are being forced to needlessly funnel money into what has turned out to be a laughably costly makeover.

“Even with cuts to maintenance and cleaning budgets, the mayor has signalled that an enormous 25.5% rate hike will still be required to whip Hamilton’s finances back into shape. It’s abundantly clear from vanity projects like these that there is still plenty of waste to axe first before the Council starts hacking away at core services.”

Emission Impossible: MFAT's Pricy Climate Trip Defies Eco-Logic

The Taxpayers' Union is dismayed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade's (MFAT) outrageous expenditure on its delegation to the COP 27 climate conference. New information revealed under the Official Information Act shows that the total travel and accommodation cost to the taxpayer was an eye-watering $201,496.59. The kicker? All New Zealand-based staff flew business class.
 
Oliver Bryan, Investigations Coordinator at the Taxpayers' Union, said, "This jaw-dropping cost is an affront to New Zealand taxpayers. Spending over $20,000 per person for ten staff members to attend a single climate conference, with the added irony of opting for business class flights, epitomizes extravagance. The accommodation costs for each member ranged between $10,762.95 and $12,781. It's enough to make one wonder whether it was really about climate or just another public sector junket.

"But of course the environment is what matters when discussing COP. The hypocrisy of flying ten staff members internationally to attend a conference designed to combat climate change is laughable. International travel is the only mode of transport not included in our Emissions Trading Scheme, so flights like these simply add to global net emissions.
 
"This expensive escapade not only reeks of financial recklessness but also undermines New Zealand's reputation in the fight against climate change. The public deserves better than this flagrant misuse of taxpayer money and woeful lack of environmental consideration. We will be watching to see if this year's COP takes as big a toll on the public purse."

Wellingtonians Lumped with the Bill for Exorbitant Heritage Pet Projects

Responding to Wellington city’s earthquake-strengthening crisis, which sees the city on track to upgrade just 20% of vulnerable buildings, Taxpayers’ Union Policy Adviser, James Ross, said:

“Hundreds of millions of dollars are being burnt upgrading earthquake-prone buildings, whether the owners want to keep the building or not. Heritage status binds the hands of owners, giving them no choice but to sink unbelievable amounts of capital into non-profitable projects.

“In dozens of cases, the owner is Wellington City Council itself. For just one example, a town hall described as of “dubious merit both historically and architecturally” is draining up to $329 million of ratepayers’ money on a gold-plated revamp at a time where billions in savings are needed to repair years of negligence to critical water infrastructure.

“Neither private owners nor cash-strapped ratepayers should be forced into exorbitant vanity projects such as these against their will. Councils must have the ability to de-list heritage buildings where preserving these is not in the public interest.”

One Human Rights Commission for the Price of Two

Commenting on the Human Rights Commission’s appointment of a second “shared leader” to work alongside the existing Chief Executive, Taxpayers’ Union Policy Adviser, James Ross, said: 

“The cushy jobs-for-lefties culture at the top of the public service is well documented, but even by the incredibly low standards of Wellington bureaucrats this appointment at the Human Rights Commission takes the cake.  

“Having two people share the leadership of a Crown Entity is a deeply questionable choice in and of itself, but one thing is clear: if these two officials are going to share a job, then they should be sharing the salary as well. Instead, Whaipooti’s position was advertised with a salary almost two thirds higher than an MP’s. 

“The Human Rights Commission far too often uses taxpayer resources to stifle human rights rather than facilitate them, and that alone is more than enough reason for them to be scrapped. But this complete and utter disregard for the public’s back pockets goes to show that the Commission’s ethos is rotten right to the top.” 

Taxpayers’ Union Launches Book in Celebration of 10-Year Anniversary

 

The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union, in celebration of its ten-year anniversary, is releasing a book entitled “The Mission – The Taxpayers’ Union at 10”edited by prominent political author and journalist David Cohen. Among David's other recent works is a book on former Prime Minister Jim Bolger.

The book features a foreword by former Finance Minister and Prime Minister Sir Bill English. The book provides an account of the 10 years of the Taxpayers’ Union to date and includes chapters from co-founders Jordan Williams and David Farrar, as well as former staff, board members and mentors that have shaped the movement’s growth and casts an eye forward to what's in store for the next decade.

Jordan Williams, Executive Director of the Taxpayers’ Union, says:

“This book captures the highs and lows of keeping the Fifth National and Sixth Labour governments accountable and honest. This warts-and-all book gives a behind-the-scenes insight into growing the Taxpayers’ Union to become the largest centre-right organisation in New Zealand.

“The Taxpayers’ Union has been fighting hard for taxpayers for the last ten years, starting out as a basement operation run by an overworked lawyer and a prominent pollster, it has evolved into hundreds of thousands of subscribers supporting an 18-strong staff, that has outlived four prime ministers.

“We thank all of those supporters who have made our work possible over the years and look forward to the next 10 years of fighting on the side of lower taxes, less waste, and more accountability.

The Mission – The Taxpayers’ Union at 10 can be found in all good bookstores – that is, to say, the Taxpayers’ Union website at www.taxpayers.org.nz/book  Wholesale orders can be made via email to [email protected]

Synopsis:

In 2013, a couple of political troublemakers called David Farrar and Jordan Williams created what they called the New Zealand Taxpayers' Union. The country had never had anything quite like it. Taking a cue from similar advocacy groups abroad, the new group set itself against unaccountable government spending, fiscal wastefulness, and unnecessary tax. They have since been joined in their quest by 200,000 Kiwi well-wishers along with an absolute pig of a mascot called Porky the Waste Hater.

And they've just celebrated their 10th birthday.

The Mission tells the story of what happened in the words of the founders, staffers, and key board members. The work takes stock of what has been achieved and casts an eye forward to what's in store for the next decade.

Government must Remove Price Controls from Carbon Credits to Ease Cost of Living

The Taxpayers’ Union is calling on the Government to remove all price controls from carbon credits following today’s auction failing to clear the minimum reserve price for the fourth quarter in a row.

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

“The government already sets the quantity of credits available, so they should let the market decide the price. Setting arbitrary minimum and maximum prices makes the market less efficient and drives up prices for businesses and consumers.

“Today’s failed auction will put pressure on the carbon price, further adding strain to the cost of living. Removing price controls would help to ensure the lowest-cost pathway to emissions reduction and ensure maximum freedom for people’s decision-making over what products to consume, within the sinking cap on net emissions.

“If we want to be world leaders in climate change we must ensure that the Emissions Trading Scheme is simple and efficient so that other countries are able to use the New Zealand model as a blueprint for emissions reduction in their own country. Anything else is simply a virtue signal that punishes families for absolutely no environmental gain.”

Public Service Te Reo Bonuses Should be Resigned to the Scrap Heap

Commenting on the incoming Government exploring plans to scrap Māori language bonuses for public servants, Taxpayers’ Union Policy Adviser, James Ross, said:

“If a role requires proficiency in te Reo Māori, then of course fluent speakers should be hired. But when proficiency isn’t relevant to the role in question, it is simply unacceptable that Kiwi taxpayers’ hard-earned money should be wasted encouraging skills which have absolutely no bearing on a bureaucrat’s ability to do their job whatsoever.

“Six years of untold levels of government waste resulted in spending increasing 70% whilst outcomes nosedived. Departments need to be looking for ways to trim the fat, and wasteful schemes like this must be first on the scrap heap.

“It doesn’t take a trained accountant to tell you that paying bureaucrats thousands of dollars a year in bonuses for skills which don’t improve outcomes does not provide value for money.”

Cash Splashed, Scores Crash: New Zealand's PISA Predicament

The Taxpayers’ Union is expressing deep concern over New Zealand’s declining education standards as revealed by the latest OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) results.

Taxpayers’ Union Investigations Coordinator, Oliver Bryan, said:

“If education funding were a maths problem, it seems we’ve got the equation wrong – more dollars doesn’t equal better scores. Despite a 38.7% increase in the education budget from 2018 to 2023, and spending per student rising from $16,413 to $22,145, New Zealand’s performance continues to deteriorate.

“The latest PISA scores are a wake-up call. Despite pouring more money into education, we’re witnessing a decline in standards. It’s a clear indicator that throwing money at the problem isn’t the solution. The new government needs to get a hold of this, scrutinize where this funding is going and ensure it’s being used effectively to improve educational outcomes.

“With the economic problems facing New Zealand, we cannot afford for our education standards to decline and keep declining. Our youth deserve better and the taxpaying public demand better for their kids."

Taxpayer Talk: Lord Hannan on Equality, the Treaty and the Taxpayers' Union

This episode of Taxpayer Talk is slightly different as it is a recording of a fantastic speech given by Lord Hannan at the Taxpayers' Union's 10th Birthday at Gibbs Farm.

Lord Hannan is a member of the House of Lords and former member of the European Parliament. He is an advisor to the UK Board of Trade and is President of the Institute for Free Trade.

In his speech, Lord Hannan discusses the Treaty of Waitangi as New Zealand's founding document and how ahead of its time it was in promoting equality before the law and protecting property rights.

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