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Taxpayer Update: Message to Luxon | Three Waters ads canned | Taxpayers get "Milked"

Dear Supporter,

A note on National's new leadership

Luxon and Willis

You will have seen the news that Chris Luxon has been selected as the National Party's new Leader, with Nicola Willis as Deputy.

Here's the reaction from our Executive Director Jordan Williams:

It is to Chris Luxon’s credit that he is one of the few MPs to have taken a pay cut – in his case of over $4,000,000 a year – to enter Parliament, having left the top position at Air NZ. He is a person who is clearly motivated by public service rather than raiding the taxpayer’s wallet.

He is one of the few MPs who has paid more tax in this life than he has taken out of the system, unlike most Labour MPs and sadly many National MPs.

We are urging Chris Luxon to confirm he will maintain major commitments to taxpayers made by previous National Party leaders – such as indexing income tax brackets for inflation, reining in Superannuation costs, opposing new asset taxes, and repealing Three Waters legislation should it pass under this Government.

Jordan and I interviewed Chris Luxon in two recent episodes of the Taxpayer Talk podcast – on Three Waters and on congestion charging.

Taxpayer Victory: Government's Three Waters ads canned for straying into propaganda

Ad canned

You've probably seen the Government's Three Waters ads. The childish, condescending cartoons have been played to death on TV and cost taxpayers $3.5 million.

What you might not know is that the Government isn't allowed to use taxpayer funds to persuade the public to support a Government policy.

BusinessDesk has revealed that the ads have now been canned early due to concerns from the Public Service Commission that the campaign was ‘straying into advocating government policy rather than explaining policy’.

This is good news and ought to be a major embarrassment for the Government. But it still feels like too little, too late. The ads were allowed to run for months, during a highly sensitive council engagement process. And the Government’s Three Waters propaganda site, backed by taxpayer-funded Google ads, is still online.

BusinessDesk has also reported that officials at the Department of Internal Affairs have withheld the release of details of the campaign’s marketing and communications proposal, after taking 50 working days to respond to an information request.

This raises obvious questions. Is the marketing proposal being kept secret because it reveals in plain language that the campaign was always intended to influence political opinion?

The Ombudsman is currently investigating the Department of Internal Affairs's failure to explain how these ads were signed off. Watch this space.

Ratepayers drive 500km to protest Three Waters

Media scrum

How good is this! Yesterday we joined a group of Thames-Coromandel ratepayers who travelled to Wellington to hand over signatures from local residents and ratepayers calling for proper local consultation on Three Waters.

Cheers to Scott Simpson, MP for Coromandel, who accepted the petition and attracted a scrum of media desperate for his comments on the National Party's leadership contest.

Our nationwide petition is still active at www.ThreeWatersPetition.nz. Once Nanaia Mahuta formally unveils the legislation (possibly next week), we'll be making a renewed push to get the petition to 100,000+ signatures.

Taxpayers Milked by anti-dairy documentary

Milked poster

You may have seen the marketing for a new anti-dairy documentary, "Milked".

We've discovered the film is taxpayer-funded: it received a $48,550 "finishing grant" from the Film Commission.

The film argues that the dairy industry causes climate change, pollutes water, destroys land, abuses cows, and victimises dairy farmers. It's explicitly political, with constant shots of the Beehive in the trailer, and features contributions from Greenpeace, SAFE, and the Green Party. And it appears to be part of a wider anti-dairy campaign – the promoters have erected billboards attacking the dairy sector.

Milked billboard

As we've said with the Government's Three Waters ads, taxpayers should never be forced to fund political propaganda. We accept that sometimes it can be difficult to define what makes a documentary "political", but Milked is a clear-cut case of activism intended to shift public opinion on a major issue of policy and economics.

Click here to read more – including the Film Commission's pathetic response to our questions.

New Zealand's worst landlord: the Government

State housing

The past week has seen an avalanche of reports of Kāinga Ora tenants terrorising their neighbours. Kāinga Ora is the Government's social housing agency.

Despite the abuse suffered by neighbours, Kāinga Ora has not evicted a single tenant since 2018. This is part of the Government's official policy of "sustaining tenancies".

Here's just one experience from someone living next door to a Kāinga Ora property, as told to the NZ Herald:

In a terrifying 2019 incident, the man says his house was "smashed up" at 3am by a meth-crazed man linked to the Kāinga Ora property who tried to break into their home.

The homeowner chased the intruder down the road with an umbrella to protect his petrified partner and later discovered a discarded knife.

The couple then spent thousands of dollars building a fortress-like 2.5m metal perimeter fence and installing security cameras for their protection. The fence has since been repeatedly vandalised by the tenants - who have Mongrel Mob links - costing thousands of dollars in repairs.

The man suspects the Kāinga Ora property is operating as a "tinny house". He has witnessed savage beatings on the road, and has footage of the neighbours abusing him, firing an airgun at his home, hurling large river stones on to his roof and smashing a car windscreen with a brick.

This lowlife behaviour completely disrespects the efforts of taxpayers who make social housing possible. We're even forking out thousands for compensation payments to victimised neighbours.

The Government's refusal to evict problem tenants sends the message that social housing comes with a free pass to act like animals.

State housing should be set up to handle difficult tenants, but that doesn’t mean we should throw all standards out the window. Thousands of more deserving New Zealanders are currently living in cars or garages and would gratefully take the place of violent tenants.

Wellington City Council spends $11,000 on translation of spatial plan

Translation

Here's an odd case of council waste: Wellington City Council spent $11,482 producing a te reo translation of the summary of its new spatial plan – a city planning document.

Just 50 te reo copies were printed. That's a translation cost of $220 per printed copy.

This is a council that cries poverty at every opportunity and just hiked rates by 13.5%. It’s a terrible look that they still can’t resist tokenistic gestures like translating reports into Māori versions that no-one will ever read.

New episodes of Taxpayer Talk 

If you enjoy these email updates but want to see more in-depth analysis, I recommend our podcast, Taxpayer Talk. Below is a selection of recent episodes.

How do Kiwis view China? What do they think of the Queen? Will an ACT-National Government lead to radical policy from the right? David Farrar joins Taxpayers' Union researchers Max and Levi to analyse a recent mega-poll of 5000 New Zealanders. Listen here.

IRD

Inland Revenue recently sent 400 letters out to New Zealand's wealthiest individuals in an attempt to figure out how much tax they pay on their economic income. Could this be the lead up to a wealth tax grab? Jordan joins tax expert Mike Shaw for answers. Listen here.

Prior to being selected as National's new Deputy Leader, Nicola Willis broke the story of Kāinga Ora promoting an activist while planning to cover up their knowledge that the activist was about to stand for Labour. Listen here.

Subscribe to Taxpayer Talk podcast via Apple PodcastsSpotifyGoogle PodcastsiHeart Radio and wherever good podcasts are found.

All the best,

Louis circle


Louis Houlbrooke
Campaigns Manager
New Zealand Taxpayers' Union

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Media coverage:

Homepaddock  Rural round-up

Homepaddock 
The right of reply Stuff won't publish 

Stuff  Points of Order: Covid vaccine targets become milestones

NZ Herald  Thomas Coughlan: What is Labour without Covid?

NZ Herald  Bill Ralston: The pandemic has distracted us from politics

Newshub  Climate activists plan to disrupt Groundswell protest, organizer suggests they watch Country Calendar instead

The Press  Is Ardern abdicating the leadership?

NZ Herald  Covid 19 Delta outbreak: 31 unvaccinated Oranga Tamariki staff on paid special leave

Manawatu Standard  Mayor rejects 'politiking' criticism

NZ Herald  Claire Trevett: Simon Bridges' road back to National leadership hits pothole

Indian News Link  Labour suffers at opinion polls but National is too weak to capitalise

NZ Herald  Covid 19 Delta outbreak: Big call bosses must make before demanding jabs

Newstalk ZB  Heather du Plessis Allan: the popular or polarizing Prime Minister?

Gisborne Herald  Political headwinds for Labour, Ardern

NZ Herald  This week critical for Ardern after her rating slumps

Stuff  Manawatū mayor rejects campaign against Three Waters is anti-Labour

Indian Weekender  Week in Politics: Will 1 December be Auckland's 'Freedom Day'?

Q+A  Q+A with Judith Collins

Stuff  New Covid-19 bill is a case of government overreach

Stuff  Three Waters opposition sees some of the worst political impulses leak out

NBR  Red light for Auckland, protest confusion, and a virtual Apec

Stuff  Before or after Christmas? The question Nation MPs are starting to ask about Judith Collins' leadership

RNZ  Week in Politics: Will 1 December be Auckland's 'Freedom Day'?

ACT  Newsletter: The Week in Action - ACT Party

NZ Herald  Polls highlight PM's need to get Aucklanders out of town

The Spinoff  Live updates, November 11: Six new cases of Covid-19 confirmed in Stratford, Taranaki

The Daily Blog  2 new polls highlight the problem of National & ACT

Stuff  Meta apologises for blocking links to Groundswell's website

ACT  The gap is closing and we can win in 2023

The Guardian  Jacinda Ardern's popularity plunges as New Zealand reckons with a new era of endemic Covid

Stuff  New poll shows Labour dipping below 40 per cent, National up slightly

Kiwiblog  Labour down in two polls

NZ Herald  Covid crash: Labour support slumps in two new polls

Newstalk ZB  The Huddle: School's back, Ardern visit and AstraZeneca

Taxpayers Milked to the tune of $48K for anti-dairy propaganda

Milked posterThe New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union is challenging the New Zealand Film Commission’s funding criteria after it gave anti-dairy documentary Milked a $48,550 “finishing grant”.

The film, currently screening in New Zealand cinemas, argues that the dairy industry causes climate change, pollutes water, destroys land, abuses cows, and victimises dairy farmers. The film is explicitly political, with constant shots of the Beehive in the trailer, and features contributions from Greenpeace, SAFE, and the Green Party. The film appears to be part of a wider anti-dairy campaign – the promoters have erected billboards attacking the dairy sector.

The 40,000 New Zealanders employed in the dairy industry are unlikely to be happy to learn they are funding a film that attacks the source of their livelihoods. And that’s to say nothing of the rest of us, who all benefit from dairy’s enormous contribution to New Zealand’s economy.

We wish the filmmakers well in their attempts to win hearts and minds, but that doesn’t mean they should receive government money for their propaganda. Just imagine the outcry from certain groups if the Taxpayers’ Union received government money to produce a film on the evils of socialism.

BillboardThe filmmakers have been far from upfront about the government support they’ve received. The film’s marketing makes no mention of the financial contribution of the Film Commission. The only public record of the payment is deep in the Film Commission’s funding database.

The Film Commission has form for funding political propaganda. Back in 2016, they gave more than $900,000 in funding to Capital in the 21st Century, a documentary based on the book by left-wing economist Thomas Picketty. And last year, it was reported that the makers of a film about Jacinda Ardern intended to apply for funding, before the film was put on hold.

There is nothing in the Film Commission’s funding criteria to prevent political propaganda from receiving taxpayer funding. In fact, it’s worse than that – the Commission appears wilfully ignorant about the political implications of its work. We asked if the Film Commission is funding political content, and they told us no. That’s laughable.

Taxpayers should not be forced to fund political propaganda. We accept that sometimes it can be difficult to define what makes a film political, but Milked is a clear-cut case of activism with a primary purpose of shifting public opinion on a major issue of policy and economics.

The Film Commission had agreed to speak to the Taxpayers’ Union in a podcast interview about its funding practices, but then claimed its representatives were unavailable once they saw our questions. They instead provided written answers, which are pasted below.

Does the Film Commission accept that it is funding political content? i.e. documentaries that explicitly seek to shift the public’s view on issues of policy/economics.

No. The New Zealand Film Commission (NZFC) supports a variety of projects with a diverse range of themes and content, through its development and production funds. There are criteria which must be met by all projects seeking funding from the NZFC, which includes market interest and the ability to attract a theatrical audience.

Are political messages a factor in decisions to fund (or not fund) films? What about the presence of active politicians within films?

No. The NZFC is an autonomous Crown entity, which funds and promotes New Zealand filmmaking. The NZFC’s funding framework is neutral and only requires films to meet the criteria of the specific fund. Section 17 of the NZFC Act states that the Minister may not give direction to the Commission in relation to cultural matters. The types of films and filmmakers that the NZFC can support is determined by Section 18 of the NZFC Act.

Does the Film Commission accept that Milked is an explicitly political film?

We have no opinion on the documentary in question which met the criteria for the funding it received.

Is the NZFC aware that Milked appears to be part of a broader anti-dairy campaign? Note the billboards being put up by the film’s producers. If the billboards promoting the film instead said, “Party Vote Green”, would this be a cause for concern for the FCTC? I.e. a taxpayer-funded film being used as a tool in a partisan campaign.

Our involvement with the documentary in question was purely in regard to the criteria of the Feature Film Finishing Grant, which the production met.

In the case of films applying for the Feature Film Finishing Grant, the NZFC examines the content’s diversity and inclusion factors. Does this include political diversity?

There are clear guidelines and criteria that productions have to meet when applying for the Feature Film Finishing Grant. The documentary in question met these criteria.

What about more commercial films such as those funded under the NZSPG? Is it ‘open slather’ in terms of the content that is funded, political or otherwise?

Productions that meet the criteria, both New Zealand and International, are eligible to submit an application for the New Zealand Screen Production Grant, which is assessed by the NZSPG Panel.  Once the NZFC receives an application, it is checked to ensure that it is complete and includes all relevant documents.

The complete application may be sent to an independent consultant contracted by the NZFC or assessed internally at the NZFC. The independent consultant’s role is to assess the application against the requirements of the criteria. If necessary, the applicant will be contacted to provide further information about the application,

The NZFC will prepare a report, based on the independent consultant’s report, for the NZSPG Panel to consider. It is NZSPG Panel’s role to assess whether the application satisfies the criteria.

Filmmakers are themselves an interest group with values and political leanings distinct from the general population. Their beliefs are presumably reflected in the product they create, and that you fund on behalf of taxpayers. If it turns out that films applying for funding are disproportionately informed by (say) left-wing values, is this a problem? How does, or how could, the NZFC deal with this?

The NZFC supports a diverse range of New Zealand and international stories to be told and seen by audiences everywhere. Market attachment, either by an invitation to screen at an international film festival, local distribution or a sales agent indicates audience interest And of course, the criteria of the particular fund must be met.

Has any work been done to retrospectively to evaluate the political content of films/documentaries funded by the Film Commission? Do you think a wide spectrum of political ideas are represented in films the NZFC funds? Milked aside, can you name any other examples of political content funded by the NZFC?

The films the NZFC funds must meet the funding criteria and show the ability to reach a theatrical audience in New Zealand. We aim to represent all New Zealand’s diverse voices, stories, and communities.

We conduct ongoing research about audiences and the industry.  This, and our regular publications, including Annual Reports, Statements of Intent and Statements of Performance Expectations can be found in the Resource Library.

We are strongly committed to increasing diversity in the film industry. We have developed new initiatives that support filmmakers from all backgrounds and encourage them to express their unique voices through original storytelling.

Women remain under-represented in our screen industry, so we have introduced programmes, including bespoke production funding initiatives, to assist women to build sustainable careers.

If the Taxpayers’ Union produced a film with a strong political message and wanted the same grant Milked got, how would we go about that? What are our chances?

Like any production, the Taxpayers’ Union would have to submit an application which meet the Feature Film Finishing Grant criteria.  

 

David Farrar on Lord Ashcroft's Mega-Poll

How do Kiwis view China? What do they think of the Queen? Will an ACT-National Government lead to radical policy from the right? Pollster David Farrar joins Taxpayers' Union researchers Max and Levi for a discussion about all this and more from a recent mega-poll of 5000 New Zealanders.

Subscribe to Taxpayer Talk podcast via Apple PodcastsSpotifyGoogle PodcastsiHeart Radio and wherever good podcasts are sold.

Is Inland Revenue Hunting for a New Wealth Tax?

Inland Revenue recently sent 400 letters out to New Zealand's wealthiest individuals in an attempt to figure out how much tax they pay on their economic income. Could this be part of a lead up to a wealth tax grab? Join Jordan and tax expert Mike Shaw for answers.  

Subscribe to Taxpayer Talk podcast via Apple PodcastsSpotifyGoogle PodcastsiHeart Radio and wherever good podcasts are sold.

The Three Waters op-ed Stuff doesn't want you to read

The following op-ed was written by Taxpayers' Union Executive Director Jordan Williams in response to a piece published by Stuff and the Sunday-Star Times. Stuff refused to publish this, even when the Taxpayers' Union offered to pay for it as a half-page ad.

Op-edIrresponsible to label Three Waters critics racist

In her drive to ram through the Three Waters reform package, Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta has been aided by commentators eager to write off opposition to reform as scare-mongering or even racist. There is perhaps no better example than Andrea Vance’s recent column.

Vance dismisses councils who have protested the theft of assets. She argues it’s not theft because – as the Government says – water assets will still ‘belong’ to local communities, just with some loss of control.

What does Vance think ownership means? Here’s how Gary Judd QC puts it: “Legal scholars argue about what is meant by ownership, but it is certain that if one has no rights in relation to a thing — e.g., no right to use it, to enjoy it, to gain a return from it, to dispose of it, to destroy it, to control it or to control its use — one does not own the thing.”

It's like a car thief writing to say how much they’re enjoying ‘your’ set of wheels. Nice of them to say it’s yours, but that doesn’t fill the hole in your garage.

Vance’s relaxed attitude toward theft is not, however, what prompted me to write this column.

Vance makes a serious accusation: certain groups are exploiting fear by playing the race card. She even names the groups – Hobson’s Pledge, the Opposition parties (presumably National and ACT), and your humble Taxpayers’ Union are singled out as encouraging a ‘nasty undercurrent of racism’.

This demands a response.

It is true that these groups have highlighted or protested the co-governance model which will see iwi join with councils on a 50-50 basis to appoint the representative groups that form the ‘community voice’ under the new regime.

It is also unfortunately true that any debate over co-governance will spur a bitter minority of New Zealanders to voice anti-Māori rhetoric. (Credit to the interns who have to moderate such comments on the Taxpayers’ Union Facebook page.)

But it is not true that merely raising the issue of co-governance equates to race-baiting. Co-governance is an important aspect of the Three Waters proposal, and its implications require scrutiny.

Iwi will bring distinct values and interests to the water board table. What are the financial implications – which will be borne by all ratepayers – of iwi using their 50 percent input to advance these interests? What protections will there be from what economists call ‘rent seeking’?

To what extent will iwi have control over water pricing and investment under a model that confers iwi half the votes, while the other half are given to councils that are themselves introducing co-governance through Māori wards?

And doesn’t the requirement for a 75 percent vote on any major decisions result in an effective iwi veto right? It certainly looks that way to us, but Mahuta was at pains to deny it during an interview on the Taxpayers’ Union podcast.

There are major problems here that require attention in the media and Parliament. And none of the problems here have to do with the fact that iwi representatives are Māori. The problems lie in an elevated level of control exercised by a chosen set of interest groups above any other unelected entities.

In fact, conflating issues of iwi governance with issues of race only makes it easier for those best-connected iwi that are given seats at the table to claim that they represent all Māori, while less-connected Māori communities are shut out.

Co-governance is far from the only problem with the Three Waters reforms. Iwi representation is just one aspect of four levels of bureaucracy that will separate all ratepayers – including Māori – from the valuable water assets we’ve all paid for. But co-governance does seem to be the issue that sticks in the noses of liberal commentators weighing up which side of a policy debate is the side of virtue.

Whenever the Taxpayers’ Union mentions the words ‘co-governance’, we expect an instinctive lashing out from advocacy groups on the political left. But political journalists have greater power – the ability to set the boundaries of mainstream debate – and therefore greater responsibility to avoid accusations like that of racism, which serve to shut down substantive concerns over major reform from reasonable people who fear being branded bigots.

Stuff has insisted that its decision to accept funding from the Government’s Public Interest Journalism Fund does not make it beholden to the Government. That’s great to hear. But anyone who cares to check can read the Government’s five stated goals for the fund. The third goal: ‘Actively promote the principles of Partnership, Participation and Active Protection under Te Tiriti o Waitangi’.

Vance’s column will have done little to mend perceptions that, at least when it comes to Three Waters, the media is influenced by Government funds.

Revealed: Wellington City Council spends $11,000 on Māori translation of spatial plan

Document

Wellington City Council spent $11,482 plus GST producing a te reo translation of the summary of its new spatial plan, reveals the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union.

Just 50 te reo copies were printed – resulting in a translation cost of $220 per printed copy.

Māori translations of planning documents are exactly the kind of low-priority council spending that should be on the chopping block during a pandemic.

This is a council that cries poverty at every opportunity and just hiked rates by 13.5%. The council needs to demonstrate that it’s making sacrifices commensurate with what it’s demanding from Wellington ratepayers. It’s a terrible look that they still can’t resist tokenistic gestures like translating reports in te reo versions that no-one will ever read.

The information was provided after the Union filed an official information response written in te reo. The response was also provided in te reo, however in this case the Council used an internet translation service.

Nicola Willis on Kainga Ora Corruption

National's housing spokesperson Nicola Willis has broken a story about corruption and collusion within our national housing agency. Sadly, this isn't the first time Nicola has broken such a story about Kainga Ora but it is certainly the most shocking. Join Jordan for the full sordid story.  

Subscribe to Taxpayer Talk podcast via Apple PodcastsSpotifyGoogle PodcastsiHeart Radio and wherever good podcasts are sold.

Taxpayer Update: Our latest poll | Buzzing the Beehive | Inflation menace

Dear Supporter,

Taxpayers’ Union Curia poll: Labour down six points

The results of November's Taxpayers’ Union Curia Poll, exclusive to our members and supporters like you, are available here.

Labour are down six points to 39%. The National Party up four to 26%. And that's not the only bad news for the Government with both Jacinda Ardern's popularity as Preferred Prime Minister sinking (but she is still well ahead) and – for the first time in more than a decade – more Kiwis saying the country is heading in the wrong direction than the right one.

Party support graph

Head over to our website to see the results.

Three Waters: We take to the skies in Wellington, and grill the Minister

Plane and banner

Ministers and bureaucrats got a fright when they looked up yesterday. We organised for a Taxpayers' Union supporter to fly a "Stop Three Waters" banner across the city and over the Beehive.

Banner over Beehive

This came the day after Nanaia Mahuta fronted up to us for a podcast interview, fielding a volley of questions submitted by Taxpayers' Union supporters.

Click here to listen to the full interview.

Here's the key takeaway from the interview:

We asked Mahuta very clearly whether Three Waters would result in the introduction of water royalties (i.e. payments to iwi for the right to use water). Mahuta ducked, dived, and ran up our limited interview time with standard talking points, but ultimately failed to rule out introducing water royalties.

Our petition against Three Waters has now reached 81,000 signatures. We're running ads against Three Waters on TV, radio, Facebook, and Youtube. And we commissioned a poll revealing that 56% of New Zealanders oppose the reforms, versus just 19% in support.

If you've not already, please take a moment to "share" our Say No to Three Waters television ad on Facebook.

The fact Nanaia Mahuta even agreed to the interview demonstrates that the Beehive is feeling the pain from this campaign. They know our Three Waters effort is resonating with New Zealanders, so that's why we're doubling down.

We're planning to put even more pressure on the Prime Minister to overrule Nanaia Mahuta so long as our supporters ensure we have the campaign funds available. If you've not yet chipped in, our crowd-funded campaign hasn't finished. Every dollar donated on this page will be used to fight Three Waters.

The next big economic problem for taxpayers

Inflation is becoming a real problem. Stats NZ has confirmed that prices have lifted 4.9% in the last year. Inflation memeRising inflation is an indictment on the Government’s print, borrow, and spend economic strategy. But it's great for the Government's coffers – inflation pushes our wages up into higher tax brackets even when we’re no better off in real terms.

So far, the Government has refused to adjust tax thresholds to reflect the effect of inflation, even though it happily adjusts Super and benefits annually.

80%

Already, due to inflation, the average worker is paying a marginal tax rate of 30%. Soon that will be 33%.

Here at the Taxpayers' Union, we've uncovered the Reserve Bank's proposed new bank notes which we expect to be in circulation by 2026...

Mock bank note

PM's welfare package punishes the productive

At the Labour Party's big conference over the weekend, Jacinda Ardern announced a boost to Working for Families tax credits.

But in her enthusiasm to make the policy appear more generous, she has intensified the way that welfare traps New Zealanders in poverty.

She is offsetting the cost of higher payments by increasing the abatement rate for the Family Tax Credit from 25% to 27%. (Ten years ago it was just 20%.)

In other words, low-earning New Zealanders who choose to work harder, achieve a promotion, or take on a side-hustle will be whacked by even higher effective marginal tax rates. That reduces incentives to work, and sets the poverty trap.

The abatement rate is effectively a marginal income tax rate. The combination of income taxes and abatement rates on tax credits means some Kiwis are already paying effective marginal tax rates of more than 50%. We should be fixing this problem, but the Prime Minister is making it worse.

Government waste honoured at 2021 Jonesie Awards

Jonesie photo

We hosted the fourth annual Jonesie Waste Awards in the Beehive last week – our Oscars-style awards ceremony celebrating the best of the worst of local and central government waste from the last 12 months. Click here to find out who was nominated and who won.

Jonesie video
To watch our (firmly tongue in cheek) event in full click here.

While the presentation of awards is designed to be ironic, it does serve a very serious purpose: the Jonesies remind those who squander public money that they risk public embarrassment. The awards give those who fleece the taxpayer the credit they so richly deserve.

You can't beat COVID with Māori Pokemon

Once again, we've delved into dodgy arts grants handed out in the guise of the COVID response.

This time it's not Creative NZ, but the parent agency – the Ministry for Culture and Heritage – which is splurging with a new $60 million COVID-19 "Innovation Fund"

Here's a small sample of the taxpayer-funded projects announced so far:

  • $585,000 to develop a te Reo Māori virtual reality game.

  • $20,000 on "a digital storytelling platform using the vaka [canoe] as medium for navigating and exploring Tokelauan heritage"

  • $2,110,000 for live music venues to increase diversity.

  • $290,000 to "an online game for rangatahi [youth] that imagines a Māori future".

  • $500,000 on a tool to give readers book recommendations that reflect intersectionality and gender diversity.

  • $328,405 to develop a Pokemon Go-style augmented reality game based on Te Ao Māori.

  • $1,323,000 on two productions of Māori performing arts.

It is hard to see how a Māori ripoff of Pokemon Go could be considered a COVID-19 response. Especially when our health system is crying out for more nurses and ICU beds.

The arts funding is an absolute lottery. We understand that even many artists are questioning handouts from this fund based on the incredible size of certain grants, and the lack of apparent logic behind the selection of recipients.

You can read more about these grants here.

Kiwis not keen on James Shaw's Glasgow junket

Climate Change Minister James Shaw has now touched down in Glasgow for the United Nations' big climate talkfest.

We commissioned independent Curia public polling on Shaw's decision to attend (along with 14 staff).

Shaw poll 1

Just 30% of New Zealanders support the trip, versus 55% opposing. 15% are ‘unsure’.

We say the Glasgow junket flies in the face of New Zealanders’ sacrifices. Taxpayers currently denied opportunities to travel will foot the bill for the Minister and his staff’s flights, accommodation, and dinners. New Zealanders waiting for spots in MIQ have been shunted aside in favour of Shaw's entourage. And the emissions-heavy travel itinerary is, of course, a glaring case of climate hypocrisy.

You can read the full results (including a breakdown in views by political party) here.

Victory for taxpayers: Labour’s trade unions repay wage subsidies

E Tu

The Taxpayers’ Union has revealed that the Labour Party’s trade unions – First Union and E Tū – have repaid the full $1.6 million they received in wage subsidies, as we called on them to do earlier this year.

E Tū admitted to Stuff that its repayment came after an audit by MSD found it didn’t qualify. First Union has not revealed whether it qualified in the first place.

As beneficiaries of steady revenue from membership dues, it was always questionable how these unions were ever eligible for the subsidy. The fact they could afford to spend money on campaigns to re-elect the Government last year suggests they were hardly strapped for cash.

The weird part is how secretive these unions have been about their decision to repay the subsidy. They could have announced it proudly and encouraged other unions to do the same. Instead, the repayment has only been made public thanks to an eagle-eyed Taxpayers’ Union researcher monitoring MSD records and confirming the repayment using the Official Information Act.

The incredible numbers behind Michael Wood's tram to Māngere

Michael Wood

After ditching his doomed bike bridge, Transport Minister Michael Wood has unveiled a spending project that might be even dumber. His revamped Auckland tram proposal comes with a revamped price tag of $14.6 billion.

That number is almost too high to comprehend, so we've broken the cost down in terms that hopefully even Michael Wood can understand:

  • $608,000,000 per kilometre

  • $608,000 per metre

  • $6,080 per centimetre

  • $608 per millimeter
  • $7,978 for every Kiwi household from Kaitaia to the Bluff

  • More than twice as much as Labour's original 2017 tram-to-airport proposal and five times higher than NZTA's 2016 tram-to-airport proposal

  • Equal to the estimated cost of a second Waitematā Harbour crossing

  • Enough to build four new Transmission Gully motorways

  • Enough to build ten new Dunedin Hospitals

  • Enough to build 21 Waitematā Harbour cycle bridges

  • Enough to conduct another 540 flag referenda

  • Enough to buy every house in Whanganui

Clearly, the cost has ballooned into lunacy before shovels have even touched ground. Every dollar thrown at this gold-plated transport project is a dollar that can't be used to ease financial pressures on Kiwi households dealing with the economic effects of a pandemic.

New episodes of Taxpayer Talk 

In addition to our interview with Nanaia Mahuta, we've released four new episodes of our Taxpayer Talk podcast since my last Taxpayer Update.

Tina Nixon of Masterton District Council famously called the Government "A deceitful, lying pack of bastards" for their proposed Three Waters reforms. Join her and Jordan as they dive into the danger of this asset confiscation by central government. Listen here.

Nanaia Mahuta has announced that the government will mandate to seize Three Waters assets from councils. Jordan is joined by National's spokesperson for Local Government Christopher Luxon to discuss the implications, the flaws and what can be done about the government's plans. Listen here.

What's the secret to ACT's success? Why after years of campaigning are they opposing housing reforms? Who does David Seymour think should win the biggest government spending blowout award? Jordan and David discuss this and more. Listen here.

Jordan is joined by New Zealand Initiative Economist Matt Burgess for a detailed discussion about the Emissions Trading Scheme. They reflect on the government's long standing stance of ignoring the realities of the trading scheme, the inefficiency of climate change vanity projects and what we can do moving forward. Listen here.

All the best,

Louis circle


Louis Houlbrooke
Campaigns Manager
New Zealand Taxpayers' Union

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Media coverage:

Magic Talk  Panel discusses the government's summer festival insurance announced today - adequate enough or does it fall short?

Newshub  Judith Collins brushes off speculation her leadership under threat from Simon Bridges

Timaru Herald  Mackenzie District CEO to depart after turning down contract extension

Sunday Star-Times  Losing faith in our central bank

Homepaddock  Jonesie Awards highlight waste

BusinessDesk  On the Money: Peter Beck's midas touch, BTS, James Cameron, and more

Kiwiblog  What you could get instead of Michael’s trams?

Democracy Project  Graham Adams: Jacinda Ardern and the Ghost of David Lange

Stuff
 E tu and First Union repay $1.6 million wage subsidies, Unite says it can’t

Kiwiblog  Propaganda campaign not working

Dominion Post  Audacity of water assets grab boggles the mind

Stuff  This week shows not all political flip-flops are created equal

Kiwiblog  Fund this ad to stop Three Waters

NZ Herald  Mahuta right on water reforms

Newshub  Nanaia Mahuta admits Three Waters ’not a popular set of decisions’, says ‘misinformation’ causing unnecessary fear

The Daily Blog  Global pressure mounts ahead of COP9 conference

The Country  Three Waters: Decisions announced by Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta

Newshub  Government to force Three Waters reforms on councils

Newshub  Jacinda Ardern denies Taxpayer resources used to organise wedding, would cooperate with investigation

NZ Herald  PM defends staffer's role in wedding plans, says they worked hard to follow the rules

Home Paddock  Inflation steals from us all

The Daily Blog  Moving To The Right

Otago Daily Times  Ardern denies allegation parliamentary resources used to help plan wedding 

The Daily Blog  Taxpayers Union Poll - What if pundits are wrong & this is National's death spiral?

NZ Herald  Let's get Kiwis home for Xmas

NZ Herald  Jacinda Ardern pours cold water on wedding allegations, saying staffer helping as a friend

National Business Review  Economic recovery, a climate plan, an excited Act

Stuff  If these poll numbers continue, Nats could have a new leader by Christmas

Newshub  Coronavirus: International media paints grim picture of New Zealand COVID outbreak

Waatea News  Martyn Bomber Bradbury – Political Commentator

NZ Herald  New Taxpayers Union poll had National just six points ahead of Act

Home Paddock  Higher costs for no gain



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