Lower Taxes, Less Waste,
More Accountability

Championing Value For Money From Every Tax Dollar

Taxpayer Update: Golden handshake for incompetence 👋🤑 | NZQ-Ay? Yet another rebrand 💸🤬 | NEW POLL: Government gains, Labour drops 📊💥

It's been a recess week at Parliament this week, but even with some of the top political leaders out of the country, the scourge of government waste persists ...

At the same time, good news for the Government (and Mr Luxon) in this month's exclusiveTaxpayers' Union – Curia Poll (see below).

NZQ-Ay?! Yet another expensive rebrand we've uncovered 💸🤬 

NZQA

Given the dire state of New Zealand's education system, you'd think department heads would be steadfastly focused on ensuring that kids are actually at school and learning.

But why improve education when you can just do a rebrand?

The New Zealand Qualifications Authority (the agency tasked with ensuring young people are getting quality teaching, accurate educational records, and internationally transferable qualifications) has instead decided to blow $2.9 million on a flashy rebrand and a website upgrade.

Exposed by your humble Taxpayers' Union, this rebrand involves a new logo, and a change to the colours of the agency's website. Impressive stuff.

Of course, it is sometimes necessary to make technical upgrades to ensure websites function properly but too often government departments seize the 'opportunity' to blow hundreds of thousands of dollars ‘refreshing brand identity’ (whatever that means). We say this nonsense has to stop and there is an easy solution: having one standardised logo for government agencies as they do in the UK:

UK examples

$365k golden goodbye for gross incompetence and failed CEO 👋🏻🤑

The $365,000 payout to outgoing Kāinga Ora (the Government's Homes and Communities agency) Chief Executive, Andrew McKenzie, is nothing short of a reward for failure.

Rather than being able to sack McKenzie – as would be justified in just about any other country – the Board of Kāinga Ora had to both pretend that Mr McKenzie 'resigned' and pay him a $365k golden goodbye. The news comes after a damning report earlier this year about mismanagement by the agency.

Calling it a 'resignation' is about as credible as an email from a Nigerian prince. But it shows the real issue here: under New Zealand employment law, it's extremely difficult to sack even those who are clearly failingWhile some may argue we need laws to protect vulnerable workers, making it nigh on impossible to get rid of lousy CEOs on $700,000+ means many boards and businesses are stuck with duds unless they get out the chequebook. An ACT MP has a proposed solution applicable for smallbusinesses, but as this example shows, it's also big organisations paying dearly to get rid of people who clearly aren't performing.

We sent our friendly mascot Porky-the-Waste-Hater down the road to Kāinga Ora head offices to present Mr McKenzie with this great 'gift' from taxpayers. 

Porky at Kāinga Ora

But wait, there's more... 🤦🏻‍♂️

Sadly – for taxpayers anyway – this wasn't the only big taxpayer payout in the news. In fact, it wasn't even the biggest. Not to be outdone, our friends (I use that term rather loosely) over at the Film Commission paid their Chief Executive out more than half a million!

NZ Herald

In her great investigative piece in Wednesday's NZ Herald, Kate MacNamara explains that David Strong was forced to go on a paid leave of absence when a television programme, The Pilgrim, in which he had an ongoing personal interest came up for funding. This clearly presented a conflict of interest as the Commission distributes funds to such projects. An independent review of his conflict-of-interest disclosures found that:

"The board and David Strong both had opportunities to better handle the disclosure and management of his conflicts of interest. Inadequately documented decisions and discussions, gaps in the implementation of these decisions, breakdowns in communication and information flows, and blurred accountabilities were significant contributing factors to the events that unfolded."

Despite this 'strong' criticism, Strong not only received $100,000 in pay while he was on leave but also a $438,700 payout in compensation when he left the job permanently. Our policy guru, James, has slated this decision, saying that "bureaucrats already earning more than ministers shouldn't be paid hundreds of thousands of dollars more not to do their jobs."

You can read Kate's full piece with James's comments over on the NZ Herald website.

Policy Victory: Local democracy defended! 🗳️💪🏻

Back in 2022, we raised the alarm about about Nanaia Mahuta's 'Review into the Future for Local Government' – a follow-on from Three Waters and another Labour pet-project that looked to radically change the way our local councils operated and de-couple them from local democratic accountability.

You might remember that we set up a submission tool to make it easy for New Zealanders to have their say on the draft recommendations and more than 14,000 of you made your views known, accounting for the vast majority of responses. Sadly, the hand-picked panel ignored these and ploughed ahead anyway. 

The final recommendations included things like lowering the voting age to 16, enabling unelected 'Te Tiriti-based appointments' to councils, changing the voting system without a referendum, introducing so-called citizens' assemblies (erm, what does that make councils then?), and much more. 

Well, there's some good news. The Local Government Minister, Simeon Brown, has put the review on the policy bonfire, labelling the proposals "ideologically-driven". He has even instructed officials to down tools so we won't waste money preparing a formal response to the report. Result!

Christchurch spends $800,000 on... graffiti 🎨🖌️

Christchurch 'Art'

Speaking of councils, our Local Government Campaigns Manager, Sam, was quick to call out Christchurch City Council’s last-minute allocation of $800,000 for so-called street art initiatives from a capital endowment fund meant for things like water pipes and improving roads. This comes after Christchurch agreed to an almost 10 percent rates hike, which is about $320 extra a year for the average Christchurch household.

Families up and down the country are tightening their belts, and we think councils should not be exempt from practising restraint. Now more than ever is the time to shelve nice-to-have art projects and prioritise responsible spending decisions to fund core council services and keep rates as low as possible.

No more taxpayer cash for KiwiSaaS 💵🛑

Grant Robertson loved chucking money at whatever corporate special interest group had the shiniest lobbyists, and so far it’s a habit the new Government has found difficult to kick.

KiwiSaas

But Judith Collins has bucked the trend. After a media campaign led by your humble Taxpayers’ Union, the Minister has decided not to renew $11.2 million in handouts to KiwiSaaS, a tech sector lobbying group.

Now, compared to the hundreds of millions of dollars of your cash that are given out in corporate welfare, this is small fry, but it’s a step in the right direction.

So we just wanted to take this opportunity to say bravo, Judith Collins. It’s a great start, now it’s time to tell the rest of the crony capitalist industry (I'm looking at you, video game subsidies!) to take a hike.

NEW POLL: Gains for National and NZ First while Labour drops 📊💥

There's an improvement in the Government's numbers in this month's hot-off-the-press Taxpayers' Union-Curia poll. Here are the headline results:

Decided Party Vote over time

Compared with last month's poll, National is up 2.2 points on to 37.6% while Labour drops 3.5 points to 25.9%. 

The Greens are relatively static on 12.5% (-0.2 points) while ACT drops marginally to 9.1% (-0.6 points). 

New Zealand First is up 1.7 points to 7.3% while Te Pāti Māori is down 0.5 points to 3.5%. 

For the minor parties, TOP is on 2.4% (+1.6 points), Outdoors & Freedom is on 1.0% (-0.3 points), and the combined total for all other parties is 0.8%.

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

Seats

National is up three seats on last month to 47 while Labour is down three seats to 33. The Greens are unchanged on 16 while ACT is down one on last month to 11 seats. New Zealand First is up two seats on last month to nine while Te Pāti Māori is unchanged on six.

The combined projected seats for the Centre-Right of 67 is up four on last month. The combined seats for the Centre-Left is down three to 55. On these numbers, National and ACT would require the support of NZ First to form a government.

This calculation assumes that all electorate seats are held. A Parliament on these figures would have an overhang of two seats and a total of 122 seats.

More detailed results, including preferred Prime Minister scores and government approval ratings, and how to get access to our full polling reports (including geographic breakdowns) are available on our website.

Taxpayer Talk – MPs in Depth with Dr Carlos Cheung 🎙️🎧

Taxpayer Talk: Carlos Cheung

This week on Taxpayer Talk, Connor sat down with National Party MP Dr Carlos Cheung.

Carlos caused one of the greatest upsets at the 2023 Election when he unseated Michael Wood, winning the Mount Roskill seat off the Labour Party for the first time since it was created.

Carlos was born in Hong Kong and moved to New Zealand as a teenager to attend boarding school at Auckland Grammar. He shares his early life experiences, challenges in adapting to a new culture, and his career shift from academia to property management. He has a PHD in biological science and did his thesis on diabetes-induced cardiovascular disease. He reflects on his motivation for entering politics, emphasising community service and the desire to create impactful policy changes.

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

Have a great weekend.

Yours aye,

Callum

Callum Signature

Callum Purves
Head of Campaigns
New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union

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Media Mentions:

NewstalkZB Morning Edition: 02 July 2024 – Kāinga Ora Golden Goodbye (01:58)

The Platform James Ross on Waka Kotahi's $5.2M App Failure & Selling the Interislander

NewstalkZB Barry Soper: ZB senior political correspondent on the Government advancing an amended version of the Fair Digital News Bargaining Bill (03:49)

RNZ The Panel with Peter Field and Niki Bezzant (Part 2) – Sam on $800k for Christchurch Graffiti (09:07)

Indian Weekender NZ Business Confidence Hits The Skids

The Post Crossings and traffic lights may stall commuter bus benefits

The Post Is rebooted fast-track a law written by the Government’s cronies?

Bassett, Brash & Hide JORDAN WILLIAMS: Luxon wants to curry favour with mainstream media

The Press Council turns to private sector for EV charging infrastructure

Greymouth Star Whatever! – Darleen Tana [print only]

Chris Lynch Media Green Party faces pressure to release investigation report on Darleen Tana

NZ Herald Former NZ Film Commission boss David Strong paid over half a million dollars’ leave and severance for nine months’ work

The Huddle The Huddle: Do we believe NZ First's theory about the Aratere grounding?

NZ Herald New poll shows Kiwis divided over whether to sell Cook Strait Interislander service

NewstalkZB Paul Goldsmith: Justice Minister talks new Ministerial Advisory Group for victims of retail crime – Interislander Poll (03:19)

NEW POLL: New Zealanders support sale of Interislander

A new Taxpayers’ Union – Curia poll has revealed that a plurality of New Zealanders support selling the Interislander ferry services to a private operator. 43% of respondents supported the sale compared with just 38% opposed. The remaining 19% were unsure.

Voters were asked: “There are two companies that provide passenger and freight services over Cook Strait. The government-owned Kiwirail which operates the Interislander ferries and the privately owned StraitNZ which operates the Bluebridge ferries. Would you support or oppose the Government selling the Interislander ferry services to a private operator?”

The full polling report, including demographic breakdowns, can be found here: www.taxpayers.org.nz/poll_interislander_sale

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

“Kiwirail has demonstrated that they are too functionally and financially incompetent to run an efficient ferry service. With a private operator already successfully operating a second ferry service without taxpayer backing, there’s no reason that the Interislander should remain in public ownership.

“Selling the Interislander would ensure that the service runs efficiently and reliably with a private owner having strong incentives to keep up with regular maintenance and renewals. It would also mean that taxpayers aren’t on the hook paying for Ministers’ and bureaucrats’ ideological projects that make no financial sense.

“It’s time to take back control from Kiwirail’s wayward autopilot and hand it to market forces that care about running a cost-effective service that people trust and are willing to use."

PM Luxon Needs to Talk Tax with Estonian Prime Minister

The Taxpayers’ Union is calling on Prime Minister Christopher Luxon to discuss tax policy with Estonia which has ranked number one on the Tax Foundation’s International Tax Competitiveness Index for 10 years in a row. Estonia’s world-leading tax policy has led to significant economic growth, far outpacing New Zealand's.

World Bank statistics reveal that between 1995 and 2020, Estonia’s economic growth was 160.59%. Over the same period, New Zealand’s economic growth was significantly less at 95.85%.

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

“Estonia has the best tax code in the OECD. It ranks first overall and second (behind neighbouring Latvia) for corporate tax. Whilst New Zealand ranks highly overall, our corporate tax ranking is near the bottom at twenty-ninth.

“A key reason for the stark difference in economic performance is Estonia’s tax system. In 1994 Estonia introduced a flat tax rate on all personal and corporate income which was further reduced to 20% in 2015. Corporate profits are only taxed when distributed to shareholders – profits reinvested in the corporation are not taxed.

“Our Prime Minister would do well to discuss the impact of Estonia’s tax policies on economic growth when he meets with their prime minister, Kaja Kallas, in Washington.”

Interest rates freeze shows need to take an axe to Government waste

The Reserve Bank of New Zealand has once again held the Official Cash Rate (OCR) at 5.5%. Commenting on this, Taxpayers’ Union Policy and Public Affairs Manager, James Ross, said:

“Sky-high interest rates are punishing Kiwi families and stunting economic growth. New Zealanders will keep getting relatively poorer until the OCR starts coming down, so the Government needs to be doing much more to get the inflation genie back into the bottle.

“The Government needs to get serious about slashing wasteful spending, but so far it’s done anything but. More spending, a bigger deficit and heaps more debt were the name of the game in May’s Budget.

“People demanded a return to sound financial management at the ballot box on 14th October. Kiwis’ wallets are squeezed, and this Government needs to give people what they voted for.” 

Government finally getting it on emissions reduction

The Taxpayers’ Union is welcoming the Carbon Capture, Utilisation and Storage (CCUS) framework released for consultation today that will reduce the cost of emissions reduction in New Zealand.

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

“The Government should be agnostic about where reductions in net emissions come from, whether that be through not emitting in the first place or through capturing and storing carbon by using technology or forestry. Today’s consultation announcement is a good step in the right direction.

“The recognition that New Zealand’s emissions are capped under the Emissions Trading Scheme is a welcome one. This CCUS policy will not reduce emissions any further or faster but will make it cheaper to meet our agreed targets.

“The best emissions reduction policy is to have a simple and well functioning ETS that sets the cap on emissions and then gets the government out of the way. The consultation’s request for insight on regulatory barriers to CCUS uptake is a welcome one.

“It’s just a shame the government can’t be consistent across all other areas of their emissions reduction policy – let’s hope Simeon Brown pulls his Climate Change Minister in for an ETS crash course.”

Children’s Commission, ease up on the re-branding


The Taxpayers’ Union can reveal that the Children’s and Young People Commission has spent $61,474 on refreshing their brand identity when the structure moved from a Commissioner to a Commission with a board.

The information was revealed through the Official Information Act and now, with news of a change back to a single commissioner role, the Taxpayers’ Union is calling on the organisation not to waste even more money on a second rebrand.

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

“The Commission is meant to ensure the safety and well-being of children. Instead, they are spraying money on expensive redesigns that do nothing to improve the poor outcomes many young people face.

“Time and time again we have called for government agencies to revert to standard branding with the Coat of Arms - even offering to do this design work for free - yet they continue wasting tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars on unnecessary rebrands.

“Private organisations spend money on branding in order to stand out against their competitors. Unfortunately, the government doesn’t have any, so there’s no need to continue to splash the cash on woke rebrands like this.”

EV charger campaigners are missing the point

The Taxpayers’ Union is dismissing concerns from EV lobbyists that there aren’t enough EV chargers in New Zealand, arguing that they are not necessary for emissions reduction but will be built anyway with private funding so long as the Government keeps its grubby fingers away.

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

“The main point that EV lobby groups, who often have strong financial interests in the sector, miss is that we already have a functioning Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) that limits the amount of net emissions than can be emitted.

“Any reduction in emissions from increased EV uptake won’t actually do what the policy sets out to achieve and reduce New Zealand’s net emissions. It will simply free up room under the fixed limit on emissions for someone else to emit instead.

“The Government didn’t need to own petrol stations when cars first started appearing on our roads so why would EV chargers be any different? As the ETS drives up the cost of fuel over time and electric vehicles become more attractive, the private sector will provide more charging points. The most effective way the Government could help would be by cutting red tape to make it easier to build more EV chargers.” 

Public car parks for billionaires, none for the rest of us

Wellington City Council has given Peter Jackson’s Stone Street Studios exclusive rights to 50 publicly owned and funded car parking spaces for just $1 a year since 2010. 

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

“Wellington Council is tearing up car parks left-right-and-centre for the rest of us, with around 800 planned to be removed across the city. Unless you’re a Hollywood superstar of course, then the Council will roll out the red tarmac.

“Wellington’s favourite corporate welfare recipient has been given 50 parking spots since 2010, all for $14 total. That’s less than what the rest of us have to pay for parking in just one spot in the CBD for 3 hours.

“Nothing sums up Wellington City Council’s attitude to the hardworking mum-and-dad ratepayers who pay their wages more than subsidising billionaires to park whilst paying millions of dollars to make everyone else walk.”

Protecting Uber freedom to contract a win/win for both passengers and drivers

The Taxpayers’ Union is welcoming the Government’s review into how workers in the gig economy are treated and backs calls to protect the freedom of contract and allow Uber drivers to remain as contractors.

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

“Services like Uber offer drivers the ability to be their own boss. They get to decide when and where they want to work, for how long, and can accept and refuse jobs as they wish.

“This flexibility enables more people to become drivers such as retirees, those with young kids, students, or anyone wanting a side-hustle to top up the bank account at the end of the week.

“This flexibility benefits drivers while also keeping costs down for passengers and ensuring there is always someone available to offer a ride. Attempts to usurp the freedom of contract will make it harder for people to become drivers while also driving up the price for consumers.

“If those four drivers taking Uber to court are upset at their contractor status, they are more than welcome to quit and work for a taxi company instead. Of course, they won’t because this is nothing more than a shakedown and an attempt to gate-keep the rideshare industry.”

Government continuing corporate welfare slush fund

The Taxpayers’ Union is slamming the Government’s decision to continue MBIE’s Endeavour Fund without narrowing the funding criteria to exclude areas where there is clear private benefit and incentive to invest in research and development.

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

“This is the same fund that previously spent $1 million for research into reducing the sound of ‘scraping chairs, running upstairs and high heels on hard floors’ and another million on work to increase the shelf life of seafood.

“There are countless examples of the Endeavour Fund handing out money for research that simply pile all of the risk onto taxpayers while the benefits accrue to corporate elites.

“We have already seen the kind of nonsense funded through Marsden grants and the Health Research Council – it’s time the government focused all science funding on those areas that cannot attract private investment and that deliver tangible benefits to all New Zealanders, not just the wealthy few.”

NZQA blows $2.9 million on flashy rebrand

The Taxpayers’ Union was gobsmacked to find out that the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) spent $2,867,937 on website redevelopment of which $114,386 was spent on rebranding, including a new logo and colour palette.

Information released to the Taxpayers’ Union under the Official Information Act also shows that the website maintenance has jumped to $206,880 per year, a significant increase from the $86,561 that they told the Education and Workforce Committee just three months ago. 

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

“It’s no wonder that more and more schools are moving away from from NZQA’s preferred NCEA system when they waste money on extravagant pet projects like website refreshes while core software such as for digital examinations continues to fail.

“Parents, students and teachers just want a simple website that works as intended so that kids can get the first-class education system they deserve. Instead, they are stuck with flashy rebrands that focus more on the new ‘visual identity’ then ensuring students are well equipped for learning and working in the 21st century. 

“This rebrand is almost seven times more expensive than the Human Rights Commission’s new website that we revealed last year. The Minister must urgently issue a ‘please explain’ to NZQA who are not even able to provide a cost breakdown of where this money went. 

“There is a worrying trend across government where departments use the need to make technical changes to a website and then use it as an opportunity to do a complete makeover. This adds unnecessary cost for no benefit to taxpayers and must be stopped.”

Handouts for Ruapehu ski fields must be halted

Today’s NZ Herald reports that the Government is considering providing funding to enable the purchase of land, to build a marae or cultural hub, and ‘assistance resolving concerns’ about the use of the name Tūroa for the ski field.

Responding to these reports, Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

 “If the issue is really about concerns with the trademark over the Tūroa family name, then the simple solution is to change the name. There is no reason for the Government to hand over millions of dollars in apparent ‘compensation’ for using the name.

“A name change to something as straightforward as the ‘South-West Ski field’ would suffice and is unlikely to give rise to any trademark issues. But unfortunately, this Government is developing a reputation for appeasing any group with an itch that they want scratched. This was the modus operandi of the previous Government, and it simply has to stop.”

Darleen Tana report must be made publicly available in full

Responding to a Green Party announcement that Darleen Tana has been asked to resign following the completion of a report into allegations made against her, Taxpayers’ Union Policy and Public Affairs Manager, James Ross, said:

“Public funds were used to pay for the report, and so the public have a right to see what’s in it. It’s as simple as that.

“Taxpayers have also been on the hook for Tana's salary to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars as this investigation dragged on for month after month. The public need to know why the facts took so long to dig up, so taxpayers’ money won’t be wasted like this again.

“Ms Swarbrick claims the Greens punch well above their weight in holding the powerful to account. Now’s their chance to put their money where their mouth is and let the public hold them accountable.”

Conflicted ‘reviewer’ of Stats NZ handling of census data and John Tamihere allegations unacceptable

The Taxpayers’ Union is calling on Statistics New Zealand to replace RDC Group’s Doug Craig given new information has come to light showing that the same person reviewing Stats NZ oversight has in fact previously contracted to Stats NZ to advise on their risk management and governance oversight.

The investigation came as a result of allegations that census data was misused and abused for political purposes.

According to an OIA response published online, Mr Craig previously lead Statistics NZ’s Strategic Advice and Governance Review into risk management and governance oversight.

Taxpayers’ Union spokesman Jordan Williams said,

“Mr Craig might have the necessary expertise for the investigation, but he is clearly conflicted. In effect, he’s been asked to mark his own homework.

“It is disgraceful that Stats NZ ever thought this appointment was appropriate. If Mr Craig slams Stats NZ’s systems, management will point straight to Mr Craig’s previous review as being at fault. It’s a terrible situation.

“If Stats NZ can’t see the problem, it’s high time the Minister of Statistics stepped in and demanded a proper independent investigation - what the public was promised weeks ago when the John Tamihere allegations first arose.”

Government should double-down on Pharmac funding by redirecting money from movies to medicines

The Taxpayers’ Union is renewing calls for the government to scrap costly and inefficient film and video game subsidies in order to further clear Pharmac’s wishlist following calls for crucial heart medication to be funded.

A spokesperson for the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union, Sam Warren, said:

“The Government was right not to break the Pharmac funding model. Allowing politicians to pick and choose what medicines get funded simply opens them up to lobbying and risks prioritising those medicines that get the most media attention rather than those that will make the biggest impact in improving the lives of New Zealanders.

“Giving into calls like those to directly fund heart medication, although well intended, will see New Zealanders paying more but getting less as the Pharmac model is undermined.

“Instead the Government would be better to continue to cut wasteful spending and put that funding into Pharmac where it will undoubtedly deliver far higher value for the taxpayer by making evidence-based funding decisions.”

Over 5,500 Kiwis tell Minister to scrap Fair Digital News Bargaining Bill

Last week, the Government announced it’s progressing Willie Jackson’s flawed Fair Digital News Bargaining Bill, despite evidence from overseas that the model will likely fall flat.

On Saturday, the Taxpayers’ Union launched a tool allowing people to write to Ministers Paul Goldsmith, Winston Peters and the Prime Minister. Over 5,500 New Zealanders have since sent letters calling for the Bill to be scrapped. The email tool can be found at www.taxpayers.org.nz/email_media_bill.

Commenting on this Taxpayers’ Union Policy and Public Affairs Manager, James Ross, said:“Bailing out the same old media organisations isn’t the answer to flatlining trust in the media. Even if this digital shakedown would work, media have to learn to stand on their own two feet.

’That’s a big if, and looking at Canada shows how this will play out in reality. No more news links on your social media, and millions of dollars in free advertising for new organisations washed down the pan overnight.

“Over 5,500 Kiwis have already told the relevant Ministers to take this back to the drawing board. At the bare minimum, there’s no excuse not to take the Bill back to Select Committee.”

Taxpayers’ Union Launches Nationwide Search and Rescue

The Taxpayers’ Union is today launching a nationwide search and rescue effort for Green Party MP Darlene Tana following reporting that the MP has been missing in action for more than half of the current Parliamentary term.

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

“Taxpayers funding Ms Tana’s salary are concerned that she has gone missing, having not seen her in months. We need the help of New Zealanders to get her back.

“We are offering a lifetime supply of lentils as a reward to anyone who can provide information that leads to her safe return to Parliament to do the job she is paid to do.

“We hope this generous reward will encourage those with information to promptly come forward.”

U-turn alert: National & NZ First want to bailout the media (again...)

This week the Government dropped another policy bombshell.

The Minister for Media and Communities, Paul Goldsmith, announced that National and New Zealand First have U-turned and are now supporting Willie Jackson’s Bill to tax internet companies and give the media a bail out.

ACT stuck to their pre-election position and "agreed to disagree" by confirming they're still not backing the Bill.

That means Mr Goldsmith will need to rely on Labour or Green MPs to get the media bailout over the line. You really couldn’t make it up.

I'm asking our supporters to take 60 seconds to email Mr Goldsmith, Mr Luxon, and Mr Peters to tell them to scrap this media bailout.

"Both unprincipled and stupid" 🤯

National's own pollster (and former Taxpayers' Union board member) David Farrar, didn't mince his words. He described the the U-turn as "both an unprincipled and a stupid decision". 

DPF Tweet

Here's how David summed it up on Kiwiblog:

This is both an unprincipled and a stupid decision. I can handle principled stupid decisions and even unprincipled smart decisions but this is neither.

It is unprincipled because it is forcing successful companies in one industry (social networks and search engines) to fund failing companies in another industry (media). The only rationale for this is that Google and Meta have money and Stuff doesn’t. Will we see Netflix levied money to fund home video rental stores? Will we see Foodstuffs levied money to find Whitcoulls?

It is also a very stupid decision. Most media is already left leaning as most journalist have a left worldview. The Government is going to pass a law to fund a media that will oppose almost everything that supporters of the Government believe in. Even worse, it will set up a structural incentive for the media to become even more left leaning. Let’s say the Government forces Meta and Google to hand over $20 million a year to local media. Well Labour and Greens next election will insist that levy be doubled to $40 million, and of course that will create an institutional bias in favour of the parties that will benefit media the most. And Te Pati Maori will no doubt insist 50% of the left go to Maori media companies.

It is also very possible that the proposed law will fail, in that Meta will simply block all NZ news links rather than be forced to pay a levy.

A charter to peddle influence? 💣

Mr Goldsmith has made few changes to the Bill. But National's changes make it even worse than the Willie Jackson version!

First, Mr Goldsmith proposes that the responsible Minister will be able “to decide which digital platforms are captured by the bill”. Paul Goldsmith says this is “to manage unintended consequences” and which media outlets will get the money. 

You might be with the current Government having the power to choose which media get funded, but we also remember the "public interest journalism fund" and the fishhooks about media needing to toe the line on the "partnership" neotribalism interpretation of the Treaty of Waitangi. 

How will you feel when Labour are back in power and Willie Jackson, Chris Hipkins, or Chlöe Swarbrick will decide what media outlets get how much?

Once through, this will be a hard one to unpick and repeal. That's why we're asking our supporters to take 60 seconds right now to email the key decision makers.

Willie Jackson

Trust in news is at an all time low: Bailing them out will make it worse 📉

New Zealand's media no longer reflect the breadth of public opinion. According to polling, Kiwis perceive the major news outlets (Stuff, One News, Newshub and Radio NZ) to be Left-leaning with the NZ Herald being the only outlet people thought was broadly neutral.

And that shouldn’t come as any surprise given how New Zealand’s journalists identify themselves politically. Massey University research reveals that 81 percent of Kiwi journalists consider themselves centre-Left or Left-wing while just 15 percent said they are on the Right. That’s a ratio of more than five-to-one (while the general population are split roughly down the middle).

And that’s a big factor in why trust in media is at an all time low. The latest figures out earlier this year showed that just one in three Kiwis said they trusted the news “most of the time”.

But instead of self reflecting, or the market correcting the imbalance, the media have hoodwinked the new Government into giving them a permanent bailout. Will you email the decision makers in the Beehive to ask them not to do it?

And it won't even work... 🤦

When a similar scheme was tried in Canada, Facebook simply removed news from its platform entirely. That’s a lose, lose for everyone. And Australia is heading in the same direction. 

If it passes, the Bill would particularly hit small news outlets like The Platform or Chris Lynch Media in Christchurch that rely on promoting their news content through social media platforms like Facebook.

Make no mistake, this U-turn by National isn't about helping small, contrarian, local news companies. It's a cave in to the owners of outfits like Stuff and the far-Left 'Spinoff' website.

The National Party were elected to kill this bill – now they're cuddling it 🧸

National absolutely slammed Labour when Willie Jackson was trying to pass the same regime (the speeches to Parliament are here)

Melissa Lee (who was the Broadcastings Spokesperson) summed it up:

They were right to oppose the Bill then, so what's changed?

Our senior National Party sources in the Beehive tell us that the charge of heart is from none other than the Prime Minister himself. We hear, that he feels he must pass the Bill to curry favour with the mainstream media. 

Do you think it will work? And is it worth the cost of having the media reliant on a Ministerial funding scheme?

Let Paul Goldsmith, Christopher Luxon & Winston Peters know what you think 📣

We know for a fact that even within the Cabinet, there is disgust at this decision. There is still time for National (or NZ First?) to backtrack on the U-turn.

I’m asking you to join me in sending a note to Paul Goldsmith, Christopher Luxon, and Winston Peters to let them know that they have got this one wrong.

Ask them to consign Willie Jackson’s Fair Digital News Bargaining Bill to the political scrapheap and not bailout the media, yet again.

➡️ ➡️ ➡️ Email the decision makers

We need to knock Labour-like policies like these on the head now before we get a Government continuing the policy platform of Jacinda Ardern and Willie Jackson.

Thank you for your support.

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

Ps. We've made emailing the key decision makers – Minister Paul Goldsmith, Prime Minister Christopher Luxon, and Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters as easy as a few clicks. Take 60 seconds to make your views known here.

GOOD NEWS FOR WHANGANUI MAYOR

Whanganui Mayor, Andrew Tripe, is on Brink of becoming a "Ratepayer Hero" following good news provided by the Taxpayers' Union in response to his public comments that he would like to reject his unnecessary mayoral pay hike, but couldn't.

According to Local Democracy Reporting, Mayor Andrew Tripe says it was the wrong time for pay bumps but the decision to lift elected member pay rates was made independently of councils, stating "We have no influence on what [the Remuneration Authority] decides. We cannot reject any pay increase, either. If I could, I would."

Local Government Campaigns Manager for the Taxpayers’ Union, Sam Warren, said:

“We have good news for Andrew Tripe - his statement that he cannot reject any pay increase is wrong. Public officials have the same rights as any employee to tell the payroll department to pay salaries into more than one bank account.

“In this case, we've confirmed with Whanganui City Council the bank account for the Mayor to donate the increased pay back to it as a donation.

"We have provided a letter for Mr Tripe to sign, to advice the Council of his rejection of the pay increase. Once signed, Whanganui ratepayers will rest assured that they have a mayor not just willing to put money where his mouth is, but a true 'ratepayer hero'. The letter can be found at www.taxpayers.org.nz/tripe_letter

Depressed business confidence justifies shot in the arm

Yesterday’s NZIER release of its Quarterly Survey of Business Opinion shows a continuing decline in business confidence.  This mirrors last month’s release of the BNZ-BusinessNZ Performance of Manufacturing Index that shows the manufacturing sector has been in contraction for fifteen consecutive months.

Taxpayers’ Union Executive Director, Jordan Williams, said that

“With the Reserve Bank squeezing the life out of the New Zealand economy, relief can only come from a change to government fiscal policies.

“New Zealand’s company tax rate is among the highest in the world. Reducing the company tax rate would breathe life into the business sector and encourage investment and employment.

“Only through productivity growth, investment, and entrepreneurship can New Zealand get out of recession and back to growth. The Government should be cutting the headline rate or, better yet, also allowing full expensing of capital items to incentivise investment.”

NEW CAMPAIGN: Taxpayers’ Union launches campaign to Save Thorndon Quay

Wellington City Council is planning on tearing up Thorndon Quay to install what The Post has described as a “traffic light bonanza.” This will see 6 sets of traffic lights and five sets of speed bumps installed over just 1.7km of road.

Businesses, residents, councillors, and even the emergency services have rallied against the projects, calling it unsafe, unaffordable and irresponsible.

The Taxpayers’ Union has today launched a petition to Save Thorndon Quay. This can be signed at www.taxpayers.org.nz/petition_thorndon_quay

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

“There’s been one serious accident in ten years on this road and emergency services are saying this will make it harder to save lives, not easier. There’s absolutely no argument whatsoever tearing up the main route into Wellington is for safety.

“To sum up how stupid this city-killing publicity stunt is, it might all have to be dug back up again. There’s millions of dollars worth of pipes listed as needing urgent repair under Thorndon Quay, which aren’t being fixed before being built on top of.

“The Council is tripling residents’ rates to pay for projects like this, and local businesses – already paying the highest rates in the country - are saying this will send them under. Is not taking on even more debt to deliberately make people’s lives harder really too much to ask?”

URGENT: Peter Williams

 

Maybe I'm misremembering, but I could have sworn the new Government was elected on a platform of ending undemocratic, race-based 'co-governance' last year.

I'm emailing because I've just been briefed by the Taxpayers' Union research team on what the new Government is doing with its "Fast-track Bill". It is enough to make your blood boil.

In short, rather than delete 'co-governance' from the statute books, the new 'fast-track' consenting scheme proposes giving local iwi the same rights of representation on the most powerful committee as local councils.

It shuts the public out while giving new legal rights to iwi (and only iwi) to have their say.

While it isn't as explicit as David Parker or Nania Mahuta's attempts under the last government for full co-governance, the Bill before Parliament hands over special powers to iwi leaders, all at the expense of democratic decision making and democratic accountability. 

I wanted a change of Government last year, and I certainly don't want to go back to the old one. But we have to blow the whistle on this one.

Will you stand with me to put a stop to race-based decision making in our public services once and for all?

Let me explain what's going on.

What is the Fast-track Approvals Bill?

While we all want to protect our country's beautiful environments and landscapes, we also want our kids to be able to afford decent housing, get from A to B with high-quality roads, and have sufficient energy resources to heat our homes. For many years the balance hasn't been right and the Fast-track Approvals Bill aims to fix that. 

As the ever-restrained Minister for Regional Development, Shane Jones, put it: “...if there is a mining opportunity and it’s impeded by a blind frog, goodbye, Freddie.”

So it will come as no surprise that any suggestion of taking a slightly more sensible approach to these issues has been met with protests, howls of anger from environmental activists, and lots of criticism from the mainstream media and left-wing political commentariat.

There is, however, something missing from the discussion around the Fast-track Approvals Bill: Co-governance.

Iwi get special consultation rights while the public is shut out

Under the Bill, the public will be cut out of the decision-making process in the interests of speeding up decision making, but this isn't the case for everyone. 

Before an application is lodged, applicants must consult with the following groups:

Iwi, hapū, Treaty settlement entities, applicant groups for customary marine title, and, where relevant, ngā hapū o Ngāti Porou get enhanced consultation rights, denied to all other citizens.

In fact, only local councils get the same right to be consulted for applications under the 'fast-track' regime.

And note what's missing! Neighbouring land owners – who will be directly impacted by a consent – don't get an invite. But the local iwi do, as of right.

https://assets.nationbuilder.com/taxpayers/mailings/4426/attachments/original/Cl_16.png?1719801876
Click here to view larger version.

From the Taxpayers' Union's perspective, the role of councils is to represent everyone living in the local area – not just non-Māori.

Whether you think skipping public consultation or not is justified, what surely cannot be right is to exclude some members of the public from the process but not others for, it seems, no other reason than their ethnicity.

If like me, you believe that all New Zealanders should have the same rights in the planning process, please support the Taxpayers' Union's campaign to end co-governance once and for all.

Expert Advisory Panel: Co-governance by the back door

While the Fast-track Approvals Bill gives the final decision to ministers, the Minister must rely on what is called an "Expert Advisory Panel" that will evaluate each project before making a recommendation to approve or reject the project.

Even that probably understates the power of the Panel. Given the concerns around Ministers having too much power, the Select Committee will change it to put the ultimate decision for approval into the hands of the "Expert Advisory Panel".

Here’s what the legislation says about the makeup of the panels:


Click to view larger version.

So, just like David Parker’s RMA replacement, this Bill reserves a seat on one of the most influential bodies in the planning process – a panel of just four members – for an unelected representative of an ‘iwi authority’.

And check out what skills are required. Note the contrast: Treaty of Waitangi expertise – is required. Conservation – only, "if appropriate"...

Click to view larger version.

What’s more, by having a sole representative from a council alongside a representative of an iwi authority, the new Government is giving unelected, unaccountable iwi authorities the same clout as our democratically elected local councils. Sound familiar? 

That’s exactly what happened with Nanaia Mahuta’s Three Waters, and what we all thought we were voting to stop!

As much as I hate to say it, we have to put pressure on the new Government to end these policies that continue to give rights to some New Zealanders but not to others.

Two steps forward, one step back?

To be fair to all of those who support the governing parties, Three Waters has gone (thank goodness), as has the separate Māori Health Authority, but the Government seems to be walking on eggshells when it comes to iwi involvement in the resource management process.

While a case can be made for temporarily limiting public consultation to get on and build stuff, it is simply not tenable to do this for most people, while letting iwi authorities – who only represent a certain section of the population – continue to be consulted and have a seat on the expert recommendations panel of equal standing with elected councils.

The election saw us start to turn a corner, but the Government continues to come under attack from the Left, the bureaucratic blob, the trade unions, and the mainstream media for promoting the pretty basic idea of equality before the law, one-person, one-vote, and the principle of democratic accountability.

That's why we need an organisation like the Taxpayers' Union that is prepared to tackle the tough issues – no matter who is in power – promote the value of democratic decision making, and ensure that New Zealand has a proper debate about the undermining of our democracy. 

But they can only do it with support from the likes of you and me. Thank you for your support.

Peter Williams

Peter Williams sig
Peter Williams
Financial Supporter and Former Board Member
New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union

ps. The Taxpayers' Union relies on donations from supporters like me and you to keep fighting the good fight to uphold democratic accountability and put and end to co-governance for once and for all.

pps.You saw how the team blew the whistle on Three Waters. We have to do it all again now, so that National, ACT, and NZ First face down the powerful interests (and protest movement) determined to get a race-based resource management regime. Unless we act now and nip this in the bud, what hope is there for the full RMA replacement due in the new year?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Government locks in Labour’s digital shakedown

Responding to news that the Government plans to progress the Fair Digital News Bargaining Bill, despite the failure of similar pieces of legislation overseas, Taxpayers’ Union Policy and Public Affairs Manager, James Ross, said:

“If mainstream media can’t stand on it’s own two feet, it is because they are out of touch with New Zealanders. Study after study shows people just don’t trust them anymore, and the answer to that isn’t bailing out the same old tired outfits.

“You only have to look at Canada to see this rort won’t work. Shaking down digital platforms like Facebook to prop up the likes of Stuff will just see them ban publishing links to articles. That means no more news on your timeline.

“National knew this bill wouldn’t work before the election, but they’ve buckled under pressure from the Wellington bubble yet again. It’s time to grow a spine and stop locking in Labour’s legacy of failure.”

$365k golden goodbye to Kāinga Ora head’s resignation, sickening

The Taxpayers’ Union is labelling the reported $365,000 ‘sickening’ and is questioning how someone is entitled, apparently, to six months pay for resigning.

“For those living in cars and unable to find a state house, 365 grand is nothing short of a ‘sickening severance package’,” said Jordan Williams, a spokesman for the Taxpayers’ Union.

The NZ Herald reports:
[Chief executive Andrew McKenzie] will receive his contractual entitlements upon leaving the board, including a payment totalling six months of his base salary as compensation for notice and redundancy. This will work out to be roughly $365,000.

“The media are reporting that McKenzie resigned, but is nonetheless getting a redundancy package that is repulsive. People in the real world don’t get $365,000 for quitting.  If this is really a contractual entitlement, Peter Hughes, the disgraced former Public Service Commissioner should be hauled before Parliament to answer why it was agreed to. Did he get a payout for doing a second-rate job too?” Williams asked.

Government’s Q3 Action Plan making big promises

Responding to the release of the coalition Government’s 2024 Q3 Action Plan, Taxpayers’ Union Policy and Public Affairs Manager, James Ross, said:

“The Government’s Action Plan is making all the right noises. Working on a replacement for Three Waters, chugging along on RMA reform, and digging around in the nooks and crannies to find economy-choking red tape to slash.

“It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, and nothing sums that up better than the $1.2 billion for a pet project slush fund. But there’s plenty of steps in the right direction.

“The coalition is talking big on delivering its election-time promises to get New Zealand moving again. Kiwis look forward to seeing them putting those words into action.”

Frivolous’ $800,000 towards street art projects amid rate hikes

The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union has called out Christchurch City Council’s use of $800,000 towards street art initiatives as a ‘frivolous use of ratepayer funds’.

In response to the Council’s last-minute change to its 10-year Plan, Local Government Campaigns Manager for the Taxpayers’ Union, Sam Warren, said:

“Families up and down the country are tightening their belts in anticipation of rate hikes. Christchurch City residents are no different as they stare down the barrel of an almost 10 percent increase to their rates, on top of a lingering and persistent cost-of-living crisis.

“Councils should not be exempt from practicing restraint. Now is the time to shelve nice-to-have art projects and prioritise responsible spending decisions to fund core council services and keep rates down.

“The last-minute changes to the Long-Term Plan saw a further $100,000 allocated towards the installation of a ‘rainbow project’, as well as $200,000 for supporting the French Festival.

“For many ratepayers cutting back on their household expenses, this will be a slap across the chops when they are paying their next rates bill.”

Ministry of Justice must sack officials who threw slurs at researcher

Responding to the insults and slurs which were hurled at a PhD researcher by officials at the Ministry of Justice, Taxpayers’ Union Policy and Public Affairs Manager, James Ross, said:

“These bureaucrats might’ve been caught chucking demeaning insults at a researcher this time, but let’s not pretend this attitude is a one-off. Far too many officials think it is their job to hide official information to stop the public from seeing how the sausage is made.

“Democracy requires transparency, and officials cannot be allowed to get away with sneering down their nose at members of the public. The Ministry of Justice needs to confirm those involved have been sacked.

“This needs to serve as notice across the Public Service. If you think it’s your right to gate-keep official information, you’re in the wrong job. Pack your bags.”

Wellington’s woes will not be solved by more bureaucracy

The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union says a proposed merger of councils into a lite-Super City is not the solution for Wellington’s woes.

Commenting, Taxpayers’ Union Local Government Campaigns Manager, Sam Warren said:

“Sadly, this is not a simple case of ‘bigger is better’.  Claims made by councillors that greater cost efficiencies will be achieved by a merger are not based in reality, as research by the Infrastructure Commission shows.

“A merger would add more managers and layers of bureaucracy on top of an already bloated system.  We only need to point to what happened to Auckland.  Who could possibly consider that a success?

“There is no question councils should work closer together to find better and more affordable ways of providing services and infrastructure.“However, New Zealand remains one of the most overly centralised countries in the world.

“It’s important not to keep making the same mistake over and over again when all the evidence points to diseconomies of scale once a council reaches a population of about 200,000, as broadly matched by the Ratepayers' Report and a study by TDB Economics, commissioned by Hutt City in 2013.

“Considering this proposal would see a population of about 440,000, these Wellington councillors and mayors in favour of a merger would be wise to reevaluate their position."

MPs in Depth: Dr Carlos Cheung

Dr Carlos Cheung

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, Connor sat down with National Party MP, Carlos Cheung. 

Carlos caused one of the greatest upsets at the 2023 Election when he unseated Michael Wood, winning the Mount Roskill seat off the Labour Party for the first time since it was created. Carlos was born in Hong Kong and moved to New Zealand as a teenager to attend boarding school at Auckland Grammar. He shares his early life experiences, challenges in adapting to a new culture, and his career shift from academia to property management. He has a PHD in biological science and did his thesis on diabetes-induced cardiovascular disease. He reflects on his motivation for entering politics, emphasizing community service and the desire to create impactful policy changes.

Carlos' maiden speech can be watched here. Follow Carlos 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. 

Taxpayer Update: NZTA's "App to zero" 📲 | Abandon ship: Time to sell Interislander? ⚓️ | Councillors behaving badly justify recall elections 🗳️

EXPOSED: NZTA blows $5.2 million on unusable app 🤳

From the ‘you couldn’t make it up’ folder this week, our research team have uncovered a classic Wellington wasteful doozie, this time by The-Organisation-Formerly-Known-As-Waka-Kotahi.

While roads across the country are looking like Swiss cheese, the geniuses at the New Zealand Transport Agency, decided the best use of their time (and our money!) would be developing a $5.2 million (and counting) mobile phone app designed to function as a digital driver licence.

Sounds sensible enough, right?

The problem? NZTA didn’t bother to check whether the Ministry of Transport and the Police would (or could) actually accept a digital driver licence!

So your humble Taxpayers' Union did check. And, digital versions of driver licences can't be used under existing traffic or identification laws.

Put another way, for the app ever to be used for this purpose, Parliament will need to change the law and no one noticed!  🤦

Officials commissioned a $5.2 million mobile "app" that can't legally be used the very purpose of the app.

NZTA App

You can read a breakdown of the spending (and our comments given to media) over on our website.

Only the bureaucratic forces of government could make such a monumental screw-up. But this is all too familiar at NZTA, the same agency that spent millions of dollars on their Road to Zero speed limit reduction propaganda campaign when the most dangerous thing was the state of the roads they are responsible for maintaining.

If you feel like you need a drink to calm down after reading this one, just make sure to take your real ID because the NZTA digital licence app can’t legally be used for alcohol age verification either. 🤦🤦🤦

Time to abandon ship? Sign the petition to end Government ownership of the Interislander 🚢

Last week, Kiwirail demonstrated, yet again, their extraordinary level of incompetence when one of their Interislander ferries lost control of its steering and ran aground. Oops... (thank goodness the steering wasn't lost in a storm or in the middle of Cook Straight!)

Awatere

This isn't the first time Kiwirail's poor governance and management has been exposed. The cost for replacement ferries and terminals was revealed last year to have blown out from a promised $750 million to an eye-watering $3.2 billion – that's $1,597 for every household in the country!

The problems with Kiwirail and the Interislander raise much bigger questions though. Like, why on Earth do taxpayers need to own a ferry service?

We say government should be focused at doing well those functions only government can do. Clearly running a ferry service isn't one of them.

With Bluebridge successfully operating a private fleet of eight different ferries since 1992 (and managing to replace them successfully before they break down!), it's clearly possible to run a ferry service without taxpayer funding.

Sell the Interislander

Kiwirail has proven it is not able to run a safe, reliable or efficient ferry service, that’s why we’re calling on the Government to sell the ferry to a private operator and use the money to either pay down debt or reinvest in infrastructure only the government can provide.

This Government was elected to make the tough but necessary decisions to sort out the country’s finances. Here is a perfect opportunity! Recycle capital, deliver a better/safer/affordable service for consumers, and reinvest the money in infrastructure only the government can deliver (such as better roads). It's a win, win, win.

 Promising to do the same but "manage it better" doesn't fix the problem.

✍️ Sign the petition ✍️

Policy Victory! 🥳 Government increases funding for medicines 💊

This week, we had a significant victory in our campaign calling on the Government to increase funding for life-saving and life-extending medicines like cancer drugs – an area most would agree where the Government should be spending more money.

Pharmac Funding

The huge $604 million funding boost is a welcome one, but with the government books in crisis and the national debt clock running red hot, we say the right way to fund this is cutting out some of the billions of dollars in wasteful spending still happening under the new Government.

We've given the Government a laundry list of options, such as axing the hundreds of millions of dollars in corporate welfare that is handed out to Hollywood bigwigs and video game companies.

Unfortunately, they opted to instead continue Grant Robertson’s AfterPay ‘Buy Now, Pay Later’ style of spending and kick it into the long grass with no clarity where the money will come from except to say it is a “pre-commitment against next year’s Budget”.

Translation: “She’ll be right, we’ll worry about that later."

Yes, it’s great these drugs are funded. But a Government for these tough times needs to lead a public conversation on finding savings to pay for it. If announcing funding for desperately needed new drugs isn't the right time to explain what needs to be cut to pay for it, when is?

NEW POLL: Kiwis back relaxation of Easter Trading laws 🐣🛍️☕️

The ACT Party are arguing that New Zealand's Easter trading laws are long overdue for an overhaul. They argue that Wellington shouldn't be banning people from working, doing business, or shopping due to a religious day they may or may not observe? ACT MP Cameron Luxton's member's bill to liberalise Easter trading has been drawn from the ballot and will likely be debated next month.

Easter Trading Poll

We've released a new Taxpayers’ Union – Curia poll that showed the overwhelming majority of New Zealanders agree on this issue. 64% of respondents were in support of giving shops the choice to open, while just 27% were opposed. 9% of respondents were unsure.

Retailers have argued that Easter trading laws are unnecessarily burdensome and are driving up the cost of doing business during an already challenging economic environment. The rules also prevent many part time and casual workers from the extra day's pay, and the proposed law change would allow shops to open, but also prevent workers from being forced to work on the traditionally sacred days.

Interestingly, the poll suggests that a majority of supporters for every political party back the law change – even those who support the 'conservative' parties of NZ First and National. You can read the detailed polling breakdowns here.

While political parties are likely to let their MPs vote on their individual conscience (rather than vote as party blocs), in the last few days, the PM has swung behind the Bill, dramatically increasing the likelihood of it passing into law.

But don’t go celebrating just yet...

Even if you are able to buy a tipple next Easter, you'll paying more for the privilege.

Beer Tax Hike 2024

The Government's latest dive into your wallet comes into force at midnight today, with a hike in the alcohol tax. From Monday...

  • Kiwis planning on enjoying a cold Speights or two will be paying almost 40 percent tax on every can. 

  • If your tipple of choice is a Steinlager, that’s knocking on 45 percent tax. 

  • But hoity-toity champagne drinkers who are planning on popping a cork will be paying only a 20 percent tax on the bottle.

The law strictly prevents us from encouraging you to stock up in advance of tomorrow's alcohol duty rise so we will refrain from doing so. But maybe it's time for a wider debate about whether continuing to hike nanny-state taxes while households are doing it tough has had its day?

But with higher tax on booze, comes relief at the pump (at least for Aucklanders): Labour's regional fuel tax ends tonight ⛽️

Regional Fuel Tax

Credit where credit is due  – Auckland motorists will be cheering on the Government when it comes to the scrapping of the Regional Fuel Tax. From tomorrow, the 11.5 cents/litre Super City fuel tax will be history. For those motorists who like to fill up the tank on Sunday night, we suggest waiting til tomorrow and save $5-$7 of tax at the pump.

Should voters be able to "Kick the B*stards Out" with council recall elections? 🗳️✗

Meanwhile, in local councils up and down the country...

Our local mayors and councillors have been getting themselves into hot water with some of their antics. Invercargill Mayor, Nobby Clark, has come under fire for his comments to the United Fire Brigades' Association that have resulted in receiving a censure from his council colleagues. 

While Hamilton Councillor, Andrew Bydder, made, errr, pejorative comments in a submission to the wrong council...  

Cr Bydder is reported as writing to a neighbouring district's mayor, "What the f**k are you r******d s*****c c**ts doing?"

[His words are far too impolite, even for this newsletter!]

Given the antics in town halls up and down the country, we thought it was about time that we dusted off our plans for local government recall elections, which would give voters the right to remove elected officials in whom they have lost confidence if they behave badly or are simply incompetent.

Recall Elections

The threat of recall election would incentivise higher standards by elected officials throughout the terms served – and not just during election periods. At the same time, recall elections could avoid democratic catastrophes like what we have seen in Tauranga over the last four years, ushering in a suite of unelected commissioners totally unaccountable to the very people they are supposed to represent.

Taxpayer Talk: MPs in Depth with Ryan Hamilton 🎙️

Taxpayer Talk: Ryan Hamilton

This week on Taxpayer Talk, Connor sat down with the new National Party MP for Hamilton East, Ryan Hamilton. 

Prior to entering Parliament, Ryan was a Hamilton City Councillor, and small business owner and had involvement in a number of community organisations. Ryan gives us an insight into his upbringing, the struggles of starting his own business, his experiences in local government, and areas he thinks are in need of reform. Ryan also discusses the values that drive him and what he wants to achieve in central government politics. 

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

Have a great week.

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

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Media Mentions:

The Southland Times Taxpayers’ Union renews push for recall elections to remove underperforming councillors

Newshub Taxpayers' Union poll shows strong support for Fast-track Approvals Bill

RNZ Fast Track bill has more supporters than opponents - Taxpayers Union-Curia poll

NewstalkZB Morning Edition: 22 June 2024 – Recall Elections (01:46)

NewstalkZB Midday Edition: 22 June 2024 – Fast-Track Legislation Poll (01:45)

The Post New Zealand to the back of the queue for new Cook Strait ferries

Stuff Letters – A Recommendation from Chris

Newshub Jacinda Ardern documentary being made by award-winning US filmmakers

Bassett, Brash & Hyde JORDAN WILLIAMS: More ridiculous wastage of taxpayer money

NewstalkZB Full Show Podcast: 24 June 2024 – Marsden Fund Grants (1:30:41)

NZ City The majority of New Zealanders in a new poll want Easter trading laws to change

Greymouth Star Coast rates among highest in NZ [print only]

NZ Herald Māori wards bill: Parliament Select Committee says law change should go ahead

NewstalkZB The Huddle: How necessary is a second Covid inquiry?

Greymouth Star Westland council silent as record 18% increase approved

NewstalkZB The Country 26/06/24: Christopher Luxon talks to Rowena Duncum – Easter Trading (04:07)

The Spinoff What might Judith Collins’ abrupt shutdown of one small agency mean for NZ business?

The Platform ACT's Cameron Luxton on the Easter Trading Bill & the Poll Supporting It

The Westport News Grim councillors accept 14% rates hikes [print only]

MPs in Depth: Ryan Hamilton

Ryan Hamilton

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, Connor sat down with National Party MP, Ryan Hamilton. 

Prior to entering Parliament, Ryan was a Hamilton City Councillor, small business owner and had involvement in a number of community organisations. Ryan gives us an insight into his upbringing, the struggles of starting his own business, his experiences in local government and areas he thinks are in need of reform. Ryan also discusses the values that drive him and what he wants to achieve in central government politics. 

Ryan's maiden speech can be watched here. Follow Ryan 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. 

Axing of corporate welfare scheme welcome, Government must go further

The Taxpayers’ Union is welcoming the sensible decision by Minister Judith Collins to discontinue $11.2 million taxpayer funding for KiwiSaaS, a tech industry lobby group, but calls on the Government to go further and axe film and video game subsidies too.

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

“Big tech companies putting their hands out and lobbying for taxpayer-funded corporate welfare is nothing more than crony capitalism. Whether it’s tech, film or video games, it seems if your industry is flavour of the month anyone can get a handout with the help of well-connected lobbyists.

“It’s good to see corporate welfare to the tech sector axed, but other Ministers must follow the lead of Minister Collins end all other corporate welfare too.

“Cutting the roughly $100 million spent lining the pockets of Hollywood bigwigs and video game executives would go a significant way to plugging the gap created by the recent Pharmac funding announcement. It’s time the Government fronted up and explained the case for these handouts, rather than playing the quiet game and hoping no one notices. We have noticed."

Media release: NZTA blows $5.2 million on unusable app

The Taxpayers’ Union can reveal through an Official Information Act request that Waka Kotahi has spent $5,186,358 in the last two years for an app not even in a usable state for New Zealanders.  The app was designed to hold your driving details but is not even allowed to be used for ID or to drive with.

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

“This is beyond wasteful. While our roads have been looking like Swiss cheese, NZTA has instead been pouring millions into stupid projects like this app and their Road to Zero speed limit reduction propaganda campaign.

“The most useful part of this app is the part showing your driver licence details but it isn’t even allowed be used as ID or to drive with. You couldn’t make it up. Working with the Ministry of Transport to get the digital licence to be accepted is good, but this work should have been completed before pumping millions into the app and hoping it will be useable.

“Taxpayers have already spent too much money on this app. Minister Simeon Brown must put a stop work notice in place on this project and all other Ministers should be checking with their own departments to ensure similar vanity projects are not occurring.”

ENDS

Not good enough: Council’s rates hike one of largest in the country

The West Coast Regional Council’s proposed 27% rates hike is being slammed as one of the largest increases in the country.

Commenting, Local Government Campaigns Manager for the Taxpayers’ Union, Sam Warren, said:

“Due to either an inability, or unwillingness, to find savings within its own operations, councils continue to burden ratepayers within unreasonable hikes during a cost-of-living crisis. Any increase to rates above the level of inflation is unacceptable.

“The West Coast Regional Council is no exception.  According to our most recent Ratepayers’ Report, the average salary for managers is $130,000, with about 20 percent of all FTE staff being paid over six-figures.

“West Coast’s excessive rate hikes are due to an increases in operational expenses, some areas being more avoidable than others. Households up and down New Zealand are tightening their belts and doing more with less, so why not councils as well?”

NEW POLL: Overwhelming majority of New Zealanders want Easter trading restrictions repealed

A new Taxpayers’ Union – Curia poll has revealed that an overwhelming majority of New Zealanders think shops should be allowed to open on Good Friday and Easter Sunday if they want to do so.

Voters were asked: “Most shops are currently forced by law to close on Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Would you support or oppose allowing shops that want to open on these days to do so?”

64% of respondents were in support of giving shops this choice, while just 27% were opposed. 9% of respondents were unsure.

The full polling report can be found here.

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

“Our Easter trading laws are archaic and not representative of what New Zealand should be in the 21st century. What right should the state have to ban people from working or doing business due to a religious day they may or may not observe?

“Unnecessarily burdensome rules like this drive up the cost of doing business during an already challenging economic environment. The rules are also particularly harmful for casual workers who need every extra dollar they can get in the current cost of living crisis. Preventing them from working effectively robs them of a day’s pay.

“MPs will have an opportunity in the coming weeks to support this sensible change through ACT MP Cameron Luxton’s Member’s Bill. We urge them all to do so with the knowledge that most New Zealanders are behind them.”

VICTORY! Government to increase medicine funding 💊

Dear Supporter,

First the good news: moments ago, the Prime Minister announced that the Government will be increasing funding to Pharmac by $604 million (that's nearly $300/household) over the next four years for essential medicines like cancer drugs.

But, to our astonishment, the Government's media release gives absolutely no indication of how they are paying for it! That would suggest, yet again, that politicians in Wellington are spending money New Zealanders don't have.

BREAKING: Government increases funding for medicines 

According to the Government's media release, the extra funding will see up to 54 new medicines (including 26 new cancer treatments) become available.

But other than saying this is a ‘pre-commitment against next year’s Budget’, there is no detail on where this money is coming from. There is no mention of what wasteful spending will be cut – and with the Government's books in the red, we simply can't afford to keep borrowing more (watch live the Debt Clock go tick-tock...)

As you know, the team and I have worked tirelessly fighting to convince the Government to increase funding for Pharmac and spoilt them for choice when it comes to areas where savings could be made to fund it. 

The most obvious area for savings was the hundreds of millions in corporate welfare to the film and video game sectors. But today's announcement leaves that wasteful spending totally untouched.

So on the one hand, the Government listened to the thousands of New Zealanders who emailed the Government urging them to prioritise funding for Pharmac. For those Kiwis who will benefit from today's announcement, it will be a huge relief.

But on the other hand, failing to set out how this extra Pharmac funding will be paid for is simply lazy and is kicking the can down the road. With the current level of detail, we are left to assume they will be borrowing the difference. Lumping New Zealand with an even larger interest bill robs us of options in the long term to continue to fund essential medicines and good public services. 

Spending money is easy. Reprioritising is harder.

Continuing the 'spend now, worry later' approach of the previous government is very disappointing. That approach is what got us into the financial pickle that caused the Government to break its cancer drug promise in the first place!

Yes, it's good that these medicines are funded. But we can't let ourselves settle into a state of acceptance where we allow ourselves to get poorer and poorer by failing to balance out new spending with cutting waste. 

In the coming days and weeks, we will continue to press Nicola Willis and her Government hard over their priorities in order to force her to explain where this funding will come from.

We successfully pressured them to announce the spending on these drugs, now it's time to find the savings to fund it. 

Thank you for your support.

Connor

Connor_signature
Connor Molloy
Campaigns Manager

New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union

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Show me the money: Government must explain where Pharmac funding has come from

The Taxpayers’ Union is welcoming today’s announcement of additional funding for Pharmac but is calling on the government to explain where the savings have come from to fund it.

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

“Show me the money. The Government has lazily kicked funding for these drugs into the long grass, labelling it as a ‘pre-commitment against next year’s Budget’ rather than taking advantage of the ample savings opportunities in front of it. Is the Government really that soft that they can’t find the money now? Nicola Willis must set the record straight.

“An obvious area for this funding to come from is scrapping costly corporate welfare like handouts to the film and video game sectors. This spending does not deliver value for taxpayers and is certainly not as important as funding lifesaving medicines.

“Future budgets will need to find greater savings than what has been forecast in order to sort out the dire financial situation we are currently in. The Government must provide that clarity and certainty now rather than continuing the spend, borrow and hope approach of the previous Government.

“It is pleasing to see that the Government has held firm and decided against breaking the Pharmac model which would end up costing taxpayers significantly more and ruin our ability to successfully negotiate for medicines in the future. The earlier proposal would have cost lives in the long term. It is heartwarming to see commonsense prevail.”

Charities Commission needs to act on Manurewa Marae

The Taxpayers’ Union is calling on the Charities Commission to open an investigation into the new allegations relating to Te Pāti Māori’s alleged campaign use of a charity’s van, as reported by TVNZ’s Q+A yesterday.

“The Charities Commission has previously come down like a ton of bricks and deregistered charities for advocating for conservative viewpoints. Here, it is so much worse: allegedly misappropriating charitable resources to directly support a political party and candidate.”

“There is already a perception by many New Zealanders that the Charities Commission is politically slanted. Here is the test for whether the same law applies to all groups. So far, in refusing to comment to the media or announce that it is investigating, it is failing that test."

More "Research" grants (the second in a series)

Last week, I emailed you about some of the ridiculous wastage of taxpayer money by the Health Research Council.

We received an absolute barrage of emails in response – with 99% having the same reaction as us: things need to change in Wellington.

I promised you there'd be more to come, and today we're turning our attention to another of the great research quangos that our team has been looking into: the Marsden Fund, which is managed by the Royal Society of New Zealand.

What's the Royal Society and its Marsden Fund all about?

The Royal Society boasts a long and proud tradition of excellence, tracing its origins to the esteemed English counterpart established in 1660, with the New Zealand branch being founded back in 1867.

By way of example, the New Zealand physicist who split the atom, Lord Rutherford, was one of the original 20 Royal Society Fellows appointed in 1919 and is just one example of the organisation recognising scientific brilliance.

The Marsden Fund is reserved for top-tier research funding. The Fund (according to the Society's website) "Supports excellence in science, engineering, maths, social sciences and the humanities in New Zealand by providing grants for investigator-initiated research".

The Marsden Fund is supposed to be the crème de la crème of New Zealand academia, showcasing the highest standards of scholarly excellence and innovation. Managed (apparently) with the utmost integrity and a steadfast commitment to advancing knowledge, the Marsden Fund stands as a beacon of academic prestige and intellectual rigour.

{{recipient.first_name_or_friend}}, you can see where this is going can't you?

Although a private not-for-profit, the vast majority of funding for the Royal Society comes from you, and other humble taxpayers. The Marsden Fund money is all from the Government taxpayers.

Last year, the taxpayer funding amounted to $83.5 million – almost exactly what's needed to fund the 13 cancer drugs that we, apparently, "can't afford" ***(although that could be about to change, if media speculation that an announcement is coming this afternoon is correct)***.

Here is some of the "research" the Royal Society has "invested" your tax dollars in:

First up, let's look at how the guardians of the Marsden Fund are tackling the scourge of crime – crime podcasts that is... So-called 'sofa sleuths' will love this research grant – as will one lucky academic, who will be paid to listen, and write about, crime podcasts from around the world! 🎧

Grant ID: 23-MAU-004 

Recipient: Dr CS Bjork, Massey University

Sound Judgments? Assessing the Rhetorics of Civic Deliberation in True Crime Podcasting

With nearly one billion downloads globally, the skyrocketing popularity of true crime podcasting has sparked intense debate among scholars. Some decry the genre’s perpetuation of racist stereotypes and misogynistic narratives, while others celebrate its potential to advocate for social justice. But true crime podcasting also illuminates important recent developments in the longstanding relationship between rhetoric and civic discourse in democratic societies. Through the lens of rhetoric, Sound Judgments? will explore how true crime podcasting provides significant insights into the perplexing yet fundamental civic process of making collective judgments in a digital age.

Approved funding: $360,000

Education is a big focus:

Grant ID: 23-UOA-164 

Recipient: Dr A Pasley, University of Auckland

Co-designing and Decolonising Gender Education: Exploring What It Means for Gender Diverse Students to Thrive in Schools

"Collaborating with gender diverse students, this research operationalises whole-school approaches to gender diversity-affirming education... Fundamentally, this research acknowledges the colonial inheritance of gender norms, providing gender diverse young people with a platform to decolonise conventional approaches to sexuality education and how gendered expectations permeate education"

Approved funding: $360,000

You read that right. Gender norms (i.e. "boys" and "girls") being, in fact, just an inheritance of colonisation is, we understand, a very widely held view by those in charge of New Zealand's premier scientific fund. 🤷‍♂️

Or what about housing? That's an important issue facing New Zealand right now. Especially the "experience of homes"...  🏡

Grant ID: 23-UOO-037 

Recipient: Dr ES Chisholm, Otago University

Making a home in employer-provided housing

Across the world, people in a broad range of professions live in housing provided by their employers. Yet little is known about life in employer-provided housing. This project will draw on theories of power to investigate how a single relationship that secures both housing and employment affects experience of homes, and analyse differences over time and between different sectors of working.

Approved funding: $360,000

360 grand to interview people on "their life" and "experience" in an employer-owned home! Crème de la crème research, indeed.

Now for this one, the only explanation is that someone has selected the random words "sexuality", "food", "identity", and "socialisation" and, somehow, by putting it in a word blender (AI perhaps?) submitted it for a grant.

And for the effort, they won a 360 grand grant! Creative, yes! Worthy? Scientific? Enlightening? You be the judge. 🤪

Grant ID: 23-MAU-082 

Recipient: Dr HL Black, Massey University

Kua kī taku puku, ko te waha o raro kei te hiakai tonu: The de-sexualisation of te reo Māori domains

"...founded on tikanga Māori and kaupapa Māori, this research will identify how sexuality was traditionally expressed and defined by examining... harihari kai (happy eating), pao (singing), haka, pūrākau (legendary, mythical stories), ngeri (chanting) and idiomatic expressions... contribut[ing] to a body of mātauranga on te reo Māori and sexuality by investigating how sexuality, food, identity, and socialisation are all part of a complex and interwoven Māori cultural worldview."

Approved funding: $360,000

Here's another one also involving food, which is pretty critical for New Zealand's economy, right?

Grant ID: 23-VUW-122  

Recipient: Associate Professor JT Smit, Victoria University of Wellington

Seeding Hope: The Diverse Roles of Indigenous Women in Food Systems

"Women are the key seed savers, knowledge keepers and advocates in Indigenous food systems which acknowledge the sovereign capacities of nature, treat food as medicine, as a teacher and a relative. Yet there is little research that investigates the work Indigenous women do within these food systems. We develop a mana wahine analysis that draws on kōrero from Indigenous food growers and advocates across five diverse Indigenous food systems (Aotearoa, Hawaii, India, Peru and Turtle Island). Our global approach offers a new Indigenous-to-Indigenous framework to more deeply understand Indigenous women’s roles, values and practices regarding food, seed and soil sovereignty."

Approved funding: $861,000

Before you say $861,000 is too much, remember that this research will necessarily involve having to (god forbid) travel (business class, of course) to India, Hawaii, Peru, and Turtle Island (Fiji) to speak to indigenous woman and try their food.

Let's turn to a more respectable subject. Like legal research:

Grant ID: 23-UOO-218 

Recipient: Professor BJ Schonthal, Otago University

Mapping Buddhist Law in Asia 

"Despite decades of scholarship documenting the influences of Christian law on Western legal culture, scholars have ignored... Buddhist law on legal cultures in Asia. This project... produc[es] the first comprehensive account of Buddhist law as a complex transhistorical, transregional legal tradition... [and] will yield crucial new knowledge about a tradition of law that has shaped human societies..."

Approved funding: $660,000

Who knew Buddha had in mind New Zealand's taxpayers when he said "Give, even if you only have a little." 🙇‍♂️

Okay, more serious now. Let's turn to kids books – surely they can't screw that up, right? Right?! 👀

Grant ID: 23-UOW-011 

Recipient: Associate Professor N Daly, University of Waikato

Picture Books in Aotearoa: The design and content of picture books reflecting indigenous language, culture and evolving national identities

"Picturebooks are a powerful form of children’s literature... Our project... explor[es] best practice for authentic respectful representations of Indigenous languages and identities throughout the publishing process. Our interdisciplinary team will... undertak[e] a Kaupapa Māori driven investigation, to document and explore the ways in which Indigenous voices are and can be authentically represented in picturebooks."

Approved funding: $660,000

So indigenous language but in picture books? The poor Associate Professor got $660,000 to discover that there are not a lot of words or language in picture books (that's kind of the point, eh?). 😂 😂 😂 

We looked up the Associate Professor, and according to her bio: 

I am a sociolinguist interested in the language hierarchies present in children's literature. I am also interested in the pedagogical potential of picturebooks for social justice in educational contexts from early childhood settings through to tertiary contexts. I teach courses in children's literature and supervise Masters and PhD students in children's literature and language-related topics.

You'd think if anyone knew picture books lack language, it would be the good Associate Professor.

And, just like the Health Research Council, you can't do science anymore without religion... ☪️ (and any views to the contrary are hate-speech).

Grant ID: 23-VUW-025 

Recipient: Dr AZ Arrkillic, Victoria University of Wellington

Embracing Islam: Conversion, Identity, and Belonging in Aotearoa New Zealand

Conversion to Islam in Aotearoa remains under-researched… Co-designed by a born Muslim and a Māori Muslim convert... The study will challenge prevailing political interpretations of Islamic conversion that emphasise radicalisation. Ultimately, by improving our understanding... and exploring the role of religion in a decolonising, post-Christian Aotearoa, it will offer novel insights into national identity, demographics, and citizenship.

Approved funding: $330,000

How did this rot set in? You can thank our old friend, Grant Robertson 🙏

The problem with the Marsden Fund can be traced back bill introduced in 2010 when a (then) little known Labour MP, Grant Robertson, put up the rather innocuous-sounding Royal Society of New Zealand Amendment Bill.

Eventually unanimously passed in 2012, the main thing it did was to change the Object of the Royal Society from "the advancement and promotion of science and technology..." to "the advancement and promotion in New Zealand of science, technology, and the humanities."

It defined "humanities" to include "languages, history, religion, philosophy, law, classics, linguistics, literature, cultural studies, media studies, art history, film, and drama”.

That change has given tofu-munching, climate-striking, purple-haired academics carte blanche to get funding for all manner of 'research' projects that simply don't bring any return on investment to the taxpayers who pay for them.

Thanks to your support, we will lobby the new Government to reverse the 2012 law change and re-focus science money on, well, SCIENCE.

The National Party can't escape blame for this. Despite MPs expressing doubts about the Robertson-sponsored law-change, the then John Key Government backed the widening of the scope which has seen science money diverted more and more into ridiculous humanities projects like those listed above.

With the new Government, we can get them to see sense and repeal the changes.

National, ACT, and NZ First promised to get a handle on wasteful spending. Here's an excellent opportunity for them walk the talk!

{{recipient.first_name_or_friend}} it's time we got the Government to scrap the nonsense and redirect the money to actual science or, better yet, the cancer drugs Australians get, but we (apparently) cannot afford.

Thank you for your support.

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

 

NEW POLL: Strong support across all demographics for Māori Wards to be decided by local referenda

A new Taxpayers’ Union – Curia poll has revealed that a majority of New Zealanders believe that the final decision maker on the introduction or disestablishment of Māori Wards should be local voters via a referendum as opposed to local mayors and councillors.

Voters were asked: “Who should be the final decision maker on the introduction or disestablishment of Māori wards and constituencies on local councils? Local mayors and councillors or local voters in a referendum.”

58% of respondents believed local voters should be the final decision maker while just 23% believed it should be left to local mayors and councillors. The remaining 19% were unsure.

The full polling report can be found here.

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

“This poll makes it clear that voters across the political spectrum believe that fundamental changes to the rules of how politicians are elected should be decided by the people, not politicians.

“Labour Party MPs, such as Willie Jackson, have been vocal in arguing against this proposal, claiming voters don’t want it. But this poll shows that even among Labour supporters there is strong support for local community decision making via referenda. Labour Party voters were 51% to 25% in favour of local voters having final say on the issue, as were a majority or plurality of voters in all other parties.

“The arrogance of some mayors, councillors and LGNZ is staggering. They don’t trust local voters to decide what’s best for them and their communities. The Government can take comfort in knowing that the people of New Zealand are behind them on this issue and should continue working to reverse Labour’s hijacking of local democracy as soon as possible.”

Government can’t put cancer treatment on the credit card

The Taxpayers’ Union understands that the Government is today making an announcement of additional funding for medicines and is urging them to ensure that it is funded through a reprioritisation of spending, not loaded onto the taxpayer credit card.

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

“Promising a funding boost for Pharmac would be a good start, but Nicola Willis needs to front up on where the money will come from. Every household is already paying nearly $5k a year in interest on government debt, so whipping out the credit card isn’t an option.

“Peter Jackson doesn’t need another handout. Scrapping corporate welfare, including film and gaming subsidies, would more than save enough to cover the cost of life-saving treatments.

“National boxed themselves into a corner by pledging to break the Pharmac model and fund specific medicines. The Government must let common sense prevail and a provide generous boost to Pharmac funded by cutting wasteful spending. There’s more than enough room for savings to ensure that there is sufficient funding to get far enough down Pharmac’s wishlist to fund the cancer drugs, and other medicines, that New Zealanders desperately need.”

Interislander should be sold off, not kept afloat by taxpayers

Responding to repeated incidents and mismanagement with the Interislander ferry service, the Taxpayers’ Union is calling on the Government to sell off the Interislander ferry service instead of funnelling even more taxpayer money into it.

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

“The government has proven, yet again, that is is not a good operator of ferries. There is no doubt New Zealand would get a better service if we had multiple competing private operators on the Cook Strait.

“They should be selling the Interislander ferry service while it’s still worth something, not repeating the mistakes of the previous government and pouring more money down the drain where Kiwirail is clearly not competent enough to manage it.

“There is no reason that taxpayers must be kept on the hook for the Interislander. Bluebridge already operates a commercially viable service without taxpayer funding, demonstrating a privately owned and operated service is possible.

“This government was elected to make the tough but necessary decisions to sort out the country’s finances. Instead they are simply doing the same as before but promising to manage it better.”

Taxpayer Update: Economy fails to take off as Luxon grounded | Council officials go rogue | Pay boost for top bureaucrats

The (very) slow progress on slimming down Wellington's bureaucracy 🐢

For all the talk of 'brutal cuts' and 'savage job losses', the latest figures from the Public Service Commission show that most of the Government's savings are yet to materialise.

When you add all the extra people still being hired, plus all of those you read about in the media being "fired", I'm sad to say it's not coming to very much.

From December last year until the end of March, the Public Service Commission report that the bureaucracy reduced by just 416 full-time equivalents (FTEs).

That's just meagre 2.3 percent of the 18,418 hiring extravaganza that took place under our old friend, Mr. Robertson. 

Public Service Cuts

Erm... is that it? 👀

Now the Government will say that many of the savings decisions are yet to flow through into these numbers. While that may be true, the total number of proposed job losses is still well short of what's required.

Even when you account for population growth we are still going to be left with a Public Service that is much, much larger than it was under last Labour Government. How much larger? Connor's explains it all with the infamous "Parliamentary cardboard boxes" here.

What kind of performance-related pay sees everyone get a boost?

Here at the Taxpayers' Union, we are all for performance-related pay – especially in a Public Service where they haven't been known for, well, decent performance. 

But, usually performance-related pay means that those who get an increase are the ones that have performed well. It's not really rocket science. 

The Post: Chief Executive Pay Boost

But earlier this week, it was revealed that the Government is planning to give all the already highly paid chief executives a pay boost. In the last financial year, Public Service departmental chief executives were paid, on average, a cool $489,000. 🤑

Yes, Chief Execs who deliver exceptional bang-for-buck should be rewarded, but the rest of the hangers-on shouldn’t get an increase to their massive handouts simply for doing what they were employed to do in the first place.

UPDATE: Nicola Willis doesn't rule out funding medicine over movies

But at the moment, it's not her Minister for the Public Service portfolio that is giving Nicola Willis the biggest headache, it's the decision not to allocate money for the 13 cancer drugs available in Australia but not New Zealand that National promised to fund during the election campaign. 

Last week at Fieldays, on behalf of the thousands of New Zealanders who have signed our petition calling for the $100 million for movie and game studio subsidies in this year's Budget to be reallocated to medicines.

We challenged the Finance Minister to scrap funding for film and gaming subsidies and use that money to fund lifesaving medicines, such as cancer drugs, instead.

It’s a simple equation: We spend $100 million a year on handouts to Hollywood bigwigs and gaming sector executives. The cost of funding an additional thirteen cancer drugs, for example, is just $70 million. It seems an obvious area for reprioritisation.

Here's what Nicola Willis had to say:

Nicola Willis at Fieldays

While the Finance Minister said cutting the film subsidies "wasn’t on the agenda", she didn’t rule it out and even said that reprioritisation is something that the Government will continue to do

Will you force this issue onto the agenda by taking two minutes to send an email to the Minister demanding change?

Fund Medicines, Not Movies.

Redirecting film and gaming subsidies towards essential medicines is not only the economically responsible thing to do, it is the morally right thing to do. We've created a tool to email Nicola Willis directly:

✍️ SEND YOUR EMAIL NOW ✍️

School principals sunning themselves in Fiji while standards plummet

Principals in Fiji

The Government has made a flurry of announcements around improving educational standards and new figures released just yesterday showed some improvements in school attendance. 

But it seems that some of our school principals have other priorities...

This week it was revealed that a company called Growth Culture is offering a School of Transformation conference in a five-star resort in Fiji. This course coincidentally costs $5700 – just under the $6,000 a year allowance that taxpayers fund to support principals' professional development. A whole cottage industry seems to have sprung up to 'help' principals use their $6,000 allowance. 

While no one would deny that our teachers need to keep their training up to date, the description of the course on the company’s website suggests improving educational standards might not be at the forefront of the principals’ minds…

If you like the sound of being coached under swaying palm trees, brainstorming with colleagues against the backdrop of a Fijian sunset, and leaving with a renewed sense of mental clarity, wellness, and purpose… Then get your togs, snorkel and passport packed as I look forward to connecting with you at this transformative experience. 

During the five-day course, principals are only required to do formal learning for 13 hours (6 of which are going to a local school) I'm sure there's a word for this but it escapes me at the moment. Maybe it begins with an H...?

On Tuesday Jordan called out this latest taxpayer-funded jolly for what it is on Heather du-Plessis Allan’s Drive show.

The economy is growing (just) but we're still getting poorer in terms of per-person GDP 😔

Yesterday we got the latest GDP figures and if you’re hoping for a good night’s sleep, I wouldn’t read them before bed tonight.

Although GDP growth has been teetering around 0%, for more than a year GDP per person has been in free fall. That means Kiwis keep getting poorer.

Some back-of-the-envelope calculations show that in the space of just the last 12 months, we’ve each got nearly $1,900 worse off on a per-person basis.

New Zealand's productivity continues to be one of the worst in the developed world, and that shows no signs of changing.

Last month’s Budget saw the Government increase the size of the deficit, spending and government debt. If this isn't the wake up call the Government needs to get serious about growth, what will be?

No need for the sky-high cost of replacing Air Force plane

Luxon Plane Graphic

The economy isn't the only thing struggling to get off this week. Once again we saw the New Zealand Air Force’s Boeing 757 break down while carrying the Prime Minister’s delegation to Japan, which meant Mr. Luxon had to catch a commercial flight to Tokyo.

This has lead to the inevitable calls from some quarters for taxpayers to stump up for a brand new plane. But this would be madness. We say that getting the Defence Force to buy VIP jets for, at most, half a dozen trips a year simply isn’t worth the cost and we need to come up with a creative solution.

For the vast majority of international trips, prime ministers rightly fly with commercial airlines (granted first or business class). The problem arises when Ministers want to take a large delegation with them, such as on trade missions.  

New Zealand Ministers used to have a deal with the Australians to use federal VIP land transport. If we can do that for the limos, why not for planes too? As we suggested in The Post, we could lease one of their planes for business delegation trips.

Under the Key Government, the successful tenderer for long-haul preferred carrier for Ministers was Qantas rather than Air NZ. If Australia’s national carrier is good enough for commercial, why not their VIP jets?

Council officials at it again: Tolley and McKerrow go rogue 🚩

Fly Swatter

It looks like the wheels are falling off councils up and down the country.

Earlier this week, we slammed outgoing Tauranga City Council Commission Tsar Chair, Anne Tolley, for abusing her unelected position of power to influence the upcoming election. She joined Jack Tame on Q+A where she badmouthed candidates in the upcoming council election.

Throughout her tenure, Tolley has shown nothing but contempt for the local voters who didn't elect her. She just can't help herself playing politics in what is supposed to be a politically neutral office. We say the sooner she is out of this job, the better. 

And it wouldn't be a Taxpayer Update if there wasn't something nutty also going on at Wellington's council. Not to be outdone, our friends at the Wellington City Council, Chief Executive, Barbara McKerrow, has again denied councillors from accessing the information they need to do their jobs. This time she withheld ratepayer-funded legal advice on selling airport shares to elected council officials until the last possible minute. 

If that weren't enough, as revealed in another great investigation piece by Andrea Vance in The Post, Barbara McKerrow is now trying to impose a new code that would restrict the official advice that councillors are allowed to see. A code that legal expert Dr Dean Knight described as “unlawful and unconstitutional.”

Who does this council CEO think she is to prevent the people Wellingtonians elected to represent them (and make decisions on their behalf) from accessing the vital information they need to make well-informed decisions?

We say enough is enough.

Taxpayer Talk – MPs in Depth with Nancy Lu

This week on Taxpayer Talk, Connor sat down with National MP Nancy Lu.

Nancy was National’s highest ranking candidate who wasn’t already in Parliament and was elected on the list in unusual circumstances following the death of a candidate in the Port Waikato electorate during the election that created an overhang seat in Parliament.

Nancy moved to New Zealand from China as a child in 1997. She went on to become a chartered accountant working for large companies like PwC, EY and Fonterra and graduated with a Masters in Public Administration from Harvard Kennedy School of Government. Nancy and Connor discuss her career before politics, why she decided to stand for election and what drives her as a politician.

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

Have a great weekend.

Yours aye,

Callum

Callum Signature

Callum Purves
Head of Campaigns
New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union <

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Media Mentions:

Newshub Aotearoa's rich list shows New Zealand is 'a little out of balance' - E tū union organiser and ex-Labour MP Michael Wood

RNZ Te Pāti Māori inquiry: Six government agencies in the spotlight

RNZ PM calls inquiry after claims Te Pāti Māori misused census info (02:55)

NZ Herald National drops post-Budget, Chris Hipkins pulls ahead of Christopher Luxon in new poll

The Post The Post politics live: New poll and He Waka Eke Noa abandoned

Newshub National, Labour lose support in new poll, support for Christopher Luxon plummets

RNZ Opposition makes gains in new political poll

Pacific Media Network News PMN News 11 June 2024 – Poll

NewstalkZB The Huddle: What do we think of He Waka Eke Noa's scrapping?

NewstalkZB Barry Soper: The newest poll was all about timing

The Working Group Fast Track powers, more budget talk and the Act Party's dreams | GUESTS: Shane Te Pou, Barbara Edmonds & Simon Court (27:35)

The Spinoff Australia’s hardline deportation policy and what it means for the government

Radio 531pi Will’s Word - Alarm bells for coalition Govt

Waatea News 12th June 2024 English News Bulletin 12:30pm – Poll

Greymouth Star Opposition makes gains [print only]

Waatea News Luxon lagging in likeability poll

RNZ The Panel with Sue Bradford and Stephen Franks (Part 1) – Jordan on MPs' Allowances (02:57)

Newsroom Hipkins says Labour has ‘very good chance’ in 2026

Radio 531pi Barbara Edmonds, Labour MP (16:28)

NewstalkZB Politics Thursday: David Seymour and Ginny Andersen debate MPs accommodation and oil and gas exploration – Poll (14:47)

Stuff Tova: Scams, fraud and deception: Are we tough enough on white collar crime? (02:09)

RNZ The Week in Politics: Data misuse, MPs' perks and talks with China

NewstalkZB John Barnett: Former South Pacific Pictures Boss on whether the Film Commission is funding the right projects

The Platform Government breaks second cancer drugs promise

NewstalkZB Morning Edition: 16 June 2024 – Poll (00:59)

Kiwiblog Guest Post: The Budget we should have seen

NZ Herald Labour leader Chris Hipkins tells party faithful of hopes for a one-term National-led Government

The Post How police alcohol activism risks overstepping the mark

The Spinoff Can Labour win back Auckland?

The Post Defence Minister Judith Collins says replacing broken 757 ‘horrendously expensive’

NZ Herald Public sector cuts: More than $8 million spent on one government ministry’s redundancy plans

Waatea News Hipkins stronger as Opposition leader

NewstalkZB 'Not a good look': Taxpayers' Union on the optics of sending principals on a five-day leadership trip to Fiji

NZ Herald KiwiSaaS report sees export billions from cloud software – as Technology Minister Judith Collins confirms defunding

NZ Herald Auckland train disruptions: Strikes, track issues slammed as third-world by deputy mayor

Bassett, Brash & Hide JORDAN WILLIAMS: We can't afford cancer drugs, but can afford this?

Kiwiblog This is what taxpayers fund as health research

Duncan Garner: Editor-in-Chief Worst government for conservation in our history? - 21st June 2024 (31:41)

Pharmac funding announcement must include reprioritisation of film and video game subsidies

Responding to reports that the Government is expected to announce a $600m increase in Pharmac medicines, Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

“The announcement of additional funding would be welcome but must come from reprioritising exisiting spending, not further increasing the deficit.

“An obvious area for these savings is cutting the $341 million in film and gaming subsidies budgeted for over the next four years.

“If the savings to provide further funding for Pharmac do not come from cutting film and video game corporate welfare, the Government should take the opportunity to further increase the reprioritisation to allow Pharmac to purchase even more of the medicines on its wishlist.

“The Government is currently making a political decision to continue to prioritise funding for movies over medicines. Taxpayer money should always be put to its best use. Handouts to New Zealand richlisters does not meet that standard.”

NEW POLL: Significantly more people support Government’s Fast Track Approvals Bill than oppose it

Despite the number of protests over the Government’s Fast Track Approvals Bill, a Taxpayers' Union-Curia poll shows that significantly more Kiwis support than oppose the Bill.

The full polling report can be found here.

Voters were asked: "The Government has introduced a Fast-track Approvals Bill that it says will speed up the process for consenting infrastructure projects and reduce costs. Opponents of the bill say that it gives too much power to Government ministers and that it does not have sufficient environmental protections. Do you support or oppose the Fast Track Approvals Bill?"

44% of respondents support the Fast Track Approvals Bill, whilst just 32% of respondents opposed the Bill. 24% of respondents were unsure.

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

“New Zealand’s economy is limping along, and we need to get building again. That can only happen with wholesale planning reform, but for now this Bill offers a partial stop-gap solution to get the country’s cogs turning.

“People want to see action on the large-scale projects we can’t afford to wait years to be approved. They might want to see some tinkering around the edges of the Bill, but far more of them support the Government speeding up the process than continuing to just sit around twiddling its thumbs.

“Despite protests from a very vocal minority, Kiwis want action from their Government. The Fast Track Approvals Bill isn’t perfect, but people can see that this is a Government which is taking steps to get the wheels in motion again

MEDIA SUMMARY STATEMENT:
Any media or other organisation that reports on this poll should include the following summary statement:

The poll was conducted by Curia Market Research Ltd for the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union. It is a random poll of 1,000 adult New Zealanders and is weighted to the overall adult population. It was conducted by phone (landlines and mobile) and online between 04 June and 06 June 2024, has a maximum margin of error of +/- 3.1%. The full results are at: www.taxpayers.org.nz/fast_track_poll

NOTES TO EDITORS:
The scientific poll was conducted by Curia Market Research and commissioned by the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union. As is well known, but for full disclosure, David Farrar co-founded the Taxpayers’ Union and previously served on its board. He is also a Director of Curia Market Research Ltd.

This Taxpayers’ Union – Curia issue poll was conducted from Tuesday 04 June to Thursday 06 June 2024. The median response was collected on Wednesday 05 June 2024. The sample size was 1,000 eligible New Zealand voters: 800 by phone and 200 by online panel. The sample selection for the phone panel is from those who are contactable on a landline or mobile phone selected at random from 15,000 nationwide phone numbers plus a random selection from an online panel (that complies with ESOMAR guidelines for online research). The results are weighted to reflect the overall voting adult population in terms of gender, age, and area. Based on this sample of 1,000 respondents, the maximum sampling error (for a result of 50%) is +/- 3.1%, at the 95% confidence level. Results for sub-groups such as age and area will have a much higher margin of error and not seen as precise. 

The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union is an independent and membership-driven activist group, dedicated to being the voice for Kiwi taxpayers in the corridors of power. Its mission, lower taxes, less waste, more accountability, is supported by 200,000 subscribed members and supporters.

Invercargill Mayor’s behaviour demonstrates need for recall elections

Following allegations of inappropriate behaviour from the Invercargill mayor, Nobby Clark, the Taxpayers’ Union is renewing calls for the Government to implement a recall option in local government to allow residents to remove embarrassing, inappropriate or incompetent representatives quickly. .

Taxpayers’ Union Local Government Campaigns Manager, Sam Warren, said:

“Behaviour like the kind displayed by Mr Clark risks reputational damage to the council, can wear down council culture and lead to dysfunction, distraction and worse decision making.

“Local residents in all councils deserve to have the choice to remove their elected representatives if they aren’t meeting expectations in terms of either performance or behaviour.

“He appears unwilling to fall on his sword and answer calls for his resignation. It may be appropriate for this decision to be made for him. But this decision should be made by the voters who elected him.

“Introducing recall elections would give voters the chance to remove elected representatives who they have lost confidence in, and ensure a higher standard is kept throughout their term – not just during election periods.”

Local Government Minister right to put Wellington Regional Council on the naughty step

Local Government Minister Simeon Brown has rebuked Wellington Regional Council after discussions were held around purchasing Wellington Airport shares from the City Council.

Commenting in support of the Minister, Taxpayers’ Union Policy and Public Affairs Manager, James Ross, said:

“Councils shouldn’t be taking on debt and gambling with ratepayers’ money, full stop. If they’ve got the ability to consider buying hundreds of millions of dollars worth of airport shares, they don’t need to be milking ratepayers dry.

“Wellington Regional Council crying poverty and demanding a 20% rates hike this year has been shown up for the nonsense it is.

“Minister Brown’s calls for councils to focus on core priorities hit the nail on the head, especially in a region whose water pipes are leaking like a sieve.

MPs in Depth: Nancy Lu

Nancy Lu

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, Connor sat down with National Party MP, Nancy Lu. 

Nancy was National’s highest ranking candidate who wasn’t already in Parliament and was elected on the list in unusual circumstances following the death of a candidate in the Port Waikato electorate during the election that created an overhang seat. Nancy moved to New Zealand from China in as a child in 1997. She went on to become a chartered accountant working for large companies like PwC, EY and Fonterra and graduated with a Masters in Public Administration from Harvard Kennedy School of Government. Nancy and Connor discuss her career before politics, why she decided to stand for election and what drives her as a politician.

Nancy's maiden speech can be watched here. Follow Nancy 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. 

UPDATE: Fund Medicines, not Movies.

 

I have a major update to our campaign to get the Government to scrap the film and video game subsidies and redirect that money to fund medicines like cancer drugs.

Last week, Jordan and I were with the team at Mystery Creek Fieldays and ran into Finance Minister Nicola Willis! Jordan used the opportunity to interview her and press the issue. 

Jordan put our campaign position to Nicola Willis, and she did not rule it out. In fact, she said that there would be continued "reprioritisation of spending".

I am writing to ask for a few seconds of your time to send an email to Nicola Willis urging her to act now and prioritise funding for medicines like cancer drugs over corporate welfare for Hollywood rich-listers and and gaming executives. 

Nicola Willis discusses cancer drug funding

Watch Jordan press the Minister on why she is prioritising funding movies over medicines. 

Elsewhere, Ms Willis has claimed that there simply isn't enough money at the moment to stick to her pre-election promise to fund the cancer drugs. But looking at her spending priorities, it's clear that there are areas where money could be spent much better.

It's about priorities, Minister

National's promise to fund the thirteen cancer drugs that are available in Australia but not here would cost around $70 million a year. 

This year's budget committed more than $100 million a year towards subsidies for the film and gaming sectors. 

It doesn't take a political scientist to work out what's wrong with that picture...

📧 Fund medicine, not movies 📧

This is about saving lives

I wanted to be the one to lead this campaign because this cause is near to my heart. Like most New Zealanders, I have friends and family who have needed access to life-saving or life-extending treatments for terrible diseases.

Email Nicola Willis to fund Pharmac

Sometimes, they have been lucky enough that the medicine they need is funded by Pharmac. But sadly, in too many cases they have had to forego the best treatment because there has simply not been enough money in the Pharmac kitty to fund it.

Will you send an email demanding change?

It is a reality of life that the best way to get money for the things people expect their taxes to go towards, like medicines, is through economic growth. More prosperous countries have more money to spend – that is the long-term solution to ensuring everyone gets the treatment we need.

But right now, we don't have that privilege and many of those suffering from treatable diseases simply cannot afford to wait. That means that we must ensure that every dollar the Government is spending is put to the best possible use. Funding subsidies for movies and gaming do not meet that standard – and we say it's time for it to go. 

Redirecting film and gaming subsidies towards Pharmac isn't just the economically responsible thing to do, it's the morally right thing to do. 

I have already written to Nicola Willis, but it is people power that makes things happen in politics. Will you take two minutes to send an email to the Finance Minister urging her to make the right decision? 

✍️ SEND YOUR EMAIL NOW ✍️

Thank you for your support.

Connor

Connor_signature
Connor Molloy
Campaigns Manager

New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union

Ps. With enough people-power we can win this campaign. If you know anyone who would also be willing to email Nicola Willis, click here to forward them a link to our email tool. 

Kiwis keep getting poorer because Government won’t take action

Responding to today’s release of the latest New Zealand GDP figures, Taxpayers’ Union Policy and Public Affairs Manager, James Ross, said:

“The economy keeps limping along, and people keep getting poorer. GDP per capita has fallen yet again, and it's now been in freefall for well over a year.

“New Zealand might be a fairly rich country now, but that’s not written in stone. Our productivity is already one of the worst in the developed world, and unless we change tack times are only going to get tougher.

“The Budget last month saw spending, deficits, and government debt all increase. Growth needs to be the name of the game, and Nicola Willis needs to go further and faster to be the Finance Minister that finally stops kicking the can down the road.”

Shane Jones corporate welfare gravy train has left the station

The Taxpayers’ Union is slamming today’s announcement of further corporate welfare from Regional Development Minister Shane Jones who announced $20 million in handouts to iwi, hapū and Māori businesses.

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

“The $3.1 million for a visitor centre in Taranaki does nothing except shift funds to less productive areas of the economy while the bureaucracy clips the ticket along the way.

“We have already seen the failure of these kinds of projects with the Hundertwasser Art Centre in Whangārei that attracts just 40,000 visitors a year, compared with a promised 450,000. Ministers should not be gambling with taxpayer money.

“Handing out $600,000 to convert land into a kiwifruit orchard will leave a sour taste in the mouths of taxpayers. This is public money for private profit.

“The Government is rightly concerned about some of the barriers to investing and developing land faced by Māori entities. The answer is to reduce these regulatory and legislative barriers, not hand pick special interests to get a leg up over all other businesses.”

Simon Watts not learning from ETS failures of previous Government

The Taxpayers’ Union is calling on the Government to remove all price controls from the auction of carbon credits under the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) following the most recent auction failure.

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

“Simon Watts is either has no idea what’s going on or he simply doesn’t care enough to ensure that we have a well functioning carbon market that enables the country to lower its emissions at the lowest possible cost.

“The price controls on carbon credits at auction do absolutely nothing except make it more expensive to reduce emissions and bring instability into the carbon market. The Government already sets the quantity of credits available, it does not need to set the price too. Why does the Climate Change Minister think he is Robert Muldoon?

“Removing the floor price for carbon will restore confidence to the market by ensuring credits are able to be traded at the market price. When that price is lower than the current floor price, consumers will benefit from lower prices, rather than the government arbitrarily propping up prices for no environmental gain.”

Chickens coming home to roost for LGNZ

Christchurch City Council has become the latest council to vote to withdraw from Local Government New Zealand. Commenting on LGNZ losing its largest remaining member, Taxpayers’ Union Policy and Public Affairs Manager, James Ross, said:

“After years of lobbying to strip local bodies of control over water infrastructure through supporting Three Waters, it’s clear LGNZ has long-since lost its way.

“No one would trust a trade union which took government money to lobby against the interests of employees, and no council should trust LGNZ after it did the same to campaign against their members’ interests.

“The chickens are coming home to roost for LGNZ. Councils across the country should follow the example set by Auckland, Christchurch and many others, and finally cancel their memberships.”

We can't afford cancer drugs, but can afford this?

 

While cancer patients wait for the Government to "find the money" to fund desperately needed modern drugs, the very money meant for health research and saving lives is being flushed down the toilet.

At our weekly staff meeting this morning, the research team took me through the latest batch of grant funding decisions by the Health Research Council.

My heart sank.

I wanted to get the information in front of you ASAP so you can judge for yourself. I'm emailing to ask for your support so we can expose the wasteful spending and force the Government to redirect the cash to modern cancer medicines.

You won't believe the nonsense Wellington is getting away with!

But first, let's remind ourselves what the Health Research Council is. 

According to their website, their purpose is to "support high-quality, high-impact research by investing in People, Ideas and Priorities." They describe themselves as "the home of health research in New Zealand" and "here to improve the health and wellbeing of all New Zealanders through our process of identifying and supporting high-quality, high-value research that delivers far-reaching impact within the health and science landscape."

You can see where this is going...



Here are a few examples of just the first round of 2024 funding:

Hapai te hauora: Breathing your ancestors into life

"Hāpai te hauora’ as ‘breathing your ancestors into life’, captures the breadth & connections of a generation – rangatahi Māori–a generation moving forward together. This proposal builds on an HRC funded project (18/651) exploring the ways rangatahi Māori make sense of & live hāpai te hauora through navigating journeys of hauora & wellbeing."

Approved funding: $649,992

Sounds like high quality science! 👀

Timely access to rongoa Māori in cancer care services for Māori

"Prior to Europeans arriving in Aotearoa, traditional Māori way of healing was the only hauora practice Māori knew. Today, traditonal Māori healing is known as Rongoā Māori. Rongoā Māori is diverse and can include karakia [prayer], wai [water], waiata [music], himene [hymns], access to the ngahere [forest] and whenua [land].

For Māori health consumers, patients and whānau accessing cancer care service; seldom they are made aware of or referred early to rongoā Māori practitioners at the beginning of their cancer care journey.

Using tikanga Māori methodology and codesign with Māori health and iwi providers, our method will include interviews, and hui with rongoā Māori practitioners, Māori and Iwi providers, Māori health consumers, patients, their whānau, and health professionals in primary and secondary care in the MidCentral region to explore ways for timely access to rongoā Māori in cancer care services for Māori."

Approved funding: $398,771

Rather than fund the actual cancer medicines, the Government is funding "timely access" to cancer treatments witch-doctor cancer treatments. Ka pai!

If that doesn't work, there is always music therapy 🎶

He Whiringa Māramatanga: Kaupapa Māori Music and healing

"‘He Whiringa Māramatanga’ examines Kaupapa Māori music theories and practices as a pathway to accelerating Māori well-being. Music theory is primarily located within Western music notation, harmony, and tonality. However, Māori Music, particularly through oral forms such as waiata, karakia, ruruku, haka, pūrākau and whakapapa, illustrate that Māori have unique key elements of musical theories to create oral legacies and that traditional Western definitions of ‘music’ may be confining for true Māori creative expression."

Approved funding: $377,550

Or maybe barbershop is more your [cancer's] thing? 🎤💈

Health Promotion Interventions for Pacific men in a Barbershop

"A rapid review and qualitative interviews with Pacific men, Pacific heath promoters and Pacific barbers will inform the development of a Pacific health promoting behaviour change framework and intervention programme in a barbershop setting owned by a Pacific health provider. This first of its kind research in New Zealand brings together an underserved population, a non-traditional setting for health promotion and culturally unique health promotion interventions delivered by an unconventional health and wellbeing workforce (barbers)."

Approved funding: $150,000

Or how about, rather than fixing hospitals, or building nicer family waiting rooms, we splurge $150k on a study to understand the space?! Thanks to the Health Research Council, a very well paid 'space cadet' is coming to the rescue. 🏥

Building room for equity: Culture centred design of hospital waiting rooms

"Hospitals in Aotearoa New Zealand have a legacy founded in colonialism and are designed to Eurocentric principles of health and well-being – as such they are inequitable by design and represent culturally unsafe spaces for many people who need to access them. Hospital waiting rooms represent one such space. Our project is premised on understanding how physical spaces in hospitals shape people’s experiences of care."

Approved funding: $150,000

For our religious taxpayers, there's one for you too! 🙌

Research into Hine te Iwaiwa (who was the wife of Tinirau and is known as the spiritual guardian of childbirth who assists at the entrance into, and the exits from this world) is, as we understand it, worth a lot of money cutting-edge science.

Guided by Hine te Iwaiwa: Exploring Maramataka [traditional Māori lunar calendar] influence on pregnancy Outcomes

"This research aims to explore the effects of incorporating the maramataka, a traditional Māori lunar calendar system guided by the goddess Hine te Iwaiwa, into the context of pregnancy care for wāhine Māori and Maori Midwives."

Approved funding: $400,000

And then there's the help for our Pacific friends. 🌴

Remember, these grants are not for front-line services to help Pacific communities, but rather to "support high-quality, high-impact research"...

Development of a Fijian Model of Health

"The research seeks to develop a Fijian Health Model to address Fijian peoples health in Aotearoa New Zealand."

Approved funding: $649,561

Here's a thought: why not get New Zealand's own health model right (to serve everyone living here) before we start ethnic segmentation of our health system?

Then there's this grant, for nothing other than to support an academic's professional development! 

He Kaakaakura Whakamaatau [Translation: An Experimental Green]

"This programme of senior leadership research and training for Dr Belinda Borell will build on her expertise in kaupapa Māori research and enable her to pursue a development and capacity building plan to grow both her expertise and that of emerging researchers. Focusing on historical trauma, mixed methods will explore poverty and abuse in care."

Approved funding: $649,997

We had a quick look into Dr Borell. If you thought her work was, well, scientific, I've got some bad news.

This is her Massey University profile:

Belinda (Ngati Ranginui, Ngai Te Rangi, Whakatōhea) has recently completed her PhD, The Nature of the Gaze: a conceptual discussion of societal privilege from an indigenous perspective.  The thesis explores how Kaupapa Māori paradigms can make important contributions to research topics that may not be of direct or immediate relevance to Māori communities. Insights gained from a Kaupapa Māori investigation of white privilege in Aotearoa New Zealand are discussed. The thesis argues that cultural hegemony is maintained through structured forgetting, silence, and suppression of dissent which has dire consequences for dominant cultural groups as well as marginal. Structural racism and privilege are amenable to analyses utilising similar frameworks albeit from opposite sides that can provide valuable insights to understanding inequity more broadly. I also examine ways in which Kaupapa Māori analyses of white privilege can illuminate pathways of redress that will benefit all New Zealanders and provide more embracing perspectives of nationhood.

Dr Borell was also recently awarded the Hohua Tutengaehe Postdoctoral Fellowship from the Health Research Council of New Zealand to further her research into societal privilege.

Congratulations to Belinda for the $649,997 for her 'professional development'. Who knew naval gazing paid so well!? 🥳 🎉

That's just a taste!

These are just a selection of the nutty grants that the Taxpayers' Union will be highlighting over the coming weeks.

But make no mistake, while we can laugh about the decisions being made in Wellington, for the parents of those kids sitting on oncology wards, there is no humour in this. 

More than $30 million of the Health Research Council's annual budget of $125 million seems to have very little to do with health. That money alone is nearly half what is needed to fund the 13 cancer drugs that weren't in last month's budget.

The cancer drugs are not unaffordable, it's a matter of priority.

If you agree that the sorts of grants listed above are not a good use of your money, I'm asking you to chip in so we can put an end to this madness and redirect this money to front-line health and actual scientific research.

Support us to force the Government to take on the academic establishment and vested interests running these rorts

We all know the "experts" will scream to the media the moment the Government touches so-called "science money". That's why the Taxpayers' Union is needed to counter their spin and expose outfits like the "Health Research Council" for what they're doing with our money.

Like so much in government, things get captured. The Health Research Council is now just a group of self-interested academics giving our money to other self-interested academics (if you can call them that).

Will you support the Taxpayers' Union to force fiscal reprioritisation so that this money goes to actual scientific research and front-line medicines like cancer drugs?

>>> Donate to the campaign <<<

While Nicola Willis can shift some of the blame for the underfunding of Pharmac onto the last Labour Government, it simply isn't good enough to suggest there isn't enough to plug the gap, when we are still spraying money up the wall on nonsense like this. She needs political pressure to make the tough decisions and push back against the woke bureaucracy and academic establishment making these decisions.

As you can see, the money isn't going to where they say it is. We can win this – are you with me?

Thank you for your support.

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

ps. The Taxpayers' Union can only hold the Government's feet to the fire with support from people like you. Make a secure and confidential donation here so we can force the Government to take on the "academic establishment" running these rorts.

 

Wellington drivers should pay for Wellington roads

Responding in support of Transport Minister Simeon Brown’s comments that the second Mt Vic Tunnel is likely to be tolled, Taxpayers’ Union Policy and Public Affairs Manager, James Ross, said:

“If Wellington drivers want a new tunnel, Wellington drivers should pay for a new tunnel. A user-pays system like tolling means that those who get the benefits of a new road also carry the cost.

“Why should people in Gore, Napier and Kerikeri have to pay for a new tunnel through Mt Victoria they’re never likely to use, all whilst their own roads are falling to bits?

“However, tolling can’t become just another tax-by-the-back-door to fuel Government’s addiction to spending. Tolls should cover the cost of building and maintaining a road, and not a cent more.”

Bonuses for public sector mediocrity need to be taken off the table

Responding to Nicola Willis’ comments about performance pay for public service chief executives, Taxpayers’ Union Policy and Public Affairs Manager, James Ross, said:

“KPIs might force public servants to pull their thumbs out, but performance bonuses should only be for Chief Execs delivering exceptional value for taxpayers’ money.

“This Government was elected to tackle bloat in the public service, not to promise pay hikes for Chief Execs barely delivering normal service levels.

“Talking about pay bumps for good performance is less than half the equation. Nicola Willis needs to get sacking chief executives who fail to deliver time and again.”

Taxpayers’ Union welcomes cutting of granny flat red tape

The Taxpayers’ Union is welcoming today’s announcement that the Government will make it easier to build granny flats without a resource consent.

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

“For too long, it has been effectively illegal to build affordable housing in New Zealand. Today’s announcement is a good first step to providing more choice and competition in the housing sector which will bring down the price of what is many people’s single largest expense.

“While some groups call for economically illiterate proposals to impose rent controls, new regulations or new taxes, it is encouraging to see a Government committed to addressing the root cause of the housing problem – supply. The answer to any shortage is simply to get government out of the way and cut the red tape that makes it too expensive, too difficult, or even impossible to increase supply.

“While granny flats won’t be suitable for all people, allowing more choice will mean that those wish to take up that option will have the ability to do so which will also free up accomodation elsewhere in the housing market for others.

“We saw with Kiwibuild that government is not competent enough to build houses. It is a welcome change to see more power handed back to the private sector where people have more freedom to do as they wish on their own property. Today’s announcement, along with wider reform of our resource management, zoning and infrastructure systems will do far more to fix the housing crisis than anything achieved over the past six years.”

Anne Tolley abusing her position – should apologise or be sacked

The Taxpayers’ Union is slamming Tauranga City Council’s Commission Chair, Anne Tolley, for misusing her position to influence the upcoming election to, ironically, replace her as the city returns to democracy.

On TVNZ’s Q+A yesterday, Tolley told Jack Tame “[she] wouldn’t vote for them” in reference to those council candidates who had previously run or been elected to the council.  She has also expressed her support for a ‘hybrid model’ of governance that maintains the powers of the unelected commissioners to curtail the ability of the people of Tauranga to have their say through full democracy.

Commenting, Taxpayers’ Union Local Government Campaigns Manager, Sam Warren, said:

“As an unelected Commissioner, Anne Tolley should not be using her position to play politics, and is supposed to be politically neutral – not that you’d know it.

“The soon-to-be former Commissioner has also pushed for a ‘hybrid model’ of governance nationwide, that has been rejected by Local Government Minister Simeon Brown, which is entirely the right thing to do.

“She told Jack Tame that she understands she’s not Mayor, but in the next breath goes full politician-mode.

“This defining lack of self-awareness calls for either an apology or for Local Government Minister Simeon Brown to cut the engagement off early to demonstrate that the sort of politicisation of official roles will not be tolerated under the new Government.

“How can officials be politically neutral when the official in charge is on national TV slagging off people who are standing to be on the new council?”

Pan Pan, Pan Pan, we don’t need new VIP jets for 5 trips a year

The Taxpayers’ Union is backing calls for there being a better option than two unreliable and occasionally used 757s to transport the Prime Ministerial delegations, and is calling for investigation of leasing one of Australia’s VIP military aircraft, as and when required.

Taxpayers’ Union Executive Director Jordan Williams said:

“The 757s were never really fit for purpose. While they can be converted to freight carriers, they can only land in the major airports in the Pacific. That’s why the C-130 Hercules do most of the work in terms of aid and disaster relief.

“The main reason they are so unreliable is that they are just not used enough - faults often only become obvious when delegations are relying on them to get somewhere.

“Wayne Mapp’s claim this morning on Newstalk ZB that ‘no airlines are operating aircraft this old’ is totally wrong.  He either doesn’t know what he’s talking about, or is shilling to justify NZDF spending taxpayer money to buy new toys. There are plenty of operating 757 still in passenger service, but they are used every day and are thus, still reliable.

“For the vast majority of international trips, Prime Ministers rightly fly commercial first or business class - something that should not change. The issue arises when Ministers want to take a large delegation, such as on trade missions.  With Air NZ lacking single-isle long haul planes, and being too small an airline to have spare wide bodies for chartering, a more creative solution ought to be found.

“New Zealand used to have a deal with the Australians to use federal VIP land transport. If we can do that for the limos, why not for the planes?

“The Australians have a fleet of two 737 Boeing Business Jets and three Challenger 604s operated by the Australian military but maintained by QANTAS.

“From a cost perspective, NZDF buying VIP jets for, at most, half a dozen trips per year is nuts.

“At least under the Key Government, the successful tenderer for long-haul preferred carrier for Ministers was QANTAS, not Air NZ, anyway. If Australia’s national carrier is good enough for commercial, why not their VIP jets?"

Wellington Chief Exec crosses a line, must be sacked after latest power grab

For the second year in a row, and despite being a major political debate, Wellington City Council Chief Executive Barbara McKerrow has denied elected councillors access to ratepayer-funded legal advice surrounding the sale of the airport shares.

This follows McKerrow this weekend releasing a new code severely limiting councillors’ access to the official information councillors require to do their jobs.

The Taxpayer’s Union has re-launched its petition calling for Barbara McKerrow to be sacked. Commenting on this, the Union’s Policy and Public Affairs Manager, James Ross, said:

“Wellington Chief Exec Barbara McKerrow believes its her job to tell councillors how to run the council. Stifling reports, denying access to official information, and hiding ratepayer-funded legal advice are par for the course in McKerrow’s little fiefdom.

“Democracy doesn’t stop applying because McKerrow finds it inconvenient. Is it any wonder Wellington is going down the pan when councillors can’t even see how the sausage is made at Wellington City Council?

“Councillors need to flex their muscles and show the Chief Exec that she works for residents, not the other way around. If she can’t come to terms with the city not being her little plaything, then the only job she’s fit for is emptying her desk on her way out.”

Teachers’ unions need to stop prioritising politics over pupils

Responding to reports that the teachers’ unions are once again prioritising politics over pupils and opposing the recommendations made by the government’s Ministerial Advisory Group, Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy said:

“Every year we spend more and more on education yet outcomes consistently continue to decline. But when an expert panel finally conducts a review of how to improve education, the Unions are up in arms – presumably because it is a threat to their very existence as cartels that capitalise off politicising education and protecting bad teachers from accountability.

“NZEI President Mark Potter seems to suggest that everything wrong in education has to do with ‘societal pressures on children’ and there’s nothing teachers can do to improve education outcomes. That kind of defeatist thinking is what got us into this mess and is standing in the way of allowing the best teachers and schools to innovate and find ways to improve that can be replicated elsewhere.

“If Mr Potter thinks continuing with the same failing methods that have seen education outcomes continually decline, perhaps he would be better off teaching at Hogwarts or whatever make-believe world he appears to be living in.”

Government refuses to fund cancer drugs, instead bows to gaming sector lobbyists

The Taxpayers’ Union is urging the government to rethink corporate welfare for the gaming sector and direct that funding into life-saving medicines instead.

“Reports suggest that it is Ministers Judith Collins and Todd McClay, along with Prime Minister Christopher Luxon, that are preventing the Government from scrapping corporate handouts to the gaming sector. They must front up and explain why funding the latest mind-numbing game is more important than life-saving cancer drugs.

“The Government plans to spend $100 million a year on corporate welfare for the film and gaming sectors. If that money was put into Pharmac instead, it could fund 13 new cancer treatments that are available in Australia but not here in New Zealand.

“It is completely immoral to line the pockets of the rich and bow to the desires of well-connected lobbyists instead of throwing a literal lifeline to those most in need. It is even worse to not front up and justify why that trade-off was made. New Zealanders need to understand how this decision was reached.”

Taxpayers’ Union welcomes review into health and safety regulations

Responding to today’s announcement that the Government is consulting on reforming health and safety laws, Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

“Overzealous health and safety regulations are one of the biggest handbrakes on productivity, driving up the cost of everything from doing business to building the core infrastructure necessary for this country to function.

“Often these regulations do very little to actually improve people’s safety but add enormous cost and time to doing almost anything. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that placing hundreds of road cones along a small stretch of road and slashing speed limits isn’t necessary for minor roadside repairs, yet the ambiguous and nonsensical health and safety rules currently in place have done exactly that.

“There was a time when the health and safety rules could be summed up by the phrase ‘don’t be a dick’, now you need lawyers and compliance officers just to do even the most simple of tasks. We look forward to the Government bringing back commonsense and letting people get on with their lives.”

Miserable cuts to the bureaucracy locking in the growth under Labour

The Taxpayers’ Union is slamming the revelations in yesterday’s information release from the Public Service Commission that shows the bureaucracy has only reduced by 416 FTEs since December last year.

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

“Is that it? After all the noise about how many jobs have been lost, the number of bureaucrats is still 2166 more than in June last year and more than 18,000 people higher than in 2017 when Labour came to power.

“These staff reductions aren’t even enough to offset the enormous growth in the Ministry for the Environment, let alone across the entire public service bureaucracy. The Government seems determined to lock in the bureaucratic bloat that has occurred over the past six years.

“The Government needs to push harder and faster to cut staff in order to bring the books back into shape and drive down inflation. The Minister argues that many budget decisions are yet to flow through into job reductions but that is simply not good enough – thousands of the jobs that needed to be cut would have been obvious from day one, it’s time they got on with the job.”

Government must scrap failing film subsidies and fund Pharmac instead

The Taxpayers’ Union is calling on the government to axe all taxpayer funding for films and direct that money into Pharmac instead following reports that the Film Commission spent $88 million on film subsidies that generated just $14 million in box office revenue since 2020.

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

“No one in their right mind believes that pumping hundreds of millions of dollars into film and gaming subsidies delivers better value to the taxpayer than funding life-saving medicines through Pharmac. Today’s revelations simply further make the case for this urgent reprioritisation.

“Corporate welfare like film subsidies is a bad idea regardless, but when Pharmac is actively short on funding for essential treatments and medicines it is a no-brainer to put this money to better use.

“Already thousands of New Zealanders have signed our petition to fund medicines not movies, it’s time the Government demonstrates their priorities are in the right place and not in the pockets of Hollywood billionaires.”

Wasted $33.5 million on Northland railway shows danger of putting pet projects before economics

Wasted $33.5 million on Northland railway shows danger of putting pet projects before economics

Already, more than $33.5m has been spent attempting to reopen a mothballed section of railway between Kauri and Ōtiria despite the project now being put on hold.

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

“Over $25 million worth of railway sleepers are sat collecting dust in ditches and laybys across Northland for a boondoggle project hanging in limbo.

“The section of railway was mothballed for a reason – people didn’t want to use it enough to make it viable. The tens of millions lined up to recommission this white elephant never should’ve been approved in the first place.

“This and Auckland Light Rail show what happens when you try and brute-force pet projects through without proper planning. Wishful thinking shouldn’t be directing infrastructure policy.”

Fund medicine not movies - Taxpayers’ Union calls for scrapping corporate welfare to fund Pharmac

In last month’s Budget, the Government claimed it could not find the $70-80 million needed to deliver on National’s election promise to fund new cancer medicines. At the same time, over $100 million every year – more than enough to fund the medicines – is being doled out in corporate welfare for the film and gaming industries.

The Taxpayers’ Union has today launched a petition calling for these subsidies to be scrapped and the money to be redirected to funding Pharmac.

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

“When the Government would rather line the pockets of Hollywood fat cats than deliver life-saving medicines for New Zealand’s most vulnerable, clearly they need to get their priorities straight.

“Treasury’s own numbers suggest these subsidies cost New Zealand more than they generate. Redirecting this money to fund things like the 13 life-saving cancer treatments available across the ditch but not in New Zealand would save lives and still be up to $30-million-a-year cheaper.

“Billionaires like Peter Jackson can do without taxpayer-funded corporate handouts, but sick Kiwis can’t go without medicine.”

NEW POLL: Gap between Government and Opposition narrows

 

National is down 1.9 points on last month to 35.4% while Labour is also down marginally on 29.4% (-0.6 points).

The Greens remain in third place up 2.5 points on last month to 12.7% while ACT is relatively unchanged on 9.7% (+0.3 points). New Zealand First is also steady on 5.6% (+0.1 points) and Te Pāti Māori is up 0.9 points to 4.0%.

For the minor parties, Outdoors & Freedom is on 1.3%, TOP is on 0.8%, Vision NZ is on 0.5%, the New Conservatives are on 0.1%, and the combined total for all other parties is 0.5%.

This month's results are compared to last month's Taxpayers' Union – Curia poll.

National is down three seats on last month to 44 and Labour is also down one seat to 36.

The Greens are up three seats to 16 while ACT is unchanged on last month on 12. Both NZ First and Te Pāti Māori are unchanged on last month on seven and six seats, respectively. 

The combined projected seats for the Centre-Right of 63 seats is down three seats from last month. On these numbers, National and ACT would require the support of NZ First to form a government.

The combined seats for the Centre-Left is up 2 seats on 58.

This calculation assumes that all electorate seats are held. A Parliament on these figures would include one overhang seat.

More detailed results, including net favourability and major voting issues, are available on our website.

Taxpayer Update: Let's fund Pharmac, not films 💊 > 🎥 | The Maori Party and Mr Tamihere 🗳️👀 | POLL: Opposition gains 📊 | Parliament now making wine 🍾🍾🍾🤦‍♂️

The latest political poll is out (see midway down this email) but first, we ask the question: when New Zealand can't afford lifesaving cancer drugs, are hundreds of millions in new film subsidies to Hollywood film and video game studios really the best use of taxpayer money?

Budget 2024 – your verdict is in ⚖️

The dust has now settled on Nicola Willis's first budget. So how did she do? Last week, we asked our 200,000 supporters to rate the Budget out of ten.

The most common answer was 8 out of ten, with the average score being 5.99 (so basically 6) – a narrow passing mark.

Budget out of 10

From the comments, the top 'highlight' was the (modest) tax cuts (this is, after all, a taxpayer union!) with the 'lowlight' being National's broken promise to fund a list of cancer drugs.

And we've heard you on the drugs!  As part of this week's efforts to highlight low priority government spending and waste, we're asking:

Why is the Government prioritising movie subsidies over medicine? 🎥 > 💊

The Government's decision not to stump up funding for 13 cancer treatments that are available in Australia, is a mix of politics and economics.

First, the economics. Australia's GDP per capita (what the country's economy produces per person) is now more than one third higher than New Zealand's.

So much of New Zealand's political bun fighting comes back to the sad fact that we want first-world Government services (and rightly so), but are not running a first world economy to pay for it.  

So the right question we should be asking is: How do we make New Zealand more productive and catch up with Australia?

But, this is also about political prioritisation. How can the Government spend so much money on junk, instead of funding important cancer drugs?

And it's a very fair question.

That's why today we are launching a new campaign, calling on the Government to fund medicines, not movies.

This year, Wellington is doling out more than $100 million of taxpayer money on corporate welfare to the film and gaming sectors. Meanwhile, the cost to fund new cancer treatments is $70–80 million dollars. What would you prefer the money to be spent on?

Pharmac Not Films

We say the priority should go to Pharmac to support lifesaving healthcare, not billionaire Hollywood bigwigs and studios. We've launched an online petition here.

Now, I'm sure some film-buffs will claim that we must subsidise film production if we are to enjoy the economic benefits of the jobs the movie business brings to New Zealand. But if subsiding favoured industries was a recipe for economic success, why just film and video games? 

Taxing successful businesses more for politicians to pick and choose which industries to subsidise is best left in the 1970s. It didn't work then, and it doesn't work now.

And this isn't just us saying it: The boffins at Treasury have tried to call for the credits to roll on the billion-dollar scheme. The Government's own numbers suggest that the subsidies cost more than the economic benefits they generate.

✍️ If you agree, {{recipient.first_name_or_friend}}, take 20 seconds to sign the petition calling on more funding for medicine and less for movies ✍️

Taxpayers’ Union at Mystery Creek: Come and meet the team @ National Fieldays 🚜👋

If you're at Fieldays this week, come and say hello and sign the petition in-person.

Fieldays

We'll be at site RM89 in the rural living marqueeKeep an eye out on our Facebook page for updates too and speaking events during the four days.

Mr Tamihere, his marae, the census, and the Māori Party 🫤

Last week's explosive accusations being made by whistleblowers and first reported by Andrea Vance in the Sunday Star Times are about as serious as they get in a democracy.

The first accusation is that John Tamihere's urban marae – which was part of a Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency drive to promote last year’s census – was photocopying the data and using it for a political drive for Te Pāti Māori (of which Mr Tamihere is President). The whistleblowers claim that the information was then used to target Māori electorate voters in the Tāmaki Makaurau electorate.

SMSThe second set of accusations relate to text messages urging people to vote for Te Pāti Māori – sent from a four-digit number, which was the same as that used by Waipareira Trust to send out Covid-19 vaccination messages. Mr Tamihere is the Chief Executive of Waipareira Trust.

The messages also appear to break electoral legislation, because they do not have the required "promotor statement", which is in law so that people know who is behind (and paying) for electoral advertisements/communications. 

It was not previously public, but during the election campaign, the Labour Party complained to the Electoral Commission about text messages. Not really a surprise they're upset: their candidate lost to Te Pāti Māori MP Takutai Tarsh Kemp (the former CEO of the very same urban marae) by just 42 votes.

The third set of allegations relate to accusations that Marae staff who delivered census forms also included enrolment forms for voters to change from the general to the Māori roll and even gave away $100 supermarket vouchers, wellness packs and food parcels to encourage them to complete the forms.

From a taxpayers perspective, what makes the allegations even more concerning are the suggestions that the whistleblowers had reported their concerns to multiple government agencies, but that the agencies had failed to act! 

The Taxpayers' Union was one of the first organisations to call for a public, and most importantly, independent inquiry. Operating a census is one of the most basic functions of the State and public confidence should be guarded at all costs. We say that the Stats NZ review, for example, is nuts when it is officials holding the pen on the terms of enquiry into their own conduct.

So yesterday's announcement from the Prime Minister that the (acting) Public Services Commissioner will be doing a thorough review into the actions of the government agencies is very welcome (Radio NZ also covered the announcement and our response here).

But here's the thing, the Public Services Commission (nor Stats NZ, or MSD) cannot require Mr Tamihere, his entities, nor the Māori Party to front up with the necessary data or documents to determine what's really happened one way or another.

Formal complaint to the Privacy CommissionerLast week, I wrote to the Privacy Commissioner calling on him to launch an investigation. The Privacy Commissioner has extraordinary powers to subpoena witnesses, examine under oath, and require the production of records and documents. I made the case that Parliament gave the Commissioner these extraordinary powers for the most serious potential breaches of privacy. If this isn't among the most serious, what is?!

You can read the letter to the Privacy Commissioner requesting a formal investigation here or listen to me chatting about it with Jack Tame who was filling in for Heather du-Plessis Allan.

Finally, we should make clear: Mr Tamihere has strenuously denied that census information was collected and misused as well the other allegations. He said the allegations were driven by complainants with a gripe and even took a swipe at your humble Taxpayers' Union in a late night rant media release issues last week.

Assuming everything is “baseless and simply untrue”, it shows why Mr Tamihere needs an urgent inquiry to allow him to clear his good name... The Privacy Commissioner is the right body to do this as it has the power to summons witnesses and examine under oath.

UPDATE: This morning, speaking to Mike Hosking on Newstalk ZB, the Prime Minister correctly made the distinction between what the Public Service Commission would be looking into (the actions of the government agencies) and what the Police and Privacy Commissioner can do (i.e. powers to investigate the third parties).

We haven't yet, heard back from the Privacy Commissioner, but we're hoping the Prime Minister perhaps knows something we don't in his suggestion that the Privacy Commissioner will get to the bottom of what's happened. We'll keep you posted.

Parliament making pour decisions 🍷

Parliamentary Wine

It's wine o’clock in Wellington because the Parliamentary Service has decided it would be wise to branch out into wine!

Rather than showcase wine from vineyards around the country, Parliamentary Services have opted to develop an "in-house signature range" to be served at internal events, and functions – and also gifted to visiting foreign dignitaries. 

And, who would have guessed, but Parliamentarians drink a lot. According to tender documents, the minimum order is 5,000 bottles of red, 5,000 of white, 4,000 of sparkling (hey, we're in recession after all!), and 300 ports.

We understand Parliamentary Services have been inundated with offers to join the "tasting panel". They say that they will be ensuring it is made up of “diverse people” from across the Parliamentary Service with “varied backgrounds”.  After all, wine not? It’s only taxpayer money! Thank goodness they're taking it so seriously...

NEW POLL: Gap narrows between Government and Opposition 📊

The Government won't be over the moon with this month's hot-off-the-press Taxpayers' Union – Curia poll. It's the first of the three major nationwide political polls since the Budget (and unlike the 1News and Newshub efforts, the Taxpayers' Union – Curia poll isn't even partially government funded!). The poll suggests Nicola Willis has failed to switch many votes.

Here it is:

Decided Party Vote over time

Compared with last month's poll, National is down 1.9 points to 35.4 percent while Labour is also down marginally to 29.4 percent (-0.6 points).

The Greens remain in third place up 2.5 points to 12.7 percent while ACT is relatively unchanged on 9.7 percent (+0.3 points). New Zealand First is also steady on 5.6% (+0.1 points) and Te Pāti Māori is up 0.9 points to 4.0%.

For the minor parties, Outdoors & Freedom is on 1.3 percent, TOP 0.8 percent, Vision NZ 0.5 percent, New Conservatives 0.1 percent, and the combined total for all other parties was 0.5 percent.

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

Seats

National is down three seats on last month to 44 and Labour is also down one seat to 36. The Greens are up three seats to 16 while ACT is unchanged on last month on 12. Both NZ First and Te Pāti Māori are unchanged on last month on seven and six seats, respectively. 

The combined projected seats for the Centre-Right of 63 seats is down three seats from last month. On these numbers, National and ACT would require the support of NZ First to form a government. The combined seats for the Centre-Left is up 2 seats on 58. This assumes that all electorate seats are held. A Parliament on these numbers would include one overhang seat.

For favourability ratings, major voting issues, and to find out how to get access to our full polling reports (including geographic breakdowns), head over to our website.

Taxpayer Talk: MPs in Depth – Dr Hamish Campbell 🎙️

Taxpayer Talk: Hamish Campbell

This week on Taxpayer TalkI sat down with the National MP for Ilam, Hamish Campbell.

Hamish reclaimed the previously safe National seat of Ilam at the 2023 election, following it turning red for the first time in 2020. Prior to entering Parliament, Hamish had been a medical researcher and university lecturer using his Bachelor's degree in genetics and PhD in viruses and cancer from the University of Otago. Hamish shares his views on politics, why he wanted to be an MP, and provides an interesting insight on some of his unique hobbies that he has enjoyed over the years.

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

Thank you for your support.

Jordan

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Jordan Williams
Executive Director

New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union

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Media Mentions:

NewstalkZB Jason Walls: Budget 2024 was only ever going to be 'okay' (01:52)

NewstalkZB The Sunday Panel: Did the 2024 Budget go too far? (04:45)

Newshub 'Silly' inconsistency: Police pay council rates while schools, hospitals and churches don't

interest.co.nz Brian Easton is impressed by how effective the Taxpayers' Union has been. He looks at their recipe of how to run a successful pressure group

NZ Herald Budget 2024: The dilemma that’s destroying us - Simon Wilson

NewstalkZB THE RE-WRAP: Bad Guys Going In the Wrong Direction

ACT Free Press ACT-ing Prime Minister

RNZ Claims of Census data misuse by Manurewa Marae probed by Stats NZ

RNZ Claims marae misused census data - latest details

The Working Group Budget Battles and Global Affairs | GUESTS: Maria Slade, Matthew McCarten & Jordan Williams

NZ Herald Budget 2024: Finance Minister Nicola Willis on tax cuts charm offensive as Labour highlights cuts

Waikato Times More than 1000 council staff across Waikato earning $100,000-plusMore than 1000 council staff across Waikato earning $100,000-plus

The Spinoff Is the next big media merger NZ on Air marrying the Film Commission?

NewstalkZB  Chris Hipkins: Labour leader on 'very serious' allegations against Te Pāti Māori

Chris Lynch Media Growing Investigations into John Tamihere and Te Pāti Māori Spark Calls for Comprehensive Inquiry

Business Desk Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade a 'sitting duck' for cyberattacks after $33m cloud IT flop

The Post PM 'monitoring closely' investigations into census allegations

NewstalkZB The Taxpayers Union has called for the Privacy Commissioner to investigate Te Pāti Māori allegations

BusinessDesk Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade a 'sitting duck' for cyberattacks after $33m cloud IT flop

RNZ Privacy Commissioner seeks more detail on possible census data breach at marae

RNZ Mediawatch for 9 June 2024 (10:54)

 

MPs in Depth: Hamish Campbell

Hamish Campbell MP

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 National Party MP, Dr Hamish Campbell. 

Hamish reclaimed the previously safe National seat of Ilam at the 2023 election, following it turning red for the first time in 2020. Prior to entering Parliament, Hamish has been a medical researcher and university lecturer using his Bachelor's degree in genetics and PhD in viruses and cancer from the University of Otago. Hamish shares his views on politics, why he wanted to be an MP and provides an interesting insight on some of his unique hobbies that he has enjoyed over the years.

Hamish's maiden speech can be watched here. Follow Hamish 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. 

Richlister Peter Jackson should refuse corporate welfare to allow more funding for Pharmac instead


The Taxpayers’ Union congratulates Sir Peter Jackson on coming in at number 5 on this year’s NBR rich list and urges him to refuse any corporate welfare for his upcoming films so that the government can fund Pharmac instead.

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

“Taxpayer money should go towards medicine not movies. Sir Peter’s films have already received hundreds of millions of dollars in corporate handouts thanks to the New Zealand taxpayer. With a combined net worth with his wife of an estimated $3 billion, it is clear that Sir Peter has benefitted significantly from generous taxpayer support – it’s time he returned the favour.

“While a good first step is refusing to take any further money, we encourage him to go further and return all of the taxpayer funding he has received so that the money can be used to increase the Pharmac budget to fund the life-saving medicines New Zealanders need.

“This gesture would hardly break the bank for Sir Peter but would go a long way to delivering more life-changing medicine to those battling illness. As an indication of what this money could do, the amount of money spent on film and gaming subsidies each year is approximately $30 million more than what it would cost to fund 13 new cancer treatments in New Zealand.

“Obviously funding decisions should be made by Pharmac, but it should be clear to all what is a better use of limited taxpayer funding – we hope Sir Peter Jackson agrees.”

The Government must scrap taxpayer funding for EV charging rort

The Taxpayers’ Union is calling on the Government to scrap its EV charging rort that will see millions of taxpayer dollars funnelled into the hands of private companies despite the policy doing absolutely nothing to reduce New Zealand’s net emissions.

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

“National is supposed to be a party that believes in markets. Why are they wasting millions of dollars on a boondoggle that will do little more than subsidise wealthy Tesla owners and dish out corporate welfare to the very people who campaigned against them with misleading and deceptive advertising during the election period?

“Sock-puppet lobby group Better NZ Trust is urging the government to ‘just get on and spend it’ – very convenient for a group whose founder and trustee, Steve West, is also a director and major shareholder of ChargeNet a private company that has received more than $7 million in corporate welfare from EECA to subsidise their commercially operated charging stations.

“Simeon Brown and Simon Watts know that this won’t reduce New Zealand’s net emissions and is nothing more than an expensive virtue signal filling the blackhole created from their inability to explain their climate policy and the Emissions Trading Scheme.

“Any uptick in the use of EVs as a result of this policy may reduce transport emissions but, under New Zealand’s capped ETS, this reduction will be completely nullified by an increase in emissions in other sectors as carbon credits that would have been purchased for transport emissions are simply sold to other emitters to use. The end result is taxpayers are left out of pocket while the country’s emissions remain unchanged.”

Credit rating agency shot across the bow a danger to New Zealanders’ living standards

The Taxpayers’ Union says that the comments from credit ratings agency Fitch overnight represents a major threat to New Zealand’s public finances and New Zealanders’ living standards should the country see a credit ratings downgrade and higher costs of borrowing.

Taxpayers’ Union Economist Ray Deacon said:

“On budget forecasts, out last week, we’re already paying $10 billion per year in interest which is more than we pay on law and order or defence or school education and amounts to $5,092 per household.

“More borrowing to fund continuous government operating deficits is not a sustainable strategy. The Government simply has to get control of its expenditure and reduce it much more significantly than it has in Budget 2024. Yet another set of forecasts where a return to surplus is only at the end of the forecast period looks like a continuation of the game of kicking the ‘surplus’ can down the road.

“It would seem that Fitch might agree with us.”

Surge in dividend payments entirely predictable following trust tax hikes

Commenting on news today that companies’ dividend payments more than doubled in the tax year to 31 March from $23.6 billion to $49.4b ahead of the increase in the trustee tax rate from 33 to 39 percent, Taxpayers’ Union Head of Campaigns, Callum Purves, said:

“While there is a case to be made for aligning the trustee tax rate with the top rate of income tax, this should be done by bringing the top income tax rate down from Labour’s punitive 39 percent, not by jacking up the trust tax to the same level.

“Clearly, today’s news shows the significant effort people are willing to put in in order to avoid the higher trust tax rates. This will only be exacerbated now that the higher 39% rate is in force. When the difference was just 5 percentage points, the asset protection advantages outweighed the higher rate in many cases.

“Now that the trust and income tax rates are 11 percentage points higher than the company and PIE tax rate of 28 percent, there is an even stronger incentive to move their assets out of trusts and into company structures and PIEs because the asset protection advantages are no longer worth the much higher rate.

“Rather than hitting those at the big end of town with higher taxes who can simply rearrange their finances into different structures, these changes hit the little guy – grandchildren putting money aside for their grandchildren or farmers whose family home is within the farm – and who can’t easily change their tax structures.

“It is now clear that the trustee tax rate has failed in its objectives and those with the means to do so are simply avoiding paying the higher rate as predicted. Nicola Willis needs to revisit these unfair changes immediately before they have an even more punitive effect on Kiwi families.”

The Clean Car Standard should just be scrapped altogether

Commenting on the Government’s review of the Clean Car Standard, which sees Minister Simeon Brown look to adjust the targets to make them more ‘achievable’ for vehicle companies, Taxpayers’ Union Spokesman, Alex Murphy, said:

“Much like the Clean Car Discount was just middle-class welfare that did nothing to help lower New Zealand’s emissions, the Clean Car Standard also unnecessarily distorts the vehicle market for no environmental gain.

“New Zealand’s net emissions are already capped under the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) – using regulations that make it illegal to import certain cars will only reduce emissions in the transport sector, while subsequently freeing up more carbon credits to be used by the rest of the economy. In other words, none of it makes a shred of difference to New Zealand’s net emissions.

“Worse still, the Clean Car Standard reduces competition in the vehicle sector driving up the costs of all vehicles, including EVs, pushing essential transport further out of reach for many families. The feel-good, do-nothing scheme should be scrapped altogether.”

Taxpayers’ Union calls on Privacy Commissioner to open formal investigation into alleged misuse of census data by John Tamihere entities

The Taxpayers’ Union has written to the Privacy Commissioner this morning calling on him to launch an investigation into alleged misuse of census data by Auckland’s Manurewa Marae, entities associated with John Tamihere, and Te Pāti Māori.

Taxpayers’ Union Spokeperson, Jordan Williams, said:

“The allegations made this morning on a Newstalk ZB interview with Allan Hulse, an employment representative for workers at the Marae and MSD, suggest that various agencies were told of the allegations but failed to act prior to the matters becoming public on Sunday.”

“When part of the allegations are that Government agencies failed to act despite being tipped off by whistleblowers, it is not appropriate for the agencies to be managing the investigations.

“Earlier this week, Stats NZ announced that it has commissioned an external investigator to look into whether Census data has been misused. It is not clear whether the scope of that includes the allegations made by Allan Hulse, but in any case, without the ability to compel witnesses, or require third parties to provide information, it will be hopeless.

“If the allegations are true, and census data ended up in the Te Party Māori’s political databases, are they really going to hand over that information without being legally required to do so? Stats NZ are either kidding themselves or want a report that states ‘nothing to see here’.

“That’s why it is most appropriate for the Privacy Commissioner to lead this. He has the power to summons witnesses, examine under oath, and require the production of information and documents.

“The integrity and protection of census data is among the most important to be protected in a democratic society. Public confidence should be guarded at all costs. We can’t think of a more appropriate circumstance for the Privacy Commissioner to use all the powers at his disposal to get to the bottom of what has happened and provide public confidence in the handling of the allegations.”

The Taxpayers’ Union letter to the Privacy Commissioner can be read here.

Police Commissioner’s job is to enforce the law, not publicly lobby the government to change it

The Taxpayers’ Union is slamming comments from Police Commissioner Andrew Coster where he appears to be lobbying the government to change alcohol regulations. Taxpayers’ Union Spokesperson, Jordan Williams, said:

“Andrew Coster is acting as a constitutional barbarian.  There is a long-held constitutional convention that Police - especially leadership - enforce the law, not lobby to change it.

“Who does the Police Commissioner think he is? If he wants to get involved in political campaigning, he should stand down.

“It appears Mr Coster is trying to have it both ways by saying it is not his job to be advocating for law changes before going on to do exactly that. Leading Morning Report with stories about the Commissioner advocating for minimum pricing of alcohol is a middle finger to the conventions Mr Coster is supposed to protect.

“The Police Minister and Public Service Commission need to pull the Commissioner into line.”

Four-year council terms must come with right of recall

Commenting on reports that former National Minister and current Mayor of Nelson, Nick Smith, will chair a group exploring local government electoral system reforms, Taxpayers’ Union Head of Campaigns, Callum Purves, said:

“Ratepayers across the country are rightly frustrated by a toxic combination of sky-high rate hikes, wasteful spending and cuts to core council services. Three-year terms are one of the few checks and balances voters have on councils when they fail to keep their election promises.

“If four-year terms are to be introduced, they must come with the right of recall so that voters have the opportunity to kick out poorly performing elected officials. This would raise the political cost of squeezing ratepayers until the pips squeak and focus minds to deliver more efficient services.

“The group must also ensure that it properly consults the public on all options it is considering so that people across New Zealand can have their say on any proposed reforms. Any campaign for four-year terms will not attract public support if it is led by the very politicians who would benefit."

Manurewa Marae allegations warrant public inquiry

The Taxpayers’ Union is calling on the Government to form a public inquiry under the Inquiries Act to ensure that MSD and Stats NZ are not tasked with reviewing their, alleged, lack of action following complaints from whistleblowers that the Manurewa Marae illegally used census data collation to booster the Māori Party’s electoral data gathering.

“These allegations are on the most serious end in terms of misuse of census information,” said Jordan Williams, a Spokesperson for the Taxpayers’ Union.

“It warrants an independent review to establish both what has happened, and whether agencies have responded with appropriate urgency.”

“Public inquiries have the power to require the production of evidence, to compel witnesses, and to take evidence on oath. Given the seriousness of the allegations reported by the Sunday Star Times over the weekend, that looks to be justified, and necessary to ensure continued public confidence.”

Taxpayer Update: Snap Budget Poll 📊 | National spends more than Labour 💥 | Government must go further and faster ✂️

Happy King's Birthday weekend!

For the team at the Taxpayers' Union, Budget week is always the busiest of the year. This week's Taxpayer Update wraps up our coverage, and (more importantly) asks you, what did you think of Budget 2024?

I've had thousands of responses to our initial reaction to Budget 2024 – I can't recall receiving so many emails in just a few days! So we thought we'd do a poll of our supporters: did Nicola Willis nail it, or did she fall short?

Budget 2024

>> Click here to give your score out of ten on Budget 2024 <<

Why this year's Budget was more important than most ⏰

Nicola Willis' choicesA lot of National Party supporters are making the point that the last government got New Zealand into the financial doo-doo and that we should lay off our criticism of this year's Budget.

{{recipient.first_name_or_friend}}, personally, I consider the last government the worst in my lifetime. I sweated blood to get rid of them last year; through the election campaign we chased Chris Hipkins and Grant Robertson around with the Debt Clock, Debt Monster, held them to account on Three Waters, the outrageous "Central Planning Committee" proposal to replace the RMA – heck, we even launched a tongue-in-cheek removal company "Robbo's Removals" to highlight to voters just how bad things had become because of Grant Robertson.

But we didn't work so hard to expose the last Government to elect a new one that, in its first Budget, is increasing overall government spending, and borrowing at an even faster rate. From a personal perspective, that is what made Thursday working through the materials in the Beehive lock-up so disappointing: this budget effectively locks in Grant Robertson's post-COVID so-called 'ballooned' spending.

SNAP Budget Poll: Kiwis want Nicola Willis to go further, faster, harder ⏩ ⏩ 

Weekend HeraldThis morning's Weekend Herald covers our snap post-budget poll. And while the Nats have suggested we have been a little hard on Nicola Willis, it seems the majority of Kiwi voters agree with our broad critiques of Budget 2024. 

On tax cuts, Kiwis want Nicola Willis to go further. A majority of respondents (51%) think that the $25 a week less tax for the average earner doesn’t go far enough and want to see further tax reductions. That's compared to just 34% who are opposed.

And on public spending too, the public thinks the Government needs to do more to cut the waste. By a ratio of nearly 2 to 1, Kiwis think Nicola Willis should get public spending as a share of the whole economy back below the 30%. This was a target set by Labour and the Greens no less, but next year the Government will only get spending down to 33%.

When it comes to tackling the deficit left by Grant Robertson, there is no appetite for increasing taxes (-30% net support) or increasing borrowing (-39%). Kiwis want the Government to focus on driving higher economic growth (+78%) and by getting tougher on decreasing spending (+49%).

In the interests of transparency, we've made the full results and breakdowns available over on our website.

Weekend Herald 2Nicola Willis said that she won’t be able to deliver further tax reductions until she gets the books back into surplus in 2027/28. But these results demonstrate that New Zealanders would back her to reduce wasteful spending by much more and much sooner so that she can get the books back into the black and alleviate the tax burden even further next year.

The Weekend Herald coverage of the snap poll is in this news item and Claire Trevett's column.

Three cheers for tax relief! 🥲🥂

Nicola Willis says her tax relief package is "modest but meaningful". If you've not already checked what you're in line for, head over to The Treasury's tax calculator here.

But the emphasis really is on the word "modest". For the average earner, the tax reduction only unwinds the effects of three years' worth of inflation and is just half of the $49 Nicola Willis needed to deliver to catch Kiwis up for the last 14 years of stealth tax hikes due to inflation tipping people into higher tax brackets.

But didn't Labour leave the books in a mess? 😡

Absolutely. No one would deny that Nicola Willis and the new coalition had a challenge on their hands after the reckless budgets of the last Government: 84 percent more spending since 2017, more than 18,000 extra bureaucrats, and borrowing $75 million every day.

But while the Government has made some progress, the savings they have delivered are pretty small fry. 

In cash terms, Nicola Willis will be spending more than Labour did in each and every year of this budget. And it's not likely that spending as a share of our economy will get down to the level set out in Grant Robertson's big-spending 2019 Wellbeing Budget until at least 2038. That's 14 years away.

Well this is awkward 😬

A friend of the Taxpayers' Union pointed us to a speech from last year where Christopher Luxon accuses then Finance Minister Grant Robertson of having an 'addiction to spending' not once, but ten times. Awkward for Nicola Willis that she's spending even more, despite the election mandate to, well, spend less.

We couldn't help ourselves... 🤭

So how is the Government funding the tax reductions? 🧮 🧐

As well as some limited savings and the scrapping of Labour white elephants like Three Waters and Auckland Light Rail, there are also a laundry list of new taxes, levies and rebates to balance the books. Some make more sense than others:

✅ User pays immigration levies: New immigrants to New Zealand will have to cover the full costs of their visas. This is a sensible move. Why should the Kiwi taxpayer subsidise the costs of people who want to move here?

✅ Climate Dividend: Some of the money raised through auctions of carbon credits in our Emissions Trading Scheme will be used to fund tax reductions rather than being used to fund corporate welfare for climate initiatives that don’t actually reduce emissions (any emissions reduced are just made available elsewhere under our fixed-cap scheme). 

🟠 More money for tax inspectors: More money will be given to IRD to chase after those who are not paying their tax bills in the hope that this brings in a lot more revenue than it costs. The proof of this pudding will be in the eating. 

🟠 Fees ‘free’ tuition in the final year: Rather than getting the first year of university tuition courtesy of the taxpayer, students will get the final year paid instead. This is an improvement as it ensures we aren’t covering the costs of dropouts but the middle-class welfare that is fees ‘free’ should be scrapped entirely. 

🟠 Taxing online casino operators: Collecting revenue through a gaming duty on online casino operators isn’t particularly bad, so long as it taxes them in the same way as in-person gambling companies.

❌ Removing commercial building depreciation: Businesses will no longer be able to offset the costs of deteriorating buildings. That means less investment in improvements to things like apartment blocks or improving the earthquake ratings of older offices. 

❌ Digital Services Tax: This will force big international companies to pay more tax in New Zealand but raises concerns that this may breach the spirit of free trade agreements and could lead to costly retaliatory tariffs that cost the country more than the tax revenue.

In the media: making the case for taxpayers 📺

Jordan on RNZ post-Budget

I joined RNZ's Morning Report yesterday explaining why we were disappointed with the Budget and outlining why the Government needed to go further. Have a listen online here.

Over on The Platform, Connor was chatting to Sean Plunket and scored the Budget against our three key tests relating to tax, spending and debt, along with giving a few examples of additional areas he would like to see spending cuts.

Connor and Sean Plunkett

Watch the interview here.

Heather du Plessis-Allan doesn't hold back 😳

Over on NewstalkZB, Heather du Plessis-Allan covered our 'Mother of all Disappointments' reaction on Thursday's Drive show before putting some of our main criticisms of the Budget to the Minister of Finance herself.

Heather doesn't hold back and the interview with Nicola Willis is worth the time. Have a listen here.

We were also covered in the NBR and interest.co.nz.

Our policy guru, James, gives his verdict ⚖️

James Ross op-ed

Writing for The Post on the evening of the Budget, our Head of Policy, James Ross, gave his verdict on the Budget and what he thinks the Finance Minister ought to have done: 

Everything needed to deliver tax relief for the squeezed middle was ripe for the taking. But this Budget showed a Government which has buckled under pressure from the Wellington elite.

Kiwis needed a blockbuster Budget, but all they’ve got is a hackneyed reboot of Grant Robertson’s box-office flop.

Read the full piece over at Stuff's The Post website.

And from the experts: what did two of NZ's leading economists think?🎙️

I sat down with two of New Zealand's top economists just back from the Budget Lock Up. Suffice it to say that neither was very impressed with he Budget and (just like the Taxpayers' Union, apparently! 😳 ) have probably been taken off Nicola Willis' Christmas card list. 😥

Dr Eric Crampton is a semi-regular guest on the podcast and is the Chief Economist at The New Zealand Initiative think tank

Cameron Bagrie heads his own firm, Bagrie Economics, specialising in economic research, analysis and consultancy. 

The podcast with Eric is here.

The podcast with Cameron is here.

Taxpayer Talk is also available on Apple PodcastsSpotifyGoogle Podcasts, iHeart Radio, and every good podcast platform.

That's all from us for this Budget week. Enjoy your long weekend!

Jordan

Jordan_signature.jpg
Jordan Williams
Executive Director

New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union

 

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Media Mentions:

Kiwiblog The Government must halt taxpayer funding of union staff 

NewstalkZB The Huddle: Is the closure of Smith & Caughey's a sign of bigger economic problems?

NewstalkZB Politics Thursday: Labour's Ginny Andersen and National's Chris Penk on the budget, protests and Kainga Ora (23:07)

Greymouth Star MP spending questioned [print only]

RNZ RNZ Budget Day Special (56:07)

The Post Budget 2024: A swing and a miss from Nicola Willis

The Post Budget 2024: Entrenching Labour's big-spending approach to government

NewstalkZB Heather du Plessis-Allan – Full Show Podcast: 30 May 2024 (38:50)

NZ Herald Budget 2024: Did the Government deliver what the country needs? (13:08)

RNZ Taxpayers Union disappointed over Budget

interest.co.nz Nicola Willis delivered on most of her promises but faces extremely tight budgets for years to come

RNZ RNZ News at 7am, May 31 (01:08)

Stuff Tova: Big Budget Special (02:29)

Not PC Budget 2024: The Mother of All Disappointments

NBR Tax cuts, spending cuts but more spending and more borrowing

Kiwiblog Guest Post: Budget 2024 Roundup: What you need to know

The Platform What Does the Budget Mean for Taxpayers?

NewstalkZB Friday Faceoff: Budget Special with former revenue minister Peter Dunne and Infometrics economist Brad Olsen
 (09:30)

The Platform Economist Eric Crampton Breaks Down the 2024 Budget

RNZ Week in Politics: What will the government get out of Budget 2024?

NZ Herald Budget 2024: Snap poll reveals voters’ views on Budget as Parliament rushes through tax cuts bill

NZ Herald Post-Budget snap poll gives Nicola Willis a lukewarm pass - but the cancer drug fail grates - Claire Trevett

The Post The cuts, the cash, the tax splash: What's feeding the budget?

The Post Willis' Budget has seized the financial agenda, but what's the plan?

Budget 2024: The Mother of All Disappointments

Budget 2024: The Mother of All Disappointments

Nicola Willis’s first Budget is the “The Mother of All Disappointments” says the Taxpayers’ Union, failing all three tests the National Party were elected to deliver on:

  • The tax reductions amount to just half the costs to the average worker of 14 years of inflation pushing them into higher marginal tax brackets. Instead of delivering the required $49 per week for the average earner, Willis has delivered just half – at $24.89 for the average worker on $66,196 a year. This amounts to a reversal of just the last three years of fiscal drag. 
  • Reducing the size of Government back to pre-Covid levels after an 84 percent increase in spending and hiring an extra 18,000 bureaucrats. Instead of cutting spending, Budget 2024 spends $13.9 billion more than Grant Robertson’s largess last year. 
  • Nicola Willis has totally failed to balance books with the date for surplus pushed back a year. This is a breach of the first “fiscal principle” listed in National’s pre-election Fiscal Plan. The deficit for the year ahead is even larger than the current year. Instead of stopping the Debt Clock, Nicola Willis is making it tick faster, and for longer.

Taxpayers’ Union Executive Director, Jordan Williams, said:

“The Budget delivered by Nicola Willis today is The Mother of All Disappointments.”

“Each of the three coalition partners were elected to cut wasteful government spending. While there’s a little reprioritisation, this Budget spends more than Grant Robertson ever did. 

“Both Nicola Willis and Christopher Luxon have repeatedly made the point that personal income tax brackets have not been adjusted for inflation since 2010. But rather than deliver the $49 a week less tax to put this right, the Government has opted for just half that and unwound just three years’ worth of inflation pushing workers into higher tax brackets. That isn’t tax relief, it’s shortchanging Kiwis who are continuing to do it tough.

“Nicola Willis can only reduce tax by a tiny amount as she won’t take the steps needed to right size the Public Service. Even by 2038, Nicola Willis will have higher Government spending as a share of our economy than Grant Robertson proposed in his 2019 Wellbeing Budget lolly scramble.

“If Nicola Willis is a fiscal conservative, she’s certainly not showing it – in fact, this Budget will be known for effectively ‘locking-in’ the new super-sized state created by Ardern and Robertson.

“All in all, this Budget means New Zealand goes further into the red. Debt servicing costs for the coming year will be $9.2 billion. That’s the same as we are forecast to spend on primary schools, secondary schools, and justice combined. This level of ongoing borrowing simply means we will be paying higher taxes for years to come.”

Budget 2024: $2.6 billion down the drain for no climate benefit

Budget 2024: $2.6 billion down the drain for no climate benefit

The Taxpayers’ Union is slamming today’s continuation of a number of Labour’s climate change initiatives as economically and scientifically illiterate.

Taxpayers’ Union Head of Campaigns, Callum Purves, said:

“This Government is supposed to be one that understands the Emissions Trading Scheme. Under the current cap and trade system, any reduction in emissions in one sector will simply free up room under the fixed cap for emissions elsewhere under the ETS’s fixed cap model.

“Simon Watts has swallowed the James Shaw cool-aid and is more focused on looking like he is doing something rather than actually reducing emissions at the lowest possible cost.

“This Government is milking taxpayers with its clean heavy vehicles corporate welfare fund that will see the likes of Fonterra receiving millions for absolutely no environmental gain.

“There is no need for the Government to be involved in EV charging. So long as they remove regulatory barriers, there is plenty of financial incentive for private companies to build and operate EV charging infrastructure. Again, this will have no environmental benefit.

“If Simon Watts doesn’t understand – or, worse, is just ignoring – the basics of the Emissions Trading Scheme, it would be better for both taxpayers and environment for him to be replaced with someone who does."

Budget 2024: Government promises to hike taxes by stealth

Budget 2024: Government promises to hike taxes by stealth

The Taxpayers’ Union is condemning the Government for failing to introduce ongoing annual adjustments to income tax brackets for inflation and calling out the hypocrisy of Nicola Willis using fiscal drag to get back to surplus, after complaining about the same in opposition.

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

“Not only is the Government shortchanging New Zealanders by failing to fully unwind inflation-caused tax hikes since 2010, but the Treasury forecasts show that Ms Willis’ tax take will continue to balloon.

“The impact on the average worker since 2010 is devastating – amounting to an additional $49 a week in tax. Today’s tax reduction is only a partial catch up but without tackling the cause of the problem, Nicola Willis is able to stealthily claw back another $1900 per household by 2028 through fiscal drag.

Budget 2024: National continue to give taxpayer money to corporate welfare bludgers

Budget 2024: National continue to give taxpayer money to corporate welfare bludgers

The Taxpayers’ Union is lashing out at the continuation of the Government’s corporate welfase schemes, labelling them ‘socialism for the rich’.

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

“The $181.161 million to the Hollywood bigwigs and Peter Jackson’s of the world, along with the continuation of gaming subsidies reeks of economic illiteracy. The Government should be making it easier for all businesses to grow, not hand-picking fashionable special interest groups that can’t stand on their own two feet.

“Taxpayers should not be subsidising Hollywood and video game devs.

“Taking money from successful businesses, spinning it through the bureaucracy and then handing it to other businesses will not create more jobs than it costs – it’s socialism for the rich.

“If politicians were good any good at picking winners, they would never have to worry about fundraising ever again. The fact of the matter is that the Government is putting all of the risk on taxpayers while allowing wealthy corporates to keep the profit."

Budget 2024: Debt interest costs soon to be higher than spending on primary schools, secondary schools and the Ministry of Justice combined

Budget 2024: Debt interest costs soon to be higher than spending on primary schools, secondary schools and the Ministry of Justice combined

The Taxpayers’ Union is slamming the projected explosion in Government debt over the next 4 years, which will see interest payments amounting to more than $4,622 for every household in the coming  financial year alone.

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

“Government debt ballooned by 161% under Grant Robertson. Forget cutting it back, Nicola Willis is pumping it even higher.

“Treasury forecast interest payments will amount to $9.2 billion ($4,622 per household) in the 2024/25 fiscal year. That’s the same as what the Government will spend on primary schools, secondary schools and the Ministry of Justice combined.

“Today was Nicola Willis’s opportunity to save our kids and grandkids from higher taxes and a sovereign debt recking ball.  Instead, she has continued the legacy of Grant Robertson. That’s now what Kiwis voted for.”

Taxpayer Update: It's budget day tomorrow 🙏

Tomorrow morning, Jordan, Connor and I will be heading into the Budget 2024 "Beehive lock-up" to be briefed on the Budget before it's made public by Nicola Willis at 2pm sharp.

As with every Budget, your humble Taxpayers' Union will be cutting through the political spin and will send you what you need to know – the good, bad, and ugly straight to your inbox shortly after 2 tomorrow.

As expected: Wellington's Eviction Notice causes a stir 🤭

Eviction Notice Advert

Remember the advert that Stuff banned and then unbanned? Our 'Eviction Notice' giving unproductive Wellington bureaucrats their marching orders has certainly got people talking after it appeared in yesterday's NZ Herald

It seemed to have veteran political commentator Audrey Young over at the NZ Herald spitting out her cornflakes. She gave us her 'Brickbat' in her weekly missive under the headline: Why borrowing is a key Budget issue; Taxpayers’ Union falls flat with ad celebrating mass job cuts.

But says who? We agree with Audrey that losing your job is anything but a laugh. But the way Wellington are overreacting to what is small scale correction to the dramatic growth in bureaucrat numbers is not a joke either. We are yet to see any sympathy for the tens of thousands of families who are doing it tough as a result of having to pay for Wellington's 84% increase in spending under the last Government.

We run adverts like this to provoke a little controversy and get people talking about important issues like the explosion in the size of the Public Service – over 18,000 extra bureaucrats since 2017. 

And it worked...

Heather du Plessis-Allan took a potshot at Stuff for initially banning the advert on her Drive show yesterday and read out the full 'Eviction Notice' live on air. Have a listen:

HDPA Stuff Video

Cuts in Context art installation goes viral 📺🚀

Here at the Taxpayers' Union, we are always looking for weird and wonderful ways to get important messages across. I'm told our explainer video new piece of modern art we've gifted to Parliament has gone down well with the kidz on the socials...

The video's already reached more than 80,000 New Zealanders across Facebook, Instagram, X, TikTok, and YouTube, in just a day. Watch on YouTube here.

Connor Box Stunt Video

Public Service reductions don't go far enough 👎

Connor's also been busy in the media flying the flag for taxpayers. 

And in a shock to us all, RNZ chose an academic commentator who stood with us on the side of taxpayers! Professor Robert MacCulloch of University of Auckland said that "productivity hasn't increased in the past six years" despite the increase in the number of public servants and more job cuts are needed too. Have a listen.

Connor on RNZ

Tick tock: Debt Clock outside the Beehive ⏰

The Debt Clock was back outside the Beehive yesterday to make sure Ministers preparing for tomorrow's Budget are fully aware of New Zealand's debt problem ticking time bomb.

The Government is borrowing $75 million on our behalf every day and has now racked up over $90,000 in debt for every household across the country. 

Tomorrow we'll find out the latest figures and predictions, and sadly, our ol' mate the Debt Monster will also be on hand to update the invoice for your household's share.

Debt Clock at Parliament

Unfortunately, not everyone has quite grasped the seriousness of this situation. One public servant in particular was not best pleased by our presence and used some particularly colourful language towards our staff. At least we know the communications degrees are paying off!

What to look for tomorrow: Nicola Willis' big tests 🧐

Whether Nicola Willis delivers the goods tomorrow for taxpayers will be based on the three point test summarised in our full page ad in tomorrow’s NZ Herald.

NZ Herald advert

High res version here.

The number is 49 💵

Nicola Willis and Christopher Luxon have said several times in recent weeks that personal income tax brackets have not been adjusted for inflation since 2010.

We're all feeling it!

But they haven't been shouting what that actually means in hard cash: If tax brackets had kept pace with inflation, the average income earner today would be paying $49 less in tax each and every week.

Tomorrow, that's the minimum Nicola Willis needs to deliver to the average worker if she is to keep her promise of 'tax relief'. Anything less is just short changing Kiwis.

$49/week

Jordan set out our expectations on the level of tax relief in Stuff's budget preview this morning.

$49 per week would make a huge difference 😮‍💨

Last week, we asked supporters what they'd do with an extra $49 a week and I'm sad to say that many of the responses make for uncomfortable reading. 

A sample:

  • Keeping my heating on for longer
  • Meeting basic costs like rent and insurance
  • Getting fruit, vegetables or meat more regularly
  • Paying for childcare and a bit more support for my grandkids
  • Medical and dental expenses I currently can't afford
  • Saving up for warmer winter clothes

There were almost no extravagant expenses in the nearly 1,000 responses received. The Wellington bubble and some of the media commentariat really have no idea that many people are still really doing it tough. 

We sent a letter to Nicola Willis earlier today with a snapshot of the responses from our survey as a friendly reminder ahead of the tomorrow's Budget.

Fingers crossed for tomorrow. 

Yours aye,

Callum

Callum Signature

Callum Purves
Head of Campaigns
New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union 

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Media Mentions:

Newsroom Is that a tax boost in your pocket? (03:15)

Farmers Weekly Feds douse FENZ levy hike idea

RNZ Fast Track bill hits hurdles of public outrage (06:15)

The Post Public service watch: Ministry’s cost saving money shuffle

NZ Herald Nicola Willis’ first Budget will not be judged by tax cuts but by the question of economic credibility – Claire Trevett

The Post Budget week: Will action match the rhetoric?

RNZ Political commentators Brigitte Morten and Gareth Hughes (01:59)

BusinessDesk Exemption for Mfat on budget cuts 'isn't acceptable' – Taxpayers' Union

The Platform Film-makers follow the money on ‘disinformation’ bandwagon

NZ Herald Why borrowing is a key Budget issue; Taxpayers’ Union falls flat with ad celebrating mass job cuts - Audrey Young

RNZ Govt urged to make deeper public service cuts

RNZ Public service cuts: Taxpayers' Union urges government to axe more jobs

NewstalkZB Full Show Podcast: 28 May 2024 – Eviction Notice Advertisement (01:14:56)

The Working Group Nicola Willis, Underfunding Public Services and This Weeks Budget Predictions | GUESTS: Matthew Hooton & Brad Olsen (01:48)

RNZ RNZ News at 10pm, May 28 – ACC Chief Executive Trip (01:58)

Stuff The key questions being asked ahead of Budget day

interest.co.nz Finance Minister Nicola Willis will use Budget 2024 to rein in government spending after the pandemic-era boost

RNZ RNZ News at 7am, May 29 – MPs' Expenses (03:23)

RNZ Taxpayers Union questions MP travel spending

NEW POLL: Just 9% of New Zealanders think Grant Robertson’s Wellbeing Budget didn’t spend enough

A new Taxpayers’ Union – Curia poll has revealed that most New Zealanders think that the level of spending in Grant Robertson’s 2019 Wellbeing Budget was about right or too high. Tomorrow’s budget from Nicola Willis should be compared against this as a pre-Covid baseline.

Voters were asked: “Grant Robertson’s 2019 Wellbeing Budget proposed that government spending should be 29% of GDP – in other words, 29% of New Zealand’s total economy. Do you think this level was too low, about right, or too high.”

34% of respondents said they thought spending was about right, 29% said too high, while just 9% thought it was too low. The remaining 29% were unsure.

The full polling report can be found herewww.taxpayers.org.nz/wellbeingbudgetpoll 

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

“After criticising Labour for six years over their big spending budgets, Nicola Willis’s first real opportunity to make her mark as Finance Minister looks set to make Grant Robertson look like a fiscal hawk.

“In the much-hyped Wellbeing Budget of 2019, Grant Robertson set a target of Government spending being 28.8% by 2023. While this obviously shot up during the pandemic, it seems National is happy for this emergency extra spending to become the norm by only seeking to get spending back down to 30%.

“This poll makes it clear that New Zealanders want the size of government to be brought back into line. If Nicola Willis is setting a higher spending target than Grant Robertson, there must be something wrong.”

Taxpayers’ Union lays challenge to Nicola Willis ahead of Budget Day

As the Minister of Finance prepares to deliver her first budget to the nation this Thursday, the Taxpayers’ Union has issued a challenge to Nicola Willis to keep her promise of delivering effective tax relief to New Zealanders.

Attached to a letter to Minister Willis was a collection of responses gathered containing how taxpayers would use an additional $49 each week. Responses included contributions towards; rent and mortgage repayments; swimming lessons for grandchildren; and paying for new reading glasses. Others included keeping up with increasing rates and insurance premiums.

In his letter to the Minister, Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, wrote:

“You have made the point several times that personal income tax brackets have not been adjusted for inflation since 2010. In effect, this means the average income earner today is paying $49 more in tax every week, than they would have done had tax brackets kept pace with inflation.  Anything less than $49 per week to the average Kiwi taxpayer, cannot therefore be considered tax relief, but rather a ’tax catch-up.

“In anticipation of Thursday’s budget we asked our supporters what they would do with an $49 extra in their pockets, weekly.  Given the cost of living, the nature of their responses will not surprise you.  They are nevertheless a timely reminder of why it is critical that you deliver on your promise of tax relief.”

Is 40-year-old data is driving key health policy in 2024?

Opinion piece by Jordan Williams

Commentators, the Opposition and media went apoplectic when the new Government repealed Labour’s smoking laws.  Despite being years away from having any effect, these policies, somehow, apparently ‘save thousands.’  The worrying innovation of ‘prophecy-based policymaking’.  

But the same experts who insist upon ‘evidence’ have relied on some of the oldest we’ve seen.  Whether an oversight, or wilful blindness, the much repeated “4,000 to 5,000 who die from smoking every year” seemingly originates from 1981 Census via early to mid-1980s mortality data published in 1988. Policy in 2024 is seemingly driven by data when Sir Robert Muldoon was Prime Minister.

I've always suspected the figure was bogus and self perpetuating. Thanks to the help of an intern and a very good researcher (a retired historian), we've managed to track down, that it's so old, it's laughable (or worse) that it continues to be wheeled out.

ACC Chief Executive must lead from the front with savings

Responding to reports in today’s NZ Herald that ACC chief executive, Megan Main, spent $32,000 of taxpayers’ money on a business class trip to Europe while consulting on nearly 400 job cuts to reduce spending, Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

“While bureaucrats are losing their jobs, it is tone-deaf for executives to be swanning around the world in business class. ACC’s decision to lavishly spend on business-class flights while proposing significant job cuts reeks of the culture of extravagance that stems from the leadership of taxpayer-funded organisations.

“The Chief Executive must lead from the front and change the culture to one of financial prudence. It is simply not realistic to expect bureaucrats to show respect for taxpayer money when their own boss is jaunting around the world.

“There is no doubt that ACC is overbloated and while the proposed cuts are a good start, ACC must go further including cutting back on frivolous executive spending and some of the more questionable multi-million advertising campaigns.

Public Service cuts must be put in context

Responding to numerous reports in media relating to the number of jobs cuts in the Public Service, the Taxpayers’ Union is encouraging the media to put those cuts in context by referencing the more than 18,000 FTE growth in the bureaucracy since 2017, compared with just 3900 proposed redundancies.

The Taxpayers’ Union has released a video putting these cuts in context, alongside a 4-metre high art installation in the Beehive. That video can be watched here: https://youtu.be/yNrkcwafB7M

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

“From 2017 to 2023, the Public Service grew by 18,418 – a 39% increase in just six years.

“But despite the eye-watering growth, core public services have continued to decline. The bloat has seen New Zealanders paying more but getting less.

“The art installation puts Nicola Willis’ proposed cuts in context, highlighting that they are a drop in the ocean compared to the ballooning of the bureaucracy we saw under Grant Robertson. It’s time for Nicola Willis to ignore the crocodile tears of the Unions and opposition parties and go further and faster to cut wasteful spending as promised to voters.”

Taxpayers’ Union launches briefing paper calling for $49 a week tax relief

The Taxpayers’ Union is today releasing its latest briefing paper, entitled $49 Dollars a Week – What Treasury Owes the Average Kiwi.”

This paper explains how much extra income tax a New Zealander on the median salary of $66,196 is paying thanks to bracket creep, compared to when their tax brackets were last adjusted in 2010.

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

“The inflation tax is robbing Kiwis of $49 a week, every single week. No one voted for this, and it’s long past time for the Government put a stop to this backhanded practice.

“Government spending is out of control, and it’s everyday families who get smacked with the bill. People have been paying more and getting less for far too long.

“Nicola Willis promised tax relief in Thursday’s Budget. Anything less than $49 a week is just shortchanging New Zealanders on what they’re owed.”

The first day of the year taxpayers get to work for themselves

Tax Freedom Day will fall at 02:17am Sunday 26th May this year, which means that every cent taxpayers have earnt so far in 2024 has taken by the government in tax. Almost 5 months into the year, Monday 27th May is the first full day where Kiwis get to know that they’re working for themselves and not the government.

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

“When income tax brackets were last adjusted for the vast majority of Kiwis in 2010, Tax Freedom Day would’ve fallen on 18th May. Thanks to bracket creep, Kiwis are now paying with an extra week of their lives every year to prop up a seriously over-bloated bureaucracy.

“Tax Freedom Day keeps slipping back because the average Kiwi is now paying $49 more in income tax than they were when they last had any say in their tax rates. Kiwis need tax relief, but anything less than $49 a week is simply short-changing them.

“Nicola Willis needs to wind the clock back and start moving Tax Freedom Day in the right direction again. It’s time for the Government to get serious about slashing waste to deliver the tax relief promised to New Zealand.”

Taxpayer Talk: Eric Crampton on the growth in Government and Structural Deficit

Eric Crampton

This week on our podcast is a special Budget edition with our friend from the New Zealand Initiative, Eric Crampton.

Eric is the Initiative’s Chief Economist and provides a much welcome voice of reason to counter some the economic illiteracy often espoused by politicians. In this episode, Eric and Jordan discuss what they think the Government should focus on in the budget and what they need to do to wind back the spending that was ratcheted up by Grant Robertson over COVID.

Whether it’s spending, the growth in the number of bureaucrats, or the ‘brutal job cuts’, Eric provides a useful analysis that really puts the union, bureaucracy and opposition fear-mongering into perspective.

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. 

New Wellington billboards throw down $49/week gauntlet for Budget

The Taxpayers’ Union is today launching five billboards around Parliament depicting the Finance Minister riding a piggy bank to emphasise the fact that the average Kiwi needs to see a $49/week tax reduction at next year’s budget in order to reverse 14 years of stealth tax hikes. The billboard text reads, “$49 per week. Anything less isn’t tax relief, it’s shortchanging New Zealanders.”

These billboards are located at five different sites across Wellington’s CBD – Whitmore St, Featherston St, The Terrace, Brandon St, and Wakefield St.

Commenting on the launch of these billboards, Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

“Thanks to the successive Governments’ failure to adjust tax brackets for inflation since 2010, bracket creep has forced Kiwis to pay higher and higher tax rates without them earning more in real terms. For the average worker, this stealth tax hike is an eye-watering $49 each and every week.

“Nicola Willis has been highly critical of this stealth tax, but, as these billboards point out, anything less than $49 a week for the average Kiwi at this year’s Budget will only partially wind back the effects of the last 14 years worth of inflation.

“Our billboards throw down the gauntlet for the Finance Minister to deliver real tax relief for working New Zealanders. Naysayers argue we can’t afford tax relief – that’s bulldust. Since 2017, government spending has increased by 84% and the bureaucracy has grown by more than 18,000 people. The government is spoilt for choice when it comes to potential savings."

An image of the Whitmore St billboard can be found here.

An image of the Brandon St billboard can be found here.

A digital copy of all five design variations can be found here.

REVEALED: Taxpayers fork out $870,000 a year for MBIE staff to do union roles

The Taxpayers’ Union can reveal that taxpayers are forking out at least $871,484 each year for MBIE staff to do union work on taxpayer time.

The secretive arrangement - the creation of which MBIE did not have any correspondence with Ministers - includes two full-time roles paid at least $101,911 each and 125 other roles where employees are able to take between 8 and 64 hours a month off work for union activities.

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

“This is nothing short of a scandal where taxpayers are being forced to fund the operations, and growth, of one of the country’s most powerful lobby groups that regularly engages in overtly political campaigning.

“If the Government was found to be giving paid government positions to groups pushing for smaller government and less wasteful spending the unions and opposition parties would rightly be in uproar. Taxpayers should not be paying for the government to lobby itself.

“If a PSA union membership offers worthwhile benefits to its members, they should have no issue with funding their operations solely from membership dues – instead taxpayers are being forced to pick up the tab to fund the union’s dirty work.

“The fact this agreement was not even briefed to either the previous Labour or current government shows a shocking attitude by MBIE. Taxpayers shouldn’t be paying anything to unions, and the government must urgently step in to put an end to this rort which is happening in countless other departments too.”

NOTES TO EDITORS:
A copy of the OIA response from MBIE can be found here. 

A copy of the MBIE PSA NATIONAL CO-CONVENOR job description can be found here.

A copy of the spreadsheet used to calculate the costs can be downloaded here. 

Nicola Willis must tackle cost of living at next week’s Budget

Commenting on the Reserve Bank of New Zealand holding the Official Cash Rate (OCR) at 5.5%, Taxpayers’ Union Policy and Public Affairs Manager, James Ross, said:

“Sky-high interest rates and the soaring price of household essentials continue to punish Kiwi families, and that won’t change until reckless and inflationary government waste is brought to heel.

“35 months and counting of inflation outside the target range keeps eating away at what’s left of Kiwis’ purchasing power, after 14 years of bracket creep has already left them paying $49 a week more in income tax than they were in 2010.

“Treasury’s recent revelations that New Zealand has a structural deficit prove the government can’t keep borrowing to pay for more waste. The last Finance Minister might’ve been happy to look the other way, but struggling Kiwi families need Nicola Willis to get the books back in the black.”

Labour must walk the talk and join the campaign against corporate welfare

Reacting to today’s Budget Speech from Labour’s Finance spokesperson, Barbara Edmonds, Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

“It is encouraging to see that one of Labour’s stated priorities is to focus on creating ‘a level playing field for small and medium businesses, not preferential treatment for those businesses with the flashest lobbyists’, but this must be matched by action.

“Under the previous Labour Government, hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars were awarded in corporate welfare to the gaming and film sectors, strongly represented by ‘flashy lobbyists’, along with handouts to other large companies like Fonterra, NZ Steel and Z energy. Unfortunately the new Government has decided to continue a large chunk of this. 

“Soundbites are all well and good but unless Labour u-turn on the special and distortionary treatment they championed in government they mean nothing. We will happily assist any Labour MP in drafting a Member’s bill to bring an end to corporate welfare.”


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