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Revealed: Taxpayers cover animal welfare fines for Landcorp farmers

The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union is today calling on Landcorp to stop reimbursing farmers fined for animal welfare offences.

The Taxpayers’ Union requested correspondence pertaining to staff reimbursements of fines paid by Landcorp over the last three years. Landcorp provided information revealing the following:

• A $500 reimbursement for an animal welfare fine for transporting a cow that birthed a calf en route to slaughter on a moving truck.

• A $500 reimbursement for an animal welfare fine for transporting an angus bull which was tender on its forelimbs and sore in all four feet.

• Two $500 reimbursements for animal welfare fines for transporting a calf for slaughter which had contracted tendons in both forelimbs.

Taxpayers’ Union spokesperson Louis Houlbrooke says “A fine is imposed as punishment for breaking the law and should be duly paid by the infringing individual rather than law-abiding taxpayers. We wouldn’t expect a government entity – or a private company – to reimburse its staff for speeding tickets.”

“Paying the fines of farmers who are deemed to have broken the Animal Welfare Act disincentivises them to care for their animals properly. As our state farming entity, Landcorp should be setting the gold standard for the treatment and care of animals. Landcorp’s website asserts a commitment to ‘leading industry standards with exceptional animal care’ but it is hard to see how bailing out farmers for animal welfare offences supports that.”  

“In one instance we discovered, a farm manager sought a waiver of fees after a cow gave birth to a calf on a moving truck en route to slaughter because there was ‘no intent’ for that outcome and only ‘one animal that was sent’ had this experience.”

“In another, a lame calf with contracted tendons was sent to the works unable to walk properly. Landcorp paid the fine because it considered the farm manager had delegated responsibility to a team who lacked the necessary education to know that sending lame animals for slaughter was not permissible. How is that not negligence?”

“We understand that on farms mistakes happen and animals sometimes suffer for it. But we fine farmers for mistakes and negligence so that they have a stinging financial reminder of their duty of care. Letting Landcorp farmers off scot-free isn’t fair on private sector farmers who work hard to maintain standards of care, and it’s certainly not fair on the animals.”

The Taxpayers’ Union enquired whether Landcorp had a general policy of reimbursing farmers when fined for animal welfare offences, and was told Landcorp assessed each fine on a ‘case by case basis’. Landcorp purportedly take account of whether there is ‘individual wrongdoing’ and ‘acceptable mitigating reasons’ in deciding whether a farmer should be reimbursed. However, Landcorp was unable to provide any correspondence surrounding fines for which it considered reimbursement but ultimately did not pay.

Source documents:

Taxpayers' Union correspondence with Landcorp 

Internal Landcorp emails and infringement notices 


Election 2020: Whisky, Tango, Foxtrot

The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union is reacting with surprise and horror after being accidentally sent the results of tomorrow’s election.

Acting Labour Party General Secretary Rob Salmond inadvertently included your humble Taxpayers’ Union on their union mailing list this year. Traditionally, unions receive advance notice of the election results they have spent so much time and money on.

Election analyst and failed pundit Neil Miller said: “Obviously we were, to use a technical term, completely and utterly gobsmacked by the new Labour and Advance NZ government.”

He is currently reviewing the 2-page coalition agreement – which appears to be mainly 90s clip art – and the 471-page secret annex which has all the good stuff in it.

Campaigns Manager and Frankie Boyle lookalike Louis Houlbrooke added: “Obviously Jacinda Ardern will remain Prime Minister until her job at the United Nations opens up. Kelvin Davis becomes Deputy Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister only. His sole official role is limited to ‘looking good in the background during media standups.’”

Ms Ardern revealed Advance NZ was not seriously considered for the deputy role saying: ‘Billy is too crazy even for me, and Jami-Lee is just too… eww.” She then frantically washed her hands for ten minutes after just saying his name.

There are other changes to the Ministerial lineup.

Megan Woods picks up Davis’ Tourism portfolio. It is in mint condition because it has hardly been used. She also gains another minor portfolio in Social Development. She is demoted to number 8 in the Cabinet to, in Ardern’s words, “enable her to focus on her portfolios”. Such kindness.

Chris Hipkins gains Youth Affairs, Foreign Affairs, Veterans Affairs and Ethnic Affairs. He has been shifted to number 16 because, in Ardern’s words, “Christopher John is just a little ambitious for my liking."

Phil Twyford sheds the few remaining portfolios he had in order to become new Minister of Administrative State Services (ASS). Union analysis indicates this is basically Minister of Internal Affairs with particular responsibility for cleaning the Prime Minister’s pictures of (Saint) Michael Joseph Savage on a daily basis.

Twyford has also been promoted to number 3 in Cabinet. Ms Ardern said: “Phil would have been higher but he cannot beat Kelvin’s legendary work ethic, and he’s not bloody having my job."

The unexpectedly large Advance NZ caucus is still in the ‘getting to know you’ stage. Union spies (ok, it was Porky the Waste-hater in sunglasses and a trenchcoat, and worryingly nothing else) report the most common question in caucus is “who the heck are you?” There was also a moment of embarrassment when an errant Parliamentary Security guard was briefly appointed Under-Secretary for Revenue.

Jami-Lee Ross’s bid to become the first Minister for Sundry Affairs was met with universal hilarity.

Billy te Kahika declined all Ministerial posts, not that he was actually offered any. He justified his position saying: “Being a Minister of the Crown would mean ‘they’ would know where I was at all times.”

Sean Plunket astutely asked: “Who exactly are ‘they’? And why would they be interested in a second-rate Antipodean fruit loop?” Billy shot back: “Oh you know who ‘they’ are Sean - if that is your real name. You are one of ‘them’. You all are!” He then put on his favourite tin foil hat, pulled out his 5G cellphone, and made a collect call to the World Zionist Banking Conspiracy.

Asked how the Taxpayers’ Union would deal with such an unusual Government, Executive Director and serial litigant Jordan Williams in his usual chair at Rosie's Cafe in Parnell sobbed into his Double Ristretto Venti Half-Soy Nonfat Decaf Organic Chocolate Brownie Iced Vanilla Double-Shot Gingerbread Frappuccino Extra Hot With Foam Whipped Cream Upside Down Double Blended coffee.

“How the hell did this happen?” he lamented.

Op-ed: AAP needs to fact check itself

Neil MillerThe following is an op-ed by Taxpayers' Union Analyst Neil Miller.

During modern election campaigns there is an increasing emphasis on “fact checking” political statements across the spectrum. Companies have sprung up all over the world to judge the accuracy (or otherwise) of what politicians say on the campaign trail. AAP Fact Checker is the most prominent and prolific organisation of this nature in New Zealand.

The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union is aware of growing international concern that fact checkers are moving well beyond data into politics, even to the point of partisanship in some cases. We decided to analyse the last ten fact checks by AAP Fact Check to find the answers to three questions:

  1. Who did they choose to fact check?
  2. Were the criteria for judgement applied consistently and fairly?
  3. Was there any instances of partisanship or spin?

If you only looked at the numbers, you could be forgiven for thinking that Judith Collins was Prime Minister and National was the largest party in Parliament. Judith Collins was fact checked five times compared to Jacinda Ardern’s two. The other three articles all focused on National MPs (Paul Goldsmith, Jonathan Young, and Simeon Brown). No other Government MPs were fact checked.

That means that 80% of fact checks were on National MPs, and Collins received more than twice as many checks as Ardern. To an independent organisation such as the Taxpayers’ Union, that does not seem balanced.

We move now to the case that really caught our eye. Simeon Brown’s statement on renewable electricity being judged “misleading”, even though all the figures the quoted were correct to the decimal point. We may be naïve idealists, but figures which are true are facts in our book.
Not so, it seems, at AAP Fact Check. They found an academic who opined that the good results under National and poor results under Labour had “largely been independent of government policy.” That is not a fact – that is a matter for political debate around causality and the influence of Government.

However, having introduced this new causality test, we expected it to be applied rigorously. The fact check of Jacinda Ardern’s comment regarding child poverty made no reference to the Government’s power to influence the figures. The test was not applied.

Next, the Prime Minister got credit for getting the numbers “roughly right”, while Brown was called misleading for getting them exactly right, and Collins was criticised for getting state house waiting list numbers “close to the mark with both figures she quoted, but not 100 per cent accurate.” She rounded the figures up. Politicians do that. A lot. There seems to be very different standards applied here as well.

At times, the Fact Check reads more like a political press release. For example, Ardern’s office was allowed to explain what the Prime Minister actually “meant” in her child poverty comments. A luxury that was not extended to others on the list.

The Prime Minister was also fact checked on her claim that Police numbers went down when Judith Collins was Minister of Police. Despite reporting that “NZ Police data shows actual police numbers rose between 2008 and 2016, during which time Ms Collins served two distinct periods as police minister,” the AAP went out of their way to find a wrinkle.

Triumphantly they wrote “when police numbers are described as an officer to resident ratio, they show an improvement during Ms Collins’ first period as police minister (from 1/519 in 2008 to 1/507 in 2011). However, during Ms Collins’ second run as police minister, population growth in NZ largely outstripped the growth in police numbers (1/514 in 2015 to 1/526 in 2016). This is also true when you compare police to resident ratios for 2008 to the same data for 2016.”

As a result, they concluded the Prime Minister’s statement “does contain a significant element or elements of truth.” This is despite the inconvenient fact that Jacinda Ardern‘s statement which was being checked made absolutely no reference to officer to resident ratios. It talked about Police numbers which, again perhaps naively, we assumed to mean the actual number of Police which, factually speaking, went up under The Crusher.

This example is closer to political spin than fact checking. It adds in a new element never mentioned in the original quote and certainly not what the average person would think of when they heard Police numbers.

When they stick to their core job of checking facts (the company name should be a giveaway), they can do a very valuable job. AAP Fact Check looked into David Seymour’s claim that Labour took “$6 billion surplus to a billion-dollar deficit in only two years before Covid happened." They found it was “mostly true”.

Working from Treasury papers, the surplus was $5.5b (not $6b) and the deficit was $0.9b (not $1b). AAP Fact Check concluded: “While there are minor inaccuracies in the numbers he quoted, Seymour's comments were broadly in line with budget figures reported by New Zealand Treasury.”

Now that is how you fact check properly. Just the facts. Shame it was only one out of ten checks.

The AAP Fact Checker should no longer be taken as fact in this campaign.

Op-ed: Asset tax will hit far more than six percent of New Zealanders

IslayThe following is an op-ed by Islay Aitchison, Research Officer at the Taxpayers' Union and spokesperson for the Campaign for Affordable Home Ownership.

While Labour has tried to rule out the Green Party's “wealth tax” policy, James Shaw has described those efforts as “not credible” — so at least according to the Green Party, an asset tax is on the table this election. The Greens have claimed that only the wealthiest six percent of New Zealanders would be hit by the tax, but is that accurate?
Any individual with net assets exceeding $1 million would be hit by the tax. While that sounds like a lot of money, many New Zealanders will exceed that in their lifetimes. According to REINZ, the median house price in Auckland was $950,000 in August — in other words, an individual with even modest retirement savings and a mortgage-free home in Auckland should expect to be paying the wealth tax by the time they retire.
At minimum, census data suggests approximately 45 percent of Aucklanders — that's 15 percent of the country's population — own their own home. Once mortgage-free, most of those households would find themselves liable for the tax. Many homeowners and entrepreneurs outside of Auckland would be affected by the tax as well.
Official statistics indicate far more than six percent of New Zealanders would be affected. Analysis of Stats NZ net wealth data by Eric Crampton of the New Zealand Initiative suggests 20 percent of 66–69 year-olds have net wealth exceeding $1 million. Our own analysis of Household Economic Survey data indicates 21.6% of households had net wealth exceeding $1 million as of 2018.
While the Green Party's threshold is higher for couples, it would fall again for a retiree once his or her partner passes away. Many would find themselves burdened by the tax even if they had previously fallen below the threshold while their partners were alive.
Even the $1 million threshold is something of a false promise. Due the effect of inflation, the thresholds would effectively become lower over time, pulling New Zealanders who are less wealthy into the scope of the tax.
Most importantly, a wealth tax wouldn't just tax our homes and retirement savings — it would punish the economy just as we are recovering from COVID-19. We all rely on strong levels of investment and economic growth to provide good jobs and wages. A tax on assets would punish productive investment and keep Kiwi workers in low-wage jobs, with very little hope of a better standard of living.
The Green Party's claim that only a small number of New Zealanders would be affected by their plan to tax wealth is unfair and inaccurate. Many households would be affected by the tax once they pay off their mortgage and retire or after their partner passes away. Many more households would be affected by the lower rates of investment and comparatively lower incomes it would cause.

Revealed: Nearly three quarters of Kiwis oppose an asset tax

Poll graph

Polling released today by the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union reveals that 72 percent of New Zealanders oppose an asset tax or “wealth tax”.

Exclusive polling by Curia Market Research commissioned by the Taxpayers’ Union asked respondents, “Do you think there should be a tax that people pay on assets such as houses, cars and KiwiSaver accounts, additional to the existing income tax?

Seventy-two percent said no, 13 percent were unsure, and just 16 percent supported the tax.

Enthusiasm for the tax was particularly low in rural areas, with just 10 percent in support. And even in the most deprived areas a clear majority of respondents opposed the tax.

Islay Aitchison, spokesperson for the Campaign for Affordable Home Ownership, says, “A tax on assets, as advocated by the Green Party, appears to be even less popular than the failed capital gains tax.”

“New Zealanders’ wariness of a wealth tax is well-placed. Such a tax will discourage local investment, sending wealth offshore and making future generations poorer.”

“The polling was on the principle of a tax on assets, not the specific proposed tax by the Green Party. We think opposition would be even higher if voters were aware of the fishhooks in the Green Party’s specific policy. For example, some New Zealanders would find themselves whacked by the tax following the death of their partner, when the tax-free threshold is lowered from $2 million in assets to $1 million. The tax will even apply to a bach or nest egg held by a family trust.”

“Disturbingly, under MMP we could still see this unpopular and unfair tax forced into legislation by the Green Party. They’ve called the tax a ‘top priority’, and current polling suggests they’ll hold the balance of power, meaning they’re in a position to make demands from the Prime Minister.”

The polling covered a sample of 1080 respondents, with a 3.0% margin of error and was conducted between 22 September and 24 September.

Public Service Commissioner intervenes over Oranga Tamariki video

The New Zealand Taxpayers' Union is welcoming intervention from the Public Services Commissioner over a video produced by Oranga Tamariki which appeared to endorse Hon Tracey Martin.

In a response to a complaint from the Union, Commissioner Peter Hughes explained, "In this situation, in my view the content of the video could be interpreted as political endorsement of the Minister and government policies and that is not appropriate."

"I have discussed this matter with the Chief Executive of Oranga Tamariki, Mrs Gráinne Moss. She is clear about the need to uphold neutrality in her agency and regrets that the video created the potential for that to be called into question on this occasion. The video has also been taken down."

Union spokesman Jordan Williams says, "We fund Oranga Tamariki to deliver important services for children, not to produce propaganda for its current political master. Public Sector neutrality is especially important this close to an election, so we welcome the Commissioner's intervention and suggest that other agencies take it as a warning."

Election campaign launched: Tax Relief Now!

Today the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union launches its nationwide election campaign for Tax Relief Now.

Between now and Election Day we will be making the case for tax relief as the main plank of the economic recovery. We see a basic choice this election: Government-led stimulus spending or a recovery that’s led by consumers and businesses.

Government spending is often wasteful, unfair, and puts politicians and bureaucrats in charge of the recovery. Just look at Creative New Zealand responding to COVID-19 with grants for indigenised hypno-soundscapes, or how tourism grants have propped up a handful of lucky businesses while others languish without support.

In contrast, tax relief will reward productive work, it will help all businesses, it will grow the economy and put taxpayers in the box-seat of the recovery.

Crucially, tax relief now will put a rocket under economic growth – making the huge debts we have accumulated far more manageable.

Yesterday a full-page advertisement appeared in the Herald on Sunday highlighting recent examples of wasteful government spending. Further advertisements will appear in print and online.

The campaign website at includes a Taxpayer Scorecard, which evaluates political parties based on their commitments to deliver tax relief. This will feature in future advertisements.

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