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Taxpayer Update: Where your money went | Clean car propaganda | Higher ETS levies

Dear Supporter,

Exposed: how the Government exploited COVID-19 to spend more of your money

Since my last newsletter, the Taxpayers’ Union has continued to expose how the Government has frittered away the $62 billion COVID-19 response fund.

The COVID response fund was 20 times larger than Shane Jones’s infamous Provincial Growth fund, and yet even before the current lock down, Grant Robertson had whittled it down from $62 billion to a measly $5 billion.

COVID meme

So, what happened to the money?

Grant Robertson is trying to tell New Zealanders that the money went toward essential business support like the wage subsidy. In reality, wage subsidies made up less than a quarter of the spending.

Below are some examples of how the money was actually spent. Judge for yourself whether this spending really has anything to do with COVID-19.

  • Flood protection in the Far North: $12,500,000

  • Cameras on fishing boats: $26,600,000

  • "Regional digital connectivity": $50,000,000

  • Horse racing: $52,500,000

  • "Public Interest" Journalism: $55,000,000

  • Internet modems for students: $87,000,000 (even Mike Hosking’s kid got one)

  • Affordable housing projects: $100,000,000

  • "Transformative energy" projects: $155,000,000

  • Various large-scale construction projects: $180,000,000

  • Construction of one building at the University of Auckland: $200,000,000

  • "Climate resilience" projects: $210,000,000

  • Arts grants: $374,000,000 (e.g. $17 million for art therapy clinics)

  • School lunches: $515,800,000 (yes, half a billion dollars)

  • "Jobs for Nature": $1,219,000,000 (e.g. the infamous wallaby-culling job creation scheme, which cost $200,000 per low-paying job created)

In short, the Government abused New Zealanders’ trust, exploiting a pandemic to establish New Zealand’s largest-ever political slush fund.

Following our work exposing this abuse of the COVID fund,it's good to see the Opposition parties now picking up our examples and pushing them hard in the media.

With a new lockdown imposing massive costs on businesses, households, and taxpayers, there is a real risk that the money will run out. Grant Robertson now claims that he can claw back some of the funding that was allocated but not spent – that’s almost an admission that he misused the fund.

But he’s also talking down the problem of the dwindling fund, saying that New Zealand’s overall economic position is better than expected. That’s code for: don’t worry, I'll just keep borrowing.

Revealed: Government spends $183,000 advertising 'Clean Car Discount'

You might have noticed recently full-page ads like this in the newspaper:

Clean car ad

Notice how the ad is all about the discount on EVs, and completely ignores the other side of the policy: new fees on petrol vehicles.

This ad was funded by taxpayers. In fact, as we revealed to Radio New Zealand's Morning Report, the New Zealand Transport Agency has spent a total of $183,751 advertising its “Clean Car Discount”.

What a pointless exercise in self-promotion. The amount of media attention this feebate scheme has received since it was announced has surpassed anything NZTA might hope to achieve through paid advertising.

Regardless, retailers of low-emissions vehicles already have an incentive to promote the discount themselves. If the widely-publicised discount is failing to attract people to electric vehicles, that suggests a problem with the policy itself.

The most egregious part of this campaign is the $34,000 allocated for 'content partnerships' with Stuff and NZME. In other words, NZTA is buying positive media coverage. You can view the taxpayer-funded fake news story here.

This raises serious questions about the independence of the media. How can a media outlet effectively scrutinise a policy when at the same time they're paid to promote it?

This campaign isn’t just wasteful – it’s misleading. The ads say the discount will help you 'do your bit to help get New Zealand to carbon neutral'. A simple understanding of New Zealand's Emissions Trading Scheme shows that choosing an EV over a petrol vehicle just frees up emissions to be produced elsewhere under the cap. Buying an electric vehicle might reduce the emissions for your household – but claiming it cuts New Zealand's overall emissions is greenwashing. NZTA should do better.

Higher fuel levies are coming: so why introduce a ute tax?

James Shaw

With the headlines dominated by COVID-19, an important story escaped attention: motorists are set to pay more in ETS levies at the pump. That’s because the Government is lifting the price cap on carbon credits.

ETS levies are nothing new. But this latest move raises an obvious question: if the Government can reduce transport emissions with the ETS, why is it bothering with the new ute tax?

The ute tax is paid in addition to the ETS levies you pay at the pump, making it a double tax.

At least ETS levies are fair – the cost to the taxpayer is proportionate to the amount of emissions produced. In contrast, the planned ute tax unfairly whacks a minority of New Zealanders with disproportionate costs. It's less about reducing emissions and more about bullying ute drivers into lifestyle change – costs and practicality be damned.

Climate Change Minister James Shaw needs to explain to his colleagues that, because we have an ETS, we can scrap the ute tax, along with the other costly and pointless regulatory interventions proposed by the Climate Change Commission.

Fire service wastes money, then runs out of fire trucks

Ladder trucks

Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ) has a major problem: its fire trucks are breaking down, and it doesn’t have any plans to replace them.

FENZ does not have a funding shortage. In fact, its latest annual report reveals that it collected $13 million more in revenue from the fire services levy than it had forecast for the financial year.

The problem here is a failure to focus spending on the things that matter. A research paper we released last year found that the merger of urban and rural fire services led to massive cost blowouts in back-office bureaucracy.

The department’s culture of wasteful spending appears to have been solidified by the merger. We revealed the rebranding alone for that merger came with a $6.2 million price tag.

Graphic

Meanwhile, new fire stations, even in small communities, have been gold-plated with extra bays, kitchen facilities, and training rooms. Lake Okareka's station cost $1.9 million, Wanaka's $4 million. FENZ's newest fire station in Athol, a community of 87 people, cost $1.6 million – an incredible $46,000 per resident. Admittedly in that case, FENZ was able to swindle most of the station's cost out of the Government's COVID response fund, not that they needed the extra money.

FENZ does not have to justify wasteful spending to Cabinet, as it collects revenue through the fire insurance levy, bypassing the Budget bid process. We’re urging the Government to switch to a more accountable funding model as part of the current review into FENZ's funding.

A very strange new government job

A now-deleted job ad reveals that the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet is hiring someone specifically to track "disinformation".

DisinformationClick here to view a larger version of this image.

This sounds Orwellian, to say the least. Who gets to decide what counts as disinformation?

DPMC of course reports to the Prime Minister's office.

Taxpayer Talk: 'Aoteanomics' – the latest public sector fad

Leading public sector bosses are increasingly dismissing the importance of productivity, preferring to focus on broader concepts of "wellbeing". Some have called this new way of thinking "Aoteanomics".

In our latest episode of our Taxpayer Talk podcast series, I was joined by Professor Robert MacCulloch of Auckland University to find out what exactly Aoteanomics is, and why such a radical shift in public sector thinking has escaped public debate.

Click here to listen to the podcast.

Alternative, find and subscribe to Taxpayer Talk via Apple PodcastsSpotifyGoogle PodcastsiHeart Radio and wherever good podcasts are sold.

A final message from the Taxpayers' Union propaganda communications department

UniteClick here to share this on Facebook.

We hope you and your family are doing OK in the current lockdown. Fingers crossed for a great weekend at home.

Louis circle


Louis Houlbrooke
Campaigns Manager
New Zealand Taxpayers' Union

Donate

Media coverage:

RNZ  $180k Clean Car Discount ads a waste of money - Taxpayers' Union

Stuff  Timaru District Council says staff turnover below national rate

RNZ  The Weekend Panel with Lavina Good and Louis Houlbrooke

Newshub  Grant Robertson says strong economy means there's enough money to get us through another lockdown

NZ Initiative  Get it done

Revealed: Government spends $183,000 advertising 'Clean Car Discount'

Clean car ad
The New Zealand Transport Agency (Waka Kotahi) has spent $183,751 advertising its Clean Car Discount, reveals the 
New Zealand Taxpayers' Union.

An official information response shows the advertising campaign was developed by Clemenger BBDO and ran for most of July including print, radio, posters, flyers, Google ads, and "content partnerships".

What a pointless exercise in self-promotion. The amount of media attention this feebate scheme has received since it was announced has surpassed anything NZTA might hope to achieve through paid advertising.

Regardless, retailers of low-emissions vehicles already have an incentive to promote the discount themselves. If the widely-publicised discount is failing to attract people to electric vehicles, that suggests a problem with the policy itself.

The most egregious part of this campaign is the $34,000 allocated for 'content partnerships' with Stuff and NZME. In other words, NZTA is buying positive media coverage. This raises serious questions about the independence of the media. How can a media outlet effectively scrutinise a policy when at the same time they're paid to promote it?

Examples of the advertisements can be viewed here and here (bottom right). The online ‘content partnership’ can be viewed here.

The ads weren't just wasteful but misleading, saying that the scheme would help you 'do your bit to help get New Zealand to carbon neutral'. Anyone with a basic understanding of climate policy knows that in New Zealand carbon emissions are capped and traded, so choosing an EV over a petrol vehicle just frees up emissions to be produced elsewhere under the cap.

Taxpayer Update: What on earth happened to the COVID-19 response fund?

Dear Supporter,

None of us can know what the coming weeks will bring, but like the first time around, the Taxpayers' Union team is working from home laser-focused on demanding more efficient spending in Wellington.

Lockdowns – and their inevitable economic consequences – make every dollar of taxpayer money even more precious. 

Grant Robertson is again dipping into his $50 billion COVID-19 response fund to keep businesses afloat with wage subsidies. But there's a big problem: most of the fund has already been allocated to projects announced last year. Remember horse tracks for COVID? "Jobs for Nature" – which cost $200,000 per low-paying job created?

We hate to say "told you so", but all that dipping into the rainy-day-fund now looks very silly. Today's newsletter has some more examples.

Remember: this is all borrowed money, set to be repaid by future generations of taxpayers with interest.

Government spends $17 million fighting COVID with art therapy

Art image

I wish we were joking. Minister Carmel Sepuloni is spending $17 million on "creative spaces" for "marginalised" New Zealanders to "build up their confidence and self-esteem" and gain "a sense of fulfilment".

You can browse the full list of grants here.

The money comes from Creative NZ's $374 million ‘Arts and Culture COVID Recovery Programme’, part of the overall COVID response fund.

We've previously highlighted dodgy COVID-19 arts grants, but at least they had a vague link to the pandemic (i.e. projects that could be progressed during lockdown). Now, Creative NZ is just grifting us.

Sorry to say it, but art therapy is not an established inoculant for COVID-19. Nor does art therapy work as an economic response to the pandemic when there are so many more vital projects in health and infrastructure.

If the Government really wants to throw hundreds of millions of dollars at art projects, so be it – but at least drop the pretense that this has anything to do with COVID-19.

Taxpayers fund a nasty diatribe accusing National MP of racism

Newsroom poem

Here's another howler from Creative NZ.

You might remember how they're funding a series of poorly-written political poems for Newsroom. The latest taxpayer-funded effort from Victor Billot characterises National MP Simeon Brown as a far-right colonialist lamenting “natives refusing to die off”.

It's a nasty, slanderous diatribe. And like the grants above, this poem is technically part of the Government's COVID-19 response!

We say Creative NZ shouldn't be funding any political material. But the arts agency has grown out of control, frenzied on an injection of taxpayer funding post-COVID. They’ve hijacked a crisis in order to commission reactionary woke propaganda.

Revealed: Health Research Council throwing millions at woke nonsense

HRC grant image

Health Minister Andrew Little is crowing about the latest round of taxpayer-funded research grants handed out by the Health Research Council.

He probably wasn't expecting anyone to look at the grants too closely but your humble Taxpayers' Union did.

Here are some highlights:

  • $1.2 million examining the lived experiences of intersectional ethnic minority youth

  • $5 million on iwi-led research explaining how partnership models can improve the health system

  • $1.1 million using the lunar calendar to help Māori connect with their environment

  • $387,000 providing gay teenagers with “decolonising and mātauranga Māori-informed bodies of knowledge”

  • $258,000 to “decolonise the western construct of pharmacist services”

  • $150,000 to design a virtual reality video game about foetal alcohol syndrome

This spending is an insult to New Zealand's COVID-19 response. In fact, only a tiny fraction of the projects have anything to do with the pandemic or vaccinations.

Frankly, it's disgraceful that research in the hard medical sciences is forced to compete for the same pool of funding as vague and uber-PC academic papers about decolonisation, intersectionality, and traditional Māori knowledge.

Click here to find a list of 2021's dodgiest health research grants.

(Trigger warning: the official project summaries contain serious academic gobbledygook).

Amazon ditches New Zealand: taxpayers got played

Jeff Bezos

Remember how the Government offered $162 million to Amazon so they'd film their Lord of the Rings TV series here?

That decision was justified on the basis that Amazon could bring another four TV seasons and even a spinoff series to New Zealand. But now, after just one season in New Zealand, Amazon is shifting production to the UK.

The Government has now learned firsthand why Jeff Bezos is the richest man on Earth. Amazon successfully played the New Zealand and UK governments off each other to secure one massive handout after another.

As we’ve warned time and time again, the only way to win the film subsidy game is to not play. Both National and Labour-led Governments have naively been drawn into taxpayer-funded bidding wars to woo film productions. The truth is that we cannot outbid richer countries forever.

We're sending a wreath to our friends at the UK TaxPayers’ Alliance in commiserations for the massive sum that Britain's taxpayers will be forking out to appease Amazon.

It's Tim to say goodbye

Sir Tim Shadbolt is New Zealand’s longest serving Mayor, certainly one of the best known, and definitely one of the most beloved, both in his home of Invercargill and around the country.

But a recent video of an extraordinary council meeting reveals the sad truth: Sir Tim is no longer capable of doing his job.

Meeting video

Repeatedly, faced with basic procedural motions, councillors are forced to explain: “Your Worship, we have already voted on that”.

This is not a one-off bad day. Six months ago, the Thomson Report, commissioned after the Department of Internal Affairs raised concerns about troubles at the Invercargill City Council described "obvious concerns including short term memory deficits, confusion, and the need to be closely managed ... increasing incidents of embarrassment during meetings which a, generally, compassionate Council has done their best to hide from the general public."

In the past we've given Sir Tim stick for his odd spending habits, but this is sadder and more serious. His ratepayers deserve capable representation. We like Sir Tim, and it's not easy to say this, but you only need watch the video above to appreciate that he needs to stand down.

Meanwhile in Christchurch...

Chch bridge

Here's a great example from Christchurch of how art, engineering, and other people’s money are a dangerous mix.

In 2017, Crown agency Otakaro spent $90,000 on a competition to design a pedestrian bridge, only to scrap all the submissions due concerns over maintenance costs.

Then, facing backlash from local artists, they engaged Ngāi Tahu to design flax-inspired ‘decorative elements’ for the bridge. Now, before the bridge has even opened, the decorative balustrades are *rusting* and require remedial work. The agency’s excuse: it rained last month!

This should have been a small project. But it’s now cost taxpayers $3.1 million, and we still don’t have an opening date for the bridge. What a shambles.

MPs, Councillors appear on our podcast

Our Researcher, Max, continues to crank out episodes of Taxpayer Talk. Here are some our recent guests:

Make sure you don't miss fresh episodes by subscribing to Taxpayer Talk via Apple PodcastsSpotifyGoogle PodcastsiHeart Radio and wherever good podcasts are sold.

All the best,

Louis circle


Louis Houlbrooke
Campaigns Manager
New Zealand Taxpayers' Union

Donate

Media coverage:

Kiwiblog  
Guest Post: It’s Tim to say goodbye

Newshub  
Lord of the Rings TV show: Minister under fire for not securing second season pledge

Offsetting Behaviour  Afternoon roundup

Rotorua Daily Post  Rotorua Lakes Council owed $4.6 million in unpaid rates for past financial year

Sunday Star-Times  The scourge of the celebrity CEO

Rural News
  How Much?

 

Op-ed: Minister's righteous frustration at enormous spending for mediocre results

Andrew Little

The following is an opinion piece by Taxpayers' Union analyst Neil Miller. It is free for publication.

Andrew Little is frustrated at the health system – again, that’s hardly news these days – but this time he has a very good point. Facing an incredibly hostile crowd of GPs at their conference, the Minister of Health said he was struggling to get his head around the fact the government pumped billions of extra dollars into the health system, and “the same pressures that were evident three years ago are evident now”.

How do you spend billions of taxpayer dollars on health and not see any practical outcomes for New Zealanders? It is a question that Little should be asking of his predecessors Dr David Clark and Chris Hipkins, and, frankly, of himself.

Labour has controlled the health portfolio for four years, controlled the budget for four years. This is not a problem inherited from the fabled “nine long years of neglect” under National. In fact, Labour just stole one of National’s central health policies – measuring results – after having abolished it immediately upon becoming Government. 

The answer to Little’s conundrum is unfortunately simple. Labour Health Ministers have been almost exclusively focused on money. That money provides slogans, billboards, election adverts, infographics, talking points for interviews, and nice-looking graphs for the media. What successive Health Ministers should have been asking was: “What improvements are actual patients seeing from all this expenditure?” That bit fell off the radar.

The attitude of “make a policy announcement, give lots of money, then presume everything else goes well” is not good enough for such a large and important portfolio. For every taxpayer dollar taken, 20 cents goes to Health. It is not pocket change and Ministers need to follow up on results.

The Government’s announcement of 12 health indicators is a step in the right direction, even if they are largely restoring measurements that they previously dumped. Let us hope this reflects a shift in focus to outputs and outcomes, not raw spending.

Unfortunately, in this modern media environment, perhaps the enduring quote from the announcement was Minister Little telling reporters that he's "not here to be licked up and down". The Taxpayers’ Union office is deeply divided on what this actually meant. His office has been contacted for official clarification.

Health Research Council throwing millions at woke nonsense

HRC grant image

The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union is challenging the value of the latest round of research grants funded by the Health Research Council.

Comparing to last year’s grants, we’ve noticed a big shift towards ‘wellbeing’-centred research that is often, frankly, woke nonsense. Research in the hard medical sciences is forced to compete for the same pool of funding as vague and uber-PC academic papers about decolonisation, intersectionality, and traditional Māori knowledge.

Examples of grants approved in 2021 include:

•  $1.2 million examining the lived experiences of intersectional ethnic minority youth

•  $5 million on iwi-led research explaining how partnership models can improve the health system

•  $1.1 million using the lunar calendar to help Māori connect with their environment

•  $387,000 providing gay teenagers with “decolonising and mātauranga Māori-informed bodies of knowledge”

•  $258,000 to “decolonise the western construct of pharmacist services”

•  $150,000 to design a virtual reality video game about foetal alcohol syndrome

This spending is an insult to New Zealanders stuck in surgery wait lists or seeking access to life-saving drugs. Deep down, Andrew Little must know this is an embarrassing use of taxpayer funds. It’s telling that he opened his statement about the grants by praising the research on cancer, diabetes, and heart disease, conspicuously skipping over the millions handed out to projects that would be received with derision by New Zealanders navigating our bureaucratic health system.

Inevitably, the vested interests profiting from this funding will accuse us of unfairly targeting ‘diversity’ focused grants. But it’s simply the case that intersectionality and ‘mātauranga Māori’ dominates the list of projects. If we ignored the woke grants, there wouldn’t be many left!

The most incredible part of this spending is that’s it’s happening during a global pandemic. You’d think the Health Research Council would be focused on that, but of the 173 grants awarded this year, only seven mention COVID-19.

The Health Research Council gives out around $126 million in funding per year. Below is a list of questionable grants from this year.

Intersectional ethnic minority youth: harnessing creativity for health gains
Approved budget: $1,199,984
our study engages with Asian, Middle Eastern, Latin American and African youth to explore how their varying social identities, including gender diversity, sexuality, migration, and interactions with health, education and social sectors, intersect with their lived experiences of being from non-dominant ethnic groups.

Kia puawai ake ngā uri whakatupu: flourishing future generations
Approved budget: $4,999,949.60
This collaborative programme of research, hosted by an iwi-owned research centre, comprises an integrated suite of Māori-led studies that seek to contribute to the achievement of equitable health outcomes. The programme will explore the positive change that can occur when Māori have the opportunity to drive solutions and work in authentic partnership models.

Te Maramataka - restoring 'health' by reconnecting with Te Taiao
Approved budget: $1,125,097.05
The maramataka [lunar calendar] is a system our tūpuna used to connect environmental tohu to certain activities – some days were better for intense work, while others were considered ideal for rest and ‘giving back’. … This study aims to … co-design a maramataka-based ‘intervention’ that will support Māori to connect with te taiao [the environment] in uniquely Māori ways

Kia taiohi te tū
Approved budget: $386,985.00
Little is known about the needs and experiences of taiohi [teenagers] growing up in te reo Māori-speaking whānau and with regard to intimate relationships, gender and sexualities. … This kaupapa Māori research is a mana whānau project which aims to build whānau-centred bodies of knowledge that incorporate the successes and challenges whānau are experiencing in using mātauranga Māori [Māori knowledge] to support taiohi on their journeys. … providing access to decolonising and mātauranga Māori-informed bodies of knowledge.

He tono whakapiki ora: Whānau and pharmacists’ knowledge exchange
Approved budget: $258,471.00
Informed by a kaupapa Māori paradigm, the research will examine the intersect between pharmacists and mātauranga Māori [Māori knowledge] in a contemporary context to attempt to decolonise the western construct of pharmacist services.

Walk a mile in their shoes - Developing a virtual reality experience of FASD
Approved budget: $150,000.00
We propose to 1) use novel data collection methods to capture everyday lived experiences of FASD [Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder] individuals, and 2) using the data gathered, develop and test if the VR game can raise awareness and foster positive attitudes toward individuals with FASD.

Exploring the role of Tongan faith leaders in influencing wellbeing
Approved budget: $84,033.00
The proposed doctoral study will investigate the role of faith leaders in influencing the wellbeing of Tongan people living in Aotearoa.

Te Kura Mai i Tawhiti - kaupapa Māori early years provision and health outcomes
Approved budget: $1,199,860.64
Our proposed research is led by Māori and draws on mātauranga Māori and Western science. … Findings will help address the need for proven interventions for tamariki Māori that strengthen culturally relevant positive behaviours and can be rolled out nationally.

Aho Tapairu: Developing a mana wahine wellbeing toolkit
Approved budget: $394,035
I am a kaupapa Māori mana wahine researcher committed to projects motivated by decolonial and transformatory agendas. My background is in revitalising customary Māori knowledge as healing interventions for Māori women and their whānau today. … I am also committed to overturning derogatory colonial redefinitions of Māori femininity that leads to poor sexual and reproductive health outcomes for Māori women and girls. … I will also create a framework for Māori women to recover their own tikanga and ceremony as healing interventions.

Pacific Islands Families: Thriving Pacific Young Adults
Approved budget: $1,199,365.95
The Pacific Islands Families: Thriving Pacific Young Adults (PIF: TPYA) study seeks to explore how cultural identity, family functioning, and employment impact the mental wellbeing of a cohort of 850 Pacific young adults (aged 22 years).

A kaupapa Māori analysis of Māori cannabis and methamphetamine use
Approved budget: $554,400
I have a deep commitment to improving Māori health outcomes through kaupapa Māori health research. This is reflected in my career development to date, with 15 years' experience in Māori and indigenous health research, including the completion of a PhD in public health exploring the potential of rongoā Māori [traditional healing]. The proposed postdoctoral fellowship includes a kaupapa Māori analysis of the multiple dimensions of Māori cannabis and methamphetamine use.

Kia taiohi te tū
Approved budget: $386,985.00
Little is known about the needs and experiences of taiohi [teenagers] growing up in te reo Māori-speaking whānau and with regard to intimate relationships, gender and sexualities. … This kaupapa Māori research is a mana whānau project which aims to build whānau-centred bodies of knowledge that incorporate the successes and challenges whānau are experiencing in using mātauranga Māori [Māori knowledge] to support taiohi on their journeys. … providing access to decolonising and mātauranga Māori-informed bodies of knowledge.

Collaboration for child wellbeing
Approved budget: $890,709.00
This grant supports collaboration for child wellbeing. … With the Manaiakalani Kahui ako, we will adapt and test a play-based intervention to improve self-regulation so it is culturally-grounded, engaging, and developmentally scaffolded.

Experiences of children and their families during the COVID-19 pandemic
Approved budget: $242,645.00
This project aims to explore the experiences of children, young people and their families during the COVID-19 pandemic in the UK with a health equity lens.

A smart toothpaste for the twenty-first century
Approved budget: $150,000.00
A novel bioactive smart toothpaste will be prepared using bioceramics and a natural anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial agent will provide an inexpensive clinical-grade formulation to mitigate oral infections and ensure implant longevity while also offering the traditional benefits of plaque removal and whiter teeth. The affordable and easily accessible smart toothpaste will significantly improve the oral health of all communities in New Zealand and across the world.

ENDS

Simeon Brown on Gangs

Max is joined by Simeon Brown to address exactly why the donation of 2.75 million to the gang-run Kahukura program was a poor decision by this government, and to rebut some of the points that have been brought up in support of it.

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

Taxpayer Update: SkyPath u-turn? | Bureaucracy booming | Dodgy media funding

Dear Supporter,

The Government's feeling the pressure on its cycle bridge

SkyPath petition

The proposed $685 million cycle bridge has perhaps been the Government’s worst political misfire. 

In June we commissioned a Curia poll which showed that 63 percent of New Zealanders oppose the cycle bridge. Now, a new Newshub poll corroborates our findings, showing its even more unpopular! Eighty-one percent of New Zealanders are now opposed.

And it seems the Finance Minister is feeling the heat: he's now just describing SkyPath 2.0 as the "current" proposal, and is talking up the changes of building an alternative tunnel crossing.

This progress is the result of people power. Our petition against the bridge has been signed by an incredible 58,000 New Zealanders, and our online ads and billboards have been seen by millions of New Zealanders.

With one last push, let's put the final nail in the coffin and force the Government to bin this wasteful project. Click here to chip in to the campaign fund to stop SkyPath and keep the heat on the Beehive.

Revealed: Andrew Little's "former gang member" claim was wrong

Little and Tam

Remember how Andrew Little defended giving a $2.75 million contract to a Mongrel Mob-affiliated organisation by claiming its leader was just a "former" gang member?

We can now confirm what many of you suspected: Hard2Reach director Harry Tam is in fact a patched lifetime member of the Mongrel Mob Notorious chapter. Our research team have uncovered a new interview with a small Māori media outlet where Mr Tam couldn't be clearer.

Andrew Little now has some explaining to do. Was he misled by Mr Tam, or officials, or was he being economical with the truth? Either way Kiwis deserve a retraction, an apology, and a review of the funding.

We're keeping the heat on the Government's gang funding

In case you missed it, here's a photo of the ad we ran on page two of Wednesday's NZ Herald:

Herald ad 1Click here to view a larger picture of the ad.

The ad was rejected by two separate billboard companies, so we were relieved to get it over the line with the NZ Herald. Thanks to everyone who chipped in to make it possible!

Bureaucracy is booming

The Public Service Commission collects a wealth of statistics on the public sector, including the total headcount of public service employees.

It turns out growth in taxpayer-funded staff has boomed under this Government:

Staffing graphClick here to view a large version of this image.
Click here to share it on Facebook.

And that's based on figures from 2020. The Public Service Commission will update its figures in December, and based on recent reports from Radio NZ, we're expecting another big jump for 2021.

We asked the Public Service Commissioner for his thoughts. In an email to us, he said he's comfortable with such rapid growth, pointing to "an increase in investment to implement government priorities", and challenges like COVID-19 and two Royal Commissions of Inquiry.

But that doesn't explain why staff growth has been so consistent *across* the public sector.

For example, Stats NZ grew its staff numbers by 41% in just two years. Even the Beehive has become crowded with political advisors. A battalion of 332 staff now serve the Government's 20 Cabinet members:

DPMC

To us, that suggests a culture change towards bureaucratic growth, starting at the very top of the New Zealand Government.

NZ on Air throwing taxpayer money at dubious "journalism"

NZ on Air grantTaxpayers are paying for Stuff journalists to learn how to be more woke.

Media outlets have enjoyed a bonanza of taxpayer funding under this Government – especially with the introduction of NZ on Air's new "public interest journalism" fund.

But as you'll see, many of the funded programmes are at best strange, and at worst, stray into political propaganda.

Judge for yourself:

  • Recipient: Stuff
    Amount: $301,000
    Project: A "cultural competency course" for Stuff journalists "to fundamentally shift representation in NZ media"

  • Recipient: Stuff
    Amount: $143,000
    Project: A documentary on the production of an opera about the “unruly British tourists”

  • Recipient: Stuff
    Amount: $97,000
    Project: A podcast series named “Crying At Work” that shows “what the real-life consequences are for the women who find themselves in the brutal news cycle”

  • Recipient: Stuff
    Amount: $120,000
    Project: Four podcast episodes about “the anarchic radical feminists who put their feet on the accelerator of social change”

  • Recipient: Stuff
    Amount: $591,000
    Project: “an animated fact-checking project designed to protect public health”

  • Recipient: Newsroom
    Amount: $51,000
    Project: “Training to upskill Newsroom’s two recently employed graduate journalists”

  • Recipient: Radio Bay Of Plenty
    Amount: $97,000
    Project: “report on the $200m worth of Provincial Growth Fund projects in the Eastern Bay of Plenty”

We've also looked into the funding of one particular media outlet: our "friends" at The Spinoff, an online lifestyle magazine for left-wing millennials.

The Spinoff has had its funding spike in the last year, and is now engaged in a hiring spree.

Spinoff graph

Click here to see the full list of NZ on Air grants received by The Spinoff.

All of this raises the question: can a government-dependent media outlet truly be considered ‘independent’?

Report reveals how the RMA drives up grocery prices

Groceries

Plenty of media attention has been paid to the Commerce Commission’s draft report on New Zealand’s grocery market. But most commentators seem to have missed the most interesting part of the report.

The report absolutely skewers the Resource Management Act for the way it restricts access to suitable retail sites, drives up site prices, and helps existing shops lock out competition. All of this results in higher grocery costs for households.

If there’s one sentence in the entire report that epitomises the destructive power of regulation, it’s this: We note that the major grocery retailers have historically opposed each other’s resource consent applications under the RMA.

Madness! We should have scrapped this regulatory tax long ago.

A message for ute owners

Dear legitimate and illegitimate ute owners,

First, the Government came after your wallets with the virtue signaling but carbon-useless ute tax. Now, taxpayer-funded academics are coming after your ute’s name too.

You probably do not know Kirsty Wild and Alistair Woodward at the University of Auckland, but you do pay their salaries.

Their research into utes apparently revealed that themes of dominance and violence are strong: vehicles have names like “Raptor” and “Gladiator”.

If they had their way, you'd presumably be working your farm in your Ford Kindness, driving to the construction site in your Toyota Unicorn, or taking the kids to school in your Nissan Neve.

Stand up for your ute by signing the petition at www.UteTax.co.nz.

A cause that deserves your support: Have your say on proposed "hate speech" laws

We seldom back causes outside our wheelhouse of Lower Taxes, Less Waste, More Transparency, but we're making an exception for the Government's proposed hate speech law changes, and the threat they present to the Taxpayer's Union's ability to do our job. 

In 2018, several Taxpayers' Union staff were involved in forming the Free Speech Coalition, which has now transformed into a registered trade union fighting for free speech in workplaces across New Zealand. It operates independently, but we keep abreast of their work.

The Free Speech Union is leading the charge against the Government's hate speech law changes which could criminalise our criticism of wasteful spending and exorbitant taxation.

In fact one of the potential categories of 'hate speech' is insulting on the basis of political belief. That is chilling.

Already, the Taxpayers' Union is regularly accused by the Twitter mob of "divisive" and even "hateful" speech when we take controversial positions on sensitive spending. Under the proposed law change, insult and offence will be given the upper hand and could jeopardise our ability to hold government to account. 

Would you be willing to have your say on the Government's hate speech reforms? Our friends at the Free Speech Union have created a tool to make filing a submission a two minute job.

Submissions close end of tomorrow so please act now before it's too late.

Consultation closes at 5pm tomorrow. Click here to make a brief submission.

All the best,

Louis circle


Louis Houlbrooke
Campaigns Manager
New Zealand Taxpayers' Union

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Media coverage:

Farmers Weekly  
Opinion divided on climate change advice

Homepaddock  But the $billion bridge

Stuff  Air NZ wanted Climate Commission to go faster, dairy and meat groups said slow down

Bay of Plenty Times  Green light for 15pc rates rise as Tauranga City approves controversial Long-term Plan

SunLive  Commissioner reacts to ratepayer protests

Kiwiblog  Govt may backtrack on billion dollar bike bridge

Kiwiblog  $6.1 million to The Spinoff from Taxpayers

RNZ  The ethics and costs of saving wild animals

 


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