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Reserve Bank spends almost $400,000 on Tāne Mahuta art

The Reserve Bank spent $373,739 on artwork in its lobby promoting its new 'Tāne Mahuta' narrative, reveals an official information response released to the New Zealand Taxpayers' Union.

The centerpiece of the artwork is a massive swamp kauri sculpture of Tāne Mahuta, the Māori god of the forest.


The artwork also includes (in the Bank's words):

•  three pou (pillars) representing Te Ngahere (the Forest Tāne)
•  mosaic floor tiles running the length of the lobby representing Ngā Pūtake (the roots of Tāne Mahuta), and
•  a resdesigned reception desk area representing a waka hourua (a double-hulled canoe)

The Bank justifies the spending by saying, "As the lobby had not been refurbished in more than 13 years, we took the opportunity to redesign it to reflect our strategic direction and incorporate out Tāne Mahuta narrative as its framework. This enabled the Reserve Bank to further communicate its commitment to our Te Ao Māori strategy and visually reinforce this narrative to our staff and visitors to the building."

Clearly, the Reserve Bank has let its money-printing powers go to its head.

We entrust the Reserve Bank to maintain the stability and security of our money supply. This requires hard-headed, rational leadership. But under the leadership of Adrian Orr, the Bank has become distracted with its own fluffy, feel-good marketing and internal "narrative". This is bureaucratic navel-gazing at its most absurd.

This was part of a wider refurbishment of the lobby, the total cost of which was $1.2 million, reports the Herald.

Revealed: $2.75m funding for Mongrel Mob was signed off by PM


The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union can reveal that the fund that gave a $2.75 million drug rehab contract to Mongrel Mob leaders is managed by just three Ministers, meaning the grant was signed off by the Prime Minister, the Minister of Finance, and Minister of Justice.

The Ministry of Justice’s website confirms that for Proceeds of Crime Fund proposals:

If an agency is successful in getting its proposal shortlisted, it will be invited to submit a more detailed funding proposal for the [evaluation] Panel to consider.

The Panel will then provide recommendations to the Prime Minister, Minister of Finance and Minister of Justice, who determine which proposals should be approved and funded.

At first, this sounded like the kind of lapse of judgment typically made by unelected, out-of-touch bureaucrats. But now we learn that this funding was approved by our highest elected officials. There is no running from your own decision.

Jacinda Ardern needs to front up and explain exactly how this disgraceful spending made it past her desk. We can only hope it was some kind of horrible mistake – in which case she needs to apologise, pick up the phone, and cut off the funding.

The Union today launched a petition to end all taxpayer-funded contracts given to gangs and gang-run organisations at

Taxpayer Update: Your money given to the Mongrel Mob | Even more tax on ute owners | Debt Monster is coming

Dear Supporter,

Louis took a much-deserved break this week, but the Government's attacks on taxpayers have continued. Thankfully the whole team is back on Monday!

Wondering where the Mongrel Mob gets its money? You!

Defence Force

Chief Human Rights Commissioner Paul Hunt made an appalling decision to give a taxpayer-funded koha to the Mongrel Mob when he spoke at one of their events earlier this year. When details came out on Monday, we told the media:

“The only koha Paul Hunt should be paying in relation to the Mongrel Mob is to Victim Support and Women’s Refuge.”

“The Commissioner's initial display of poor judgment, when he legitimised the ‘conference’ of this criminal organisation, was bad enough. To actually gift the gang taxpayer money is disgraceful.”

It's taken until today for Mr Hunt to front media. He's now saying "protocol" required him to make the koha.

Here's our message to Mr Hunt: the 'protocol' is you make a koha from your own pocket, not taxpayers...

Our friendly mascot, Porky the Waste Hater, is standing by too. He might just make an appearance at Mr Hunt's next speaking event to demand a koha back for taxpayers...

So much for 'revenue neutral' – Car Tax revealed as a money grab 💸🚗

PCC graphic

The sheer scale and cost of Labour’s ‘clean car rebate’ Car Tax has been revealed with official advice to Ministers suggesting that some 100,000 car owners are likely to be affected next year alone.

In addition, the Government is projected to rake in hundreds of millions of dollars more from the Car Tax than it will pay back in rebates. There are simply not enough electric vehicles available – now and in the foreseeable future – to make this a revenue-neutral policy as Ministers have claimed.

Of course, the elephant in the room is that this policy does nothing for the environment because transport is already covered by our Emissions Trading Scheme. That means any emissions saved by the move to electric cars are simply made available for cheaper emissions elsewhere under the ETS 'cap and trade' framework. As we've said all along: what is really promoting this is the boost to the Government coffers.

And now Ministers want IRD to chase farm and tradie utes! 🛻

Ute tax crack down

Documents released under the Official Information Act show Revenue Minister David Parker is talking to IRD officials about cracking down on how utes are taxed due to what they say is a “proliferation” of double-cab utes.

This is yet another tax grab on kiwi farmers and tradies.

The reason the FBT is so complex is that it’s hard to distinguish between professional and personal use when it comes to work on the farm – something the 9 to 5 governmental bureaucracy doesn’t seem to understand. Even IRD acknowledges that chasing down those who are abusing the exemption is futile because of the little funding it would bring in.

The message couldn’t be clearer: if you own a double-cab ute, this Government is coming for your wallet. Be damned that these measures hit hardest those who are the working backbone of our economy.

If you've not already {{recipient.first_name_or_friend}}, stand up for the humble Kiwi ute, and add your name to the petition at 👈

Speaking of the Ute Tax - our bumper stickers for 'legitimate ute owners' are flying out the door.

Legitimate Ute owner bumper sticker
>> Click here to get yours <<

Tax these bumper sticker>> Click here to get yours <<

IRD wonky tax calculator a shambles 🖥️

Masterton CCTV

The IRD had a red face this week when a public-spirited accountant in Nelson blew the whistle on a flaw in an IRD online calculator that has lead people with overseas shares to pay too much tax. The calculator was pulled offline on Monday – just 48 hours before personal income tax returns were due. The calculator relates to tax calculations for Kiwis having invested in foreign shares to work out their taxable profits under IR Fair Dividend Rate (FIF) tax regime.

The one thing IRD is supposed to know about is tax. If the system is so complex that IRD's boffins and IT people can't get it right, what hope is there for Joe-taxpayer?

To add salt to the wound, it's just come out that IRD had in fact been told about the fault 15 months earlier!

Let's put the shoe on the other foot: if IRD had a faulty calculator that saw too little tax being paid, Wellington will have moved heaven and earth to fix it.

Your humble Taxpayers' Union has been lobbying the IRD to confirm that any taxpayers with late or amended returns caused by the error will not face overdue fees or interest. Thankfully, IRD saw sense and agreed to this (but please get in touch if they try to do otherwise).

Science funding should focus on performance, not ancestry 🔬


New Zealand's focus on improving the research quality (and therefore international rankings) of our universities is under threat after the Government quietly changed the rules so that the $315-million-a-year Performance-Based Research Fund (PBRF) will now pay Māori researchers 2.5 times the rate of non-Māori, while Pasifika academics will be paid two times the non-Pasifika rate.

Politicising science research on racial grounds is not the pathway to improving our international standings. The PBRF, in the Government’s own words, was established "to encourage and reward excellent research based on performance". It was never meant to be dependent on the ancestry of academics.

Treasury warns government debt is on 'unsustainable trajectory' 💣

This week the Government’s main economic adviser, Treasury, published a draft report warning the Government that its debt is on an “unsustainable trajectory” thanks to an ageing population driving up superannuation and health costs.

Treasury is right to blow the whistle on the impact of Government debt on New Zealanders’ living standards, but it's not just the long term challenges that are a concern. Right now New Zealand has close to full employment but the Government is running a Budget deficit of nearly 5% of GDP. That means that debt has already clocked up more than $66,000 for every Kiwi household.

Debt Clock

The Government is mortgaging our kids' futures when it is not needed. Poor quality spending like the ridiculous Auckland harbour bike bridge isn't free or without consequence.

Track the Debt Monster in real-time at – how much does your household owe thanks to the Government?

MPs in Depth Podcast: ACT MP Karen Chhour 🎙️

MPs in depth podcast

This week our Researcher Max sat down with newbie ACT Party MP Karen Chhour to discuss the switch to working in Parliament, why the Government isn't walking its talk in regards to child poverty reduction, and the role of ACT in opposition.

Click here to listen to the episode online or subscribe to Taxpayer Talk via Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio and wherever good podcasts are sold.

Have a great weekend,


Jordan Williams
Executive Director
New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union



Media coverage:

Whanganui Chronicle  Are They Paid Enough? What our councillors earn and why some say it should be more

NZ Local Government Magazine  Water reform savings ‘laughable’

RNZ  The Panel, with Taxpayers' Union Analysis Neil Miller

Stuff South Cantabrians to join 'A Howl of a Protest' against Government regulations

Homepaddock  Really is a tax grab

Northland Age  Taxpayers’ Union says that trickle up theory works

Northland Age  Water plan a ‘recipe for gold plating’

Newstalk ZB  The Huddle with Taxpayers' Union Analysis Neil Miller

Kiwiblog  Clarke Gayford – “genius”, “top bloke”, “first man” – or just engaged to the Prime Minister?

Petition launched to end all taxpayer funding for gangs

The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union has launched a petition calling for the cancellation of all taxpayer funding for gangs, at 

This is in response to the revelation that the Ministry of Health is paying the Mongrel Mob $2.75 million to run a drug rehab programme.

Last week, New Zealanders rightly condemned the Human Rights Commissioner for giving a $200 koha to the Mongrel Mob. But now we learn our Ministry of Health is giving them almost $3 million.

The thugs making millions by selling drugs have been given millions more to run the rehab programmes. It’s a sickening cycle of profiteering at the expense of our communities’ health, safety, and taxpayer funds.

Putting aside the ghastliness of giving taxpayer money to the mob, it’s also a conflict of interest. How can we pay an organisation to rehabilitate drug users when its business model depends on ongoing addiction? Gangs have a vested interest in addiction and should therefore be kept well away from the rehab business.

A few months ago, we never thought such a cosy relationship between government and organised crime was possible. But it appears these back door financing arrangements are widespread. We’re calling on all Government agencies to front up about what contracts they hold with gangs and gang-run organisations, and to cut these contracts off before the Taxpayers’ Union exposes them.


MP in Depth: Karen Chhour

In this episode of our "MPs in Depth" series, our Researcher Max Salmon interviews newbie ACT Party MP Karen Chhour to discuss the switch to working in parliament, why the Government isn't walking its talk in regards to child poverty reduction, and the role of ACT in opposition. 

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

Taxpayer Update: Māori procurement | Missing $1.9b | Rest in Peace

As you'll see at the bottom of this post, the team have been busy responding to media enquiries about our 2021 edition of Ratepayers' Report – our council league tables. Meanwhile, our campaigns against the planned car tax and the $685 million bike bridge are still going strong.

But there are plenty of other issues facing taxpayers (and no shortage of work to do!):

Government entities are now asking contractors to prove they're Māori

Defence Force

Midge Holdings is a small business owner in Christchurch. She's contracted by the Defence Force to provide them with special makeup effects and fake blood for their training.

However, she's now received a letter from the Defence Force asking her to prove her business is 'Māori owned'. It's not, and that could mean she loses the contract under new procurement rules coming into effect.

Here's what we told the media:

The Taxpayers’ Union were the first to raise the alarm over 'indigenous procurement' policies back in 2019, when we found the idea buried deep in a Cabinet paper. Now that the policy has been rammed through without consultation, we're seeing the ugly results.

We should welcome government entities reviewing contracts to maximise value, but that's not what's happening here. A government entity is threatening a specialist contractor's livelihood on the basis of her race. It's almost unbelievable that this could happen in 2021 in a developed country.

Chopping off best-placed contractors for the sake of political correctness will result in second-best contractors providing less value for the taxpayer.

New Zealanders shouldn't be forced to lie about their family background, or to pay genealogists and consultants to verify their Māori credentials, in order to offer services to the Government. The key consideration – in fact, the only consideration – in Government procurement should be value for the taxpayer.

Mental health: Where did the $1.9 billion go?


Remember the "Wellbeing Budget"? In 2019, Jacinda Ardern made a huge splash in international media with her $1.9 billion investment announcement in mental health.

Popular left-wing American news site Vox said the Budget showed how Ardern's Government "emphasizes citizen happiness over capitalist gain."

But they also quoted your humble Taxpayers' Union: in the same article, I warned that the Government could just be throwing money into a black hole.

Two years later, it's fair to say the results are in: the $1.9 billion announcement bought us just five new mental health beds. If that's not a case of money disappearing into the abyss, I don't know what is.

Meanwhile, mental health advocate Mike King has returned his order of merit medal, saying that in hindsight, the $1.9 billion actually made life worse for people by providing a sense of false hope.

The Health Minister's response? He says he's "frustrated".

Taxpayers' Union Analyst Neil Miller has penned a ferocious op-ed in response:

Sorry Andrew Little, that is simply not good enough.

You are not an impartial observer, a mid-level official, a health journalist, or a political commentator. You are the Minister of Health, you are the boss, and you should have been all over this issue months ago.

Too often we are seeing Ministers of the Crown responding to a lack of results in their portfolio by saying they are “disappointed”, “frustrated”, “annoyed”, or that their “expectations have not been met”.

Ministers seem to assume that issuing a press release means the policy, after being developed by a Working Group and/or Expert Advisory Board, will be implemented on the frontlines.

You can read the full op-ed here (it was originally published in the Northern Age).

Caught on camera: Masterton Council boss loses the plot

Masterton CCTV

We'd love to say local government brings out the best and brightest... but this story out of Masterton makes you wonder what planet some of these people come from.

The District Council's Chief Executive (Kath Ross, salary: $247,000) has been caught on camera ripping down posters that advertised a ratepayer group’s protest against her own Council.

Unfortunately for her, the posters were on private property, in a carpark managed by someone supporting the protest!

There is absolutely no excuse for this behaviour. It undermines the dignity of her position and will only serve to entrench the suspicions of ratepayers who think she’s trying to shut down public criticism.

(The protest, which was organised to oppose a new $30 million council building, was by all accounts a great success.)

Revealed: ‘Living Wage’ trickles up to higher paid staff

PCC graphic

When Porirua City Council announced it was adopting a "Living Wage" policy, it sold the idea to ratepayers as a way to help workers on the bottom rung, just enough for them ‘to live a life of dignity’.

But we have now revealed that for every council worker who was bumped up to the Living Wage, another three higher-paid workers also received a pay hike in the name of 'relativity adjustments'.

In other words, the Council exploited public sympathy for high-vis workers to give a handout to back-office staff. And they did it during a pandemic when ratepayers and businesses were cutting back.

This should serve as a warning to all Councils: the intention to help low-paid workers is noble, but other staff are likely to demand commensurate pay hikes.

Claims that three waters reform will save money are laughable

Nanaia MahutaThe Taxpayers’ Union is slamming Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta's proposal to remove local democratic control over water assets and says that regional cross subsidisation is a recipe for gold plating and higher costs.

The claim this will save ratepayer money is laughable. It will see Auckland water users funding new water treatment plants in the far north, and force gold plated solutions onto tiny communities. Even worse, these proposals remove the ability of ratepayers to hold the water bodies to account. They’re going to be able to impose huge costs, without being accountable, even indirectly, to the communities who will pick up the bills.

We don’t often say Phil Goff is right, but on this, he is bang on with his warnings that this will cost ratepayers and uncouples Watercare from democratic accountability.

The proposed matrix of committee and iwi governance is a bugger’s muddle, and the claim councils will still "own" the assets is at best misleading. 'Ownership' will be true in name only. Elected councillors won’t be able to do a thing – i.e. sack directors or govern the water assets local communities have paid for.

Rest in Peace 😢


Finally this week, we’re encouraging our supporters to their respects to the passing of Labour’s “No New Taxes” promised by sharing this memorial on Facebook.

Have a great weekend,

Louis circle

Louis Houlbrooke
Campaigns Manager
New Zealand Taxpayers' Union


PS. I'm away next week on annual leave so that means our Grassroots Coordinator Grace will be monitoring the replies to this email for me. Thank you to everyone who sends kind messages of support even if we can't always reply promptly, we read and appreciate them all!

Media coverage:

Kapiti News  
Kapiti Coast District Council plan endorses average 7.79% rates hike for 2021-2022

Kapiti Independent News  Kapiti rates to soar by 8%

Radio NZ  Sue Bradford and Jordan Williams

Bay of plenty Times  Is working for families tax credit really working?

Tasman Leader  Tasman ratepayers face hefty bills

1 News  NZTA to update benefit to cost ratio of AKL cycle bridge

Bay of Plenty Times  
Working for Families: Taxpayers' Union says $2.8 billion scheme should be cut back in favour of tax cuts

NZ Herald  Auckland harbour bridgeNational Party labels bridge a vanity project

Kiwiblog  Some so-called science grants

Stuff  Tasman residential ratepayers face fourth highest bills in New Zealand

Homepaddock  Central control freakery

SunLive  Councillors set Whakatane’s Long-Term Plan

Radio NZ  Whakatāne’s rates set to rise

Stuff  Taranaki councils ranked according to rates bills in report

NewstalkZB  Taxpayers' Union: Government 'misjudged' public opinion on Auckland cycleway bridge

Bay of Plenty Times  Jo Raphael: is Working for Families payments helping our children?

Stuff  Nelson business community welcomes fall in commercial rate differential

South Taranaki Star  Taranaki councils at lower end of rates

Radio NZ  'Unsustainable' rates raises - West Coast councils blame govt

Op-ed: Be the Minister, not just a frustrated onlooker

Andrew LittleThe following is an op-ed by New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union Analyst Neil Miller. It is free for publication.
The headlines read “Health Minister 'extraordinarily frustrated' as just five new acute mental health beds added after $1.9b investment”.
Sorry Andrew Little, that is simply not good enough.
You are not an impartial observer, a mid-level official, a health journalist, or a political commentator. You are the Minister of Health, you are the boss, and you should have been all over this issue months ago.

Instead, it apparently took Written Parliamentary Questions from the opposition and queries from Newshub for you to find out that there have been only five actual beds added since the flagship near $2b mental health announcement in the “Well-Being Budget” of 2019. The building part of that one announcement alone was $285m.

Too often we are seeing Ministers of the Crown responding to a lack of results in their portfolio by saying they are “disappointed”, “frustrated”, “annoyed”, or that their “expectations have not been met”. The fundamental problem is that the Government is great at making announcements and good at throwing lots of taxpayer money at issues.
Ministers seem to assume that issuing a press release means the policy, after being developed by a Working Group and/or Expert Advisory Board, will be implemented on the frontlines.
Being a good Minister is more than just the title and the (non-electric) limousine. It is about being on top of the details in your portfolio and following through. National’s Tony Ryall was the best Health Minister in modern history, despite having no background in the health sector or health policy. Most observers expected him to be Police Minister – I did, and I worked for him!
Once given the traditionally tricky and thankless task of Health Minister, Mr Ryall focussed on information. His officials were told he wanted data, he wanted trends, he set targets, he demanded measurements, and he published them regularly, good or bad. A bureaucrat’s nightmare sure, but patients loved it.
When District Health Boards were set measurable targets for Emergency Department waiting times, they dropped significantly. When Labour, at the behest of the unions, abolished the targets and reporting, ED waiting times predictably ballooned back out.
Minister Ryall would not have taken two years to find out from the media that a new acute mental bed was only arriving every five months. He would have known, and officials would have been made aware that he knew and was not satisfied.
Instead, Health Minister Andrew Little swung into action and… announced yet another review. Taxpayers should be deeply concerned that the issues this review will examine include “what the holdup is”, “where that money has gone” and to find out exactly “how decisions have been made.” That is not a sign of a Minister on top of his portfolio.
So, a simple tip for Minister Little: Re-instate the health performance dashboards (adding mental health), set targets, monitor the results, and hold health providers accountable.
Health Minister – heal thyself.
Neil Miller is a writer, commentator, and New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union Analyst.

Revealed: Porirua City Council’s ‘Living Wage’ hike trickles up to higher paid staff

PCC graphic

The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union can reveal that Porirua City Council’s introduction of a ‘Living Wage’ policy resulted in 52 percent of Council staff receiving wage hikes.

In July 2020, while 39 staff were moved up to the living wage rate, a further 176 received ‘relativity adjustments’ in pay as a result of the Living Wage policy – including staff already paid as much as $30.53 per hour.

For every council worker who was bumped up to the Living Wage, another three workers paid more also received a pay hike.

The announcement of the Living Wage policy was sold to Porirua ratepayers as helping out workers on the bottom rung, just enough for them ‘to live a life of dignity’. Now we learn that more than half of the Council’s staff got a pay hike as a result. That is an under-handed, self-serving way of increasing Council pay.

Of course, this occurred in the immediate wake of New Zealand’s COVID-19 lockdown, when ratepayers and businesses were cutting back to ensure financial survival. The pandemic should have led the Council to reconsider its Living Wage policy – instead, it was expanded. Ratepayers will see the clear link behind this kind of indulgent spending and the Council’s planned eight percent rate hike.

The Council is now planning to demand that any and all private contractors working for the Council also pay their workers a Living Wage. The cost of this move will likely blow out as the Living Wage effect trickles up to higher-paid contractor employees.

This should serve as a warning to all Councils considering a Living Wage policy. The intention to help low-paid workers may sound noble, but other staff are likely to demand commensurate pay hikes. That cost needs to be taken into account and communicated transparently before any decision is made.

The information was obtained via an official information request and passed on to the Union by a concerned ratepayer.

New poll shows 63% of Kiwis oppose Auckland's cycle bridge

Poll graphic

Polling commissioned by the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union shows that nearly two-thirds of Kiwis ‘oppose’ or ‘strongly oppose’ the Government’s planned $685 million cycle and pedestrian bridge for Auckland’s Waitematā Harbour. Meanwhile, just 18 percent ‘support’ or ‘strongly support’ it.

The full data set can be viewed here. The polling was conducted by Curia Market Research, with a sample size of 992 respondents.

Excel graph

Opposition to the bridge outweighs support by more than three to one. And it’s not just soft opposition – a majority of respondents stated they are strongly opposed.

Opposition to the bridge is firm across a broad spectrum of the population: women and men, every age group, Aucklanders and non-Aucklanders. In fact, the only demographic that seems to support the bridge is Green Party voters, and even that’s only by a slim margin.

This scientific polling explains the enormous response to our petition against the bridge, which has so far been signed by 57,000 New Zealanders. Clearly, the Government has massively misjudged the public appetite for such a brazenly wasteful project that will disproportionately serve a small group of privileged Aucklanders.

We’re calling on the Government to admit they’ve got this one wrong, and divert the $685 million to projects that benefit the many, not the few. It’s easier to back down now than further down the track when millions have been sunk into engineering reports and consultation documents.

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