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SATIRE: Kelvin Davis: Anatomy of a prison disorder incident


2020 was one heck of a year – excuse my strong language – and I definitely need this six-to-eight-week taxpayer funded holiday to recharge my batteries.

Happily out fly fishing, which is clearly listed as one of my key strengths on my Ministerial CV, before being interrupted by a call from a random press secretary about some prison riot. I inform her that I am the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, and would be Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand if hadn't given that up totally voluntarily, and this is clearly a matter for the mere Minister of Corrections.

She rather tersely informs me that I am the mere Minister of Corrections, that she is my press secretary, and she has been so for three years. Well, that was awkward. I think the tension scared all the fish away. So, might as well do one of my patented strategy sessions when dealing with a crisis.

First, some research. It turns out Waikeria Prison is a real prison and there is a riot going on right now. For me, there were three tell-tale clues of riotness – prisoners are supposed to be in the cells, guards should be in charge and the only ones with weapons, and the top half of the prison should definitely not be on fire.

I build myself a desk fort, to keep to the haters out, while I think. The Ministerial cushions I have ‘borrowed’ from my Ministerial residence are excellent for this task. Part of the COVID-19 tourism recovery fund was used to embroider my name, face, and signature, on every piece of my office furniture. I will sleep well tonight.

The next day at the lodge, after a leisurely brunch of paua fritters, cantaloupe salad, and pineapple Raro, I pull out my best Winnie the Pooh notebook and a fresh pack of coloured pencils. This is going to be my best plan ever, though admittedly H1 and H2 had drafted a pretty comprehensive crisis response template for me after several ‘communication issues’ in the first term.

  1. Do nothing. I cannot stress this enough.
  2. Say nothing.
  3. Wait to see if someone else does something. If it works, take credit for it.
  4. If it does not work, accuse people of politicising the event.
  5. Have your staff avoid media calls as best as possible. If they absolutely have to talk to the vultures, they should refer only to “protestors” in a “prison disorder incident”.
  6. If at all possible, somehow blame the previous National Government and particularly former Corrections Minister Judith Collins.
  7. Wait for the disorder to end, emerge, and take credit. Six days should be enough.
  8. Reveal that you were receiving hourly updates on the incident, but do not explain why you never mentioned this before the riot ended.
  9. Do not, under any circumstances, get drawn on whether you actually read those briefings, far less what you did about them.
  10. Resume fly fishing. Trout for dinner. Job well done.

Grant Robertson comes down to my office, carried on a sedan chair by four aides, with a fifth sprinkling rose petals in his path. This is rarely a good sign.

He proclaims that my portfolio might have to pay for rebuilding the prison that got burnt down. That seems unfair. I had absolutely nothing to do with it. The disorder was about housing standards so, like every second policy in this Government, it is Megan Woods’s responsibility. She should have to pay.

Defending myself, I argue to Grant that if Waikeria Prison had been properly upgraded then there would not have been these issues of standards. Grant agrees, but then ruins the moment by pointing out that one of my first and only moves as Minister of Corrections was to cancel National’s planned upgrade of Waikeria. This is a setback.

Oh well, at least I am still Labour Deputy Leader and Minister of Corrections. It seems literally nothing can change that.

Taxpayer Update: Signposting waste in Rotorua | More Creative NZ madness

Dear Supporter,

Happy New Year! I hope you've enjoyed some sunny days.

Our office was shut down for the holiday period, but we still managed to cause some mischief in Rotorua and expose even more waste from Creative NZ...

"Monument to waste ahead" in Rotorua

Remember Rotorua's $743,000 Hemo Gorge sculpture that ran three years late and still isn't finished? We thought it was such a good example of government and council waste that we hired an electronic billboard so the summer traffic knew what it was:

Sign image

And in case the thousands of passing holidaymakers didn't get the message, some of our local supporters erected more signs at the site of the sculpture:

Other signs

Remember, the installation of the sculpture ran three years late and $200,000 over budget, and the final bill is likely to be higher than $1 million once installation and lighting costs are counted.

What's worse, the final product looks nothing like the grand concept drawings — in fact, ratepayers and taxpayers can only see half of the sculpture because it's been erected below road level.

Unfortunately, it's not just Rotorua ratepayers footing the bill: the sculpture was co-funded by NZTA, meaning we all paid for it!

Our signage received coverage in The Waikato Times, the Rotorua Daily Post, and on Magic Talk.

Waikato Times

NZTA even complained to local media that the signs could distract drivers. Our response: it was NZTA that installed a behemoth sculpture in the centre of a busy roundabout. You couldn’t get more of a distraction than that! After the faux outrage and threats to remove the sign, they've since backed down.

Rotorua Daily Post

Rotorua Daily Post

The Mayor responds: it's OK as the overrun is just NZTA money!

Following Jordan’s interview on Magic Talk, Rotorua Mayor (and former Labour MP) Steve Chadwick was forced to respond. She said the cost overrun was a “storm in a teacup” as the reason the monument went over-budget was because it was so complex and groundbreaking! She also said that our group was wrong to complain because the Council’s contribution was fixed — most of the overrun was covered NZTA (i.e. taxpayers!).

Listen to the interviews (and the resulting talkback) here.

Finally, a big thank you to Reynold Macpherson (a local councillor, Taxpayers' Union member, and representative of Rotorua District Residents and Ratepayers) who protected the electronic message board from tampering by irate supporters of the sculpture Council!

"Radical fat positivity" funded by taxpayers

Last year we exposed Creative NZ's bizarre arts grants, including $50,000 for "indigenised hypno-soundscapes".

But wait, there's more. Last month Creative NZ released the year's fourth round of Arts Grants. Taxpayers forked out $50,800 for events about "radical fat positivity", $57,000 for "a play about the COVID-19 pandemic", and $39,930 for "a new app-driven immersive theatrical experience".

Fat positivity

And that's just the tip of the iceberg. Creative NZ has been handing out far larger grants under its new Adaptation Fund, which has handed out $6.78 million, supposedly in response to COVID-19.

The single largest grant was a massive $1 million for the Fa'a Black Grace dance troupe, to deliver "an immersive dance experience in a non contact world."

That's more than the average Kiwi's tax bill for an entire lifetime.

[One more point: some of Creative NZ's defenders have claimed this is Lotteries money, not taxpayer money. They're wrong. While Lotteries has historically been the key funder of Creative NZ, Jacinda Ardern gave the agency a massive top-up in funding last year, so most of its money now comes directly from the Government. Regardless, Lotteries is still a public body and ought to spend its money more wisely.]

1,247 public servants paid more than $200,000

On Boxing Day it was reported that the cost of salaries in the public sector has increased by 13 percent in just one year.

Funneling ever more taxpayer money into the state sector is not sustainable, necessary, or fair. It's outrageous that government agencies are padding their own salaries while families and businesses cut costs in the wake of a pandemic.

Public sector staff are paid significantly more than private sector workers, and the pay gap is increasing. It's not enough for a few state sector bosses to take temporary pay cuts: pay cuts need to go wider and deeper.

Taxpayer Talk: What do our new MPs stand for?


One third of the new Parliament is made up of new MPs, and you deserve to know who they are and what they stand for.

That's why we're releasing new episodes of the Taxpayer Talk podcast, in which Neil interviews the new politicians.

Get to know ACT MP James McDowall here, or listen to our interview with fellow ACT MP Damien Smith here. National MP Simon Watts is next up.

You can find all of our podcast episodes here (or look us up on Spotify, iTunes, or wherever you find good podcasts).

All the best,

Louis circle

Louis Houlbrooke
Campaigns Manager
New Zealand Taxpayers' Union



Message board erected in Rotorua highlighting monumental waste

New Zealanders approaching the Hemo Gorge roundabout from the south will from today be greeted by an electronic message board warning motorists of the 12-metre 3D-printed monument to Government waste at the Te Hemo Gorge roundabout, where State Highway 5 meets State Highway 30.
The sign reads MONUMENTAL WASTE AHEAD / COST: $743,000 / AND COUNTING, and is an initiative of the New Zealand Taxpayers' Union, installed by volunteers from the Rotorua District Residents and Ratepayers (RDRR).
Union spokesman Jordan Williams says, "This monument to waste was installed three years behind schedule and $240,000 over budget. But we understand the final bill will be even higher, once the costs of the botched installation are counted."
"The final product looks nothing like the grand concept drawings - in fact, ratepayers and taxpayers can barely see the sculpture because it's been erected below road level!"
"Sometimes the best antidote to government waste is sunlight. We're glad to expose to holiday period travelers how Rotorua District Lakes Council and the New Zealand Transport Authority have squandered public money while so many households struggle to make ends meet, and roads need basic maintenance."
“The monument looks a bit like flames going up into the air.  It takes little imagination to see it’s taxpayer and ratepayer money going up in smoke.”
RDRR spokesman and local councillor Reynold Macpherson says, "The Council can't seriously expect ratepayers to tolerate year after year of rate hikes when we've now literally got a monument showing how that money is wasted. This ill-advised public art project risks putting our town on the map for all the wrong reasons."

Video of the sign in action can be viewed here, and an image of the site is here.
The Hemo Gorge sculpture was nominated in the local government category of the 2020 Jonesie Waste Awards.

Petition launched for Trevor Mallard to pay back taxpayers for his defamation settlement and legal costs

--> Click here to sign the petition <--

A written Parliamentary question has confirmed the Taxpayers’ Union’s understanding that the Speaker paid a six-figure settlement to a staffer he accused of rape.

Taxpayers should not have to cover the bill for Trevor Mallard’s careless accusations. It’s not like making defamatory allegations is part of his job description.

Trevor Mallard must commit to paying back the taxpayer money handed over to the accused staffer and the Labour Party’s law firm.

The Union has launched a petition calling for the repayment at

The Speaker is paid a taxpayer-funded salary of $296,000, so we’re sure he can work out a payment plan with Parliamentary Services.

As a gesture of goodwill, if Trevor Mallard repays the money the Taxpayers’ Union will stop hassling him for spending $572,000 on a slide outside Parliament.

Highest and lowest council rates in New Zealand revealed -Ratepayers’ Report

The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union’s 2020 Ratepayers’ Report reveals the highest and lowest average council rates in the country. The league tables are available at

Rates graph

Taxpayers’ Union spokesperson Louis Houlbrooke says: “The key attraction of Ratepayers’ Report has always been the league table for average residential rates, which uses a standardised formula to include all residential rates, local taxes, and levies.”

“This year’s table has a new champion of high rates, knocking Auckland Council and Kaipara District Council off the top. Carterton District Council has moved up the rankings from third last year to take out the title of the highest-rating council in 2020, charging $3,472 on average for residential rates.”

“However, our largest city continues to loom large in second place, with Auckland Council charging an average rates bill of $3,469 – only just below Carterton, and well ahead of Christchurch ($2,588).”

“On the other end of the table, Central Otago District Council is now officially the lowest-rating council. Central Otago charges less than half what Carterton does.”

“The average residential rate nationwide is $2,445 – an increase of $84 from the previous year. Councils are extracting even more rates, taxes and levies from the average ratepayer, but the range of different rates levels in the league table demonstrates that high rates need not be an inevitability. High-rating councils should take notes on how others are able to run tighter ships.”

Highest average residential rates:

  1. Carterton District Council: $3,472
  2. Auckland Council: $3,469
  3. Tasman District Council: $3,186
  4. Western Bay of Plenty District Council: $3,168
  5. South Wairarapa District Council: $3,151

Lowest average residential rates:

  1. Central Otago District Council: $1,444
  2. Grey District Council: $1,739
  3. Mackenzie District Council: $1,884
  4. Southland District Council: $1,914
  5. Otorohanga District Council: $1,919

More about the Report is available here, and specific methodology for calculating average rates is here.

2020 Ratepayers’ Report released, methodology explained


The New Zealand Taxpayers' Union, in partnership with the Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance, has today published the 2020 edition of Ratepayers' Report  – online local government league tables – at

With these league tables, New Zealanders can easily compare their local council’s performance and financial position for 2018/19 against others.

Setting out more than two thousand data points, the Ratepayers' Report provides transparency for ratepayers, and rates figures are presented on a per-household basis to ensure fair comparisons between councils. The league tables rank councils on metrics including average residential rates, staffing costs, and council liabilities among others.

Taxpayers’ Union Campaign Manager Louis Houlbrooke says, “Every dollar spent by a local council was earned by a hard-working ratepayer. Ratepayers' Report allows ratepayers to understand if they could be getting a better deal. The league tables reveal huge disparities between councils in terms of how much they take in rates, how much they owe in liabilities, and how much they spend on salaries. The league tables suggest there is major scope for councils to find efficiencies to reduce the burden on ratepayers.”

Notable Findings:

  • Carterton District Council now ranks highest for average residential rates at $3,472, just pipping Auckland Council at $3,469.
  • The lowest average residential rates in New Zealand are levied by the Central Otago District Council at $1,444.
  • Christchurch City Council continues to have the highest liabilities per household compared to any other council ($27,510) – up from last year. Auckland Council follows in second place, with liabilities per household of $25,372 – another significant increase from last year.
  • The average liabilities per household of all councils is $6,144.
  • There are were 2,831 staff paid salaries greater than $100,000 at Auckland Council and its CCOs.
  • The least efficient council in terms of staffing is Waitomo District Council, with a staff member for every 20 households. The most efficient is Thames-Coromandel District Council, with a staff member for every 128 households.
  • Only four Councils meet the full criteria for prudent Audit and Risk Committees. Western Bay of Plenty District Council failed to have a separate Audit and Risk Committee while Grey District Council didn’t have one at all, which is considered basic financial prudence.

All figures are based on the 2018/19 financial year, and therefore do not reflect changes in council positions caused by COVID-19 and the ensuing 2020 budgets.

Editors' notes:

Data for the report was compiled by the Taxpayers' Union and was supplied to all councils for review (and any necessary correction) prior to publication.

Ratepayers' Report facilitates straightforward comparison of average residential rates via a formula first used by Napier City Council which allows for an 'apples to apples' comparison of average residential rates and charges, based on each council’s definition of a residential rating unit. Only Kaipara District Council was unwilling to provide the Taxpayers' Union with the necessary rates information, while Wellington City Council did not respond to our request.

This formula was also used to ascertain non-residential average rates for the first time. A number of councils were unable or unwilling to provide us with this information.

For non-rates figures (i.e. liabilities, personnel costs) we have this year assessed council data using Stats NZ’s 2018 census, with some councils opting to replace this with a more recent figure. We have done this because councils have different definitions of what constitutes a residential ratepayer or ‘rating unit’.

Q & A

What is the purpose of Ratepayers’ Report?

Ratepayers' Report provides accountability and transparency to New Zealand ratepayers by allowing them to compare their local territorial authority with others around the country.

Where was the data sourced?

The Taxpayers' Union compiled the data in Ratepayers' Report after reviewing each council's annual report for the year ending June 30, 2019.

Other figures were mostly obtained under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act, and cover the 2018/19 financial year.

The data has been sent to each individual authority for their review and error checking prior to public launch.

Population and household data is from Stats NZ.

Where did the group finance figures come from?

They are taken from each Council's annual report. They are council figures, plus all those of subsidiary council-controlled organisations.

Which councils are assessed in Ratepayers' Report?

Of New Zealand's 67 territorial authorities, 66 are examined in Ratepayers' Report. That includes all city, district, and unitary councils, with the exclusion of the Chatham Islands Council (due to concerns surrounding that Council's workload pressure and unique position).

What about regional councils?

While we anticipate including regional councils in future editions of the Report, the data we have on their average residential rates bills is at this stage incomplete. Our research suggests that regional councils charge anywhere from $42 to $553 per residential ratepayer on top of the bill charged by territorial authorities. Gaps in the data and different definitions for residential ratepayers dictate that these figures should be considered as supporting evidence, rather than determinative.

Is this the first Ratepayers' Report?

No. Ratepayers' Report was first published in 2014 jointly by the Taxpayers' Union and Fairfax Media (now Stuff). The Taxpayers’ Union have since published updated versions in 2017, 2018 and 2019. This is the fifth edition.

How are the councils grouped?

Unitary authorities – the 5 territorial authorities which also carry out the functions of a regional authority are grouped.
Metropolitan – the 5 large councils with a population of over 120,000.
City – 6 smaller metropolitan councils with populations between 40,000 and 120,000.
Provincial – the largest group, 27 non-metropolitan councils with population over 20,000.
Rural – the remaining 23 councils.

How was the average rates calculated?

Calculating an 'apples to apples' figure for residential rates is difficult because councils use various mixes of rates, levies, and user charges. Our approach is based on work by Napier City Council to find an average residential rate. The methodology councils were asked to use to calculate the figures disclosed in Ratepayers' Report is available here.

The report also included average non-residential rates for the first time this year using the same methodology.

While we think this approach is useful and fair, the average residential and non-residential rate figure should be a guide only.

Unitary authorities (Auckland Council, Nelson City Council, Gisborne, Tasman, and Marlborough District Councils) perform the functions of a regional council and therefore can be expected to have higher rates than other territorial authorities.

Were councils consulted in the process?

Yes. Every council was sent a draft version of their respective data to review. 

Can the results of the 2020 report be compared to the 2019 edition?

All non-rates figures (i.e. liabilities, staff) were assessed using council data from Stats NZ’s 2018 census figures, with some councils opting to replace this with a more up to date figure. We have done this because councils have different definitions of what constitutes a residential ratepayer or ‘rating unit’.

The methodology means that the per-household figures can be compared with the 2019 report, but not with the 2018 report which used a per-ratepayer figure (aside from the average rates metric which has remained consistent).

What are the potential limitations of Ratepayers’ Report?

Queenstown-Lakes, Taupo, and Thames-Coromandel District Councils have previously objected to the use of Stats NZ’s household figures, as these tend to exclude properties left empty, i.e. baches. As a result, per-household figures for these districts may be somewhat inflated. This does not affect the rates figures, which are based on rating units.

Empty or undeveloped sections are counted as rating units. This means the average residential rates figure for a territory with a high proportion of undeveloped sections, such as Wairoa District Council, may appear relatively low while the actual level of rates levied on an average Wairoa homeowner is likely to be higher.

Taxpayer Update: Return of the CGT | Uni's mansion rort | Bad poetry

Dear Supporter,

It's a longer Taxpayer Update this week – but there is just so much silliness in Wellington that we're swamped.

Ruled-out taxes back on the agenda

Jacinda Ardern has previously ruled out both a capital gains tax and an asset tax. In fact, both she and the Finance Minister promised that other than a new income tax bracket, there would be no further tax changes this term.

But just weeks after the election, it looks like those promises could unravel.

Faced with increasing pressure over rising house prices, the Finance Minister appears to be “un-ruling out” new taxes on housing.

Egged on by Reserve Bank Governor Adrian Orr, Robertson is asking Treasury for advice on an extension of the “bright-line” test.

Our new TV ad:

VideoClick here to share the ad on Facebook.

Extending the bright line test is effectively imposing a nasty capital gains tax – at a rate of up to 39% – for property owners who sell within ten years.

Click here to tell Grant Robertson to stick to his word.

Taxing houses will not make them more affordable. What this tax would do is hammer people who need to cash out of property for personal reasons. It would reduce liquidity in the market, and could even incentivise politicians to drive up house prices further in order to reap tax revenue from the capital gain.

The Government also appears to have “un-ruled out” increasing the tax rate for trusts to 39%, to match the new top income tax bracket.

Both of these tax proposals would be harmful. But here’s the biggest worry: if the Government decides it’s okay to break its tax promises, it won’t stop at these. A Green Party-style asset tax or even a Michael Cullen-style capital gains tax could be back on the agenda. That's why we've set up a tool for New Zealanders to tell Grant Robertson to keep his promises. Sent him your message at

Auckland University’s $5 million mansion rort


A year ago, the University of Auckland purchased a $5 million Parnell mansion for its new Vice-Chancellor, Dawn Freshwater.

The Auditor-General opened an investigation and on Wednesday released his report. He could hardly be more scathing: he says that the University failed to show a justifiable business purpose, failed to demonstrate objectivity, failed to display adequate transparency, failed to show the expenditure was moderate and conservative, and failed to follow its own policy on sensitive expenditure.

By charging the Dawn Freshwater half the market rent, the University effectively topped up her $755,000 salary in a way that wouldn’t be transparent to observers.

The victims here are fee-paying students and taxpayers, who expected their hard-earned money to be spent on education, not luxury housing for a public sector bigwig.

It’s not enough for the University to just sell the mansion. We’re calling on Dawn Freshwater to backpay the University for the real value of her discounted rent. If she can’t show this basic respect to taxpayers and students, she is unfit for the top job.

Consultants are getting rich off the Ihumātao stand-off

PM / Ihumatao

Last year the Prime Minister made a big show of announcing her intervention at Ihumātao, but in reality she’s fobbed off the nuts and bolts of negotiations to highly-paid consultants.

The Government has paid consultants more than $150,000 to provide advice regarding the dispute, with some paid $325 an hour, according to the Herald.

The problem is that all parties involved at Ihumātao – the occupiers, Fletcher Building, and the consultants – know that the Government has deep pockets and that the Prime Minister isn’t willing to walk away from the negotiating table. This means they can be aggressive with their demands.

If the Government is willing to pay Ihumātao consultants $325 per hour, taxpayers can expect the Government to fork out a horrendous sum for any eventual settlement of the dispute. And with Auckland land values rapidly increasing, the likely bill only gets worse as the standoff drags on.

The Prime Minister needs to do right by taxpayers and call off the negotiations, reasserting Fletcher Building’s property rights. That way, if the occupiers want the land, they’ll need to convince Tainui to buy it.

Green Party MPs once again the highest spenders on air travel

Yesterday saw the release of MP expenses for July-September.

It turns out Green Party MPs are burning taxpayer money and fossil fuels at a faster rate than any other party as they jet up and down the country:

Air travel graph

These spending figures arrive in the same week the government declared a climate emergency at the Greens’ behest. The hypocrisy is enough to make you weep.

Children’s Commissioner is a pointless taxpayer-funded lobbyist

Andrew Becroft

Children’s Commissioner Andrew Becroft has used his latest “Child Poverty Monitor” report to call for costly policies that aren’t even targeted at children. He wants the Government to spend more on benefits and accommodation supplements, and is even pushing for the internationally discredited policy of rent control.

Taxpayer-friendly proposals to address child poverty, such as GST relief or RMA reform, never seem to feature in the Commissioner’s proposals.

On Wednesday, we called it for what it is: the Commissioner is a taxpayer-funded left-wing lobbyist. He offers no ideas that aren’t already being pushed by countless left-wing groups who at least get their points across without taxpayer funding.

The Commissioner is funded by taxpayers to the tune of $3.2 million a year. $2.7 million of that is spent on salaries, including $272,000 for the Commissioner himself. He could do far more for children by winding up his office and just giving that money to the kids!

You've got to be kidding...

Remember Trevor Mallard's $572,000 Parliamentary playground? It's been open for barely a year and it's already closed for maintenance!


Ministers need to explain surprise new priorities

Priority graphic

Just six weeks after the election, Labour Ministers are unveiling surprise new 'top priorities' that were completely absent from the party's election manifesto.

Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta stated of that one her top priorities is abolishing the ability of ratepayers to initiate a public referendum if a Maori ward is going to be established in their area. This policy is not referred to in Labour's manifesto. Ironically, the manifesto does commit to having ‘major decisions about local democracy involve full participation of the local population from the outset.’ The Minister seems intent on shutting out full participation on certain major decisions about local democracy. She has no mandate for this.

Labour's success in the election gives the party a clear mandate, but only for the policies it campaigned on. The public has not endorsed abolishing referenda, nor switching to bilingual road signs, which the Minister of Transport has also named as a priority.

If other Labour Ministers are harbouring unannounced priorities, they should release them now in a transparent manifesto update, rather than revealing them on an ad-hoc basis throughout the next three years.

Creative NZ fights COVID-19 with poems attacking National, ACT

Newsroom screenshot

In the lead-up to the 2020 general election, Newsroom was awarded $21,150 “towards commissioning weekly NZ book reviews, short stories and poems” as part of Creative NZ’s "Arts Continuity" COVID-19 response fund.

Newsroom used taxpayer money to commission a series of poems targeted at political party leaders, penned by writer Victor Billot – a former trade union official and former co-leader of the socialist Alliance party.

On Judith Collins, Mr Billot writes:

“But when the Queen first speaks, Lady Judith just cackles.
F-bombs and eye rolls, head high verbal tackles
When Her Kindness speaks again, JC says look at me!
And spins her head round in circles, demonically”

An attempted satire of David Seymour reads:

“But now fascism is casting a shadow over our fair land.
Queen Cindy’s one party state is close at hand
To despots I proclaim; I have no time for your treaty!
On principle I REFUSE to holiday on Matariki”

Meanwhile, a poem addressed to Jacinda Ardern merely encourages her to push harder for her political agenda:

“The kind of kindness we need to see
now must go beyond reassuring speech.
It must extend both breadth and reach.
That’s what we need J.A. to deliver
Those houses she mentioned, those fresh blue rivers.”

Here’s what we told the media:

Mr Billot is entitled to write childish screeds about politicians he doesn’t like, and Newsroom is welcome to publish them – but taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay for it.

This is yet another example of Creative NZ using its funding to support political propaganda. The agency, which claims to support the arts for the benefit of all New Zealanders, recently also gave money to The Spinoff to agitate for entrenched Maori electoral wards.

The Newsroom poems are especially egregious in that they were published in the lead-up to an election. At the very least, Creative NZ needs to review its grants approval process to ensure it is funding a range of political perspectives, or simply not funding political material at all.

Amusingly, after we criticised this spending, the poet himself published a tirade calling us “a front for far right political interests who are opposed to taxes in principle”. Our in-house poet Neil Miller decided to respond in poetry form:

There once was a poet called Billot
Evil Taxpayers’ Union put his funding on a skillet
He responded to this fiscally conservative swinge
With an extended far left wing whinge

Criticisms of his time at the public trough
Were met with a challenge and a mighty scoff
He then unleashed interminable verses of rage
“Taxpayers should fund my hobby in my dotage”

Calling David Seymour a fascist marching the street
That might make a nice low-grade tweet
But taxpayers should not have to pay for your socialist rants
The Union took a poll – your poems are pants

We ridiculed your poems just by publishing them
That got more readers than the usual arty scrum
Your poems are so bad they would almost be funny
If they weren’t being paid for by our hard-earned money.

Neil Miller
New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union Poet Laureate (27 November 2020-)

Have a great weekend,

Louis circle

Louis Houlbrooke
Campaigns Manager
New Zealand Taxpayers' Union



Leaked: MP Election Diaries


Your stupendous yet humble New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union has obtained copies of Members of Parliament’s election diaries. We requested them under the Official Information Act from new MPs, who apparently do not know that the OIA does not apply to them. Stuart Smith answered because he was desperate to talk to someone… even us apparently.

Hon David Seymour was not asked for his diaries but sent them to us irregardless. We got two emails, a signed bound hard copy of his diary, 14 autographed copies of his book “Own your Future: A David Seymour Story”, 4 signed glossy photographs, and a pallet of bumper stickers promoting his new website

Anna Lorck, Labour List MP

Arrive at first caucus meeting early. Only a few people here – they also look new and nervous.

We exchange socially distanced nods.

A polite gentleman called Matt Doocey informs me that this is the National Party Caucus Room.

On the walk of shame down the wrong corridor, I overhear a staff member saying they had to use Google Images to figure out who I actually was.

Arrive at Labour Caucus Room. Told curtly I am late and that I should put the coffee and muffins on the corner table.

Maureen Pugh, National List MP (correct at time of writing)

Election Day:
I’m in!

Election Night:
I’m out (again…)

I’m in (again)!

Note to self:
Send cards to Matt King and Denise Lee who have lost their seats. Do not use any smiley emojis. Organise party. Bound to have some invites, banners, and plastic cups from the last two elections (never used).

Chris Luxon, National MP for Botany

First act as a new MP is to lodge an indignant complaint to the Electoral Commission that I was not directly elected to Prime Minister. Sir John Key definitely implied it was inevitable.

Quick reply from Electoral Commission saying that being elected to Prime Minister is constitutionally and historically impossible, particularly from Opposition.

Archive my “What I will achieve in the first 100 days as your Prime Minister” document. What a shame. I had just finished colouring it in.

Begin revising my three-year plan starting with “write a stern letter to Sir John”, “get a much bigger office”, and “find out what my portfolios are… better not be Statistics.”

Chloe Swarbrick, Green MP for Auckland Central

Election Night  

I’m running to boost the Green vote.

I’m running to boost the Green vote.

Next Day             

Oh my god (if she exists which she doesn’t), I’m an electorate MP! Just as I always planned.

I have 1,274 emails and 47 phone messages from locals wanting me to do stuff for them – for nothing! Seriously, this must be why Green MPs never want to win an electorate.

Marama Davidson (who is not an electorate MP I should note) sends me a GIF of a laughing cat next to her Ministerial warrant. I have the electorate seat, but she has the seat in the Ministerial limousine (which is not electric I should note).

David Seymour, Act MP for Epsom, Act Party Leader     

Election Night



Fly my pretties! Victory is mine! All your base are belong to us!

Try to look sober on TV.


Act vote goes up.

Strut a little.

Sit down for a while.

Next day

Try to get up. Ouch.

Get up – slowly.

Wonder who are all these strange people sleeping in my opulent red velvet lounge room? Turns out they are my caucus.

Try to learn their names before they wake up. Fortunately, most of them are deep sleepers and had driver’s licences with all the relevant information. Make notes.

Ring the Parliamentary Library and request a book about managing a team. Obviously, I have never needed one before. I am in luck – Todd Muller had just returned one.

Stuart Smith, National MP for Kaikoura

Head to Caucus in a tremendously good mood.

Mood dented by Parliamentary Security saying that tours were not allowed in this area. This is my third term as an MP. They apologise.

Stopped by different Parliamentary Security while heading to the bathroom. Point to the Guide to Parliament 2020-2023 poster which clearly has my photo on it. Glad I carry it around.


Caucus meeting. On balance, I should have let security escort me from the Parliamentary precinct.

Taxpayer Update: More money printing | Ping pong for COVID | Poor form from Stats NZ

Dear Supporter,

We need tax relief, not desperate money printing

Adrian Orr

The Reserve Bank Governor’s announcement of a new $28 billion 'Funding for Lending' money printing programme is a desperate measure. Clearly, monetary policy tools have become ineffective at fueling economic recovery.

In fact, Adrian Orr’s loose monetary policy may do more harm than good as New Zealanders pump all this extra cash into an already-unaffordable housing market.

It is becoming increasingly clear that it’s fiscal policy – especially the wage subsidy – that has propped up New Zealand's economy in the wake of COVID-19. But the wage subsidy has now run its course and we need new options.

The Green Party and special interest groups are clamoring for higher benefits, but that was sensibly ruled out by the Prime Minister on Monday. Other groups are calling for 'helicopter money'. We say, instead, look to tax relief as a way of bolstering real incomes and encouraging productivity.

A temporary reduction in GST would encourage New Zealanders to bring forward future spending, bolstering business revenues, employment, and economic growth. It's been done before, successfully. In the United Kingdom, a temporary cut to VAT saw households bring consumption spending forward, mimicking the traditional role of looser monetary policy (i.e. lower interest rates). A cut to GST certainly beats printing money and stoking the housing market!

New Zealanders would actually have to spend their money on goods and services (not houses!) to reap the benefits of a GST cut.

Grant Robertson fights COVID-19 with table tennis

Ping pong

First it was horse racetracks. Then it was arts grants for "indigenised hypno-soundscapes". Now the Government’s taxpayer-funded pandemic response includes table tennis, badminton, downhill luge, and Sea Scouts.

Grant Robertson is doling out $15 million to over 2,000 sporting organisations as part of his "Community Resilience Fund".

The funding was recently increased "due to the demand for the fund in the initial three weeks". Well, of course. There will always be demand for "free" money!

To the extent that these organisations contribute to the economy, they'll have been eligible for the wage subsidy. Why is the sports sector getting extra special treatment?

CCDHB appointment process creates conflict of interest

Spending at our DHBs needs far more scrutiny especially when it comes to conflicts of interest and "jobs for the boys".

As RNZ reports, we're raising the alarm about such a case at Wellington's Capital & Coast DHB, as it selects a new Director of Pacific Health.

The DHB’s selection panel includes Tino Pereira, who chairs the Central Pacific Collective – a group that last year received a $1.35m contract from the previous Director of Pacific Health.

In other words, this man will have a say on hiring the person who will be responsible for evaluating his service delivery and potentially renewing his million-dollar contract.

Our full letter to the DHB outlining the concerns can be read here.

Stats NZ wades into the American election

The day before the US election, our Government's statistics agency produced this graphic for social media:

Stats NZ post

The post reads: "We thought we would squeeze in some data before the result. NZ imported 4.8 million kgs of fresh oranges from the USA in the year ended September 2020."

The image is clearly meant to be a p*sstake of Donald Trump.

As Newshub reports, we challenged Stats NZ for using the election of a close diplomatic ally as social media fodder:

If a government department wants to use humour on social media that’s fine, but they should steer clear of the culture wars and pandering to what they think is politically fashionable.

Stats NZ defended the post in the Newshub piece, but has since deleted it. Perhaps the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had a stern word with them!

A letter from Snoopy


Have a great weekend,

Louis circle

Louis Houlbrooke
Campaigns Manager
New Zealand Taxpayers' Union

PS. The election may be over, but the Debt Monster still stalks our politicians. This week he welcomed newly-sworn-in Ministers to Parliament as the official Government debt clock ticked over one hundred thousand million dollars.


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