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More Transparency

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Taxpayer Update: New poll | Bach tax | Hon Ruth Richardson | Media pay-off

Dear Supporter,

Welcome to the first Taxpayer Update of 2022!

First off, we have just published the results of this month's Taxpayers' Union Curia Poll. This is the first scientific political poll published by anyone this year.

Party vote trend

It appears that the summer break has lifted New Zealanders' moods, with more respondents saying the country is heading in the right direction. But interestingly, this has not translated to a bump in the Government's overall share of support.

And National has pulled well ahead of Labour on the measure of which party is seen as best at "the economy". Our pollster, David Farrar, says that this is critical in terms of National's ability to grow its vote.

Click here to browse the poll results.

A sight to behold

Over the summer, Taxpayers' Union supporters have covered the country with massive "Stop Three Waters" banners, ensuring that holidaying politicians and public servants are kept aware of public opposition to Nanaia Mahuta's asset grab.

There are now more than 200 of these on major highways up and down the country!

Sign collage

We still have a few of these banners available on our shop. Click here to get yours.

Alternatively, you can order one of our smaller coreflute yard signs here and here.

Watch this space...

If you have signed our petition to stop Three Waters, you will soon receive an important update on a plan to stop the Three Waters scheme in court by challenging the Government’s misrepresentation of its Treaty obligations in order to justify the asset grab. 

For the facts on Three Waters, take a quick look at the Stop Three Waters website here.

The taxman wants to know who's staying at your bach

David Parker

Back in 2020, the Government pushed tax changes for family trusts through Parliament under urgency. The rushed legislation meant there wasn't time for proper scrutiny, and now that Inland Revenue is beginning to enforce the rules, we're seeing some serious devil in the detail for bach owners.

In a paywalled NZ Herald article, Hamish Rutherford explains:

Where the holiday home is owned through a trust but has some income - such as family members paying enough for accommodation to cover the upkeep - any beneficiary who stays for free or even pays less than the market rate has to have their name, date of birth and IRD number recorded and provided to the IRD.

The rules also require the disclosure of the details of anyone who provides a settlement to the trust, meaning a friend who helped out by painting the bach for free while on holiday would need to have this "gift" recorded to the IRD.

These new rules are intrusive, absurdly bureaucratic, and completely out of sync with New Zealand's culture of easy-going hospitality.

The good news is that Revenue Minister David Parker has admitted the rules are more over-the-top than he intended. He says he may make a retrospective amendment to the law to remove the need for "minor and incidental non-cash distributions".

To be honest, we're not sure how this hare-brained law can be salvaged.

(In another case of unintended tax consequences, parents who help their children get a house deposit have found themselves triggering the Government's 'bright line' test, meaning they're liable for tax on the capital gain. Another nail in the coffin of Grant Robertson's "no new taxes" promise.)

Former Finance Minister joins the Taxpayers' Union Board

Ruth

This week we're pleased to welcome Hon Ruth Richardson as a Board Member of the Taxpayers' Union.

Ruth's direct experience in tackling bloated government from the inside will be a tremendous asset as she assists in guiding and championing our mission of Lower Taxes, Less Waste, More Transparency.

Ruth describes herself as a reformer, lifelong market liberal, activist and feminist. She was Minister of Finance in the fourth National Government, has been Chairman and Director of a range of private and public companies as well as the Reserve Bank of New Zealand, and coaches sovereign states seeking to transform their prospects.

Ruth says:

Governments make spending and regulatory choices, but not in an accountability vacuum. The Taxpayers’ Union gives well researched and often noisy voice on behalf of we who pay and suffer the consequences of ill-designed public policy. As a lifetime activist in these causes being a Director of the Taxpayers’ Union sits well with my DNA.

The quantity and quality of public expenditure again rears its head – it’s time to reapply the discipline of fiscal responsibility.

All our board members offer their invaluable time and insights as volunteers. Further board members will be announced in short order. The new members replace Rex Nichols and Barrie Saunders who recently retired from the board  thank you Rex and Barrie for all the wisdom you've shared with our team.

Revealed: Government's media pay-off for APEC puff pieces

Remember APEC, the online conference hosted last year that somehow cost taxpayers $76 million?

An official information response passed to the Taxpayers' Union reveals the Ministry of Foreign Affairs paid news outlets $93,000 to publish full-page ads and puff pieces about APEC in Stuff and the NZ Herald.

Here are some examples:

Virtual Host

This exemplifies the pointless, wasteful spending rife in New Zealand's diplomatic sector.

You'd think that a conference of global leaders on the scale of APEC is important enough to attract news interest on its own merits. If it isn't, then why is New Zealand participating, let alone spending $76 million hosting it?

The decision to buy positive media coverage doesn't just stink of self-promotion. It risks legitimising the illiberal collusion between media and state practiced by APEC's dodgiest banana republics, undermining New Zealand's moral authority on the world stage. We should be better than this.

Taxpayers still haunted by the ghost of Auckland's bike bridge

After we successfully campaigned to scrap Auckland's planned $785 million bike bridge, Transport Minister Michael Wood has now set aside $150 million for an alternative crossing plan – such as a ferry or shuttle bus.

However, more than $51 million of that will go down the drain to cover the planning costs sunk into the doomed bridge.

Michael Wood has shown he's willing to move heaven and earth to satisfy the demands of the Auckland lycra mafia, so we'll be watching closely to ensure his 'alternative' proposals actually stack up on a value-for-money basis.

Government slashes speed limits instead of fixing roads

You might think you pay road user charges to improve the quality of our roads. But the New Zealand Transport Agency has decided that instead of making our roads safer, it will simply slash speed limits, imposing a massive cumulative time cost on millions of motorists.

The latest example is the Napier-Taupo road. NZTA plans to cut the speed limit on the entire Eskdale to Rangitaiki section from 100km/h to 80km/h. Regular users of the road are fuming, and we've decided to support their cause with a petition for NZTA to scrap its plan and instead improve maintenance.

Napier-Taupo

Of course, lower speed limits also mean more Kiwis are pinged with speeding tickets, sending revenue straight to the Government's Consolidated Fund.

The petition has already hit almost 10,000 signatures. We'll be asking the local Labour MP Stuart Nash to accept this petition and intervene to stop the change. 

Click here to sign the petition to keep Napier-Taupo at 100km/hour

The sad case of Wellington's $570,000 roundabout

Roundabout1

As reported by the Dominion Post, we have revealed that the installation of a small mountable roundabout in Wellington has cost ratepayers $570,000.

In November, Wellington City Council crowed about the completion of works at the Hataitai intersection. The centrepiece is a 'bespoke roundabout' adorned with 'a circular design symbolising the tides and currents of the sea and the coiled-up tails of the taniwha'.

The artwork itself cost $16,500, and delayed the opening of the roundabout by 28 days while the design cured. But now after just a few months, the roundabout is badly scuffed by the buses that drive straight over the top.

Roundabout2

Roundabout3Photos taken by a Taxpayers' Union researcher this week.

The tire marks are more visible than the artwork itself! Meanwhile, bus users have complained about the jarring bump when mounting the roundabout.

The total cost, which includes adjustments to the surrounding pavement and pedestrian crossings, is $570,000 that's 203 years' worth of rates bills for the average Wellington ratepayer.

This is without taking into account the cost of regularly sending in contractors to control traffic and clean up the artwork, as we've seen with the famous 'rainbow crossing' on Cuba Street.

Cuba StThe Cuba St rainbow crossing's latest re-paint cost $17,500.

It's fitting that we were given this information in the same week that Wellington City Council unveiled its new $130,000 waterfront artwork: a giant "Wellington" sign that is intentionally misspelled:

Well_ngton

Imagine paying rates for 45 years and realising you still haven't covered the cost for this monstrosity.

Wellington City Council needs to dial down its urban beautification efforts and focus on the basics: sewage pipes that don't burst, buses that run on time, and rates that don't break the bank.

Have a great weekend,

Louis circle


Louis Houlbrooke
Campaigns Manager
New Zealand Taxpayers' Union

Donate

Media coverage:

Dominion Post  $570,000 Wellington roundabout already damaged, two months after opening

NBR  Ruth Richardson joins Taxpayers' Union board

Stuff
  We Kiwis are a content lot, but trouble looms over the horizon

NZ Herald  
Jordan Williams responds to Simon Wilson

RNZ  Politics and the pandemic - another year of Covid-19

Stuff  Looking back on the big stories in South Canterbury in 2021 - March

Revealed: Government's media pay-off for APEC puff pieces

The New Zealand Taxpayers' Union is condemning the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade's decision to pay media outlets $93,578 for 'sponsored content' about APEC 2021.

The spending information was made available in a response provided under the Official Information Act.

COVID-19 came with a silver lining for taxpayers as the Government was forced to cut back on its usual programme of international meet-and-greets. But somehow, New Zealand taxpayers still had to fork out $76 million to host APEC online.

The Government clearly felt the need to justify this extraordinary cost: MFAT paid news outlets $93,000 to publish full-page ads and puff pieces in Stuff and the NZ Herald about the online conference. We say this merely exemplifies the pointless, wasteful spending rife in New Zealand's diplomatic sector.

You'd think that a conference of global leaders on the scale of APEC is important enough to attract news interest on its own merits. If it isn't, then why is New Zealand participating, let alone spending $76 million hosting it?

As host of APEC, New Zealand had a rare opportunity to lead by example, demonstrating values of fiscal prudence and media independence. Instead, we blew $76 million on a glorified Zoom call and paid off the media to make the thing look worthwhile.

The decision to buy positive media coverage doesn't just stink of self-promotion. It risks legitimising the illiberal collusion between media and state practiced by APEC's dodgiest banana republics, undermining New Zealand's moral authority on the world stage. We should be better than this.

Examples of the 'sponsored content' can be viewed below.

  Virtual Host

 

Exposed: Wellington's 'bespoke' roundabout cost $570,000

Roundabout1

The installation of a mountable roundabout in Hataitai has cost Wellington ratepayers $570,000 – and the project's "bespoke artwork" is already badly scuffed, reveals the New Zealand Taxpayers' Union.

In November, Wellington City Council crowed about the completion of works at the Hataitai intersection. The centrepiece is a 'bespoke roundabout' adorned with 'a circular design symbolising the tides and currents of the sea and the coiled-up tails of the taniwha'.

The artwork itself cost $16,500, and delayed the opening of the roundabout by 28 days while the design cured. But now after just a few months, the roundabout is badly scuffed by the buses that drive straight over the top.

Roundabout2

Roundabout3Photos taken by a Taxpayers' Union researcher this week.

The tire marks are more visible than the artwork itself! Meanwhile, bus users have complained about the jarring bump when mounting the roundabout. You have to wonder why the Council couldn't have just painted a circle.

The total cost, which includes adjustments to the surrounding pavement and pedestrian crossings, is $570,000 that's 203 years' worth of rates bills for the average Wellington ratepayer.

This is without taking into account the cost of regularly sending in contractors to control traffic and clean up the artwork, as we've seen with the famous 'rainbow crossing' on Cuba Street.

Cuba StThe Cuba St rainbow crossing's latest re-paint cost $17,500.

It's fitting that the Taxpayers' Union was given this information on the same date that Wellington City Council unveiled its new $130,000 waterfront artwork: a giant "Wellington" sign that is intentionally misspelled.

Well_ngton

Imagine paying rates for 45 years and realising you still haven't covered the cost for this monstrosity.

Wellington City Council needs to dial down its urban beautification efforts and focus on the basics: sewage pipes that don't burst, buses that run on time, and rates that don't break the bank.

Former Minister of Finance joins Taxpayers’ Union Board

Ruth

The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union is welcoming Hon Ruth Richardson onto its Board of Directors.

Taxpayers’ Union co-founder Jordan Williams says, “Few New Zealand politicians can claim to have tackled bloated government to the degree that Ruth Richardson has. Her experience and guidance will be of enormous value to the Taxpayers’ Union as a high-spending government challenges our mission of lower taxes, less waste, and more transparency.”

“The quantity and quality of public expenditure again rears its head – it’s time to reapply the discipline of fiscal responsibility.”
-Hon Ruth Richardson

Ruth describes herself as a reformer, lifelong market liberal, activist and feminist. She was Minister of Finance in the fourth National Government, has been Chairman and Director of a range of private and public companies as well as the Reserve Bank of New Zealand, and coaches sovereign states seeking to transform their prospects.

Ruth says, “Governments make spending and regulatory choices, but not in an accountability vacuum. The Taxpayers’ Union gives well researched and often noisy voice on behalf of we who pay and suffer the consequences of ill-designed public policy. As a lifetime activist in these causes being a Director of the Taxpayers’ Union sits well with my DNA.”

Three further new board members will be announced in the coming days. The new board members replace former Wellington City Councillor Rex Nichols and former journalist and lobbyist Barrie Saunders who recently retired from the board.

Jordan says, “Rex and Barrie have made invaluable contributions to the Taxpayers’ Union, championing our efforts and generously sharing their wisdom and institutional knowledge with our young team members. As Chairman, Barrie oversaw a four-year period that saw our number of subscribed supporters grow from 28,000 to more than 160,000. He has set us up very well for the challenges of 2022, 2023, and beyond.”

Taxpayer Update: What we've achieved | Hidden tax | War on geese

Dear Supporter,

Merry Christmas

This will be my last newsletter until the new year. Today the team is reflecting on a challenging but productive 2021.

A small sample of what you made possible this year

  • The Government froze pay for high-earning public servants after months of petitioning and lobbying from our supporters. (They're set to review this decision next year: we'll be ready.)

  • We successfully lobbied the Labour Party's trade union to repay their wage subsidies.

  • Our petition and billboard campaign protesting Auckland's $785 million bike bridge saw the project scrapped.

  • We attracted extraordinary media interest and public outrage over our investigation into DOC's absurd funeral and burial of a dead turtle.

  • We exposed examples of absurd and wasteful "COVID response" spending from Creative NZ, the Ministry for Culture and Heritage, and the "Public Interest Journalism Fund".

  • We alerted the public to how the Government is using taxpayer money to fund anti-dairy propaganda, dodgy health 'research', and left-wing blog sites.

  • Our Jonesie Awards celebrating the worst exampels of government waste were a great success, racking up tens of thousands of view on Facebook and Youtube.

  • Half the 15,000 submissions made to the Climate Change Commission on its big emissions plan came from Taxpayers' Union supporters.

  • The Taxpayer Talk podcast is now one of New Zealand's most-listened political podcasts. We even got Nanaia Mahuta to front up for an interview on Three Waters.

  • Taxpayers' Union supporters like you chipped into an ad campaign that ensured practically everyone in the country knows how the Government gave $2.75 million to Mongrel Mob affiliates.

  • Our bumper stickers to stop Labour's car tax are now a regular sight up and down the country.

  • And our Stop Three Waters campaign has seen 85,000 New Zealanders and 60 local councils unite against Nanaia Muhata's asset grab, spooking Cabinet to the point where they forced Nanaia Mahuta to delay the introduction of legislation until (at least) March next year.

Another development on Three Waters

On that last point, there's been another development: Nanaia Mahuta is now proposing that every local council will have the opportunity for representation on the new waters entities' "Representative Groups".

Of course, this doesn't fix the fundamental problems with Three Waters – the dodgy cost modelling, the four layers of bureaucracy, the co-governance, and the unfair distribution of costs but it's more evidence that Mahuta is starting to get desperate.

Mahuta knows that her reforms are unpopular and is attempting to polish the proverbial to win over councils. But Parliament is now likely to be debating the reforms at the same time as council election campaigns. We'll be working to ensure candidates up and down the country are vocal on their opposition to Three Waters.

Behind the scenes

In the meantime, watch out for our massive Stop Three Waters banners (and smaller yard signs) popping up on highways up and down the country this summer. You, and thousands like you, made this possible.

Grant Robertson exploits inflation for massive tax grab

Tax take

Last week I attended Treasury's presentation of the Half Year Economic and Fiscal Update. The updated Government books include some good news for Grant Robertson that is also very bad news for taxpayers.

Despite the pandemic, Grant Robertson is set to increase his tax take by an extra $7 billion each year for the next five years. You'd think New Zealanders deserve some tax relief, but Robertson thinks that taking more and more is something to be proud of.

A major cause of Grant Robertson's revenue bonanza is inflation, which is now forecast to hit 5.6% next year. Inflation means a larger share of our incomes is pushed into higher tax brackets, even when we're no richer in real terms.

In fact, someone on the average salary ($58,836) is set to pay an extra $955 in income tax next year, assuming they're lucky enough to get an inflation-level pay rise. Of course, their real pre-tax buying power will be no higher, so either way everyone is left poorer.

Tax brackets haven't been adjusted for a decade. National and Labour might have thought taxpayers wouldn't notice slow, inflation-driven tax creep, but with inflation curving up, the elephant in the room is now impossible to ignore.

James Shaw raids ETS revenue to create new slush fund

James Shaw

The major spending announcement from last week's fiscal update was something that is becoming quite familiar: a new slush fund.

James Shaw is taking $4.5 billion in revenue from Emissions Trading Scheme levies to create a new 'climate emergency' fund for initiatives like cycle lanes, electric ferries, and urban beautification. To put that in perspective, $4.5 billion is $2,459 for every Kiwi household!

The point of the ETS is to impose market-driven prices on emissions that incentivise companies and households to cut emissions in cost-effective ways. It was never meant to be a revenue source for politicians.

The Government should simply return revenues from the ETS to taxpayers via a carbon dividend, as was done in Canada.

In fact, because our emissions are capped and traded under the ETS, spending projects from the new climate slush fund won't actually cut New Zealand's emissions. Any emissions reduction from, say, petrol vehicles, will simply free up credits to produce emissions in other parts of the economy. This is called the waterbed effect and it is well understood at Treasury and among ETS experts.

Do you follow us on Facebook?

If you don't "do" social media, I understand. It can be a pretty nasty place. But we're now reaching hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders per week on Facebook. You can help by liking our page and sharing our posts.

You'll also see memes and news items that don't make it into our newsletter, like this:

Facebook post

Kāpiti Coast District Council minimises waste with... salami

Followers of our newsletters may become disillusioned by the unending examples of wasteful government spending, but in the spirit of Christmas, we would like to highlight a positive story.

Geese memorial

In August this year, more than 107 Canadian geese were slain at the hands of Kāpiti Coast District Council.

Local resident Geoff Amos led the campaign to massacre the birds after they deposited more than 400kgs of poop per day into Awatea Lake and the surrounding park. Ratepayers were fed up with the birds' mess and aggressive behaviour.

The Council's campaign of avian annihilation may have been sad news for the geese, but there's a positive twist for ratepayers and waste-haters: the Council has confirmed to the Taxpayers' Union that these beautiful but foul-smelling birds were turned into sausages and salami.

Unfortunately, the meaty bounty was requisitioned for private consumption by individuals present for the shooting, not fed to the poor as advocated by anti-goose petitioner Geoff Amos, or fairly distributed among long-suffering ratepayers as advocated by your humble Taxpayers' Union. But on balance, we have to give praise to Kāpiti Coast District Council and the resourceful contractor for setting a rare example of waste minimisation in in local politics.

As you may have noticed, the Taxpayers' Union takes a special interest in the publicly-funded disposal of dead animals. If you're aware of any such stories at your local council, please let us know at [email protected].

Taxpayer Talk: A long chat with Simon Bridges

If you're looking for something to listen to over the summer break, I recommend Jordan's long-form interview with Simon Bridges, National's new Shadow Finance Minister. It covers policy issues but also delves into topics covered in Simon's recently-published book.

Have a very merry Christmas.

Louis circle


Louis Houlbrooke
Campaigns Manager
New Zealand Taxpayers' Union

Donate

Media coverage:

Newsroom  Plans for independent policy costing authority stay on ice

Stuff
  Looking back on the big stories in South Canterbury in 2021 - March

NZ Herald  Time for Act to capitalise on ‘Crate Day support’

Stuff  No smoking, but the Government trusts us with cheese?

Stuff  Just like soldiers in WWI, it's time for a truce and a thanks

NZ Herald  If Labour thought 2021 was tough

NBR  Omicron, the economy, housing, those polls

Bowalley Road  Luxon’s Tough Assignment.

Stuff  Sorry Northland, I'm not welcome, so I'm not coming

NZ Herald  Luxon: Got the job - now what?

95bFM  What's Up w/ Dr. Shane Reti: December 15, 2021

95bFM  Political Commentary w/ Dr. Lara Greaves: December 16, 2021

Homepaddock  Taxing times 

Newshub
  David Seymour rates Christopher Luxon 6/10

Newstalk ZB  Chris Luxon wants to focus on building back trust with the New Zealand people

RNZ  Season 2 | Episode 6: 14th December 2021 - Party People

Newstalk ZB  HDPA: The best Christmas present National could've hoped for

RNZ  The Panel with Alexia Russell and Simon Pound (Part 1)

Rural News  Sour taste!

Times Online  Luxon slams Covid decision as National rises in new poll

Stuff  New poll: National up under Christopher Luxon at expense of ACT

TVNZ  Christopher Luxon delivers National poll bump; ACT down

Newshub  Christopher Luxon reacts to new poll showing National flying as ACT falls

Otago Daily Times  First poll with Luxon as National leader shows boost at Act's expense

Kiwiblog  Taxpayers’ Union Curia Poll December 2021

The Daily Blog  BREAKING: First Poll since Luxon as Leader – National soar – ACT crash!

Stuff  New poll: National up under Christopher Luxon at expense of ACT

Kāpiti Council praised for massacring geese, making salami

Geese memorialReaders of our regular newsletters may become disillusioned by the unending examples of wasteful government spending. But in the spirit of Christmas, we would like to highlight a positive story.

In August this year, more than 107 Canada geese were slain at the hands of Kāpiti Coast District Council after 1,497 local residents signed a petition to euthanise the birds.

Local resident Geoff Amos led the campaign to massacre the birds after they deposited more than 400kg worth of poop per day into Awatea Lake and the surrounding park. Kāpiti ratepayers were angered by the mess and intimidated by the aggressive behaviour of these unwelcome Canadian migrants.

The Council's campaign of avian annihilation may have been sad news for the geese, but there was a positive twist for ratepayers and waste-haters: the Council has confirmed to the Taxpayers' Union that these beautiful but foul-smelling birds were turned into sausages and salami.

Unfortunately, the meaty bounty was requisitioned for private consumption by individuals present for the shooting, not fed to the poor as advocated by anti-goose petitioner Geoff Amos or fairly distributed among long-suffering ratepayers as advocated by your humble Taxpayers' Union. But on balance, we have to give praise to Kāpiti Coast District Council and the resourceful contractor for setting a rare example of waste minimisation in in local politics. 

As you may have noticed, the Taxpayers' Union takes a special interest in the publicly-funded disposal of dead animals. If you're aware of any similar stories at your local council, please let us know at [email protected].

Simon Bridges on the making of man, his faith and economic views

Has the National Party got its mojo back under its new leadership? And will the Party keep promises made to taxpayers under Judith Collins? With Simon Bridges back in the mix as the shadow Minister of Finance, Jordan interviews Simon about his new role, along with topics traversed in his book: faith, economics, and what it means to be a man. 

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

Taxpayer Update: Today's new poll | Bureaucrat blowout | EECA hypocrisy

Dear Supporter,

Taxpayers’ Union Curia poll: The first post-Luxon leadership poll

The results of December's Taxpayers’ Union Curia Poll, exclusive to our members and supporters like you, are available here.

This has been highly anticipated because it is the first scientific poll since Chris Luxon took over as National Party Leader.

It's good news for him. National has risen 6.4 points to 32.6%. But ACT has taken a hit and Labour is holding steady.

Party vote trend

Perhaps more interesting is the public's view of the party leaders: on the key metric of 'net favourability', Chris Luxon is better liked than Jacinda Ardern.

Head over to our website to see the results.

Incredible blowout in public service staff numbers under Labour

While private businesses struggled to survive during lockdown, Government bureaucracies have been booming.

Last week the Public Service Commission issued an annual update of its workforce data, revealing that the number of staff in the core public service has leapt up by 29 percent since Labour was elected in 2017.

Click here for larger image.

The Public Service Commission’s data excludes key workforces such as Defence, Police, and DHBs – so the growth can't be pinned on COVID-19.

The graph above shows how the previous National Government failed to roll back a similar explosion in bureaucracy we saw under Helen Clark. So here is a challenge for National's new leader Chris Luxon: he needs to commit to not just a pause, but a total reversal of public service bloat. That means eliminating taxpayer-funded jobs and even entire departments.

Three Waters: Government hid its plan from local councils

Nanaia Mahuta

At the beginning of this year, Nanaia Mahuta was saying it could be optional for councils to be included in her Three Waters reforms. But in October she announced Three Waters would now be a compulsory "all in" reform, whether councils like it or not.

RNZ has now revealed Mahuta made the "all in" decision back in June, but kept it quiet for four months so that anti-Three Waters councils wouldn't hit the roof during her official feedback period. It's an incredible example of dishonest, manipulative lawmaking.

Three Waters has become a real problem for this Government. Nanaia Mahuta's Cabinet colleagues are spooked by the intensity of public opposition to her plans and last week she announced she's delaying legislation until March next year.

We're fighting Three Waters because it is an undemocratic asset grab that would create four massive new co-governed bureaucracies to manage water assets with little to no input from ratepayers. The new water entities will send New Zealanders new water rates bills, with no guarantee of commensurate rates relief from local councils.

We're keeping our supporters of this campaign updated, so if you'd like to receive Three Waters updates, make sure you sign the petition at www.StopThreeWaters.nz.

Ihumātao update: all hui, no housing

Empty land

It's now been a year since the Government announced its $30 million purchase of illegally-occupied land at Ihumātao.

The decision to purchase the land was justified on the basis that it would result in the provision of housing on the site, with funding coming from the Land for Housing Programme.

However, we can reveal that talks between the Government and Kīngitanga with regards to housing on the land have gone nowhere. In fact, there hasn't even been any agreement over who will form the Steering Committee that is meant to make decisions on the use of the land.

You can read our blog post here, and Newsroom's coverage of our information request here.

Questionable value from feel-good spending

Orange Sky graphicBack in 2018, Phil Twyford announced that the Government was partnering with an Australian charity to deliver laundry services, showering, and "conversations" for the homeless.

It sounded great, until someone pointed our researcher to their annual review, which details the services they actually delivered for the $437,500 in funding. It turns out taxpayers forked out $103 for every load of laundry or shower delivered by Orange Sky in 2019/20.

Obviously, not all of that money was spent on laundry and showers: Orange Sky paid a whopping $159,485 on management fees that year to its Australian parent organisation.

Click here to read more.

Orange Sky weren't too happy about our exposé. Their Brisbane-based Senior Marketing Manager emailed me with a long response, insisting that the "genuine, non-judgemental conversation" they provide is worth the taxpayer spend. When I didn't reply within 24 hours, I got a call from their PR firm! You can find our exchange at the end of our blog post.

Here's an idea: how about we strip down the Australian management fees, the 'conversations', and the marketing/PR spend and pay campgrounds to provide these services? It would be a fraction of the cost.

Smokefree plan is a bonanza for organised crime

Smuggled tobacco

Organised crime groups will be salivating at news of the Government’s new Smokefree 2025 plan. The plan will slash nicotine content in legal cigarettes to “very low” levels and ban all sales to New Zealanders born after 2008 if legislation passes next year.

Already, one in ten cigarettes smoked in New Zealand are sourced from the untaxed black market (smuggled or homegrown). Now the Government wants to deliver that black market a monopoly on full-strength smokes and exclusive access to younger smokers. It’s madness and will see more taxpayer resources diverted to dealing with organised crime.

This plan ignores the evidence of what’s already working: smokers are switching to vaping, a far less harmful alternative. There is no need for nasty, experimental policies that will make smokers miserable and criminals rich.

Is this the most hypocritical and pointless government agency of the lot?

EECA travel costs

The Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) has been running a serious of big-budget ad campaigns telling New Zealanders to cut carbon emissions by driving and flying less. They've spent $4 million and counting on their "Gen Less" campaign.

EECA's last advert shut down major streets in Wellington as they staged and filmed a fake climate march.

And their most recent ad is one of the most self-righteously condescending taxpayer-funded adverts we've ever seen, telling New Zealanders to join the "right side" of history in the fight against climate change. The ad for some reason features images of Rosa Parks, Black Lives Matter protestors, and gay newly-weds.

So we decided to check the personal expenses of EECA CEO Andrew Caseley: in the last financial year he alone spent more than $8,000 on taxpayer-funded travel, including 31 domestic flights.

Is this what EECA thinks energy efficiency looks like?

All the best,

Louis circle


Louis Houlbrooke
Campaigns Manager
New Zealand Taxpayers' Union

Donate

Media coverage:

Stuff  Unvaccinated Māori have a right to privacy  

RNZ  The Week in Politics: Christopher Luxon's first test

NZ Herald  Luxon may have timing right on Covid Response

Newsroom  Ihumātao housing waiting on Kīngitanga appointments

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Ihumātao update: One year on, we still don't have a Steering Group, let alone housing

This month marks a year since the Government announced its $30 million purchase of land at Ihumātao. The decision to purchase the land was justified on the basis that it would result in the provision of housing on the site, with funding coming from the Land for Housing Programme.

However, the Taxpayers' Union can reveal that talks between the Government and Kīngitanga with regards to the use of the land have gone nowhere. In fact, there hasn't even been any agreement over who will form the Steering Committee that is meant to make decisions on the provision of housing.

The Memorandum of Understanding between the Government and Kīngitanga outlined that a new Steering Committee overseeing the management of Ihumātao should include six members: three iwi representatives supported by Kīngitanga, one on behalf of Kīngitanga, two representing the Crown and one observer from Auckland Council. Only once appointments are made can the Committee determine what happens next. 

In an official information request, the Taxpayers' Union asked for an update on the appointment status of the Steering Committee. Māori Development Minister Willie Jackson's response confirms the Committee remains unappointed, saying "The process for determining the representatives requires a considerable period of facilitation by the Kiingtanga, given the complex relationships and associations between the parties...The Kiingitanga appointment process creates pressure on the relationships between these groups, and it is important the Crown allows the process to take the time it needs to."

In other words, for all Grant Robertson's bluster about his 'unique and innovative' solution at Ihumātao, the Government has still failed to achieve consensus. Any agreement on the number, ownership, or management of homes, is being delayed indefinitely. Actual construction at this point remains a pipe dream.

The Government's intervention at Ihumātao has not facilitated new housing – it has done the opposite. Fletcher Building literally had earthworks machinery at Ihumātao's gates before the Government spent $30 million of taxpayer money to paralyse construction. Willie Jackson has blamed COVID-19 on stopping whānau from meeting to discuss Ihumātao. That's laughable when the Government is currently hosting APEC using video calls, and it raises the question of whether iwi even intend to follow through on their side of the deal and get homes built.

The Government opted not to put any clear timeframe for action in the Memorandum of Understanding, and has since clearly failed to impress any sense of urgency on iwi. In fact, Minister Jackson has not communicated with Kiingitanga on this matter since July."

Taxpayers deserve better. We forked out $30 million with the expectation of housing. Instead, all we've got is hui.

Exclusive: Taxpayers are forking out $103 per laundry service or shower provided by a Government-funded charity

Taxpayers are forking out $103 per laundry service or shower provided by a Government-funded charity, reveals the New Zealand Taxpayers' Union.

According to its 2020 annual review, taxpayer-funded charity Orange Sky received $437,500 from the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development for the 2020 financial year and in that time provided 4,248 free mobile laundry and shower services for the homeless.

Union spokesman Louis Houlbrooke says, "Orange Sky claims that for its 2020 funding it produced $557,000 of "social impact", but by its own admission only a quarter of that impact came from shower and laundry services, the rest of the touted benefits supposedly coming from quality of life gained by 'friends' (the homeless) and by volunteers delivering the services."

"In other words, the supposed benefit to taxpayers from our investment is based on completely vague notions of wellbeing that cannot be measured in any objective way."

"The big winners here aren't the homeless, but the charity's Australian management. In 2020 Orange Sky paid a whopping $159,485 on management fees to its Australian parent organisation more than the claimed value of its shower and laundry services."

Shower/laundry services:

Orange Sky says that in 2020 it provided 2,378 loads of laundry and 1,870 showers, with a claimed 'social impact' worth $144,000. In other words, Orange Sky claims that each shower or laundry service it provides is worth around $34. Of course, in the real world a shower or laundry service from a public pool or laundromat costs just $5 or so.*

*A washing cycle at Newtown Laundromat, in an area in which Orange Sky operates, costs $4 for a 4kg load. Entry to Wellington Regional Aquatic Centre's facilities at the full adult price costs $6.60.

Benefit of conversations:

Orange Sky says that in 2020 it provided 3,086 hours of conversation to the homeless, with a claimed "quality of life" benefit of $274,000 – or $89 per hour of conversation. Of course, it is difficult to imagine a social service provider paying unqualified workers $89 per hour – but that is how much Orange Sky claims its conversations are worth.

Benefit for volunteers:

Orange Sky claims the benefits are even greater once the benefits to the volunteers are taken into account. Orange Sky says its 112 volunteers in 2020 enjoyed $122,000 in "quality of life" benefits $1,089 per volunteer. It is unclear how the charity calculates the quality of life benefits for their volunteers.

Background:

Orange Sky originated in Queensland, Australia and arrived in New Zealand in May of 2018, with the Government announcing funding that same year.

In its mission statement, Orange Sky markets itself as a provider of practical services for the homeless: 'We want to make sure that everyone has access to free laundry and shower services – but most importantly – the opportunity to connect and feel welcome.'

Funding for Orange Sky was first announced by Housing and Urban Development Minister Phil Twyford in 2018.

...

UPDATE: Orange Sky's Brisbane-based senior marketing manager has emailed the Taxpayers' Union with a response to this blog post. You can read their response here, and our reply here.


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