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Taxpayers’ Union asks Jacinda Ardern to clarify role of electorate secretary acting as wedding planner

The Taxpayers’ Union has today written to the MP for Mt Albert asking for more details about her electorate agent’s role in managing the Gisborne wedding venue, given the staffer is based in Auckland and wouldn’t normally travel for her job.

We know of at least two visits to Gisborne by the electorate agent, and it remains unclear whether taxpayers paid for the travel and any accommodation.

MPs enjoy a privileged position. It is important for public confidence that it is made clear no taxpayer money is being used for personal benefit.

This isn’t the first time the Taxpayers’ Union has taken an investigative role in the spending of taxpayer money by MPs. Under the last Government we held to account National Party MP Claudette Hauiti after she used her budget to pay for a personal trip to Australia, and National Party Ministers who used Crown limos to travel to Northland to campaign for the 2015 by-election.

Unfortunately, MPs have a special carve-out from the Official Information Act, meaning that it is up to the Prime Minister to release this information. But given her public commitments to transparency, and her office’s assurance that everything is above board, we look forward to being furnished with the information sought.

The letter is available here.

Wilful Ignorance: disregarding the ETS will hurt us all

Jordan is joined by New Zealand Initiative Economist Matt Burgess for a detailed discussion about the ETS. They reflect on the government's long standing stance of ignoring the realities of the trading scheme, the inefficiency of climate change vanity projects and what we can do moving forward. 

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

Taxpayer Update: Our exclusive new poll | Taxpayer-funded political parties | Bike bridge $$

Dear Supporter,

New Taxpayers’ Union Curia poll released: Labour & Greens down, National & ACT up 📊

Exclusive to members and supporters like you, we commissioned another Taxpayers’ Union Curia Poll that shows support for National and ACT is up, while Labour and the Greens are down. ACT is at a record high for our polling company.

Our expert pollster (and Taxpayers’ Union Co-founder) David Farrar has advised numerous Prime Ministers and Leaders of the Opposition. On election night in 2014, John Key described David as “New Zealand’s best pollster”.

David and our Executive Director Jordan Williams have just recorded a podcast where they delve into the numbers, what they mean, and the advice David would be giving Judith Collins and Jacinda Ardern reading this report. You can listen to the Taxpayer Talk episode here (the episode will also appear on Apple Podcasts, and Spotify in the next few hours).

Head over to our website to read the results.

Trend graph

The Government is putting taxpayer funding for political parties onto its agenda 💸

Faafoi

The Government has announced a review of electoral laws that will consider, among other things, taxpayer funding for political parties.

We will be fighting this for four key reasons:

  • Morally wrong: Taxpayers should not be forced to fund political parties that they find reprehensible. We expect our money to be spent on services, not party political propaganda.

  • Corrupted process: Kris Faafoi says he will be reaching out to political parties for ideas on this review. But elected political parties – the very same ones who will vote on this reform – have a vested interest in cementing their place in Parliament and maximising their revenue. Of course politicians on the left and right will jump at the chance of getting taxpayer money, but that doesn’t make it a good idea.

  • Entrenches power: Elected political parties already have a massive advantage over political outsiders thanks to their Parliamentary funding. Giving money to the private wings of these parties will only serve to further disadvantage outside voices during elections.

  • Erodes grassroots democracy: If political parties are given taxpayer money, they will be less dependent on membership dues and cake stall fundraisers, reducing the incentive to act according to their members’ values. That’s a disaster for democracy. Guaranteed taxpayer funding for political parties will result in a less accountable, Wellington-centric political environment.

In short, we can't trust politicians to lead these reforms. Perhaps we need to nominate a taxpayer representiative for the review board. Watch this space...

Why is Sean Hendy’s modelling group getting $6m for advice Treasury is paying $30k for elsewhere? 💰

Hendy and co

The NZ Herald reports that the Prime Minister's department has awarded Shaun Hendy and Siouxie Wiles's modelling group $6 million in contracts to forecast COVID-19.

For perspective, Treasury has commissioned its own pandemic modelling from an independent advisory firm costing a mere $30,000.

Here's what Jordan had to say:

Te Punaha Matatini (TPM) appears to be acting as the ‘single source of truth’ for this Government, and is getting paid like a greedy monopolist. Given the wild inaccuracies of pandemic modelling around the world, our leaders should be getting advice from multiple agencies and experts, not betting the house on friends of the Government.

It stinks of arrogance by the Prime Minister’s Department to refuse to answer questions posed by the NZ Herald about the procurement rules followed in awarding the TPM contract. That raises very real questions about this contract, and quite what it was for.

LGNZ must stop its Three Waters sock puppetry 🎭

Crosby

Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) is the ratepayer-funded lobby group meant to represent the interests of local councils.

But they missed the memo on Nanaia Mahuta's Three Waters reform, a multi-billion dollar asset grab that is opposed by the vast majority of local councils.

In fact, LGNZ has literally sold out its position to the Government, signing a "Heads of Agreement" which sees the group getting taxpayer funding in exchange for "build[ing] support within the local government sector for the Three Waters Reform Programme".

Timaru District Council is so frustrated with LGNZ's kowtowing to the Government that they have seceded from the group, and Christchurch City Council is preparing to do the same.

This week LGNZ President Stuart Crosby wrote an opinion piece for Stuff in a labourious attempt to quell dissent from councils. He complains about "wilfully ill-informed keyboard warriors on social media" and makes the extraordinary claim that "we have tended to stay on the sidelines of public debate about Three Waters reforms".

He fails to disclose the fact that LGNZ is explicitly paid to advance the reform agenda! Nor did Stuff's editors note this obvious conflict of interest.

LGNZ is broken, misleading the public, and totally unaccountable to ratepayers. In fact, due to a legislative mistake, LGNZ is exempt from official information laws despite being a publicly-funded body. We're glad to see local councils waking up to the LGNZ's failures.

More than 55,000 New Zealanders have now signed our petition against Three Waters. If you haven't already, add your name here.

55k have now signed

The Government is still burning money on the cancelled Auckland bike bridge 🚴 🚒

The Problem With Auckland's $685m Cycle Bridge | Scoop News

A couple of weeks ago we celebrated the Government's decision to scrap its $785 million cycle bridge across the Waitemata Harbour. That move came after 59,000 New Zealanders signed our petition on the issue, backed by our billboard campaign.

But now the NZ Herald reports the Government is still paying a consortium of contractors to complete designs of Auckland’s scrapped cycle bridge.

$51 million has already been thrown at this scrapped project, with shovels never even touching ground.

And now we're still spending, just to get some pretty pictures. This is the kind of waste that only happens when you’re dealing with ‘other people’s money’.

It’s time to end this rort and move on. Tell the engineers and consultants to put down their pencils and find work on projects New Zealanders actually want.

Emissions reduction plan will create costs without reducing emissions 🍂

Yesterday the Government unveiled a new 140-page Emissions Reduction Plan setting forth a raft of new restrictions on our economy and lifestyles. Here are some of the proposals:

  • A 20 percent target reduction on vehicle kilometres travelled by 2035

  • A 25 percent target reduction from freight transport by 2035

  • A target to have 30 percent zero emissions vehicles by 2035

  • Increase public transport subsidies

  • A vehicle scrappage scheme to incentivise low-income New Zealanders to shift to low-emissions transport

  • Investigate how the tax system should be used to push low-emissions transport options

  • Set a maximum CO2 limit for individual light petrol vehicle imports to tackle the highest emitting vehicles

  • Introduce measures to limit imports of high-emitting vehicles rejected by other countries

  • Limit additional highway and road capacity in line with climate change targets

  • Use congestion pricing to discourage driving

  • End the expansion of gas pipeline infrastructure and eliminate "fossil" gas in all buildings as recommended by the Climate Change Commission

  • Investigate a mandatory energy performance certificate for commercial and public buildings

But there's a massive elephant in the room: none of these proposals will actually reduce New Zealand's total emissions, because these emissions are already set by the Emissions Trading Scheme.

In short, when the Government uses regulation to cut emissions from a source already covered by the Emissions Trading Scheme – say, transport – carbon credits are simply freed up making it more affordable to produce emissions in other ways. That is why the UN advises countries against regulatory interventions when cap-and-trade schemes are in place.

Even if the laundry list of new regulations did succeed in reducing total emissions, a Government-knows-best approach inevitably means blunt measures with higher costs than a carbon pricing system. The particular circumstances of some businesses will mean switching to electric heating or electric vehicles, for example, will involve inordinate cost.

Ignoring the ETS and using a hundred different regulations to whack unfashionable sectors is divisive, costly, and cynical politicking.

Our members and supporters made up the largest group of submitters to the Climate Change Commission on the same plan, sending twice as many submissions as the next largest group (Forest and Bird). You can read our submission here.

Our response to the OCR hike 🏦

Last week the Reserve Bank increased the Official Cash Rate for the first time in seven years. Here's what Jordan told the media:

Today’s OCR hike – which will see households squeezed with higher mortgage payments – is a direct result of the Government’s reckless spending over the last 18 months.  Even worse, with COVID’s economic shock now coming, it comes at the very worst time for households.

The Government needs to do all it can to focus on quality, not quantity, of spending. Its programme of money-printing and borrowing for political purposes has pumped up inflation to unacceptable levels and left future generations of taxpayers with a debt monster. Higher interest rates will increase the financial pain caused by that debt.

All the best,

Louis circle


Louis Houlbrooke
Campaigns Manager
New Zealand Taxpayers' Union

Donate

Media coverage:

NZ Herald  Three Waters: Minister Nanaia Mahuta defends Māori involvement after councillors criticise 'asset grab'

Democracy Project 
Graham Adams: The debate over the $55 million media fund erupts again

Indian Weekender 
World Health Organisation could learn from NZ's stance on vaping

Stuff 
Elimination has been abandoned - or not. The PM isn't clear

NZ Adviser 
Industry slams government for OCR announcement

Newsroom 
Three Waters: The 7 mayors pushing back against a tide of effluent

The Country 
Councils buckling under Three Waters pressure from 'ill-informed' community, mayor says

Homepaddock 
Interest rates rising

Kiwiblog 
110 additional taxpayer funded journalists

Kiwiblog 
Guest Post: In defence of James Shaw

Stuff 
There's a case for water reform - but not this undemocratic asset grab

Homepaddock 
Pravda Project at work

RNZ 
More time, consultation needed for Three Waters reform - Whakatāne District Council

Stuff 
'It's just a bloody nuisance': Southland Mayor on Three Waters email bombardment

Stuff 
Why we should be concerned that public service neutrality is eroding

Parliament 
Simon Bridges on the COVID-19 Response (Management Measures) Legislation Bill

Newsroom 
Timaru secedes from NZ councils in Three Waters fight against Government

Te Awamutu Courier 
Time up for Three Waters decision

Gisborne Herald 
Polling message to both major parties

RNZ 
Political commentator Ben Thomas on National Party poll drop

The Daily Blog 
TVNZ Poll – The rise of ACT

NZ Herald 
Claire Trevett: Covid lockdown poll slump a warning to PM that patience is wearing thin; and things get worse for Judith Collins

Indian Weekender 
National will struggle to win back lost ground without a convincing Covid plan

NZ Herald 
1 News-Colmar Brunton poll: National, Labour down; Judith Collins crashes to 5% as preferred PM

NZ Herald 
Covid 19 Delta outbreak: Claire Trevett - is Sir John Key's comments a bigger headache for Judith Collins or Jacinda Ardern?

Stuff 
Covid-19: The Prime Minister continuing to use the term 'elimination' is disingenuous

NZ Herald 
Judith Collins doubles down on her future as National Party leader

Hawkes Bay Today 
The Outsider Insider: Awful week for the National Party

Taxpayer Talk: Exclusive polling and analysis with David Farrar

Labour, Greens down and National, ACT up. Those are the headlining figures from the exclusive Taxpayers' Union Curia Market Research monthly poll. A change in COVID-19 strategy has been harsh on the governing coalition with the opposition swooping in to pick up support. Jordan is joined by Curia owner and media commentator David Farrar for analysis of the results. 

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

New survey reveals WHO at odds with Kiwi vapers

Vaping survey

More than two thirds of vapers believe New Zealand’s approach to vaping as a tobacco harm reduction tool is world-leading and should be promoted overseas to save millions of lives, according to a new survey conducted by research house IRI.
 
The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union has released this research an anticipation of the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Conference (COP9) this November.
 
The IRI survey, conducted in September, asked more than 500 Kiwi vapers what they thought of New Zealand’s use of vaping as a tool to help smokers quit. Over 80 per cent said vaping had helped them to reduce or quit smoking. A further 62 per cent believed New Zealand should speak out against any efforts by the WHO to ban or restrict vaping.
 
Union spokesman and vaper Louis Houlbrooke says, “First, the WHO pressured countries like New Zealand into adopting sky-high tobacco taxes. Now, the same organisation is expressing unfounded hostility to vaping – a tool that in New Zealand has been shown to help smokers quit cigarettes, saving on tax and reducing harms to health.”
 
New Zealand’s own Ministry of Health has endorsed vaping as a quit aide and the Union is calling on the Ministry’s delegates at COP9 to promote this position internationally.
 
Vaping has been proven to be more than twice as effective in helping smokers quit as other methods, such as nicotine patches, gum or lozenges, and New Zealand’s success at using vaping to drive down smoking rates was recently featured in a white paper on international best practices authored by the Property Rights Alliance.
 
“Vaping is a New Zealand success story,” says Mr Houlbrooke. “Smoking rates have plummeted to all-time lows since vaping was legalised, and we’re seeing Jacinda Ardern’s Government embrace vaping to help Kiwis quit. It’s irresponsible of the WHO to peddle vaping misinformation when eight million people globally still die from tobacco-related illnesses annually. That’s almost twice the population of New Zealand, every year.”
 
“Kiwi vapers recognise that New Zealand has a moral imperative to speak up at COP9 and work with other countries who’ve embraced vaping, such as the UK. Millions of lives are at stake.”
 
Notes to editors:
 
The complete polling dataset can be found hereTaxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager Louis Houlbrooke contributed research to the white paper on international best practices, which can be found here.
 
Associate Minister of Health Ayesha Verrall says the Government has yet to decide whether it will support the formation of an inter-sessional working group to examine evidence on vaping as a harm reduction tool at COP9.
 
The Coalition of Asia Pacific Harm Reduction Advocates (CAPHRA) has a website dedicated to collecting testimonials from former smokers who have used vaping to quit or reduce their tobacco consumption. It includes more than 14,500 testimonials and can be found at www.righttovape.org.

We need to stop Three Waters reform

Dear Supporter,

Three Waters report cover page

Over the last few months, we’ve been swamped with questions from supporters across the country about Nanaia Mahuta’s plan to reform “Three Waters”. She and her Cabinet colleagues want to take billions of dollars’ worth of drinking water, waste water, and storm water assets off the hands of local councils and put them under the control of four new unelected, co-governed entities. Those entities will be able to impose limitless water charges (i.e. tax) without the power of ratepayers to hold them to account.

While it’s unusual for us to defend the competence of local councils, the idea that unaccountable water entities co-governed with iwi are going to result in efficiencies is laughable.

Today we are launching our plan to defeat it by mobilising councils against this undemocratic asset grab. We're asking for two minutes of your time to email your local council to tell them to 'opt-out' of the Government's proposals, before it is too late.

Click here to use our new tool to quickly contact your local councillors and tell them to reject Nanaia Mahuta’s plan.

Here’s why Three Waters reform must be defeated

We’ve produced a briefing paper for New Zealanders to get up to speed with Mahuta’s Three Waters proposal. I’ve summarised the most alarming points below.

✖️ Four layers of bureaucracy will separate the new water entities from accountability to ratepayers.

✖️ The entities will be represented by Entity Boards, each appointed by an Independent Selection Panel, which is appointed by a Regional Representative Group, which is appointed by iwi and local councils (as many as 20 of them) on a co-governance basis.

✖️ Major decisions will require 75% majorities, so in effect, iwi will have veto rights over these decisions. That will hand unelected iwi groups the negotiating power to impose new costs on ratepayers such as water royalties – a payment for ratepayers’ right to use water.

Government spin on Three Waters has been appalling

The Government claims its reforms will reduce costs. But as councils up and down the country have pointed out, the financial modelling is based on error-ridden spreadsheets and unrealistic assumptions. Nor does the model take into account the financial implications of iwi control “co-governance”.

And even if the plan does reduce costs on councils, there is no guarantee savings will be passed on to ratepayers. Do you really trust your council to cut rates just because it’s no longer funding water services? On what we’ve seen, no council is planning on cutting rates for the money they might save!

Incredibly, the Government claims the assets will still be “owned” by local councils. But as Gary Judd QC has explained: As the proposal deprives local authorities of all the rights of ownership, this “ownership” is a fiction. It is “spin” on a grand scale. Listing in the legislation does not confer ownership if it does not confer ownership rights.

It's crunch time: tell your Council to opt out before it is too late

The Government is pressuring 67 local councils to sign away water assets without giving them time to consult with ratepayers. But despite a $2.5 billion funding bribe, most councils are suspicious of the reforms.

In a recent Taxpayer Talk podcast interview, Westland Mayor Bruce Smith stated that 35 mayors may oppose the reforms, including mayors of Auckland, Christchurch, Whangārei, and potentially Wellington. Those mayors have pointed out that the bribe money comes from the revenue produced by the very assets being transferred away from councils. You can listen to that interview here.

Councils have until Friday to formally tell the Government whether they will opt in or out of the scheme. That’s why we’re asking you to have your say and tell your Council now, before it is too late. Tell your local Council to opt-out of these reforms.

Will you take two minutes to tell your local councillors to reject Nanaia Mahuta’s plan?

We’ve made it easy with our online tool – simply enter your details, select your council, and select the points to send to your local councillors. You are free to customise the message – a personal touch goes a long way, but try to keep it polite as the message will be sent to all your local councillors.

--> Click here to email your local councillors <--

By uniting New Zealanders and councils against the reform, we can deny Nanaia Mahuta the ability to claim a mandate for this asset grab.

What else can you do?

Firstly, you can forward this message to friends, family, and neighbours.

Secondly, you can sign and share our petition against Three Waters reform. This petition builds a database of New Zealanders who can be mobilised in the months to come in the likelihood that Parliament begins a legislative process.

Thirdly, you can boost the reach of this campaign by making a contribution to our war chest. There is power in numbers, and we will use your donation to extend the reach of our online ads, driving New Zealanders to our petition and email tool.

Donate

Thank you for your support.

Jordan

Jordan_signature.jpg
Jordan Williams
Executive Director
New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union.

 

Taxpayer Update: Gang bill drawn | Toa's torture | Tax-funded media

Dear Supporter,

Bill drawn to end government funding of gangs

When it was revealed that a Mongrel Mob-affiliated group received $2.75 million to run a meth rehab programme, Taxpayers' Union supporters pitched in to publicise the Prime Minister's dodgy decision with nationwide newspaper ads and promotion of a petition signed by 24,000 New Zealanders.

Gangs ad

National MP Simeon Brown was paying attention. He submitted a bill to cancel the funding, and this week it was drawn from the Parliamentary members' ballot. This is fantastic news. The Government parties will now be forced to declare with a clear vote whether they believe gangs should be taxpayer-funded.

Hawke’s Bay meth bust stunning proof of why Mob shouldn’t get public money

The timing of the Bill couldn't be worse for the Government.

On Thursday eight people connected to the Mongrel Mob were arrested for selling meth in Hawke's Bay – the same community served by the rehab programme! It's stunning evidence of what we (and frontline police) have been saying all along: the Mongrel Mob profits from meth addiction, and therefore cannot be trusted to profit from the rehab too.

Harry Tam (the patched member who runs the rehab programme) should be hauled before a Parliamentary select committee to explain his relationship with the eight individuals arrested. Can he honestly say he’s not in cahoots with the gangsters slinging meth on his turf? We doubt it.

Taxpayers' Union briefs MPs on SkyPath disaster

SkyPath graphic

Government Ministers haven't mentioned their planned $685 million cycle bridge for a while – probably because they know it's turned into a political disaster.

59,000 New Zealanders signed our petition against the bridge, and many of our supporters like you chipped in to fund ads like the one above to expose the Government's misplaced spending priorities.

Thanks to the petition efforts, on Thursday MPs on Parliament's Petitions Committee were forced to consider the issue. I was given the opportunity to brief them on the many reasons why this project should be dumped.

Presentation to MPsClick here to watch my presentation.
(Skip forward to the 25:50 mark)

I summarised the problem with this point: shovels aren't even in the ground, and yet the proposal has already seen four massive budget blowouts. Just how much are we willing to waste on this project? $1 billion? $5 billion? When does it stop?

The response from the Green MP on the Committee: "You just don't like cyclists."

There's no winning with some people.

REPORT: How DOC spent $130,000 prolonging the pain of a baby orca

Toa image

After exposing the debacle involving DOC, Te Papa, a chartered helicopter and a funeral for a turtle, we decided it was worth asking for details of DOC's intervention around Toa, the baby orca that died after 12 days in confinement.

A full cost breakdown and stacks of internal correspondence have now been released. I sifted through the material personally and was shocked by what I found.

Click here to read the full report.

In short: DOC received advice from international orca experts that Toa couldn't survive in the wild, and that euthanasia was the most humane option. But the Department ignored the advice specifically citing interest from media, iwi, and politicians. That meant Toa died a slow, painful, and inevitable death.

This is a sad story that reflects badly on DOC.

COVID fund sucked dry, topped up

Grant Robertson

As we warned at the beginning of the Delta outbreak, Grant Robertson has now officially depleted his $50 billion COVID-19 response fund, and has now topped it up with another $7 billion in borrowed money.

On social media and in our communications to journalists we have been aggressively exposing examples of how the Government raided the COVID-19 response fund for political purposes.

The message is getting through. Take a look at this piece from Jason Walls of Newstalk ZB: Not a single cent more for podcasts, poetry and picture books in the name of ‘Covid recovery’

Billions and billions of dollars have been spent on projects that don’t come close to a semblance of sensible spending, let alone meeting the threshold for Covid Recovery.

Take the $18,000 for writing poetry that “explores indigeneity and love in the time of climate change,” for example.
...
Some $26.7 million was spent on cameras on fishing boats, in the name of Covid recovery.

There was also $200m for the construction of a new building at the University of Auckland.

And a whopping $1.22 billion was spent on the jobs for nature scheme – as a little perspective, that’s enough to buy roughly 1000 houses in Auckland.

If these examples seem familiar, it's likely because we were the ones to publicise them. The Opposition parties are now regularly citing our examples of waste, and it's getting under the skin of the governing parties.

In Question Time, Judith Collins asked the Prime Minister what $26,000 on a novel about alpaca breeders has to do with COVID-19. That was an example we highlighted from Creative NZ's $374 million COVID response package.

The Prime Minister waffled on about live arts performances being affected by COVID. I'm not sure what that has to do with an alpaca novel. But the interesting part was when her old friend James Shaw jumped in to take a dig at your humble Taxpayers' Union.

You can watch the exchange in Parliament here, at the 3:00 mark.

Questions in Parliament

The Government knows that the reason it's under pressure for its spending is us. And we are only able to sustain this pressure thanks to New Zealanders like you who support us to make this work possible.

Would you trust a Government-funded journalist?

Child journo

NZ on Air has announced grants for 110 new taxpayer-funded journalists.

For example, The Spinoff gets $427,800 of taxpayer money for two new journalists for two years. Stuff gets an incredible 20 new journalists, costing taxpayers $2.8 million!

At what point does the "Public Interest Journalism" fund begin to undermine the media's independence? Will articles written by these journalists include disclaimer statements?

If you're worried about the independence of our media, I strongly recommend you read this eye-opening piece by Graham Adams.

Mr Adams is a highly experienced journalist, and he released this article free for syndication – but no media outlets were interested in publishing it! I wonder why...

$62 million Dubai pavilion insults taxpayers and stranded expats

New Zealand Pavilion at Expo 2020

New Zealand Trade and Enterprise has unveiled its $62 million pavilion set up for this year's trade expo in Dubai.

The whole thing is a crass extravagance. Tens of thousands of Kiwis are stuck overseas, fighting for limited MIQ spots, while 400 bureaucrats, a few business people, and bands of entertainers get to skip the queue for the sake of a glorified convention.

Reportedly, some MPs plan on attending the expo. If they know what’s good for them, they’ll skip it. No one wants to see photos of Kelvin Davis greasing up Arabian princes. 👀

Spending tens of millions to have bureaucrats brown-nose billionaires sends the completely wrong signal about our business culture. New Zealanders take pride in having a fair go – that means getting ahead with hard work, not by hobnobbing with politicians and regulators.

(National shares the blame here for choosing to join the expo back in 2016.)

If the Government wants to woo international business, it should do so by removing regulatory barriers or winding back our 28 percent corporate tax rate – one of the highest in the developed world.

More waste and special treatment: James Shaw's Scottish odyssey

Shaw in a kilt

In a perfect world, extended disruption to international travel would have taught our politicians how to live without indulgent junkets. But James Shaw appears determined to make up for lost air miles: he's not just jetting to climate talks in Glasgow, he's bringing a contingent of 14 staff with him!

Shaw and eight of the staff will get special MIQ slots on their way home. This is becoming a bit of a theme, isn't it?

The Minister’s plan to burn jet fuel and taxpayer money is offensive on multiple levels. It’s a slap in the face to Kiwis queuing for limited MIQ spaces. It makes a joke of public health guidelines against unnecessary travel. It’s a clear case of climate change hypocrisy. And it’s an insult to taxpayers who have made financial sacrifices during a pandemic.

Taxpayer Talk: How Oranga Tamariki's ideology is harming Kiwi kids

We fund Oranga Tamariki to ensure the best possible outcomes for vulnerable children. But all too often, the agency is putting cultural dogma ahead of kids' needs. That's the theme of a recent column by Taxpayers' Union member Damien Grant published in Stuff in the Sunday Star-Times.

Damien joined our Executive Director Jordan Williams on the Taxpayer Talk podcast to discuss the tragic case of a girl named Moana, Oranga Tamariki's ideology, judicial interference by a Government chief executive, and the concerning silence from legal watchdogs.

🔊 Click here to listen to the episode.

You can subscribe to Taxpayer Talk via Apple PodcastsSpotifyGoogle PodcastsiHeart Radio and wherever good podcasts are sold.

Have a great weekend,

Louis circle


Louis Houlbrooke
Campaigns Manager
New Zealand Taxpayers' Union

Donate

Media coverage:

NZ Herald  While the right revives, National seems focused on internal warfare

NZ Parliament  Oral Questions — Questions to Ministers

NZ Herald  
Louis Houlbrooke: World Health Organisation could learn from NZ's stance on vaping

Homepaddock  
Stop the ‘smorgasbord of abject waste’

Indian Newslink  WHO and global foundations accused of harmful interference

Newsroom  Manufactured outrage over Shaw’s Glasgow trip

Hawke's Bay Today  
The Outsider Insider: Awful week for the National Party

Wanaka App  
Upper Clutha District Council: Pros and cons

RNZ  The Panel with Sue Kedgley and Neil Miller

1 News  Judith Collins 'very secure' in role of National leader despite low polling

Stuff  We’re talking about nothing short of a National Party revolution

NZ Herald  Claire Trevett: A Simon Bridges, Judith Collins, National Party coup - whose terms would it be on?

RNZ  Metal jazz orchestra wins fans after Taxpayers’ Union criticism

Democracy Project  
The double-edged sword of the $55m government journalism fund cuts deep

RNZ  
The Week in Politics: Vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate 

CAPHRA  Countries' case studies on vaping shatter WHO’s lies

Sunday Star-Times  What happened to 'Moana' was abuse at the hands of Oranga Tamariki

Gisborne Herald  Is the end nigh for Judith Collins?

NZ Herald  On the tiles: National’s pollster David Farrar on what the party needs to do

Kiwiblog  A curia poll the media have overlooked

Newshub  National shouldn’t overreact - Simon Bridges talks down leadership spill rumours

Newsroom  Collins is the master of her own death spiral

RNZ  Calls for pension extension for those stuck in Australia

NZ Herald  National knows something needs to change

The Spinoff  Judith’s doing a great job - senior national MP backs leader despite crushing poll

NewstalkZB  David Seymour: There is a growing appetite for change in Government

RNZ  Chris Bishop backing Judith Collins after Curia poll, says party needs to do better

Politik  Is Bridges the answer?

Newsroom  ‘Paranoid storm’ and a poll from hell cloud Collins’ leadership

Newshub  National Party slumps to 21.3 pct, ACT just 6 points behind in new NZ Taxpayers’ Union poll

NZ Herald  The National Party’s polling company has the party crashing to within six points of ACT

 

Document dump reveals DOC put politics ahead of Toa the orca’s welfare

The Department of Conservation spent $129,000 and 12 days prolonging the pain of a baby orca for the sake of politics.

That’s the takeaway from today’s massive document dump, which includes an incident management plan that explained: “An intervention approach is not the traditional DOC position that we have taken in the past with marine mammals however the Iwi, public, media and political interests are very high in this case.”

In public, the Department stated over and over that it was solely motivated by Toa's welfare. We now know this to be false.

On 15 July, eight days before Toa's death, DOC internally circulated advice from an international expert:

This calf appears to have about zero chances of survival in the wild. Finding its pod would be an interesting experiment, but do you really want to put the animal through this experiment knowing that the pod left it once already (I don't know the circumstances behind this stranding so I am making a large assumption) and would probably not welcome the animal back into the group for the same reason it left it the first time. Experience with dependent calves would indicate that it is non-releasable. In my opinion, If you can't care for the calf long term and the government is unwilling to move it to a facility that can, you should humanly euthanize it sooner than later.

The next day, text messages suggest that DOC staff were “moving toward euthanasia” – but the order was never given. DOC bosses left Toa to linger on in pain and distress for another six days, despite ongoing concerns from staff over the impact of human interaction on his ability to rejoin the wild.

Toa’s death was a tragedy – for whalekind and for taxpayers. It’s a lesson in the cruelty and waste that can be inflicted by bureaucracies motivated by public perceptions ahead of the core activities we fund them for.

DOC’s implementation plans were clear as to who bears responsibility for this waste and suffering: The decision to proceed with euthanasia sits with the Director Operations, Lower North Island Region (Jack Mace).

As an employee of DOC, Mr Mace’s job was to protect, not prolong the pain, of this precious animal. We’ve asked Mr Mace to front on this issue and answer questions. If he’s unwilling to defend his decision, he should do the honourable thing and resign.

Further notes:

  • A necropsy of Toa was vetoed by local iwi, to the confusion of international experts.
  • The $129,790 cost of Toa’s care included $62,060 in salaries and wages, $17,446 in travel and accommodation, $13,941 in meals and refreshments, and $2,800 in koha to local iwi.
  • For some reason, Hollywood filmmaker James Cameron requested to visit Toa on the day of the orca's death.
  • The Taxpayers’ Union first raised concerns about the cost and welfare implications of Toa’s care on 20 July when the orca was still alive.

Taxpayer Talk: Damien Grant on Oranga Tamariki

Jordan is joined by Damien Grant for a concerning discussion on the implications of the recent 'Moana' case that was the subject of Damien's recent column published in Stuff. They talk about ideology within Oranga Tamariki, judicial interference by a chief executive and the concerning silence from legal watchdogs. 

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You take the low road, James Shaw takes the high road, and he will be in Scotland a’fore ye!

Shaw in a kiltGreen Party co-leader James Shaw has been under fire for planning to fly to Glasgow for a climate change conference with an unspecified number of support staff. Priding ourselves on fairness towards New Zealand’s elected representatives, the Taxpayers’ Union offered Mr Shaw the opportunity to present his defence. It has not been edited, but all the spelling and grammatical errors have been fixed.

“I am not a hypocrite. I absolutely refute all the allegations made by far-right trolls, members of the media we have not paid for, and the Leader of the Opposition, David Seymour. Let’s go through them one by one.”
 
International air travel during a pandemic:

“I have been a long-standing and shrill critic of air travel but – and this is important – only air travel by people on business, ordinary people, and right-wing politicians. I have never criticised air travel by Green MPs. In fact, under my co-leadership we continue to top the charts in Parliamentary travel expenses. I am proud of our track record, including travelling more than the Prime Minister in 2019, and the fact that Air New Zealand had to invent a Titanium Class Air Points card thanks to us.”
 
An in-person international meeting during a pandemic:

“The United Nations is a humble non-profit. It is unreasonable to expect it to have Zoom.

“My comment ‘there was a perfectly serviceable option that would enable MPs to work from home – Parliament via teleconferencing software Zoom – and politicians should be modelling the health advice to stay home’ was taken completely out of context.

“Sure, Parliament can do it, workplaces can do it, schools can do it, but what is the point of being part of the United Nations if you do not get a few overseas vacations?”

The pesky public health issue

“Here, I stand by all my statements despite some of them being contradictory.

“I was correct to say on a Tuesday that ‘I think it's absolutely irresponsible, I mean it literally risks people's lives by holding an in-person Parliament’ and I boycotted Parliament.

“The next day, having realised we lost our oral question in the House, and no one was paying attention to us in the media, then it was suddenly absolutely safe for Green MPs to fly from Auckland to Wellington and attend Parliament in person. Not that anyone noticed…

“People have pointed out that Wellington has had only a handful of COVID cases this year while Glasgow has over 5,000 new cases a week. Now, I did some research, and it turns out Glasgow City is almost twice as big as Wellington. That is hardly a global hot spot in my mind.”

Taking up spots in Managed Isolation and Quarantine facilities

“I and my unspecified entourage will not be taking up MIQ spots desperately sought by Kiwis looking to return home, receive medical treatment, or attend funerals. Our MIQ spots are in the special wing of suites continuously reserved for bands, sports stars, and United Nations officials.

“I do like that they always leave a chocolate (Fair Trade of course) on my Egyptian cotton pillow.

“This matter is closed. Now, where is my passport?”


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