Lower Taxes, Less Waste,
More Accountability

Championing Value For Money From Every Tax Dollar

Ruapehu bailout throwing good money after bad, after bad, after bad, after bad

The Taxpayers’ Union is slamming the Government’s announcement to give Ruapehu Alpine Lifts (RAL) another $7 million in corporate welfare bringing the total value of taxpayer-funded handouts they have received to $27.35 million in just the past two years.

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

“This is the fifth time the Government has given this company millions of taxpayer money under the illusion that it will magically turn around this failing company. They are quite literally throwing good money after bad, after bad, after bad, after bad.

“Claiming this will save jobs and generate tourism revenue misses the point entirely. The money used for this handout has been taxed away from other productive sectors of the economy, destroying jobs there, and moving it to less a productive area.

“What does the Government have to say to people in Queenstown and Wanaka who will no longer be employed due to the Government propping up an unviable competitor? Just because a job is less visible, doesn’t mean an impact doesn’t occur. The Government should kick the habit of picking winners and instead allow the market to sort itself out.

“Taxpayers struggling with the cost of living should not be forced to dig into their pockets to ensure that people wealthier than them are able to go skiing at their first preference location. Ministers meddling in markets is bad, providing corporate welfare is inexcusable.”

Climate Change Commission insistent on making emissions reduction expensive

Reacting to today’s release of the Climate Change Commission’s advice on the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), Taxpayers’ Union climate policy spokesperson, Connor Molloy, said:

“The advice, if accepted, would continue to keep carbon prices arbitrarily high, pushing up prices for consumers and making it more expensive to reduce net emissions for absolutely no additional environmental benefit.

“The Commission emphasises that social and economic equity must be considered as we respond to climate change while continuing to advocate for an arbitrarily high minimum price for carbon credits that does not even reduce emissions. This and the lack of any real attempt to legalise cheap international offsets makes life harder for the most economically marginalised.

“The Climate Change Commission also has it back to front when it comes to how we decarbonise. They argue that if other policies outside of the ETS reduce gross emissions, the ETS cap can be lowered to lock this in as a net emissions reduction. The Government could simply lower the ETS cap instead and the net emissions reduction will occur where it is most affordable to do so.

“Both scenarios reduce net emissions but, for some unknown reason, the Commission seems obsessed with doing things as expensively as possible through picking winners rather than allowing an efficient market.

“Today’s advice should also act as a warning for the Government. Relying on ETS revenue is not a sustainable way to deliver lasting tax relief when the revenue is so variable. The Government should instead focus on cutting waste to fund its tax relief and use ETS revenue to provide a universal carbon dividend to all taxpayers which may vary year to year.”

New Zealand should follow Australia’s lead and abolish tariffs

The Taxpayers’ Union is renewing its calls to abolish all tariffs following reports that Australia plans to unilaterally abolish nearly 500 of its tariffs.

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

“With the stroke of a pen, the Government could help households struggling with the cost of living by eliminating tariffs that increase the price of goods such as sunblock, clothing and leather shoes.

“Not only do tariffs make prices more expensive for consumers, they also add unnecessary red tape and bureaucracy, slowing down trade and making it more difficult for people to do business internationally. New Zealand’s tariffs cost the economy more than the measly revenue they generate. Throwing them out the window is well overdue.

“These tariffs do nothing except keep prices artificially high. We should go further than our Australian cousins and abolish all remaining tariffs entirely to help those struggling with the cost of living.”

Taxpayers’ Union slams unbelievable rates hike from Greater Wellington Regional Council

Responding to Greater Wellington Regional Council's proposal to hike its rates by 19.8% for the 2024/25 financial year, Taxpayers Union spokesman, Alex Murphy, said:

"Time and again we see councils come up with these ludicrous rates hikes to scare ratepayers into thinking that this is just the way it has to be – but this couldn't be further from the truth.

"For a council that has a higher percentage of staff earning over $100,000 than any other, Greater Wellington Regional Council are about as primed and ready as it gets to cut down on the back-office bureaucracy and start making savings.

"Pair that with the $75 million the Council spent on consultants and contractors last year, and the $4,000 that went towards purchasing Snapper Cards for MPs to get around Wellington, and it becomes perfectly clear what areas of waste the Council could tackle first.

"The bell we keep ringing might continue to fall on councillors' deaf ears, but that doesn’t mean we should stop ringing it. GWRC need to realise that proposing a rates hike of over 4 times the level of inflation isn't just unacceptable, it's unjustifiable."

National’s changes to Labour Trust Tax Bill pathetic and kicks farmers

The Taxpayers’ Union is slamming the Finance and Expenditure Committee’s recommended changes to the proposed trust tax hike saying they barely touch the sides. Taxpayers’ Union spokesman, Jordan Williams, said:

“The recommended $10,000 income de minimis amount is pathetic. Many of those people who legitimately use trusts for asset protection and for the benefit of future generations will be left with no choice but to fork out more for a Government unable to cut wasteful spending. The very people who the Government is trying to target at the big end of town will simply rearrange their finances into company and PIE structures and end up paying an even lower rate than they are now.

“This is a kick in the guts to farmers who can’t easily change from a trust structure because the family home is within the farm, or the grandparent who doesn’t want their grandchild having total control over their inheritance until they are an adult.

“It’s a Labour tax grab that Nicola Willis promised a National-led Government would scrap. Just like the App Tax, it’s unfair, unprincipled, and muddles our tax system.

“The sensible approach would to be to scrap this hike altogether and realign the trust and income tax rates by cutting the punitive 39% income tax rate. Instead, National are locking in Grant Robertson’s high-tax legacy by aligning the Trust Tax to Labour’s ‘rich prick’ 39% tax rate.”

Department of Conservation must conserve taxpayer money

Responding to claims from the Department of Conservation (DoC) that they are ‘spread too thin’ and are unable to perform their functions, Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

“The only reason DoC is spread too thin is because they are spreading their resources across an ever-growing backroom bureaucracy rather than on delivering improved conservation outcomes.

“Since 2017, DoC’s headcount has grown by a staggering 28.2%, including an additional 134 managers and at least 319 other additional staff in back-office roles.

“This is also the same department that spent almost $12,000 on a funeral for a turtle and more than $5000 on retirement gifts for its former director-general. This wasteful expenditure could have instead purchased almost 600 rat traps, DoC’s priorities clearly aren’t getting value for money from the conservation spend.

“DoC must be forced to look at their own bloat and wasteful spending before calling on taxpayers to pour even more money into its bureaucracy.”

Film Commission confirms status as taxpayer funded leftie love-in

The Film Commission is not reading the room with its ridiculous decision to pile in $800k of taxpayer money into a hero worship film about Dame Jacinda Ardern says the Taxpayers’ Union.

The Union’s film critic, Jordan Williams, said, “On the one hand, the Film Commission says the film has market confidence and will likely be a commercial success, but then on the other they give it taxpayer money anyway.”
 
“From a taxpayer’s perspective, any funding of films about politicians is questionable. Most countries call it propaganda.”
 
“‘Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Kind’ funding during a cost-of-living crisis confirms what we already know: the Film Commission is nothing but a leftie love-in and ignores any pretence of being politically neutral. It should be focused on the arts, not politics.”
 
“And it’s not the first time the Film Commission’s been to the left-wing blockbuster rodeo. This is the same outfit that pumped taxpayer money into a puff piece on Chlöe Swarbrick. This Commission lacks self-awareness and professionalism.”
 
“The Commission needs to be culled to fund real arts or balanced current affairs content. Tax take is crumbling, families are struggling, and the fourth estate is dying. There are far higher priorities than funding an adoring film on a politician.” 
 
In December 2021, NZ On Air and the New Zealand Film Commission allocated NZ$200,000 and NZ$20,000 to a feature-length documentary focusing on the political career of Swarbrick called Being Chlöe.
 
To the best of our knowledge no conservative politician has been promoted with content funded by the New Zealand Film Commission. Not even once.

Taxpayer Update: NEW POLL bad news for major parties 🔵🔴 | Government proposes more fuel tax hikes!?!⛽ ⬆️ | Nicola Willis’ inbox gets flooded 📱📩

 

NEW POLL: Labour hits record low but warning signs for Luxon and new Government 📊

Not good news for the two big parties in this month's hot-off-the-press Taxpayers' Union – Curia poll.

For National, it was bad luck that our pollsters were in the field during the brouhaha over Christopher Luxon's decision to shun the Premier House digs in favour of taking the Ministerial accommodation allowance and staying in his own Wellington apartment (our two cents on that below). 

Meanwhile, there's no salvation for Labour as they continue to leak support to the Greens, with their worst result ever in our poll.

Compared with last month's poll, National is down 2.2 points to 37.4% while Labour also drops to 25.3% (-2.6 points) – this is Labour's lowest score since our poll began in January 2021.

The Greens get a 2.3-point boost taking them to 11.3% – also putting them ahead of ACT who dropped back down to 10.0% (-3.7 points).

The smaller parties are NZ First on 7.4% (+2.4 points) and Te Pāti Māori on 2.5% (+0.2 points).

For the minor parties, TOP is on 2.1%, Outdoors and Freedom is on 1.3%, Vision NZ is on 0.8%, Democracy NZ on 0.4% with the rest combined making up the remaining 1.5%.

Here is how these results would translate to seats in Parliament:

National is down one seat on last month to 48 while Labour is down two seats to 32. The Greens overtake ACT with 15 seats (up four) to the latter's 13 (down four). NZ First jump up three seats to 9 while Te Pāti Māori is unchanged on 6 seats.

On these numbers, National and ACT would require the support of NZ First to form a government (which is a change from last month's poll).

Luxon's favourability takes a 16-point dent

It's not just Labour taking a beating. Christopher Luxon's net favourability has plunged a whopping 16 points on last month. Just 39% of voters (-5 points) told pollsters they have a 'favourable' view of Christopher Luxon compared with 44% (+11 points) saying they have an 'unfavourable' view. That's a net favourability score of -5% compared to +11% last month. Ouch.

These numbers put Mr Luxon back behind Labour leader Chris Hipkins who, despite his party's poor showing, just maintains a positive net favourability of +2%. David Seymour has a net favourability of -8% while Winston Peters has a score of -12%.

This month we also asked respondents about their views on two National cabinet ministers. Education Minister Erica Stanford scored a net favourability of +5% and Minister of Health, Shane Reti, scored -1%.

Head over to our website to see some more bad news for the government in the net country direction and our 'government approval' rating, which have both gone back negative. You can also find out how to get access to the full version of our polling report.

One other titbit from our poll is that Labour has just overtaken National in 'which party is best at' in a single policy area, which is erm [checks notes] 'will not increase taxes on you'. 😳 This might well be why... 👇

❗😠 More fuel tax and rego hikes in Government's transport plan💰⛽ ⬆️

Earlier this week, the Government released its Draft Government Policy Statement (GPS) on land transport, which sets out the broad transport policies officials work to. 

Rather than score out of ten, let's just call it a mixed bag.

First the good: A more realistic approach to road safety which focuses less on 'road to zero' advertising (those wasteful and pointless ads costing almost $1 million in video production alone) and lowering speed limits and more on actual road improvements to promote safety.

A win for taxpayers too in the tightening up of the National Land Transport Fund so that the allocation of funding going towards walking and cycling is reduced and that the funding for rail is capped at the level of revenue gained from Track User Charges (TUCs). 

Successive governments have raided the Fund – which comes almost entirely from fuel taxes and roading charges – for non-roading purposes.

We say all petrol and road taxes should be used for roads. So while there is still some way to go, the reduction in the allocation of funds for non-roading related spending is at least a step in the right direction.

But now the fishhooks... 🪝

Government giving with one hand while taking with the other 🚘💰

National is technically holding to its promise not to hike fuel taxes this term, but they're making it costly! First, they now plan a staggering hike to fuel tax and Road User Charges in 2027 that makes up for the 'pause'. Rather than paying less, motorists simply get more time until they pay a lot more.

But that's not the worse thing. Under this draft plan, from next year, the annual cost of vehicle registration will shoot up $25 from January 2025, and another $25 in January 2026.

The best way to find more funding for roads is to ensure that all money already paid in road user charges and fuel excises is spent on roads – not political pet projects like walking and cycling.

For new roads, other financing tools should be used such as tolling so that those who want the benefit of faster and better roads pay while those who live elsewhere or want to use the old road can continue to do so.

The Government can crow about tax relief (in this case "pausing" hikes to fuel taxes) but New Zealanders know it when politicians give with one hand only to grab with another. Sadly, that's the case here.

Thousands of New Zealanders tell Nicola Willis to Scrap the App Tax 📵

Less than a week since we (re)launched National's pre-election campaign to Scrap the App tax – a promise now broken by Nicola Willis – more than 4,000 New Zealanders have taken 30 seconds to send an email using our easy tool at www.AppTax.nz

App tax signatures

And we know the Government has taken notice. Have a listen to Nicola Willis on Newstalk ZB discussing the thousands of emails she has received and admitting the policy U-turn:


Ms Willis claims that the App Tax had to be "sacrificed at the altar of coalition government". If that's the case, she needs to let taxpayers know which coalition partner vetoed it.

Your humble Taxpayers' Union has been back through the coalition agreements and they don't quite support Ms Willis's claim. In fact, both partners specifically commit to supporting National's Fiscal Plan which [double checking] on page 8 includes scrapping the App Tax.

We can't let Nicola Willis fall at the first hurdle to de-couple New Zealand from Labour's tax and spend approach. Click here to send Nicola Willis a message asking her to stick to her word.

Busting myths on Labour's National's App Tax 🔨

Myth 👻 The App Tax hits the big multinational app companies like Uber, Airbnb and Bookabach who don't currently pay GST.

Fact 💁‍♂️ These companies already pay GST on their slice of the revenue, this tax will fall on the little guy providing the service, such as the Uber driver or Airbnb host, and will ultimately be paid for by you in the form of higher prices.

Myth 👻 The App Tax is levelling the playing field to ensure that businesses are taxed equally.

Fact 💁‍♂️ All businesses, including Uber Drivers and Airbnb hosts, are currently required to pay GST if they earn more than $60,000, if any business earns less they are exempt. The App Tax will unfairly punish drivers and hosts who earn less than $60,000 purely because they use an app to find customers. 

Myth 👻 People who don't use app-based services like Uber and Airbnb won't be affected by the App Tax.

Fact 💁‍♂️ Competition keeps prices lower for consumers. If apps like Uber and Airbnb are forced to hike their prices, traditional taxis, accommodation providers and food delivery services can put their prices up too!

If you share our view that the Government should be cutting wasteful spending to fund tax relief and not hiking up taxes they promised to scrap, send Nicola Willis an email by clicking here.

Taxpayers paying twice: Luxon accommodation allowance 🏠

There's no doubt that Christopher Luxon's decision to take a $52,000 accommodation allowance despite already owning a property in Wellington was a bit of an own goal. 

As shown by the latest poll (see above) it was a wise move for the PM to quickly walk back his decision.

Here at the Taxpayers' Union, we say taxpayers shouldn't have to pay twice: We pay for a premier house for the PM to live in. If it's not up to snuff to live in and host dignitaries, the solution isn't to pay for the PM to live elsewhere, the solution is to fix Premier House.

Now clearly if an upgrade to Premier House was lining taps with gold, or spending $531 on a toilet brush, we'd be the first to call it out! But even as taxpayer watchdogs, we accept that the PM's digs shouldn't be a national embarrassment. However, it is simply not credible an upgrade needs to cost $30 million.

We've now had five Prime Ministers say this place isn't up to scratch, and now we've even got the Australian Cricket Team laughing at us.

Instead of taking his allowance and living elsewhere, we say Christopher Luxon needs to take the initiative and spend what is necessary to get Premier House back up to a presentable standard.

Jordan spoke to One News about Mr Luxon taking the accommodation entitlement (this was prior to him saying he would pay it back). You can also read our statement to the media here.

Taxpayer Talk – MPs in Depth Series: Laura Trask 🎙

This week on Taxpayer Talk, Ollie sat down with ACT Party MP Laura Trask.

Laura is one of eleven ACT MPs elected at the 2023 General Election. Prior to entering Parliament, Laura worked as a pharmacy technician and in the health and safety industry. She discusses her career in helping people navigate bureaucratic red tape and her desire to make it easier for people to live their lives and do business.

Listen to the episode on our website | Apple | Spotify | Google Podcasts | iHeart Radio

Other News in Brief ⏰

That's it for this week, 

Yours aye,

Callum

Callum Signature
Callum Purves
Head of Campaigns

New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union 


Donate

Media Mentions:

RNZ 
PM Luxon claiming $52,000 accommodation supplement

1 News midday Chris Luxon collects taxpayer-funded accommodation expenses [TV only]

RNZ The Panel with Jo McCarroll and David Farrar (Part 2)

1 News at 6pm 
Luxon accommodation expenses

Newstalk ZB Morning Edition: 02 March 2024 (Luxon no longer claiming expenses) (1:20)

Newsroom 
When you hear the people sing

Newstalk ZB Nicola Willis: Finance Minister warns surplus deadline won't be reached

Press Releases

Greens’ Threat Straight Out Of Trump’s Playbook

Coalition Sticking Plasters Over New Zealand’s Infrastructure Crisis

Taxpayers’ Union Urges Masterton District Council To Prioritise Ratepayers Over Legacy Projects

Councils Can Save Money On LGOIMA Responses By Being More Transparent

Taxpayers’ Union Supports Wayne Brown’s Call For Rates On Government Buildings

Nicola Willis Needs To Explain Which Coalition Partner Vetoed Reversing The App Tax

Taxpayers’ Union Welcomes Scrapping Of Ineffective Road To Zero Campaign

Taxpayers’ Union Welcomes Draft Transport GPS, Warns Against Overzealous Tax Hikes

Scrap The App Tax: More Than 3,300 Taxpayers Contacted Nicola Willis Over The Weekend

Bigger Is Not Better Or More Efficient When It Comes To Local Councils

Taxpayers’ Union (Re)Launches National Party’s Campaign To Scrap The App Tax

NEW POLL: Labour hits record low but warning signs for Luxon and new Government

National is down 2.2 points on last month's poll to 37.4%, while Labour also drops by 2.6 points to 25.3%. The Greens are up to 11.3% (+2.3 points), overtaking ACT who drop back to 10.0% (-3.7 points).

The smaller parties are NZ First on 7.4% (+2.4 points) and Te Pāti Māori on 2.5% (+0.2 points).

For the minor parties, TOP is on 2.1%, Outdoors and Freedom is on 1.3%, Vision NZ is on 0.8%, Democracy NZ is on 0.4%, and others on 1.5%.

This month's results are compared to the last month's Taxpayers' Union – Curia poll

National is down 1 seat on last month to 48 while Labour is down two seats to 32. The Greens overtake ACT with 15 seats (up four) to the latter's 13 (down four). NZ First is up 3 seats to 9 while Te Pāti Māori is unchanged on 6 seats.

This calculation assumes that all electorate seats are held. A Parliament on these figures would have an overhang of 3 seats and a total of 123 seats.

The combined projected seats for the Centre-Right of 70 is down 2 from last month while the Centre-Left is up two seats to 53.

On these numbers, National and ACT would require the support of NZ First to form a government.

Christopher Luxon's net favourability drops significantly by 16 points to -5% while Chris Hipkins drops 2 points to 2%. Seymour is unchanged on -8% while Winston Peters improves by 10 points to -12%.

More detailed results, including net 'country direction' data and our new 'government approval' rating, which both turn back negative this month, are available on our website.

MPs in Depth: Laura Trask

Laura Trask

This week on Taxpayer Talk is another episode in our MPs in Depth podcast series where we get to know Parliament's new MPs. In this episode, Ollie sat down with ACT Party MP Laura Trask. 

Laura is one of eleven ACT MPs elected at the 2023 General Election. Prior to entering Parliament, Laura worked as a pharmacy technician and in the health and safety industry. 

Trask discusses her career in helping people navigate bureaucratic red tape and her desire to make it easier for people to live their lives and do business. She also highlights the often 'unintended winners' from regulation, namely big businesses who benefit from higher costs and barriers to entry leading to reduced competition from smaller players.

Laura's maiden speech can be watched here. Follow Laura on Facebook here.

To support Taxpayer Talk, click here

If you have any comments, questions or suggestions, feel free to email [email protected] 

You can also listen to Taxpayer Talk on Apple PodcastsSpotifyGoogle PodcastsiHeart Radio and all good podcast apps. 

Sorely needed targeting on the way for ailing health sector

Responding to the Government’s announcement that five key outcomes-focused health targets are set to be introduced, Taxpayers’ Union Policy and Public Affairs Manager, James Ross, said:

“Taxpayers’ Union – Curia polling last year showed that 70% of New Zealanders believed the health system had got worse since 2020. Given Labour spent their time in Government running from accountability by scrapping public sector targets at any opportunity, that should come as no surprise.

“Health spending has increased by over 45% since 2020, but all the while health outcomes have been plummeting. The last Government’s policy of blindly chucking billions into its own bureaucratic mess and hoping for the best was destined to fail from the start.

“A return of effective health targets should be welcomed across the board. There is no other policy area where bang-for-buck is as important as healthcare, and hopefully this signals a renewed focus on outcomes.”

Dunedin City Council’s 17.4% rates hike unacceptable

Responding to Dunedin City Council’s proposal to hike rates by 17.4% for the 2024/25 financial year, Taxpayers’ Union spokesman, Alex Murphy, said:

“The false argument that time and again gets thrown out by councils is that these monstrous rate hikes are the only way to combat debt – but that is simply rubbish.

According to our 2023 Ratepayers Report, the Dunedin City Council Group employs a whopping 1673 full-time staff, 372 of which earn over $100,000 a year and employs 20 staff just for communications and marketing.

“As is the same with many other councils across New Zealand, Dunedin City Council has got a spending problem – not a funding problem. If the Council wants to address its debt monster, it should tackle the bloated back-office rather than once again forcing ratepayers to front up.” 

15.8% rates hike shows Tauranga Long Term Plan must be delayed until after democracy returns

Responding to news that Tauranga City Council is proposing a 15.8% rates hike, Taxpayers’ Union Policy and Public Affairs Manager, James Ross, said:

“With the Taxpayers’ Union’s latest Ratepayers’ Report revealing Tauranga City Council had 190.5 FTE Managers on a median salary of $263,700 and an annual spend on consultants and contractors of over $15 million, it’s clear to see where the Council’s priorities have been over the last few years.

“Years of waste on a bloated bureaucracy are coming back to bite ratepayers. The Council needs to hold its hands up and start making the necessary back-office cuts before it considers taking even more from residents struggling through the cost-of-living crisis.

“Tauranga’s commissioners are far too used to not being accountable to ratepayers at the ballot box. If residents needed proof that their long-term plan must be delayed until after democracy returns to Tauranga, then they don’t need to look any further than this latest cash grab.”

Greens’ threat straight out of Trump’s playbook

The Taxpayers’ Union is slamming Green Party co-leader James Shaw’s extraordinary threat to investors in regional and national projects of significance under the proposed new fast-tracking consent process announced by the Government earlier today.

1News are reporting: Any companies taking advantage of the fast-track process would be exposed to scrutiny “next time there is a change of Government,” said Shaw.
This could include loss of the consent without compensation.

Taxpayers’ Union spokesman Jordan Williams is slamming the comments as economic sabotage:

“Threatening utu - and deliberately undermining regulatory stability and compensation for loss is nothing less than economic sabotage. Shaw knows full well that his comments will send chills down the back of the very people we need to be investing in New Zealand to build infrastructure and green investments.

“Shaw is supposed to be the reasonable end of the Green Party. For him to make threats like this is straight out of the Trump playbook and puts New Zealand’s interests second to his own seeking of a very expensive headline.

“We too have concerns about the Government’s approach. But the opposition can fight a law without resorting to economic vandalism. James Shaw should be ashamed."

Coalition Sticking Plasters Over New Zealand’s Infrastructure Crisis

Responding to the Coalition Government’s announcement of a fast-track consenting process for major infrastructure projects, Taxpayers’ Union Policy and Public Affairs Manager, James Ross, said:

“Clearly red tape is holding New Zealand back, and the Government should be commended for recognising that out-of-date consenting regulations are choking the economy. But this is a sticking plaster solution which will still leave the RMA stifling development and keeping house prices unattainably high.

“The key to growth is getting bureaucracy out the way. That means prioritising work on the Government’s planned wholesale reform to replace the RMA with something fit for purpose that protects private property rights and encourages productive investment.”

Peter Williams: The Nats are locking in co-governance of fresh water

Peter Williams

This email is longer than usual, but is the most important email I've sent in a long time.

It relates to what many of us would consider the critical issue facing New Zealand: which direction the Government takes in terms of ‘Treaty principles’, democratic accountability, and so-called ‘partnership obligations’. 

It is becoming clear the new Government is continuing down Labour's path of undemocratic and costly co-governance due to pressure from the bureaucracy who are using incorrect or misinterpreted legal advice to force co-governance into our democracy.

I am asking for your support so the Taxpayers' Union can mount a public campaign calling on the new Government to do what the last Government wouldn’t: release the legal advice underpinning this nonsense. New Zealanders need to know what reasons, if any, underpin the Wellington consensus. The people need it to discuss, analyse and debate whether the Treaty of Waitangi should really trump democratic decision making.

The legal assertions that led to Three Waters 'co-governance'

In recent years, opportunistic politicians (cheered on by captured Government officials) have claimed that the question of who “owns” water in New Zealand has become vexed.

Recall that the whole basis of Labour’s Three Waters policy was the claim by Nanaia Mahuta that she had received advice from Crown Law that said Three Waters-style ‘co-governance’ was required for the Crown to comply with its obligations under the Treaty.

To say that this legal interpretation was a departure from the historical norm that the Crown is sovereign (and therefore Parliament has full rights to decide the laws that will govern natural resources) is an understatement. 

Last year, the Taxpayers' Union raised funds to support the Water Users' Group request to the High Court for a declaration of what the law actually says about the alleged partnership. The then Labour Government threw the kitchen sink at us. They even tried to get a court order suppressing further public reference (including in court) to Ms Mahuta’s claims about the legal advice on co-governance. That could have stopped us from talking to you about it. .

The Water Users’ Group asked the court to order disclosure of the advice, at least to the lawyers and the court, though it was information that every New Zealander should be free to see. The two KCs pointed out that Ms Mahuta had publicly disclosed not just the fact of the advice but the alleged conclusions to justify Three Waters. On conventional reasoning that had waived her claim to legal privilege. The Court refused to suppress mention of what had been Nanaia Mahuta's Three Waters Cabinet papers. After all, she had authorised making them publicly available on the Beehive website.

But {{recipient.first_name}}, it became clear that we would be throwing good money after bad to continue to support the judicial review. The High Court expressed no interest in seeing the advice, despite the ramifications on New Zealand's democracy! Nor did the Court of Appeal. And from reviewing some other recent decisions of senior courts, the Water Users’ Group lawyers could not be confident that orthodox and historical legal principles would prevail against the new judicial activism on the Treaty.

Nevertheless, supporting the legal case did at least force media and political attention to the potential corruption in the Three Waters governance proposals.

And eventually, National, ACT, and NZ First all committed to scrapping Three Waters.

Now the new Government appears to be falling into the same trap.

While we all hoped that Christopher Luxon's Government would decisively reject the path towards race-based rights that undermine democratic accountability of public services and natural resources, I’m sad to report that simply isn’t the case.

The legal underpinning and justification for Three Waters co-governance, weaponised by Labour and its allies in the media and bureaucracy, has not gone away. In fact, it's getting worse.

The Government is set to keep co-governance of fresh water: rivers, lakes, and rules for agricultural run off will be subject to 'te Mana o te Wai'

As far as we know this is not yet in the public domain, but the Taxpayers’ Union has been informed by a very reliable source within the Government that the reason the new Government has not repealed David Parker’s unworkable fresh water National Policy Statement is because ministers have been advised that changing the race-based (and impossibly high) water standards cannot be done without iwi consent.

These are the water quality standards that are so high that, according to expert advice to the last Government, it is not even certain rivers inside the national parks will meet them! Prior to the election, the parties now in Government committed to abolishing the standards (which also contain the race-based provisions) .

The Standards require regional councils to create plans that promote “te Mana o Te Wai” (literally meaning, ‘the Mana of the water’).

It's not even a disguised version of co-governance. Local council plans must allow tangata whenua to be "actively involved in decision-making processes relating to Maori freshwater values" as defined by relevant tangata whenua. Regional councils must also "work with tangata whenua to investigate the use of mechanisms ... such as transfers or delegations of power [and] joint management agreements."

It's not often the Taxpayers' Union march to the defence of local councils, but the requirements put them in an impossible position.

The social and economic wellbeing of communities who collect and use the water must come second to whatever a local iwi says upholds te Mana o Te Wai.

These obligations, introduced by the last Government, remain in place. That means regional councils up and down the country are spending millions of ratepayers' money to create these new policies that implement te Mana o Te Wai.

The election gave a very clear democratic mandate that these anti-democratic water provisions would be gone within the first 100 days. But officials are telling Ministers "you can't do that". 

Ministry for the Environment officials told Ministers that Cabinet and Parliament cannot act unilaterally because iwi have property interests in water.

To put it simply: Just a few months into the new Government, Ministers are effectively being overruled by officials because officials are still asserting an apparent Treaty obligation that fresh water must be co-governed.

We can not allow what is just an assertion to become repeated enough so that it becomes "the truth"

A few weeks ago, Chris Hipkins made a claim on TVNZ’s Q&A that 

“Māori have a legally established interest in the water, they went through the court process to do that. So the 50/50 co-governance model that we were proposing for the water entities was one way of recognising that.”

Chris Hipkins' claim is misleading at best. But there is a real risk that it becomes accepted as a (false) "fact". While there may have been recognition of the possibility or likelihood of interests in a limited number of water bodies, our lawyers tell us that there has been no legal establishment of rights that would equate to anything as radical as the race/ancestral privileges that were to have been conferred under the Treaty or euphemism known as co-governance.

Nevertheless, we now know that Ministries in Wellington believe it is the law and are using the assertion to overrule the new Government's democratic mandate. 

I am asking for your support {{recipient.first_name}} to mount a fight for democratic control of water, before it is too late.

The constitutional crisis Wellington don't want us to talk about

I do not think it is an exaggeration to state that there is a quiet constitutional crisis going on in Wellington – just who has sovereignty? Are officials responsible for carrying out the wishes of Parliament, or are they bound to some sort of supreme Treaty law or co-governance framework? I am sad to say that we are becoming more aware of areas where officials are operating under the latter.

{{recipient.first_name_or_friend}}, all roads lead back to the infamous Three Waters advice which the public has still not seen. Will you help us force the new Government to make public the advice? Only then can New Zealanders can have the debate, and challenge the 'accepted wisdom' in Wellington that water must be co-governed.

The spring from which this co-governance concept was hatched was the original piece of Crown Law advice that Nanaia Mahuta referred to in her Cabinet Papers to claim that Three Waters co-governance was necessary for the Crown to comply with the Treaty. We say that New Zealanders ought to know what the Government is hearing from its own lawyers on the alleged Treaty Partnership obligations – especially now that the same argument is being used to undermine the promises made by the Government prior to the election.

I don't really care whether Nanaia Mahuta was telling the truth or not. This is much more important than political point scoring. If she over-egged or misled her Cabinet colleagues about the contents of the Crown Law advice, that would be a great first step in rebutting this nonsense! That's just one reason why we need to mount a public campaign to force the new Government to release it.

If the advice is as radical as Ms Mahuta, Mr Hipkins, and the bureaucrats all claim, then we must uncover the anti-democratic arguments to expose them for what they are: inconsistent with liberal democracy and democratically accountable government.

Unless we show that the arguments lack a real legal foundation, the assertion that the Treaty trumps the ability of Parliament to regulate water will soon become accepted as ‘law’. The public need to see the advice so there is a chance to offer counter-arguments.

And the key issue: what role should lawyers play in determining whether and how fast New Zealand’s democratic principles go down the river? Whatever the answer, it should be done in the open, not within Crown Law suppressed from public scrutiny.

Just like Three Waters, we need to force the politicians and media to ask the tough questions. Unless the Taxpayers’ Union do it, who else will?

The tough conversation New Zealand needs to have

{{recipient.first_name_or_friend}}, you’ve seen the way the media (and, sadly, Christopher Luxon’s National Party) are desperate for New Zealand to avoid the so-called ‘Treaty Principles’ debate. Like you did for Three Waters, will you support the Taxpayers' Union so we can go where the media will not?

Christopher Luxon has little interest in furthering what he perceives to be a vexed race-issue in a media environment where it will not receive a fair hearing. Why would Mr Luxon go out on a limb, when what the media will term the “expert legal advice” could well force him to take a stand? That's why, ironically, the Prime Minister needs third party groups like the Taxpayers’ Union to lead this – just like we did for Three Waters. To do that, I am relying on your generous support.

Release the advice: Who owns water in New Zealand?

Release the advice

{{recipient.first_name_or_friend}}, if you agree that this is an important issue, I’m asking you to stand with the Taxpayers’ Union once more. 

Left to fester, undisturbed and unchallenged, it's only a matter of time before the lawyers within the Government embed co-governance to rust away at our democracy. 

To support our campaign to force the officials to “Release the Advice”, to save democratic accountability, and ensure the control of fresh water remains under democratic control, click here.

For the sake of the future of our country, I hope you’re with us.

Peter Williams

Peter Williams sig
Peter Williams
Financial Supporter and Former Board Member
New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union

ps. Like Three Waters, this is a political fight as much as a legal one. Just like Scrapping Three Waters, it won't be easy to force the media to ask the right questions. Your support means the Taxpayers' Union can mount a grassroots effort to protect democratic accountability and slay the dragon of co-governance' which is threatening democratic accountability.

pps. The Taxpayers' Union is a grassroots-funded effort. Without your support, it's clear the new Government will be on its own and the officials and special interests will win out with their plan to implement co-goverance for fresh water (and whatever follows).

 

If tearing down Premier House is cheaper, then get it done

The Taxpayers’ Union is calling for all options to be on the table in terms of having a Premier house fit for purpose. Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

“Even fiscal hawks would agree that we need a Premier residence suitable to host dignitaries. But a $30 million price tag for repairs to the current Premier House is excessive.

“We can’t have yet another situation where ‘historic building’ zealots are allowed a blank cheque to do up a cruddy building, when a new one would be better value for money.  Nor should taxpayers be tied to the status quo. Premier House used to be out in the Hutt.  If finding a new location and building for the Prime Minister to live in and host events offers better value for money, then so be it.

“But the status quo is unacceptable. Right now, taxpayers pay for a Premier House, but it’s not in a fit state for the PM to use it. The more dithering, the more this is costing.”

Taxpayers’ Union urges Masterton District Council to prioritise ratepayers over legacy projects

 

Commenting on Masterton District Council’s plans to demolish the town hall and municipal building to build a new hall, Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

“The Council’s plan to spend a combined cost of $49 million on demolishing and rebuilding the town hall, municipal building and expanding Waiata House is yet another example of wasteful spending on nice-to-haves by councils at a time when ratepayers are staring down the barrel of a 9.3% rates hike.

“The logical option is to demolish the town hall and municipal buildings and retain Waiata House and Queen St premises, which would cost only $3.35 million, saving Masterton ratepayers’ $45.65 million which would otherwise be funded by eye-watering rates hikes.

“We commend the council for putting out this less costly option to ratepayers for consultation but it should not simply be a box-ticking exercise for a predetermined decision of the Council’s preferred more expensive option. During consultation, we urge the Council to consider the needs of the large number of ratepayers struggling with the cost of living, rather than just the wishes of special interest groups willing to use other people’s money on the project.”

Councils can save money on LGOIMA responses by being more transparent

 

NztuReacting to reports that New Plymouth District Council is establishing a dedicated Local Government Official Information Act (LGOIMA) officer as part of a restructure, Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

“While putting transparency and accountability to ratepayers front of mind in the council should be applauded, the Council should be taking this further and proactively publishing as much information online as possible, removing the need for people to request official information in the first place.

“As the largest user of the OIA in the country, the need for many of our requests could be eliminated entirely if, for example, all expenses were proactively published online. Councils already centrally collect and code this information, it would simply be a matter of exposing it to some much-needed sunlight.

“This is not a rare model internationally. Many US states publish all expenses and contracts online allowing citizens to analyse and identify waste from home while also increasing the likelihood that frivolous spending is caught out, often preventing it from happening in the first place."

Taxpayers’ Union supports Wayne Brown’s call for rates on Government buildings

Responding to calls by Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown for rates to be charged on Government buildings and to share GST on new-build houses, Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

“Government-owned properties require the same infrastructure as privately-owned properties. There’s no reason why local ratepayers should be forced to pay the full infrastructure costs associated with properties that are intended to benefit the country at large.

“We have long called for GST sharing on new-builds to help ensure that infrastructure funding is linked to development compared with the status quo where central government reaps the benefits of new construction while local ratepayers bear the cost.

“Simplifying the rating system and ensuring that additional funding is linked to growth is vital for putting good incentives on councils to allow development rather than stifle it with bureaucratic red tape to allow core infrastructure to catch up.

Nicola Willis needs to explain which coalition partner vetoed reversing the App Tax

 

The Taxpayers’ Union is calling on Nicola Willis to front up and explain which coalition partner vetoed National’s pre-election policy to reverse Labour’s App Tax after her comments on Newstalk ZB yesterday that the U-turn on the policy was “one of those ones that has really just been sacrificed at the altar of coalition government”.

Both the ACT and NZ First coalition documents state that “The National Party priorities agreed to be progressed in this term are set out in its… Fiscal Plan… with the exemptions as set out…” in the agreements. National’s policy to reverse the App Tax is included on page 8 of its Fiscal Plan yet neither coalition agreement makes reference to the policy.

Taxpayers’ Union Head of Campaigns, Callum Purves, said:

“There is no reference to scrapping National’s policy on the App Tax in either the ACT or NZ First coalition agreement yet Nicola Willis blames the formation of the coalition government for the U-turn on the policy. If this really is the case, the Finance Minister needs to front up and explain to New Zealanders which of National’s two partners is responsible.

“The coalition documents as published back in November suggest that National’s reversal of the App Tax was still on the cards, but just a few weeks later, both the Prime Minister and Finance Minister said the new tax was here to stay. Did the new government simply forget this major policy when drafting the coalition agreements? Or did the U-turn come after the ink had already dried?

“Scrapping the App Tax was a specific promise made by Nicola Willis before the election. She should be transparent on who, apparently, forced her hand.

“Breaking such a strong pre-election promise – and in such a haphazard way – is a serious matter. Kiwis deserve answers.”

Taxpayers’ Union welcomes scrapping of ineffective Road to Zero campaign

 

Responding to the Government’s proposal to replace the Road to Zero campaign with new safety objectives, Acting Social Media and Field Operations Coordinator, Alex Murphy said:

“From the beginning, it was clear that the Road to Zero campaign was nothing more than another vanity project with unrealistic targets"

“What’s worse, is that tens of millions of taxpayer dollars were wasted on producing fear-inducing campaign videos that only looked to soften New Zealanders up for lower speed limits and promote the previous Government’s agenda.”

"We welcome the Government’s change of approach to road safety that implements realistic targets based on behavioural change instead of just promoting government policy through another vacuous campaign message."

Taxpayers’ Union welcomes draft Transport GPS, warns against overzealous tax hikes

Reacting to the Government’s release of the draft Government Policy Statement (GPS) on Land Transport, Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

“Reducing road user subsidies of walking and cycleway improvements and capping funding for rail at the level of revenue from Track User Charges should be welcomed. For too long, motorists have been used as cash-cows for political pet projects unrelated to road use.

“It is concerning to see that there are plans to hike fuel taxes and the road user charge equivalent by over 20 cents (including GST) per litre over two years starting 2027. We will be keeping a close eye on this to ensure it is needed for road upgrades and improvements and not simply to be raided for other non-roading projects as it currently is.

“With public transport continuing to receive significant subsidies from private road users, much of the tax hike could be avoided if this was instead funded mostly out of the general taxpayer fund.

“The Taxpayers’ Union will spend the next few days going over the documents to ensure there is no devil hidden in the detail and looks forward to submitting on the plan.”

Scrap the App Tax: more than 3,300 taxpayers contacted Nicola Willis over the weekend

The Taxpayers’ Union is delighted that more than 3,300 New Zealanders over just two days have asked Nicola Willis to stick to her pre-election promise and Scrap the App Tax via emails sent at AppTax.nz.

Campaign Spokesman, James Ross, said:

“The App Tax is unfair, unworkable, and a broken promise from the National Party.  New Zealanders are waking up that this 15% tax on Bookabach rentals and part-time uber drivers will drive up the costs of living at the worst possible time.

“National were elected on the back of promises to cut wasteful spending and deliver tax relief.  Locking-in Labour’s legacy by U-turning on the App Tax is simply taxing more in one area to later create the illusion of tax relief elsewhere.  Kiwis aren’t fools.”

Bigger is not better or more efficient when it comes to local councils

The Taxpayers’ Union is cautioning against Wellington rushing into its own version of a ‘Super City’, pointing to the lack of evidence that bigger councils reduce cost.

Taxpayers’ Union Policy and Public Affairs Manager, James Ross said:

“The annual Ratepayers’ Report - an annual league table of local government performance - shows that bigger doesn’t mean better when it comes to local councils. Whilst councils should work together on sharing services and infrastructure where this leads to cost savings, Auckland’s Super City goes to show that supposed leaning down of the back-office bureaucracy certainly isn’t guaranteed.

“Wellington last had this debate just over a decade ago. Back then, Hutt City Council commissioned TDB Economics to look at the evidence on the ideal local council size in terms of the average cost. Its conclusions broadly matched the Ratepayers’ Report, showing that economies of scale turn into diseconomies of scale once a council hits about 200,000 in population.

“Questions also need to be asked about giving Wellington City Council an easy off-ramp, by forcing the debt caused by their mismanagement of the city on to ratepayers across the wider region.”

Taxpayers’ Union (re)Launches National Party’s Campaign to Scrap the App Tax

The Taxpayers’ Union is today launching a campaign to stand up for Kiwi taxpayers facing tax hikes on accommodation, takeaways, and rideshare trips provided over digital platforms.

Policy Manager at the Taxpayers' Union, James Ross, said:

“National campaigned hard against Grant Robertson’s App Tax when they were the Opposition and specifically promised to repeal it. When they needed New Zealanders’ votes, they were happy to talk big about scrapping unfair tax hikes. But now that they’re in Government, it appears to be a different story.

“This unworkable, unaffordable tax is an unkept promise from National will see small-scale Bookabach hosts and Uber drivers earning below the $60,000 threshold singled out for special punishment. They’ll be forced to pay GST, even when no other industry is required to register for GST when earning below the de minimis threshold.

“When in opposition, National’s Nicola Willis said the App Tax was dumb, complex, and slapped hardworking families with a massive cost increase right in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis. All of those arguments still apply.

“A Government elected to deliver tax relief, then adopting Labour’s tax hikes to fund it is nothing more than a fiscal sleight of hand. The Government need to hold true to their word and swipe left to Scrap Labour’s App Tax."

New Zealanders are encouraged to send Nicola Willis a message at www.AppTax.nz

Taxpayer Update: Hipkins' 3 Waters confession 💦 | Min of Ed staff bonanza 💥 | Climate disinformation 🚨

📺 WATCH: Chris Hipkins let's slip Three Waters truth bomb 💣💦

After two-and-a-half-years of Labour politicians lying about Three Waters stripping local water assets from local communities and councils, poor old Chris Hipkins let slip a truth bomb this week...

The statement came as Hipkins was being grilled about where the last Government's $200 million in bribes ‘better off funding' given to councils had gone and why that money was spent on things like climate change promotion and rugby park floodlights rather than water infrastructure.

In attempting to justify why the money had not been ring-fenced, Hipkins said that the funding was “compensation” for the fact Three Waters was taking assets from Councils. Can someone check on Nanaia Mahuta?

Billions wasted and nothing to show 🤨

Chris Hipkins' Government poured $500 million taxpayer dollars into the Three Waters bureaucracy alone. That money could have been spent fixing pipes and on ensuring our water is clean and safe to drink. But instead, it was used to drive through an unpopular, divisive, and undemocratic piece of legislation that would have only led to higher water costs and poorer service delivery. A further $45 million has already been committed through contracts that can’t be avoided including almost $4 million on building and office spaces. 

We warned back in 2021 that Three Waters would be a costly and bureaucratic boondoggle, but the Government refused to listen. Now we have sadly been vindicated and that money belonging to taxpayers will never be seen again. 

Our team is working incredibly hard to push the new Government to implement our draft Three Waters replacement bill that would ensure cost-effective and efficient delivery of water services while maintaining local ownership and control. 

Ministry of Education needs a first-grade lesson in budgeting 🧮

Earlier this week, you may have heard another classic take from the Chris Hipkins spin machine: that the Government’s cuts to the Ministry of Education are putting tax cuts ahead of building classrooms for kids. This comes after the Ministry of Education claimed to only be able to reduce its staffing levels by two percent before it would have to cut it's school property bill.

However, a simple glance at the growing bureaucracy in the Ministry will tell you it's the staff rooms – not the classrooms – which desperately need to be stripped down.

In the last five years, according to Public Service Commission workforce data, the number of full-time-equivalent staff at the Ministry of Education has increased by a whopping 48%. There's now 65% more managers, 46% more policy analysts, and 53% more information professionals – all of which work out of the back-office.

And...the average FTE salary at the Ministry is now $103,800, up 17% from $85,600 in 2018.

The simple fact is that the last Government lost control of public spending, and now the hives of bureaucrats are circling the wagons trying to protect their mates by fear-mongering the prospect of major cuts to core operations.

There is absolutely no need to cut frontline services to find savings. When you hear stories like this in the media, we’d all do well to remember that it is the back-office officials in Wellington drawing up the cost-cutting plans, and often their jobs depend on making cuts look as painful as possible.

New poll finds majority of Kiwis in favour of extending scope of freedom of information laws 🔎

Your humble Taxpayers' Union is the largest user of the Official Information Act and its local government equivalent. In fact, despite our small size, we ask more questions of government agencies about where taxpayer money is being spent than the total number of OIAs lodged by opposition MPs!

While the freedom of information laws cover most government agencies, there is a growing black hole of spending: not-for-profit groups and public-private entities that aren't currently subject to the legislation, but in many cases are 100% funded by taxpayers.

We say that if you're spending taxpayer money, it's reasonable to have to answer questions about where it is going. So as part of last month's Taxpayers' Union – Curia poll, our pollsters asked 1,200 voters whether they thought the scope of freedom of information laws should be expanded to cover non-governmental, but majority taxpayer funded, groups. According to the poll, the majority of Kiwis agreed that these taxpayer-funded 'quango organisations' should be subject to the transparency – with 56% of respondents supporting the proposal, 23% unsure, and just 18% opposed.

Respondents from across regions, age, gender, and party lines, were strongly in favour of the proposal to provide better transparency around the way public funds are used. You can read the full results of the poll, and question wording here.

REVEALED: Electric car lobby group continue to lie greenwash about impact of Clean Car Discount 🤑

Regular readers will recall our spat last year with the electric car lobby group Better NZ Trust, where we called out the taxpayer-funded organisation for spreading misinformation through a six-figure anti-National campaign they ran across the election period. Their campaign claimed – falsely – that the removal of EV subsidies would increase New Zealand’s emissions and harm the climate.

But being experts in climate policy, they surely know that thanks to the Emissions Trading Scheme every electric car that reduces transport emissions just frees up carbon credits for polluters in other sectors of the economy to use those same credits more cheaply. No matter how many Teslas were bought under the Clean Car Discount, not one will make a shred of difference to New Zealand's net emissions thanks to the ETS's fixed cap.

And while it might be painfully obvious to informed Taxpayer Update readers that the advertisements represented nothing more than self-interested industry-funded propaganda, the potential for these advertisements to misinform voters meant that we brought this to the attention of the Electoral Commission

Lying in advertising is not illegal in general, but is an offence under section 199A of the Electoral Act to publish false statements to influence voters in the days leading up to an election. Frankly, when an industry sock-puppet group is running a misinformation campaign to to protect their precious Clean Car Discount subsidy, it needs to be called out.

Kathryn TrounsonThe Commission took up our complaint and have provided us with the Trust's bizarre response. In defending its position the Trust say the ETS is irrelevant to its claims that the Clean Car Discount subsidy "helps fight climate change".

Apparently, if you pay car companies for more electric cars meaning more emissions can be made elsewhere in the economy, the climate is still better off. Only a sock-puppet industry group could say it with a straight face. 👉

Ignoring the ETS to promote self-interested climate change propaganda is classic green washing. The media are all too willing to call out 'climate change denial' but are crickets on those who actively spread misinformation about the effects of climate change policy. Here the organisation responsible for misinformation has a government agency listed as one of their major sponsors.

We recognise the Emission Trading Scheme is not well understood, but when so-called 'climate experts' compound the misunderstanding, the public is not well served.

So, your humble Taxpayers' Union is sending a friendly invitation to Kathryn Trounson (pictured) and the Better NZ Trust to join us on the Taxpayer Talk podcast to give them a right of reply and explain their position. We'll let you know if they take up the offer.

Taxpayer Talk – MPs in Depth series: Dr Vanessa Weenink 🎙️

And this week on Taxpayer Talk, Ollie sat down with newly elected National Party MP, Dr Vanessa Weenink. 

Vanessa details her life before politics including her time working as a doctor, being in the Army for more than 20 years, and even previously being a Labour Party member and helping with a local campaign.

Listen to the episode on our website | Apple | Spotify | Google Podcasts | iHeart Radio

That's it for today, 

Yours aye,

Jordan

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

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In the media: 

interest.co.nz
Rates levied by local governments have been flat for a century, even as central government taxation has more than tripled, according to S&P Global Ratings


RNZ $2m surge in election campaign spending by third-party groups

RNZ
Checkpoint: Lobby groups spent 13 times more campaign cash compared to 2020


The Post You don’t need to be a real estate expert to see the flaws in city council plan

Newstalk ZB The Huddle: What is Stuart Nash trying to prove?


Kiwiblog The Atlas conspiracy theory continues

RNZ PM Luxon claiming $52,000 accommodation supplement

Media releases:

Wellington Council’s $5 Million Spin Doctor Spend Papering Over The Cracks

Christchurch City Council’s New Monstrous Rates Hike Unacceptable

Potential Changes to Trust Tax Hike shows Government is Lawmaking on the Hoof

OCR Shows National Need to Get Serious About Slashing Waste

Newshub Closure Puts Democracy At Risk

Taxpayers’ Union Slams Let’s Get Wellington Moving Zombie Bureaucracy

Reading Cinema Handout Will Cost Ratepayers Millions

Punishing Rates Hike From Environment Canterbury Unjustified

Taxpayers’ Union slams Let’s Get Wellington Moving Zombie Bureaucracy

Reacting to news that Let’s Get Wellington Moving (LGWM) still has almost all of it’s staff on the payroll as a zombie bureaucracy, despite the project being killed months ago, Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said: 

“It is no wonder that LGWM has failed to deliver any projects other than a pedestrian crossing when they can’t even handle their own disestablishment.

“A simple ‘turn the lights off on your way out and don’t come back’ would have sufficed, instead more and more public money is disappearing into the bureaucratic black hole.

“The Minister must demand an end to the LGWM gravy train immediately, we simply cannot afford to keep pouring more money into vanity projects that don’t even deliver any vanity.” 

Newshub Closure Puts Democracy at Risk

Commenting on the announcement that Newshub is set to close, Taxpayers’ Union Policy and Public Affairs Manager, James Ross, said:

“Diversity of news is always important, but particularly so in New Zealand’s case given the way in which our public broadcasters are choking the country’s media landscape.

“Allowing TVNZ to suspend paying dividends is anti-competitive, screwing the scrum towards government-backed media to the detriment of the private sector. The implicit promise of Government bailouts also means it can make business decisions not available to other broadcasters. If this isn’t changed, the country is almost guaranteed to see more and more commercial newsrooms fail to stay afloat, eventually leading us in the direction of a state-run media monopoly.

“The Public Interest Journalism Fund has already fuelled a perception that Governments use taxpayer funding to push political agendas, and long-term the only way to avoid this is to get Government out of the news game entirely.” 

Reading Cinema Handout Will Cost Ratepayers Millions

Responding to the release of details surrounding Wellington City Council’s proposed purchase of the land under the Reading Cinema, Taxpayers’ Union Policy and Public Affairs Manager, James Ross, said: 

“Despite the Council spin that this deal won’t cost ratepayers anything, ratepayers are still being lined up to subsidise a multinational company with property valued at half a billion to the tune of millions of dollars. 

“Loaning at well below market rates means that ratepayers are taking on the risk, and the opportunity costs of sinking tens of millions into this corporate subsidy are enormous. 

“If the Council can sell assets to fund a bung, it can sell land to invest in crumbling roads and leaking pipes instead. Whilst basic infrastructure falls apart, the Council are choosing to waste Wellingtonians’ money on ludicrous corporate handouts rather than clean up their own mess.” 

Punishing Rates Hike from Environment Canterbury Unjustified

Reacting to Environment Canterbury’s proposal to hike rates by 24%, Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

“Hiking rates by almost a quarter is simply inexcusable when there’s still so much waste in the council. 

“Environment Canterbury has 722 staff, a third of which are paid more than $100,000 per year. The 32 communications and marketing staff is also overkill. The council should be clearing out the bloat before reaching into ratepayers’ pockets.

“Other areas of waste are not hard to identify either. Spending almost $3 million a year on a ride-share scheme that is ratepayer subsidised by $11 for every trip is simply ludicrous. 

”The Council must go back to the drawing board and present a serious proposal that cuts waste, rather than shovelling even more costs onto struggling ratepayers.”

OCR Shows National Need to Get Serious About Slashing Waste

Responding to the Reserve Bank of New Zealand’s decision to hold the Official Cash Rate (OCR) at 5.5%, Taxpayers’ Union Policy and Public Affairs Manager, James Ross, said:

“Kiwi families are struggling, but with the OCR looking likely to climb even higher at the next review, things may get a whole lot worse. The Reserve Bank will have to continue hammering mortgage owners with sky-high interest rates to try and undo the inflation caused by governments' inability to rein in wasteful spending.

“Inflation has been well outside of the target range for 32 months. Until the Government gets serious about cutting back the bureaucratic bloat, Kiwis will be left drowning in the deadly combo of high inflation and high interest rates.

“Both Labour and National have proved themselves incapable of making the tough calls and slashing wasteful public spending. Wellington bureaucrats continue to see their wage growth far outstrip wages in the private sector, and now the chickens are coming home to roost.”

Christchurch City Council’s New Monstrous Rates Hike Unacceptable

Responding to Christchurch City Council’s (CCC) proposed rates rise of 13.24% for the 2023/24 financial year, Taxpayers’ Union Researcher, Alex Murphy, said:

"Over the last several years, Christchurch City Council has developed a shambolic reputation for its poor leadership and wasteful spending.

"Time and again, CCC have failed to deliver even the most basic of projects on time or under budget. There is no reason why Christchurch’s ratepayers should be forced to cough up more and more money to keep bailing their council out.

"And with well over 5000 full-time staff – a third of which are on salaries over a hundred grand – it’s evident that the potential savings are there in abundance – the councillors just need to find them."

Potential Changes to Trust Tax Hike shows Government is Lawmaking on the Hoof

Responding to reports that the Finance Minister wants to exempt some trusts from paying the new 39% trust tax rate, Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

“What is clear is that this tax hike has never been properly thought through and as a result we are seeing bad policy that is rushed, unfair and frankly unworkable. The mooted changes, while potentially alleviating some of the fairness concerns, will still punish some of those who use trusts for purposes other than tax reasons such as farmers and small business owners.

“What’s more, if these changes go ahead, the change could generate almost no revenue but will add significant cost and complexity onto New Zealanders. The Trust tax hike will not hit the big end of town who will simply restructure their assets into companies and PIE funds – leaving them paying an even lower rate than they do now.

“Nicola Willis must, at the very least, put this tax hike on hold until the full implications are properly understood and dealt with. Even better would be to focus on what she promised to do and cut spending rather than hiking up any taxes at all."

Wellington Council’s $5 Million Spin Doctor Spend Papering Over the Cracks

 

Responding to news that Wellington City Council has 54 members in its comms team, with a total annual budget of over $5 million, Taxpayers’ Union Policy and Public Affairs Manager, James Ross, said:

“Pipes are bursting, roads are crumbling, and rates are rising. To try and convince ratepayers that all is fine and dandy, rather than fix the issues, the council is papering over the cracks with dozens upon dozens of spin doctors.

“Council officials apparently don’t like Wellingtonians grumbling about our city and think spending millions on shutting them up is justified. But ratepayers won’t have the wool pulled over their eyes by a t-shirt campaign.

“If the council did its job and stopped wasting hundreds of millions on vanity projects like multi-million dollar corporate handouts, funded by cuts to core community services and rate hikes, there would be no need for a fleet of propagandists. The results would speak for themselves.”

Taxpayer Update: NZTA latest money grab 📸🚙 | Wasteful rebrand #9842 🔥📺 | Bye, Grant; hi, Barbara 👋

 

Remembering Efeso Collins 🕊️

Like those across the political spectrum, we were very saddened to learn of the untimely passing of former Auckland Labour Councillor and Green Party MP, Efeso Collins. One of Efeso's strengths was that he tended to reject the polarised politics of the modern age. Our thoughts are with his family, friends and colleagues at this difficult time. You can read our statement of tribute here.

NZTA to clobber Kiwis with millions more road fines 📸🚙

Over the next decade, the New Zealand Transport Agency is planning to expand its speed and traffic camera fleet from around 150 to potentially 800meaning that millions more New Zealanders could be whacked with speeding tickets each and every year.

NZTA has said this is all in the name of safety. Last year they even made a big song and dance about their 'safety cameras' only be designed for upholding 'safety' protocol and not for enforcement or revenue-gathering purposes.

But we know a rat when we see one – and from the looks of it, this appears to be nothing more than another cheap attempt to exploit the average Kiwi for some extra dosh.

No one is denying that safety on our roads is of critical importance, but this proposal is poorly targeted. The vast majority of New Zealanders aren't reckless drivers – and we've all seen speed traps appearing in dangerous lucrative areas.

And these new cameras NZTA are looking to get monitor much more than speed and safety. The Agency's own Privacy Impact Assessment reveals that 'advanced features' such as heat monitoring will be used to enforce compliance of transit lanes – a traffic issue that has no safety impact at all and will solely be used to generate revenue!

After seeing Auckland Transport make fortune on ticketing Aucklanders, it appears NZTA is trying to get in on the action.

Tell Simeon to ensure his transport agency is focused at improving roads, not raising revenue 🗣️

We all know from the state of our highway network that NZTA isn't doing its job. It seems unable to complete projects on time, on budget, or even at all. Now officials are, yet again, distracted from their core purpose, and attempting to grab even more funds from the average Kiwi.

If, like us, you can see that this proposal from NZTA will unfairly target New Zealand motorists while doing little to improve safety, take a minute to send Mr Brown an email to tell him to get his agency back in its lane.

--> Click here to send Simeon Brown an email <--

You read it here first: Robertson Remov[ed] 🚚💸

As revealed by your humble Taxpayers' Union back in November, Grant Robertson’s scored a cushy $620,000 new gig as Vice Chancellor of Otago Uni.

In 2021, Grant Robertson’s place in New Zealand political history was cemented when we awarded him the coveted Lifetime Achievement Award for excellence in government waste at our Jonesies Waste Awards. It was no mean feat to achieve such recognition, but sadly the joke is on taxpayers who will be left to pick up the pieces and pay his bills for generations to come.

It is with some sense of irony that while Mr Robertson left the new Government with a mountain of debt, he too is inheriting control of a university riddled with its own disfunction and growing debt pile.

LEAKED: a former senior Treasury official on Robertson's legacy 😬

Your humble Taxpayers' Union was accidentally CC'd into an excellent appraisal by a former senior Treasury official we ought not name. 

Robertson’s departure is a reminder of how much worse what seems like everything has become under his watch – monetary policy mess ($12 billion lost and inflation to boot) including pathetic RBNZ appointments, neutering the Productivity Commission, banning gas and oil exploration, making us more dependent on Australian coal, fiscal balance in “structural deficit”, spending up by about 6% of GDP since 2017, net core Crown debt up by about 22% of GDP, working age welfare dependency up alarmingly, school truancy and under-achievement, hospitals an organisational mess, nurses and others fleeing to Australia, GP shortages developing, tertiary vocational training a shambles, 6 years on RMA a wasted effort, Treasury looking anaemic. Perhaps $30 billion to buy overseas carbon credits to 2030, while major countries will not keep to Paris Agreement net zero targets.  No material difference to climate change, so at a major cost of NZers material wellbeing. Add to that the destablising’ co-governance that increasingly really meant a co-sovereignty ‘partnership’. And this guy apparently wanted a wealth tax.

To what extent was he a restraining influence? I have no idea.

But he and Labour MPs will now jeer at this government for failing to fix these problems fast.

While we seldom agreed with Mr Robertson, we hope does a better job turning around Otago University’s dire financial situation than he did with New Zealand's economy. He certainly has experience of running an organisation with deficits!

Out with the old, in with the new: Labour's New Finance Spokesperson, Barbara Edmonds 🌹

We are delighted that Labour Party has appointed someone who actually knows a thing or two about tax to be its new finance spokesperson.

Barbara Edmonds, is a former specialist tax lawyer, and is known by some to be a big believer in the broad base, low rate orthodoxy that underpins New Zealand’s tax system – something we wholeheartedly support.

Insider sources have told us that Ms Edmonds was furious with Labour’s GST fruit and vege "policy boondoggle" (credit: Grant Robertson) going into last year's election as she was acutely aware of the cost, complexity and ineffectiveness of creating carve-outs and exemptions in sales taxes. 

Unfortunately, back then Edmonds lost the argument and was forced to publicly defend the unworkable policy. But her new more senior position should enable her to inject more intellectual rigour and practicality into Labour’s tax policy to help create a true battle of ideas. We live in hope. 

And to give Barbara her due, she has also proved willing to engage with those who might disagree with her – a valuable trait for any political leader. When first entering Parliament, she joined us on our podcast, Taxpayer Talkwhere we were impressed by much of what she was saying. In particular, she said that her first interest in tax was learning about how overtaxation was one of the contributing factors to the fall of the Roman Empire – Barbara is always welcome to join theTaxpayers’ Union!

We will be writing to Ms Edmonds offering to work with her in her new role on areas where we might agree and to help promote tax policy that boosts New Zealand's productivity and prosperity and leaves taxpayers with more money in their pockets.

Golden Goodbye: Three Waters Chief Executives receive $710,000 payout package 👋👋👋

Last year, even when Three Waters looked dead in the water, the Department of Internal Affairs' agenda-pushing bureaucrats were beavering away behind the scenes to make the water reforms even harder to unwind.

This week saw the latest example of these underhand tactics exposed. It was revealed that two Chief Executives hired to implement the reforms, Jon Lamonte and Colin Crampton, were signed up to contracts entitling them $710,000 in golden goodbyes when Three Waters was eventually canned after just 10 months in the job.

There's no excuse for redundancy packages worth nearly 11 times the median wage to be handed out at any time. But given these CEOs were on salaries 4.5 times as much as Members of Parliament, and with there being widespread public opposition to the reforms, this costly package was all the more unreasonable.

Sadly, as the new Government navigates through with the backwash of the previous Government's reforms, we can only imagine the redundancy rort is about to get a lot bigger.

And as has been evident from the knots that officials tried to tie around Three Waters, we know the policy fight isn’t over yet either. We'll be working hard this year to make sure the new Government's alternative isn't just Three Waters 2.0.

Taxpayers' Union Investigation: Local Government Commission wastes a hundred grand on new branding 🔥📺

Documents obtained by the Taxpayers' Union reveal that the Local Government Commission (LGC) has wasted $99,000 on a new logo and website at a time when the Government has been asking departments to cut down on their spending.

It seems to have become common practice in recent years for government agencies to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on rebrands and logo changes – even when they can't afford them. But the agencies that undertake these massive rebrands are also doing so against official guidance from the Public Service Commission making it clear that departments should be doing the opposite:

"New agencies, or existing agencies looking to re-brand, should adopt a logo mark that is in keeping with the NZ Govt Identity logo mark. Agencies are also encouraged to consider adopting other elements of the Identity in their branding review or development, helping to create a common Public Service visual identity"

From what we can tell, the Local Government Commission website change happened just weeks after the general election, which also happened to coincide with the Government's strict instruction for agencies to cut their spending. This is a kick in the teeth to the millions of hard-working taxpayers that have been forced to fund this rubbish.

Prior to its makeover, the Local Government Commission was actually one of the few government departments that complied with the guidance!

The new Government has talked extensively about the importance of having a less wasteful public sector. It's about time these costly rebrands are banned for good, so agencies can get their priorities straight and stop funnelling millions into their image.

Taxpayer Talk – MPs in Depth: Dan Bidois

And this week on Taxpayer Talk, we present another episode from our MPs in Depth series where Jordan sits down with newly re-elected MP Dan Bidois.

In this episode, Dan talks about his chaotic life before politics where he went from being a school dropout, to a butcher, to fighting cancer – all before deciding to study economics!

Listen to the episode on our website | Apple | Spotify | Google Podcasts | iHeart Radio

That's it for this week.

Yours aye,

Callum

Callum Signature
Callum Purves
Head of Campaigns

New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union 

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Media mentions: 

Crux 
Confusion, deception then panic - documents reveal QLDC financial mismanagement

Stuff By the numbers: Rising rates adds more pain

Newstalk ZB Afternoon Edition – Monday, 19 February: NZTA Speed Cameras (03:05)

The Spinoff Yup, say voters, just like we told you

Waikato Times Take your pick on rate rises, Aucklanders

Waatea News Tributes flow for Fa’anana Efeso Collins, a good man

Newsroom ‘Go now, in peace’ – Efeso Collins

RNZ Midweek Mediawatch – A clash of polls (08:50)

interest.co.nz The Coalition Government has missed its own honeymoon but has held onto its Election Day support

The Post The candidates who scored the biggest campaign donations

NZ Herald Audrey Young: Top 10 maiden speeches by 2023′s new MPs

Bowalley Road Democracy Denied.

Highest Public Sector Wage Growth on Record Despite Lagging Productivity

 

Responding to a report showing that public sector wage growth is the highest on record, Taxpayers’ Union Policy and Public Affairs Manager, James Ross, said:

“Despite a Government elected to trim the bureaucratic fat, public sector wage growth continues to far outstrip wage growth in the private sector.

“Government employees are taking a larger and larger slice of the pie, and the rate at which they suck in taxes from hardworking people is only accelerating.

“Productivity is failing to keep pace and yet despite this, Government wages keep skyrocketing. It's long past time Wellington bureaucrats started justifying their cost to hardworking taxpayers.”

Wellington Councillors Need to Front Up Over $32 Million Corporate Handout

 

Wellington City Council is set to decide in secret whether to use $32 million of ratepayers’ money to buy the land under the Reading cinema from its current owners - a multinational firm with real estate holdings valued at over half a billion dollars worldwide - and lease it back to them.

Commenting on this, Taxpayers’ Union Policy and Public Affairs Manager, James Ross, said:

“The Reading cinema’s owners are doing just fine all over the globe, so why in Wellington are residents being forced to fork out for a $32 million corporate handout whilst their city’s pipes crumble, rates are hiked and community centres are shut down?

“Whether meetings are in the Council chamber or over a $1,400 luxury meal paid for by hardworking ratepayers, secrecy is always the name of the game when it comes to this dodgy deal.

“Wellington City Council’s culture of secrecy isn’t hiding this rort from anyone, and Councillors need to front up to the public over how they’re wasting Wellingtonians’ hard-earned money.”

MPs in Depth: Dan Bidois

This week on Taxpayer Talk is another episode in our MPs in Depth podcast series where we get to know Parliament's new MPs. In this episode, Jordan sat down with newly re-elected National Party MP, Dan Bidois. 

Dan first became an MP after winning the 2018 Northcote by-election before losing the seat to the red tide of 2020. Now Dan is back in Parliament after reclaiming his seat and speaks with Jordan about his life before politics being a school dropout, a butcher and fighting cancer before deciding to study economics. Dan has had an interesting life and it is clear the challenges he has faced have shaped him into the person he is today. 

Dan's maiden speech can be watched here. Follow Dan on Facebook here.

To support Taxpayer Talk, click here

If you have any comments, questions or suggestions, feel free to email [email protected] 

You can also listen to Taxpayer Talk on Apple PodcastsSpotifyGoogle PodcastsiHeart Radio and all good podcast apps. 

Three Waters Chief Execs’ Golden Handshakes Equal to Almost 11x Median Salary

 

Responding to news that two Three Waters Chief Executives have received a combined $710,000 in redundancy payments, Taxpayers’ Union Policy and Public Affairs Manager, James Ross, said:

“Golden handshakes worth almost 11 times the annual median wage combined after just 10 months of work are just one example of a culture of waste in Wellington. Bureaucrats continued to sign away vast sums of taxpayers’ money well after it became clear unpopular, divisive mega-projects like Three Waters and Let’s Get Wellington Moving would be scrapped.

“Public sector fat cats already earning almost 4.5 times as much as an MP should not be entitled to enormous redundancy payments straight from the back pockets of hardworking Kiwi taxpayers.”

Taxpayers' Union Pays Tribute To Efeso Collins

Taxpayers' Union pays tribute to Efeso Collins

Commenting on the news of the death of Green MP, Efeso Collins, Taxpayers’ Union Executive Director, Jordan Williams said:

“While we may have had different politics, Efeso was always a councillor I - and the Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance - could call and have a constructive conversation with. One of his strengths was that he tended to eschew the polarised politics of the modern age.

“On behalf of the Taxpayers’ Union, and our sister group, the Ratepayers’ Alliance, our thoughts are with his family, friends and colleagues at this difficult time. He will be missed.”

REVEALED: Local Government Commission wastes $100,000 on rebrand right as agencies told to cut back on wasteful spending

 

According to information obtained under the Official Information Act, The Taxpayers’ Union can reveal that the Local Government Commission – the body responsible for overseeing the structure of New Zealand's councils – has spent $99,000 on a new logo and website rebrand despite the Government having recently told agencies to cut back on wasteful spending.

Taxpayers’ Union Researcher, Alex Murphy, said:

“The Local Government Commission (LGC) has almost no interaction with members of the public. The only sort of promotion it is tasked with is when it runs consultations on local government reorganisation proposals. The fact they’d waste a hundred grand on a rebrand stinks of self importance.

“Ironically, when public departments were in the firing line last year for breaking away from standardised government branding, the LGC was actually one of the few departments sticking with the basic format. But it seems they just couldn’t help themselves.

“This spruced up website doesn't improve the life of a single taxpayer. In fact, it only makes government messaging less consistent and identifiable for those who rely on it. CEO, Penny Langley, needs to front up and explain this wasteful spend.”

Kāpiti's wastage seen through Chief Executive's pay rise

 

Commenting on a recent $50,500 pay rise for the Kāpiti Coast District Council Chief Executive, Darren Edwards, Alex Murphy, Taxpayers' Union Researcher said:

"For a council that's ratepayers are already staring down the barrel of a 17% rates hike, a pay rise of over $50,000 for its Chief Executive is simply unacceptable, and it's just as ridiculous to justify this salary boost on the basis that the Chief Executive is not getting paid as much as his already overpaid counterparts.

"The Council only recently was exposed for spending $1 million on grants and loans to subsidise flights from Air Chatham, and just last year, a residents' survey showed 51% of respondents did not believe the council was demonstrating value for money.

"It's clear that Kāpiti's ratepayers have had enough of a council that continues to demonstrate little to no value for money. KCDC urgently needs to review its spending to strip out the waste to reduce the rates burden on its residents."

NZTA must be clearer with speed and traffic camera plans

 

Commenting on NZTA’s proposal to expand the stock of its road safety cameras from 150 to potentially 800 over the next ten years, Taxpayers’ Union, Researcher, Alex Murphy, said:

“There’s no doubt that having safer roads is critically important, but this ploy from NZTA to potentially triple the number of tickets brought in per year seems more like another revenue-gathering exercise than effective road safety policy.

"How is buying cameras with heat-mapping technology to monitor the inside of a car consistent with a strictly safety-first approach?

“The Transport Minister needs to be much clearer with NZTA that their job is to deliver the most effective road safety policy – not introduce a stealth tax on New Zealand motorists."

Taxpayer Update: Govt locking-in Labour's spending legacy? 😳 | RIP 3Waters 🪦 | $1,400 secret dinner deal 🤤

New Government locking-in Labour's mega-spending? 😳🔒💸

In the lead up to the election, all three Coalition partners campaigned strongly against the astronomical increase in public spending under the previous Government, and promised they would rein in the public service departments to cut out waste.

On the campaign trail, Christopher Luxon time and again picked on the massive staffing increase at the backroom Public Service, which collectively has grown by 15,000 since 2017.

And as National put it in its pre-election fiscal plan (our emphasis):

Labour inherited a very tidy set of books from National in 2017. But since then, Labour has increased spending by 80 percent and seen debt blow out from $5 billion in 2019 to $104 billion in the latest forecast.

Yet, despite all that pre-election signalling, the new Government's only proposal to address Grant Robertson's monumental growth in the costs of Wellington is to cut the budgets of [checks notes] some Public Service departments by 6.5% or (in a limited number of cases) 7.5%...

Worse still, Finance Minister Nicola Willis is tasking the departmental CEO’s to lead the process and deliver ‘proposals’ on how best to reduce their budgets. That is akin to asking the foxes to guard the hen house and is politically dangerous.

We need only see recent news reports to see how bureaucrats can (and will) threaten politically sensitive frontline services to understand how they will protect their patches – and the empires the same CEOs have created...

Tell Nicola Willis to ignore the media and special interests: ✂️ Grant Robertson's spending back to an affordable level 💰

If you agree that Ministers (not the CEOs/officials responsible for the fiscal mess!) should be going through line by line spending to determine exactly what savings can and should be made please take 30 seconds to send Ms Willis an email using our online tool here.

Ask Nicola to cut spending

👉 📧 Click here to send Nicola Willis a personalised email 📧 👈

RIP Three Waters 💦🪦 

In case you missed the news this week (or the death notice in today's Weekend Herald) Three Waters was finally scrapped with the passing of the third and final reading of repeal legislation this week.

It took a gruelling two and half year campaign, more than 50 campaign events, hundreds of thousands of signatures to our petition, and 65,000 printed, hand-delivered submissions to the Select Committee, but together we forced Wellington to Scrap Three Waters.

To mark the success of what is probably the biggest people-power policy victory so far – and protecting local democratic control of ratepayer funded assets – we are holding a (tongue firmly in cheek) Three Waters funeral and wake (complete with traditional tea, coffee and biscuits) at 4pm on Monday at our Wellington offices to mark the passing of Higher Water Costs, More Bureaucracy, No Local Control, and Less Democracy.

book of condolances

For those unable to make it, we've also launched an online book of condolences for you to send your regards to the now deceased Water Services Entities Act. Click here to add your comments to the official Three Waters book of condolences.

On a more serious note, thank you to you – and, quite literally, the hundreds of thousands of Kiwis – who said "No" to Nanaia Mahuta's outrageous attempt to take ratepayer-owned local water assets and put them into unaccountable co-governed entities.

Wellington Mayor’s secret meeting with multi-millionaire cinema owners a boozy affair 🍾

Dinner on the Wellington City ratepayer

Last year it was revealed that Wellington City Council's Mayor Tory Whanau and Chief Executive Barbara McKerrow were having secret meetings with the mega-wealthy foreign owners of the Reading Cinema complex just weeks after the Mayor was sworn in to office.

Those secret meetings led to ratepayers funnelling $32 million into purchasing the land underneath the now abandoned building with Reading being allowed to renovate and continue to operate the property.

But according to new information ratepayers were picking up the tab! Wellington seafood restaurant, Oretga, left ratepayers footing the bill for a whopping $1,400 buffet – with almost a quarter of the final bill made up of alcohol.

Taking international mega wealthy entertainment and property tycoons out for dinner to give them corporate welfare handouts is bad enough. Having ratepayers pick up the food and grog tab is salt into the wound.

No wonder the Council is in financial turmoil.

Should websites be taxed for linking to NZ media websites? 🤔

James at Select Committee

On Thursday, our Policy Manager James Ross submitted on the Fair Digital News Bargaining Bill, which aims to crackdown on big companies such as Google and Facebook who link to news sources online.

Members of the media are flocking to defend this planned shakedown of the big digital platforms, despite already being able to opt out of having their content shared if they want to. It's clear this isn't about fairness, it's about Media CEOs and big wigs deciding their slice of the pie isn’t large enough.

Dr Eric Crampton wrote about the Fair Digital News Bargaining Bill back in August, showing how a similar attempt to screw the scrum in Canada went down (hint: not very well).

With the new Minister, Melissa Lee, shouting about how poor this bill was before the election, most assumed it was as dead as a dodo. But if there’s one thing we’ve learnt here, it’s that you can never expect too little from the Government. 

If it passes, the Bill is so poorly defined that even your humble Taxpayers’ Union’s newsletters could be forced to wind up! Linking to leftwing news websites like The Spinoff or even just Stuff and the NZ Herald websites would see us taxed to subsidise their newsrooms.

Watch James' submission here.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend,

Jordan

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

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Media mentions: 

Waikato Times Mayor admits proposed rate hikes ‘not sustainable or affordable’ for many in community.

The Platform David Farrar Discusses Latest Political Polling

Chris Lynch Media Proposed rates hike: ‘irresponsible financial management’

Stuff Mackenzie pensioners feel rates heat, consider selling homes

The Spinoff A vital and perilous day for the news media in New Zealand

The Press Media bosses plead for help in arm wrestle with internet giants

RNZ Media bosses urge MPs to 'level playing field' with big tech

BusinessDesk News publishers plead for online news bill rescue

NBR Use law to get tech giants to stump up or we’ll be gone: media

Stuff NZ politics live: Will the Government make tech giants pay for news?

NZ Herald Niwa committed to low emissions despite $700k spend on four ‘luxury’ utes

Stuff What minister said as media leaders stated case for making tech giants pay for news

Duncan Garner Podcast 'The Week That Was' with Damien Grant and Cassie Roma

The Platform Mihi Forbes and the great Atlas conspiracy

NewsHub Niwa defends buying four Chevrolet Silverado utes valued at $172,000 each

Stuff ‘I’m not involved,’ says Conscious South Canterbury campaign contact

Money to Burn: Hutt City's Half-Baked Climate Initiative

 

The Taxpayers' Union lambasts Hutt City Council's recent unveiling of a Low Carbon Acceleration Fund as a misguided venture. Promising up to 50% co-funding for carbon-cutting projects in Lower Hutt, the initiative splashes cash in the face of common sense and the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).

Oliver Bryan, spokesperson for the Taxpayers’ Union, said, “The council's Low Carbon Acceleration Fund takes a wild swing and misses by a country mile, embodying the epitome of feel-good, virtue-signalling politics without the payoff. This venture into environmental finance is an expensive folly, blatantly ignoring the ETS's comprehensive strategy for reducing emissions efficiently through a market-driven approach.”

“This initiative not only misunderstands the mechanics of meaningful emissions reduction but also squanders taxpayer money under the guise of local action, which, thanks to the ETS, ends up redundant. It’s crucial to underline that with the ETS's nationwide cap on emissions, the fund's local reductions will make no reduction to net emissions or be of any benefit to the environment. Meanwhile, Hutt City residents are left to ponder the value of their skyrocketing council rates, which surged over 12% between 2022 and 2023.”

Whanau and McKerrow's $1,400 secret dinner deal makes a mockery out of Wellington ratepayers

 

Commenting on a lavish $1,400 seafood dinner between Wellington City Council Mayor Tory Whanau, Chief Executive Barbara McKerrow, and the heads of Reading Cinema - Ellen and Margaret Cotter - which was part of a secret business meeting for the Council to purchase the land under the Reading Cinema Complex, Taxpayers’ Union Researcher, Alex Murphy, said:

"It was outrageous enough to find out that Whanau and McKerrow had flown the Cotter sisters out to Wellington for a secret business meeting just 4 days after the Mayor was elected, but it’s made all the more embarrassing to now discover that thousands of ratepayer dollars - a quarter of which was just spent on booze - was splashed around to seal the deal.

"And while the cost of this dinner is wasteful enough, the upshot from that meeting will be even more painful for ratepayers, with the Council set to spend $32 million on purchasing the land under Reading Cinema. It was clear from the Town Hall debacle that the Mayor didn't understand sunk costs, but surely even she could have figured out that investing a few thousand ratepayer dollars into a dinner didn’t mean she had to buy the whole property!

"Wellington City Council’s leadership has time and again shown itself to be irresponsible with ratepayer funds. It’s about time the books are opened, and Wellington's council heads are held to account for their continued wasteful spending and underhanded behaviour."

Taxpayers’ Union welcomes Three Waters announcement

 

Commenting on the Government’s three-stage legislation plan to replace Three Waters and the appointment of a Technical Advisory Group, Taxpayers’ Union Head of Campaigns, Callum Purves, said:

“We welcome the clarity on how exactly the new coalition proposes to repeal and replace Three Waters with an alternative that retains democratic accountability and local control.

“From what we’ve seen, the Government’s approach is very similar to our own work and model, developed by our earlier Technical Advisory Group, chaired by former Local Government New Zealand CEO and adviser to Communities4LocalDemocracy, Malcolm Alexander. We look forward to working collaboratively on improving the delivery of local water services while both achieving affordability and retaining democratic accountability."

Wellington Council’s Refusal to Scrap Pet Projects Puts Frontline Services at Risk

Commenting on Wellington City Council preparing to vote on a number of cost-cutting measures, Taxpayers’ Union Policy and Public Affairs Manager, James Ross, said:

“Councils have a favourite little trick. When it comes time to justify enormous rates hikes, they start hacking away at frontline services to plead poverty. Wellington City Council is no exception.

“Slashing away at library services, community centres and ramping up parking fees whilst hundreds of millions of dollars are still being wasted on revamping the Town Hall is a cheap ploy that ratepayers can see right through.

“At last count over 450 staff at Wellington City Council are on over $100,000 a year. Before the council starts cutting services, it should be scrapping its enormously wasteful pet projects and trimming back its bloated bureaucracy.”

NEW POLL: Big boost for ACT would allow Centre-Right to govern without NZ First

 

National is up 2.6 points on our last poll in November 2023 to 39.6% while Labour drops marginally to 27.9% (-0.4 points). ACT is up significantly to 13.7% (+5.6%) while the Greens are down substantially to 9.0% (-4.8 points).

The smaller parties are NZ First on 5.0% (-1.0 points), Te Pāti Māori on 2.3% (-1.1% points), and others combined were on 2.5%.

This month's results are compared to the last Taxpayers' Union – Curia poll conducted in November 2023.

National is up 3 seats on November 2023 to 49 while Labour is unchanged on 35 seats. ACT has jumped up 7 seats to 17 while the Greens are down 6 seats to 11. NZ First is down 2 seats to 6 while Te Pāti Māori is unchanged also on 6 seats.

This calculation assumes that all electorate seats are held. A Parliament on these figures would have an overhang of 3 seats and a total of 123 seats.

The combined projected seats for the Centre-Right of 72 seats is up 8 from November 2023 while the Centre-Left is down 7 seats. This is the biggest gap between blocs since Sep 2021 when the Centre-Left led by 27 seats.

On these numbers, National and ACT could form a majority government on their own without the support of NZ First.

Christopher Luxon drops 4 points on November 2023 to 29% in the preferred Prime Minister stakes. Chris Hipkins is up 1 point to 19%.

David Seymour increases 6 points to 10% while Winston Peters is up 1 point on 6%. Chlöe Swarbrick is also on 6% unchanged from November 2023.

More detailed results, including 'country direction' data and our new 'government approval' rating, are available on our website.

Taxpayer Update: NEW POLL Big boost for ACT 🟡📈 | Taxpayer funding of suspected militants paused ⏸️💰 | Wellington in chaos ✂️

In this week's Taxpayer Update, we celebrate another Taxpayer Victory that ensures your money isn't being spent on creating conflict and reveal, yet again, more issues at Wellington City Council. 

But first, after a post-election Summer break, our exclusive Taxpayers' Union – Curia poll is back!

NEW POLL: Big boost for ACT sees Nats and ACT able to govern alone 🟡📈

February's Taxpayers' Union – Curia poll was conducted over the period including Waitangi Day. ACT's proposed Treaty Principles Bill might have been receiving a lot of heat in the media, but it doesn't seem to have done the party any harm in the polls. In fact, these results suggest the opposite.

Decided Party Vote over time

National is up 2.6 points on our last poll in November 2023 to 39.6% while Labour drops marginally to 27.9% (-0.4 points). ACT is up significantly to 13.7% (+5.6%) while the Greens are down substantially to 9.0% (-4.8 points).

The smaller parties are NZ First on 5.0% (-1.0 points), Te Pāti Māori on 2.3% (-1.1% points), and others combined were on 2.5%.

Here is how these results would translate to seats in the Parliament:

Seats

National is up 3 seats on November 2023 to 49 while Labour is unchanged on 35 seats. ACT has jumped up 7 seats to 17 while the Greens are down 6 seats to 11. NZ First is down 2 seats to 6 while Te Pāti Māori is unchanged also on 6 seats. Parliament would have 123 seats as it does now due to an overhang created by the Māori electorates.

The combined projected seats for the Centre-Right of 72 seats is up 8 from November 2023 while the Centre-Left is down 7 seats. This is the biggest gap between blocs since Sep 2021 when the Centre-Left led by 27 seats.

Victory for the taxpayer: NZ Government pauses funding for UN agency linked to terrorism in Gaza ⏸️💰

UMRWA

Last week saw a quick taxpayer victory following a fast response campaign from the Taxpayers' Union after news broke that UNRWA employees are not just implicated in the 7th October massacres in Israel, but – according to reporting by the Wall Street Journal – 10% of UNRWA employees are linked to terrorist groups including Hamas.

While minds may differ on the Gaza conflict, when an agency we as taxpayers are funding is being accused of funding terrorism, it's certainly right to hit pause and take a proper look! The Government agreed. Within a day of our campaign, the Government announced it was pausing taxpayer funding for UNRWA until it can be confident that the relief agency's staff are not linked to terror activity.

The New Zealand Government now joins Australia, Canada, Britain, the EU and others in looking to divert funding away from UNRWA to organisations like the Red Cross and World Food Programme.

Thanks to those who added their voice, wrote to Ministers, and reminded the Government that Kiwis expect our foreign aid budget to be spent working for humanitarian relief, not fuelling the conflict.

More Chaos in Wellington City Council ✂️

Absolutely Positively Wellington

Last week, Wellington City Council proposed a number of cost-saving measures to free up funds for its ailing water infrastructure.

Unfortunately, it seems the Council is going after core services people value such as the libraries before the glaringly obvious vanity projects are put on the chopping block.

Take, for example, the news Wellington City Council is spending an ‘undisclosed’ amount of money to install bilingual parking meters:

Wellington City Council has decided to replace its parking meter system at a cost it will not disclose, despite paying $1.5 million to install a new sensor network as recently as 2016.

The new pay-by-plate meters that went live this month are a paperless system that uses a vehicle licence plate number, rather than a numbered car park, to record parking time and payment.

The meters also offer the choice of English or te reo Māori instructions, which the council says supports its commitment to Pōneke becoming a bilingual city.

[continue reading on the NZ Herald here]

Your humble Taxpayers' Union has had to use the new meters (they are right outside out office). The 'new' meters are clunky, and clearly a step down from the old ones. Instead of an off-the-shelf solution, the boffins at the City Council had these custom build so that you can pay your parking taxes using te reo prompts.  Strangely, we're yet to meet a Wellington ratepayer saying ka pai! 👏

And Wellington Water can’t be trusted either… 🚰

At about the same time, a scathing report into Wellington Water’s operational performance shambles was released. It shows Wellington Water is incapable of delivering its services efficiently, failing to sufficiently report on the quality of its operations, failing to meet key contract obligations with Wellington City Council. Despite spending 71% more on maintenance year on year, the quality is getting no better!

It’s now evident that the water provider needs a complete overhaul to get its priorities straight and spend its money efficiently.

Our replacement to the last government's Three Waters can't come soon enough!

And the Council secrecy continues… 🤐

Secret Council Workshop

Long time readers will recall the endless tales of cloak and dagger with Wellington City Council, where Council officials have hidden critical reports and key information from elected officials. True to form, officials tried to bury the bad news and refused provide a copy of the draft Wellington Water report to councillors who had previously only been shown parts of it on a screen during a closed workshop.

To state the obvious, how can we expect good governance at local town halls, when those who are supposed to be in charge (and accountable to ratepayers at the ballot box) are being drip fed information. Here at the Taxpayers' Union, we are working with some of New Zealand's most respected councillors to give elected officials more rights to go round their CEOs and access information (even if it isn't welcome news). More to come on this...

Nearly 15,000 Signatures on Petition for Media to Return Taxpayer Funding 📝

Public Interest Journalism Fund

With the pandemic over, and most media companies back in the black, we say they should do the right thing and return their Public Interest Journalism Funding (PIJF) to protect their independence and the public's trust.

While people hold a range of views as to whether this funding undermined the actual independence of newsrooms, what is undeniable is that the perception of independence was certainly eroded. 

Our petition calling for the media to help restore public trust and confidence in their profession by paying back all taxpayer funding has almost hit 15,000 signatures. If you haven't already signed, add your name here so we can get it over the line.

MPs in Depth: National MP Greg Flemming🎙️

Taxpayer Talk: Greg Fleming

The latest episode of Taxpayer Talk is another edition in our MPs in Depth podcast series where we get to know Parliament's new MPs. In this episode, Jordan sat down with newly elected National Party MP, Greg Fleming. 

Greg tells us about his journey into politics and how he formed his political ideology, starting with an egg business at age nine and eventually leading to his founding of the Maxim Institute think tank. 

This podcast gives a fascinating insight into what makes Greg tick and is well worth a listen. 

Listen to the episode on our website | Apple | Spotify | Google Podcasts | iHeart Radio

Other News in Brief ⏰

  • We challenged the Government to go further and faster in reducing the size of the public service to help get inflation and interest rates under control. We also slammed them for asking department CEO's – the same people responsible for staff numbers ballooning by up to 50% – to identify cost savings rather than having Ministers going through with a fine tooth comb to identify those wasteful projects that the CEOs don't want cut. 
  • ACT called for a simpler and flatter tax system with fewer income tax brackets. We responded by urging them to be more aspirational and aim for a flat tax instead which would be simple, fair and encourage productivity while allowing people to keep more of their own money.
  • Nicola Willis's app tax was dealt a blow when it was revealed that she had not read a joint letter from the large app-based service providers requesting an urgent meeting to discuss how unworkable the new tax will be. We told National to focus on cutting waste, rather than hiking taxes on summer holiday Airbnbs.  

That's it for this week.

Yours aye,

Callum

Callum Signature
Callum Purves
Head of Campaigns

New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union 

Donate

Media mentions:

NZ Herald 
Act Party supports calls for Tauranga’s commission to act in caretaker role

SunLive ACT backs call to make commissioners "caretakers"

NewstalkZB The Huddle: Why haven't MFAT pulled their funding from NRWA?

Kiwiblog Taxpayer funded conspiracy theories

BusinessDesk Business of Government: marking your own homework, silo mentalities and more ...

Newsroom Nats’ summer slumber lets ‘rabid dog’ run amok

NZ Herald Napier City Council indicates possible record rates rise for Napier

Wairarapa Times-Age
Lobby group's wages war

Newstalk ZB Morning Edition: 02 February 2024 – Selwyn proposed rate hikes (02:27) 

BusinessDesk On the Money: Milky bonds, flamboyantly dressed accountants and more ...

Newstalk ZB The Huddle: What else can we expect ahead of Waitangi Day

NZ Herald Act launches Treaty principles referendum campaign to twist National’s arm

NZ Herald Treaty of Waitangi: Christopher Luxon cannot stop voters having their say on Act’s bill

Waikato Times Hamilton rate hikes set to ‘crush’ whānau, MP warns

Press Releases:

Taxpayers’ Union Calls On Public Service Cuts To Go Further, Faster

Income Tax System Should be Flat, not ‘Flatter’

Taxpayers’ Union calls on NZ Government to follow international counterparts and pull UNRWA funding

Wellington Ratepayers Reliant on Leaks for Info on Leaky Pipes

New Zealanders elected a Government to cut waste, not have Ministers take lazy route and delegate to CEOs

Taxpayers’ Union Welcomes New Zealand Joining EU & International Partners in Pausing UNRWA Funding

National Party U-Turn Robbing Kiwis of a Summer Holiday

Double-Digit Rate Hikes Across Councils Cannot Become The Norm

New Zealand Must Advocate For Tobacco Harm Reduction At COP10

Government Could Reduce Prices With The Stroke Of A Pen

Red Tape Won’t Keep Rooves Over Wellingtonians’ Heads

Hamilton City Council’s Never-Ending Rate Hikes Are Unjustifiable

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Police and Te Whatu Ora need to be put back in their lane

 

The Taxpayers’ Union is slamming today’s news that the Police and Te Whatu Ora Health NZ allocated a $60,000 legal war chest to fight a Wellington pub owner – all for the sake of a bar having to close an hour earlier.

“CBD crime is growing, our health system is a shambles, yet these zealots within the bureaucracy see fit to play morality police and try to scapegoat responsible hospitality operators,” says Connor Molloy, the Taxpayers’ Union lifestyle economics spokesman.

“This is bullying of a small business, pure and simple. And it’s not like it is a one off. For years, the Police – the Wellington Police in particular – have ignored the constitutional convention that the Police are there to enforce the law, not lobby. The Police use their considerable power and resources to browbeat the Council and District Licensing Committee.

“Given this outrageous example, we will be seeking a meeting with both the Police and Te Whatu Ora leadership to urge them to pull their head in, ensure taxpayer money is going to core services, and officials are staying in their lane.”

Hamilton City Council’s Never-Ending Rate Hikes are Unjustifiable

Responding to Hamilton City Council's proposed increase of 25.5% for the 2024/25 financial year, and subsequent 14.1% rate hikes for the following four years, Taxpayers’ Union Head of Campaigns, Callum Purves, said:

“While Hamilton City Council might be trying hard to sell the idea that there is no other choice when it comes to funding its water infrastructure, it’s evident that the financial crisis it now finds itself in has been driven by years of wasteful spending.

“Just last year, our 2023 Ratepayers Report revealed the Council had spent over $315m on contractors and consultants – more than three times that of Auckland Council – and pays nearly a quarter of its staff salaries over $100,000. It’s that there is still plenty of fat the Council could trim to allow investment in vital infrastructure while protecting ratepayers from eye-watering rate hikes.

“Double-digit rate hikes have become a worrying trend across New Zealand’s local councils and now you’d be hard-pressed to find any council with a rate increase below the level of inflation. It’s high time our local authorities start cutting back on the nice-to-haves and stop expecting ratepayers to keep bailing them out."

Red Tape Won’t Keep Rooves over Wellingtonians’ Heads

Wellington City councillors have been given advice recommending they alter the district plan to prevent housing intensification across huge swathes of the city.

Commenting on this, Taxpayers’ Union Policy and Public Affairs Manager, James Ross, said:

“Wellington is deep in a housing crisis, and whether you’re looking to buy or rent there simply is not enough to go around. Prices are skyrocketing, and the only solution to this is to build more homes.

“Red tape has stifled development for decades. The crisis won’t end without serious RMA reform from central government, but that doesn’t mean the council can’t make it worse. The advice given to councillors would push Wellington’s housing market to breaking point.

“Wellingtonians need rooves over their heads, and so the city needs to build up and build out. As much as the council might like to try and bury its head in the sand, not building at all is not an option.”

Government Could Reduce Prices with the Stroke of a Pen

 

Responding to calls for the Government to scrap New Zealand’s remaining import tariffs, Taxpayers’ Union Policy & Public Affairs Manager, James Ross, said:

“Tariffs are a tax on consumers, and if there’s one thing Kiwis don’t need during this cost-of-living crisis it’s the Government increasing the price of goods even further.

“As well as driving up prices and the costs of doing business in New Zealand, our tariffs quite literally cost the Government more to administer than they raise in revenue. They are a millstone around our country’s neck stifling competition and holding back growth.

“The folly of import tariffs is clear, and cash-strapped shoppers should be jumping with joy at any attempts to follow Singapore’s example in becoming a free trading nation.”

New Zealand Must Advocate for Tobacco Harm Reduction at COP10

 

The Taxpayers’ Union is calling on New Zealand’s delegates to the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) to oppose dangerous calls for further regulation and taxation of reduced-harm alternatives to smoking.

Speaking from Panama, where the Tenth Session Conference of Parties (COP10) to the WHO FCTC is being held, Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager and spokesperson for Lifestyle Economics, Connor Molloy, said:

“New Zealand is a success story in terms of getting smokers to quit. A big part of that is allowing consumers to choose less harmful alternatives to smoking.

“New Zealand’s delegates must oppose all attempts by the WHO to equate the harm of traditional cigarettes with that of alternatives that are scientifically proven to be safer such as vaping, heated tobacco and snus. The delegates must be commended for acknowledging the role that evidence-based harm reduction measures have played in reducing New Zealand’s smoking rates, but we are concerned they are not going further to publicly challenge the WHO’s dangerous opposition to reduced-harm products.

“Supporting, or accepting, WHO proposed rules to restrict reduced-harm alternatives would be a step backwards. Ironically, these proposals would play into the hands of “Big Tobacco” and are totally counter to New Zealand’s Smokefree 2025 aspiration.

“The only reason the New Zealand Government would go along with the WHO’s proposals is to keep more people smoking and collect more tax. That is morally wrong.”

MPs in Depth: Greg Fleming

This week on Taxpayer Talk is another episode in our MPs in Depth podcast series where we get to know Parliament's new MPs. In this episode, Jordan sat down with newly elected National Party MP, Greg Fleming. 

Greg tells us about his journey into politics and how he formed his political ideology, starting with an egg business at age nine and eventually leading to his founding of the Maxim Institute think tank. 

This podcast gives a fascinating insight into what makes Greg tick and is well worth a listen. 

Greg's maiden speech can be watched here. Follow Greg on Facebook here.

To support Taxpayer Talk, click here

If you have any comments, questions or suggestions, feel free to email [email protected] 

You can also listen to Taxpayer Talk on Apple PodcastsSpotifyGoogle PodcastsiHeart Radio and all good podcast apps. 

Double-Digit Rate Hikes Across Councils Cannot Become the Norm

The Taxpayers’ Union is slamming Selwyn District Council for proposing a 16% rate hike in the first stage of a cumulative 45.89% rates hike over three years.

“Yet again we are seeing a council completely fail to be prudent with its spending proposals, and is now asking its already-burdened ratepayers for an extra arm and a leg to bail them out,” Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, says.

“From a council that just last year was able to keep its rates increase under the level of inflation to now looking at dropping double-digit rate hikes for the next three successive years is an unacceptable turn of events that has blind-sided Selwyn’s ratepayers.

“The council should be tightening their belt like households all across the district are forced to do when costs rise. This includes trimming the fat in the Council’s back office bureaucracy, letting go of gold-plated vanity projects and seriously considering the sale of under-utilised or unnecessary assets.”

National Party U-Turn Robbing Kiwis of a Summer Holiday

Commenting on the news that Nicola Willis’ office failed to respond to a joint letter from accomodation providers requesting an urgent meeting over plans to introduce an App Tax from April this year, Taxpayers’ Union Policy Adviser, James Ross, said:

“A bit of backbone from the National Party wouldn’t go amiss. Their own campaigns from last year prove that they know how damaging the App Tax will be to Kiwi consumers and businesses alike.

“Whether the meeting request got lost in an administrative mix-up is irrelevant. National’s own messaging shows that they already knew the facts laid out in this letter.

“It’s easy to sling stones from opposition, but National protecting Labour’s unsustainable high-tax legacy is failing the voters who put their faith in the party at the ballot box.

“Rather than taxing hardworking Kiwis out of being able to afford a summer junket, the Government needs to get serious about slashing Wellington’s over-bloated bureaucracy to plug the fiscal gap.”

Taxpayers’ Union Welcomes New Zealand Joining EU & International Partners in Pausing UNRWA Funding

 

The Taxpayers’ Union is welcoming the Prime Minister’s announcement that New Zealand’s latest round of UNRWA funding is being suspended pending the results of a UN inquiry.

Commenting on this, Taxpayers’ Union spokesman, Jordan Williams, said:

Overnight reports from the Wall Street Journal suggest that 10% of UNRWA staff have connections to Hamas and other militants. Kiwi taxes have been directly funding terrorism.

“The decision to join our international partners including the European Union in pulling the plug on UNRWA pending investigation was the right one.

“Funding can now be reallocated to New Zealand’s other partner organisations working in the region including the Red Cross and World Food Programme. Kiwis expect our foreign aid budget to be spent working for peace, not fuelling the conflict.”

New Zealanders elected a Government to cut waste, not have Ministers take lazy route and delegate to CEOs

 

The Taxpayers’ Union is slamming the approach of Government Ministers asking public sector CEOs to find just 6.5% of savings and is telling Ministers to do what they promised: go through their departments’ spending with a fine tooth comb and ensure value for money.

“The Government is asking the foxes to guard the hen house,” said Taxpayers’ Union spokesman, Jordan Williams.

“In many cases, the Government is tasking the very same CEOs who increased staff numbers by more than 50% under the last government to now find savings.

“This 6.5% across the board reduction is pathetic. Ministers were elected to go through spending and ensure value for money.

“It is also politically dangerous. CEOs will find savings in politically painful areas like frontline services to justify no further cuts. In reality, Minister’s should be taking to Wellington’s back offices with an axe. Relying on CEOs to achieve an arbitrary target is lazy and dumb.”

Wellington Ratepayers Reliant on Leaks for Info on Leaky Pipes

 

Responding to news that Wellington Water has requested $2.5 billion in funding from Wellington City Council, Taxpayers’ Union Policy Adviser, James Ross, said:

“When even elected Councillors are treated like children and only allowed to see snippets of a ratepayer-funded secret report into Wellington Water’s failures, Wellington’s closed-shop bureaucracy is spitting in the face of local democracy.

“This isn’t the first time Council officials have stifled information to railroad decisions. A crucial KPMG report was buried until just two days before the long-term plan vote, a report on the town hall’s $147 million blowout was shoved down the back of the sofa for months, and ratepayer-funded legal advice over airport share sales was hidden from elected representatives.

“Despite their culture of secrecy, we can all see the Council isn’t working. Before even considering doling out billions of dollars, Wellington needs to open the books to show some respect for the ratepayers who pay their wages.”

Taxpayers’ Union calls on NZ Government to follow international counterparts and pull UNRWA funding

The Taxpayers’ Union has launched a petition calling for the Government to scrap continued funding of UNRWA, following revelation in recent weeks about connections to terrorism in the Isreal-Palestine conflict. 

Jordan Williams, a spokesman for the Taxpayers’ Union said:

“New Zealanders should not be forced to fund any aid organisation where there are serious allegations of money being funnelled into terrorism. There are plenty of other not-for-profits able to do the job without the politicisation.”

“In addition to the new allegations relating to UNRWA participating in the the 7th October attacks, previous concerns have been raised about UNRWA inciting radicalisation through obscene hate-filled publications.”

“New Zealand should join the governments of Australia, Canada, Britain, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Finland, the Netherlands and the US and pull taxpayer funding of UNRWA.”

The petition can be signed at www.taxpayers.org.nz/petition_unrwa

Income Tax System Should be Flat, not ‘Flatter’

 

The Taxpayers’ Union is backing ACT leader David Seymour’s calls for a simpler tax system but says it should be flat, not just ‘flatter’ than the status quo.

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

“There are billions of dollars of waste in government that could be eliminated in order to fund tax relief.

“There are many largely useless departments that could be eliminated in their entirety while the remainder should be zero-based and reassessed asking ‘if this job or programme did not exist today, would we decide to create it?’ If the answer is no, it should be cut.

“A flat-tax system is simple, fair and encourages productivity while allowing people to keep more of their own money. New Zealand should be striving for the world’s most efficient and competitive tax system through wholesale reform, not temporary tax relief that will eventually be eroded away through bracket creep.”

Taxpayers’ Union Calls on Public Service Cuts to go Further, Faster

 

The Taxpayers’ Union is calling on the government to go further and faster with its demands for reductions in spending by government departments.

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

“Demanding a 7.5% spending reduction from departments that have ballooned by over 50% in the last six years is laughable. These departments are so bloated, every job and function should be under consideration for cost savings. The proposed figure is not nearly enough.

“Government spending has increased by 67% since 2017 yet the quality of public services has continued to decline. The proposed cuts would still leave government spending at a level that would make Grant Robertson’s early budgets look like austerity in comparison.

“Kiwis are struggling with high inflation and high interest rates, it is time for the government to show what responsible fiscal management looks like rather than just tinkering at the edges.”

Taxpayer Update: Inflation dips 📉 | Mayor Mauger's Commonwealth Fantasy🏅 | More NZTA’s budget blowouts 🤑

If you're in Auckland for their long weekend – come along and meet the team on Monday at Mission Bay (see details at the end of this email). 

Thanks to Connor for holding the fort. Sadly while I have been away, the examples of waste and excess have just kept coming. But let's start with a little bit of good news. 

Inflation dips, but it's mostly from overseas 📉

Inflation is finally dropping, and about time too. This week's figures showed inflation has is now down to 4.7% from 5.6% the previous quarter. This will come as welcome news to those struggling with the cost of living.

But that’s where the good news ends, I’m afraid.

For the 31st month in a row, inflation remains well outside of the 3% target range and far from sustainable levels. Our high inflation is being propped up by “non-tradeables”, which surprise, surprise is the area most affected by government spending...

Digging deeper into the figures out this week - while the rest of the world's inflation is easing (i.e. our 'tradable goods'), New Zealand's domestic inflation (termed 'non tradables') remain stubbornly high. That means that, on average, New Zealand is likely to face higher interest rates for longer, compared to our trading partners. 

High inflation: All roads lead back to Wellington 👀

As a proportion of the economy, New Zealand's response to COVID was among the highest in the world. And, once the lockdowns were over, New Zealand still lags behind in getting inflationary government spending back under control!

That's why the New Zealand Government Debt Clock is still racing, and the Reserve Bank is still imposing high interest rates. Until the new Government gets serious about tackling the culture of waste and out-of-control deficit spending they have inherited, that’s not going to change anytime soon.

Bad news for those with mortgages...

Sir Humphrey would be proud: Unelected bureaucrats setting up new Ministers again 🧑🏻‍💻

Casey Costello

When new governments are elected, ideologically-driven bureaucrats often disagree with the policies that have a democratic mandate to implement. But unlike the US  – where a new administration can replace/appoint most of the leaders of government agencies – New Zealand has a politically neutral public service.

Or so they claim...

Before Christmas, we saw the leaks about the so-called ‘fair pay’ agreement changes and, more recently, the Treaty Principles Bill – clearly aimed to undermine policies that were explicitly campaigned on by the parties making up the new Government.

This week it was Casey Costello's turn. Radio NZ was clutching its pearls after it obtained a document that purported to show that the new Associate Minister of Health, Casey Costello (our former chair), had asked officials for advice on freezing tobacco excise.

It looks to be a carefully calculated sting operation by the bureaucrats.

From the reporting of the story, you would think that Casey had instigated research into this policy area, but that is not quite the full story. Unelected officials proactively offered to provide the Minister with advice on the implications of increasing and not increasing tobacco excise along with inflation prior to the annual decision having to be made. When the Minister agreed, it appears Ministry of Health officials created the advice about freezing tobacco taxes 'which she had asked for' and leaked this certain sections to the media, which predictably had a meltdown. 

These sorts of policy advice papers and documents would have been made public in time anyway, but jumping the gun through selective leaks creates a strong incentive for Ministers not to seek official's advice or do their job.

In fact, we think the new Government has a real problem on its hands: The professionalism (or lack thereof) by the bureaucrats across dozens of government agencies risks undermining the decision-making process and having a chilling effect on constructive communication and the need for Cabinet government to be based on well-informed decision making. 

This behaviour from some officials is nothing more than a political hit-job seeking to make it harder for the Government to unwind the past six years of wasteful, bureaucratic and ineffective policy. We say that unless unelected bureaucrats can act impartially and support the government to implement policies even if they disagree with them, they need to find a new career. 

Nicola Willis has a big decision to make when it comes to appointing the new Public Service Commissioner in just a few months. We need someone willing to tackle The Blob head on.  And the names reportedly being considered do not inspire confidence. Watch this space...

Mayor Mauger Needs to Learn to Walk Before Joining the 100m Sprint 🏅

Christchurch Commonwealth

Christchurch is a city on the mend, but now in what seems to be a vain attempt to prove something to the world, the Mayor is gunning to throw so much of that progress away.

Across the ditch, the State of Victoria has had to bail on its plans to host the Commonwealth Games thanks to the insurmountable cost. Alberta in Canada had to pass up the opportunity because it was simply unaffordable, even for a province loaded with oil money. Now the Christchurch Mayor – an area with less than 10% of the population of either of these two – is proposing local ratepayers pick up the baton.

Christchurch Council is $25k per residential ratepayer in debt, bridges still haven’t been fixed since the earthquake, and the Council is already planning 15.8% rates hikes this year alone. Even for those who would love to see the Commonwealth Games back in the Garden City, the council simple does not have spare billions to blow on a one-off event.

Mr Mauger, before trying to prove to the world that Christchurch is back on its feet, should perhaps try proving this to Christchurch residents.

NZTA’s incompetence on display yet again with budget blowouts 🤑

Mt Messenger

This week showed once again that The Agency Formerly Known As Waka Kotahi struggles to be prudent with our money.

It might sound like déjà vu, considering that just last week Connor told you about the near-comical downfall of Auckland Light Rail – a project which after 6 years and $228 million spent didn’t have a single metre of track laid – but unfortunately it turns out that New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) has been haemorrhaging funds on its other trademark projects just as badly.

Earlier this week, we heard that the NZTA has already blown through nearly two thirds of its $280 million budget for the Mt Messenger highway without a single kilometre of tarmac built.

The bypass was initially meant to be completed 2 years ago, but now will likely push out to at least 2026 and is set to majorly blow out in costs. Out of the $172 million spent so far, only around $100 million has been used on actual construction.

But it doesn’t stop there…

Months of road closures for clip-on footbridge 💸

Clip on Bridge

In Waikanae, another costly NZTA debacle is unfolding with a $2 million ‘clip-on’ shared pathway to be attached to Waikanae Bridge. As of this week, work on this heavily overdue project is finally underway, but the bridge will now be closed heading southbound for at least the next 5 months, and possibly longer, for work to be undertaken.

Considering the enormous cost of the project, coupled with the major traffic disruptions it will burden the region with, we also question whether more cost-effective alternatives that would have prevented the current bridge from being closed could have been used instead.

Judge for yourself! Official Information from Kapiti District Council revealed that a similar stand-alone bridge a few kilometres downstream was erected in 2009 for just $178,672. See the plans here. This new ‘clip-on’ approach will cost at least 10 times that amount, and that’s assuming everything goes to plan.

It’s been clear for several years that NZTA has lost its way and has wholly failed to demonstrate any value for money. We’re calling on the new Government to ensure our transport agency gets back to focussing on delivery and ensuring our roads are adequately maintained first before embarking on outlandish gold-plated developments. A clear out of what appears to be a lacklustre board would be a good start.

Other News in Brief ⏰

  • Jordan appeared in a recent edition of the Different Matters podcast hosted by friend of the Taxpayers' Union, Damien Grant. He discusses our recently published book The Mission: 10 Years of the Taxpayers' Union, which is available to purchase here
  • James threw our support behind calls on Minister of Local Government, Simeon Brown, to restrict the powers of the unelected, undemocratic, unaccountable Tauranga commissioners ahead of a return to democracy in July. It is unacceptable for long-term decisions to be made now before local residents have been given to have the chance to have their say on the future direction of their city.  

One more thing...

Debt Clock

While it may be a long weekend for Aucklanders, sadly one thing that won't be taking a holiday is our national debt, which will rack up more than $75 million on Monday's public holiday alone. We'll be out in Mission Bay with the Debt Clock and holding sausage sizzle to do our bit to help pay down the national debt. Come along and buy a sausage – we need to sell an awful lot of them!

Yours aye,

Callum

Callum Signature
Callum Purves
Head of Campaigns

New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union 

Donate

Media mentions:

Wairarapa Times-Age Delays for rating

foodticker “Small fry” grocery pricing investigation not enough – TaxPayers Union

Press releases:

Taxpayers’ Union Welcomes Withdrawal Of Voting Age Bill

Return To Democracy In Tauranga Cannot Be Put In Danger

Mayor Mauger’s Christchurch Commonwealth Games Plan a Swing and a Miss

NZTA’s $2 million ‘clip-on’ footbridge wasteful and disruptive

Inflation Well Outside Target Range Still Punishing Struggling Kiwis

Small-Fry Grocery Pricing Investigation Won’t Stop Spiralling Food Prices

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taxpayers’ Union Welcomes Withdrawal of Voting Age Bill

Reacting to the Government’s announcement that they are withdrawing a bill from the previous Government that would have lowered the voting age for local body elections to 16, Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

“Changes to the rules of the game in any democracy should be decided by the people, not by politicians who have the incentive to screw the scrum in their favour.

“While reasonable minds can differ on the merits of lowering the voting age, introducing such a significant piece of legislation in the dying days of Parliament and closing submissions just six days after the general election is nothing more than bad-faith electoral reform.

“Proponents of lowering the voting age should work to win over public support before any bill is introduced in the future and allow the decision to be made by voters, not self-interested politicians.”

Return to Democracy in Tauranga Cannot be Put in Danger

The Taxpayers’ Union is throwing its weight behind calls for the powers of Tauranga’s unelected Commissioners to be curtailed in the run-up to the return of democracy to the city, and urges Local Government Minister Simeon Brown to step in.

Commenting on this, Taxpayers’ Union Policy Adviser, James Ross, said:

“Unelected Commissioners in Tauranga have spent years tossing around ratepayers’ money with reckless abandon, all safe in the knowledge that they will never be accountable to the rate-paying public.

“Although it is three-and-a-half years too late, democracy will be returning to Tauranga this year; the Commissioners cannot be allowed to put that in jeopardy. The long-term plan will set the city’s course for the next decade, and this must only be decided by the elected representatives of Tauranga residents.

“We’re already seeing the damage at a national level that an outgoing government can inflict by signing long-term contracts that they know will be overturned. This is damaging to both business confidence and to the public’s back pockets, and this cannot be allowed to be inflicted on the city by Commissioners without an electoral mandate.”

Mayor Mauger’s Christchurch Commonwealth Games Plan a Swing and a Mis

Commenting on Christchurch City Council’s plans to bid to host the Commonwealth Games, Taxpayers’ Union Policy Adviser, James Ross, said: 

“Mayor Phil Mauger wants to show the world that Christchurch is back on its feet. But he’d be better off proving this to Christchurch residents first. 

“With the Council group neck deep in around $25,000 in debt per residential ratepayer and expected rates rises well into the double figures, Christchurch is in no position to be throwing billions of dollars in ratepayers’ hard-earned money into the wind on games which have already been canned across the ditch for proving far too expensive.

“Whilst core infrastructure like the Pages Road Bridge is still to be fully repaired following the earthquake, the Council even considering wasting billions on exorbitant vanity projects is an insult to the residents who have worked so hard to bring their city back from the brink.” 

NZTA’s $2 million ‘clip-on’ footbridge wasteful and disruptive

 

The Taxpayers’ Union is calling on the government to direct the New Zealand Transport Agency to reassess expensive projects that are overly disruptive following the commencement of construction of a clip-on footbridge in Waikanae that is set to cost almost $2 million and disrupt traffic for five months.

Commenting on the project: Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

“This multi-million-dollar ‘clip-on’ has been in the works for years, and now will cause several months’ worth of traffic disruptions to one of the region’s busiest roads, inevitably steering much-needed customers away from local businesses. Given the enormous cost of the project, as well as the significant disruptions to traffic, we question whether this is really money well spent from NZTA, or just another one of its idealistic fantasy projects set to blow out in costs and delays.

“In 2009, Kāpiti Coast District Council managed to erect a fifty-metre-long stand-alone footbridge for just a few hundred thousand dollars. Instead of using that same initiative here, this ‘clip-on’ approach will cost over ten times that amount, assuming it actually stays under budget.

“NZTA is building up a depressing reputation of waste and inefficiencies. Just yesterday we saw how the agency blew through 60% of its Mt Messenger budget without a single kilometer of roading having been completed. If the new Government is serious about tightening its spending belt, it needs to demonstrate to New Zealanders that projects like these are being done efficiently and with the local community front of mind.”

Inflation Well Outside Target Range Still Punishing Struggling Kiwis

 

Responding to today’s release of the latest Consumer Price Index (CPI) figures, Taxpayers’ Union Policy Adviser, James Ross, said:

“Despite the fall in the Consumer Price Index, inflation still remains well outside the target range for the 31st month in a row. Even with a punishingly high Official Cash Rate, the deadly combination of high inflation and high interest rates is still lingering on.

“This inflation is driven by unsustainably high Government spending, and this culture of waste in Wellington is working at loggerheads with efforts from the Reserve Bank to control spiralling costs.

“It’s hardworking Kiwi families struggling under the cost-of-living crisis who are still being made to shoulder the burden of a Government which isn’t willing to make the tough choices. Those same families won’t see any improvement until this Government gets serious about slashing the reckless and inflationary overspending it has inherited."

Small-Fry Grocery Pricing Investigation Won’t Stop Spiralling Food Prices

Responding to a Commerce Commission investigation into promotions and pricing in the grocery sector, Taxpayers’ Union Policy Adviser, James Ross, said:

“Unclear pricing at grocery chains is of course an issue, but it is small fry compared to the anti-competitive regulations which allow grocery chains to charge extortionate prices for the things households can’t go without.

“Overregulation allows for the grocery duopoly to engage in cartel-like price setting unchallenged, leading to bumper profits for the fat cats at Foodstuffs and Woolworths, and spiralling shopping bills for the rest of us.

“Effective bans on foreign investment and overly restrictive resource management rules under the RMA mean that this isn’t going to change anytime soon, no matter how many trivial changes the Commerce Commission kindly suggests.

“Rather than picking around the edges of the grocery duopoly, the Government must spend its time implementing the sweeping reforms needed to end the stranglehold the big two grocery chains have over struggling Kiwi families.”

Taxpayer Update: Kainga Ora's Failures 🏠🔥 | Auckland Tramway Scrapped 🚆✖️ | Our Own Misinformation Project 🇦🇷🤥

As you'll see that while many politicians (and just about all the Wellington bureaucrats!) are enjoying long holidays, our team are back at work exposing waste, fighting for more more taxpayer victories, and promoting sensible improvements for how your money is spent.

Thousands of Brand New State Houses Sitting Empty 🏠🔥

Despite the state housing waitlist being more than 30,000 people long, thousands of brand new state houses have been sitting empty, some for months at a time. Taxpayers spent millions on building and purchasing these properties, so they should be filled rather than left to collect dust.

Of course, the wider issue is the state of bureaucratic regulation in the housing sector that effectively makes it illegal to build a cheap house. The chaotic mess of red tape creates unworkable, unnecessary and ineffective restrictions on building and renting homes. This drives up the costs of housing and forces people onto that waitlist.

It is clear that big and centralised government is not good at getting people into affordable housing. It is a scandal that for a country with a small population, and plenty of land, housing is among the most expensive in the world.

The new government has talked a good talk on cutting red tape and simplifying our planning laws such as the Resource Management Act. This year, one of our major focuses will be on ensuring they follow through. New Zealand cannot afford another generation without access to affordable housing, both for renters, and those who want to build or buy.

In terms of social housing, rather than trying, yet again, to fix Kāinga Ora and its centralised model, we say the Government should be focused at enabling (including funding) local community groups to provide both high quality housing and social services as they are likely to deliver far better value for the taxpayer long term. 

Because empty houses is not the only failure happening at Kāinga Ora...

Kāinga Ora's $2 Million Cost Blowout on Ridiculous Housing Project 🚧🧱

You would think that, to the extent to which central government should be responsible for building houses, they would actually build them in areas where they are most needed and have appropriate social services nearby. Think again...

On Thursday, we called out a cost blowout on a state housing development that shows everything wrong with Kāinga Ora. The development which would create 44 residential houses in Ohakune was originally intended to cost $5.2 million but has since blown out by 44% to $7.5 million. This supposedly post-COVID lockdown 'shovel-ready' project has been in the pipeline since 2020 yet four years later we are yet to see a single shovel hit dirt!

The cost blowout comes as no surprise given the Auditor-General slammed the 'shovel ready' slush fund for its poor decision making and continuous wastage of taxpayer money.

There are countless reasons why this project should never have been approved in the first place. For a start, approving a 44-house development in a small town where there are only 11 families in Ohakune on the housing waitlist, is questionable when thousands of people remain in taxpayer funded hotels temporary housing across the country. Surely a development of this scale should go where it is most needed?

To make things worse, Ohakune has virtually no social services and no local GP so the wrap-around services that will be needed for some of these families will simply not be available. 

The funding for this project was originally tuned down twice due to its unviability with one of the early due diligence reports deeming it a "no go". But when COVID came along, the bureaucrats hit 'go' anyway.

It is clear that things are seriously bad at Kāinga Ora. We understand that the new Minister, Chris Bishop, has written to them outlining his expectations but if things don't turn around soon, the Board will be sacked. Good.

The Taxpayer-friendly "Disinformation Project": Stop Bureaucrats from Describing Taxpayer-Funded Services as 'Free' 🇦🇷🤥

Too often Government agencies mislead the public and disrespect taxpayers by claiming that many public services are ‘free’, when they are in fact taxpayer-funded. 

Whether it is 'free' prescriptions, 'free' first year university, or 'free' healthcare, the truth of it is that the money needs to come from somewhere – you the taxpayer.

While there are strong arguments for the taxpayer to cover the costs of some services up front, to dishonestly label those services as free is disrespectful to the hardworking Kiwis footing the bill. It is political disinformation, and it's time it stopped.

So, hot on the heels of a similar proposal from new Argentinian President Javier Milei, the Taxpayers' Union this week launched a petition calling on the Government to ban public servants from using the word 'free' when referring to taxpayer-funded institutions. 

Words matter. Every election we see politicians trying to bribe voters with promises of "free this", or "free that" but, at the end of the day, there is no such thing as a free lunch. We suspect that if they said taxpayer-funded instead, we would see a lot more people looking at these policies with a critical eye.

Of course, political parties can campaign however they like (that's why we work so hard to counter the political spin-doctors during the election campaign) but once a party is in Government, they must communicate truthfully and transparently with taxpayers. If we can't trust the government to be honest, public trust in our democratic institutions is eroded.

Join the call for honesty by signing the petition here.

Auckland Dominion Road Trams Scrapped – Saving $15,000 per Household 🚆✖️

This week we also celebrated the Government finally pulling the plug on Auckland Tramway, sorry, "Light Rail", which saw hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer money wasted with absolutely nothing to show for it.

Since its inception, the tramway has racked up a near quarter of a billion-dollar bill in consultant fees and building purchases, yet in all that time we still didn't see a single metre of track being laid!

In the midst of a cost-of-living crisis, there was simply no justification for the Government to continue reaching deeper into Kiwis pockets, especially when the budget was only continuing to skyrocket. Advice to the Minister showed costs could reach as high as $29.2 billion, or $15,000 for every household in the country!

This is a necessary first step from the Government in what we hope will be further moves to tighten its belt and cut back on wasteful pipe-dream projects. But if the new coalition is really serious about slashing waste, it needs to address another glaring problem, which is how these non-roading initiatives continue to raid the National Land Transport Fund (NLTF).

We’ve long called for the NLTF, which is funded by fuel taxes and road user charges, to go back to funding exclusively  what it is actually meant for: roading infrastructure. We're calling on the Government to properly ring-fence the fund, and ensures it does not continue to be pillaged for projects irrelevant to the purposes of our roading network, such as rail and cycleways. More to come on this in the coming months...

Farewell to our Australian Intern, Rhys Budge 👋🇦🇺

Last year, Rhys Budge jumped across the ditch from Australia to join us for a couple of months on an internship thanks to a bursary from our friends at the Mannkal Economic Education Foundation, a freemarket organisation in Perth. 

Rhys has been a fantastic addition to the team who has been involved in a wide range of research and investigations tasks during his time here. Rhys was responsible for research and producing our Nanny State Approved Christmas Feast report and has written another soon to be released reports on MP pay and the eye-watering costs of government branding and website 'refreshes'.

Rhys heads back to Australia to finish his studies in economics and finance and we know he will go on to do great things. We wish him the best of luck!

Rhys has written a blog post about his time at the Taxpayers' Union which you can read here.

Support the Next Generation of Fiscally Prudent Political Leaders 🧒🧠

As someone who started at the Taxpayers' Union as an intern, I know the value of being able to learn about and apply 'radical' ideas such as democratic accountability, transparency, and limited government. 

Being a student in a city like Wellington, the Taxpayers' Union internship allowed me to escape the echo-chamber of thought that plagues universities and is an opportunity for free discussion, lively debate, and being part of a great team.

Unlike the political parties (we're looking at you Labour!), we pay our interns. And, as you will see in the coming weeks from some of Rhys' work, they produce great research that holds the government to account and exposes government waste. 

If you would like to support the Taxpayers' Union internship programme, you can chip in to help fund an intern here.

Other News in Brief ⏰

Callum is back from seeing his family Scotland this weekend, so it'll be my turn to take some summer leave. I've enjoyed leading the campaign team over the holidays and can't wait for more policy wins this year.

Thanks for your support,


Connor Molloy
Campaigns Manager

New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union 

Donate

Media mentions:

NZ Herald Govt announces review of Kāinga Ora, Christopher Luxon responds to criticism over publicly-funded te reo lessons

NZ Herald Former transport minister Michael Wood lashes out at National for scrapping Auckland light rail

Rural News Clocking-up debt

Stuff Why the South Island’s slow shrinking could require Parliament to grow

NZ City The Taxpayers' Union wants more changes to how our road user charges work

Spending Time with the Taxpayers’ Union: An Aussie Summer Intern’s Inside Scoop

Rhys Budge interned at the Taxpayers' Union from November 2023 until January 2024. He is currently finishing his Bachelor of Commerce, majoring in Economics and Finance at Curtin University in Perth, Australia. 

For the past 10 weeks, I have had the pleasure of joining the Taxpayers’ Union out on the frontlines in their battle against government waste. 

Friend of the Union and fellow advocate for liberty, the Mannkal Economic Education Foundation, offered to support my journey from Perth, Western Australia to the TU office in Wellington as part of their 2023 scholarship program.   

The Taxpayers’ Union’s mission really stood out to me. I loved that the New Zealand taxpayer had an advocate out there fighting for their interests – all the while showing such a task could be achieved in a fun, humorous, and well-spirited way. I gratefully accepted the opportunity and made the journey across the Tasman in early November last year. 

Intern Rhys Budge with the Debt Monster

Upon arriving, I was introduced to the team and given a project to get me started. For the coming holiday season, the Taxpayers’ Union wanted to know what our Christmas day meals would look like if people really abided by the New Zealand Government’s diet guidelines – similar to something put out by the UK Taxpayers’ Alliance. Having casually explored the effectiveness of different diets in the past, I hoped some of my prior knowledge could help me in deciphering the hundreds of pages of New Zealand Government diet guidelines I went on to find. Needless to say, it did not. 

Over a month later and after making lots of Excel spreadsheets, I had finally come up with a festive feast just in time for Christmas. It was grisly, it was boring, but even still, it did not satisfy every single parameter required to be truly government approved (for that I probably needed a whole year and a hell of a lot more spreadsheets). 

Thankfully though, I did more than just stare at figures showing the sodium levels and saturated fats within our foods while I was with the Union. I spent a lot of time researching and writing on other topics including, MP pay, government branding, and government website standards. Knowing such research has the potential to kick-off or contribute to a wider conversation that can really make a positive difference in people’s lives is a humbling thought. It is a privilege to be in such a position, and seeing how hard the Union staff work, you get the sense they all see it that way too. 

The Taxpayers' Union ute on the Desert Road

What I have really enjoyed has been meeting many of you, the great supporters of this organization. After volunteering to help with some of the 'on the ground' campaign field-ops, I was tasked with the Taxpayers’ Union Ute (which, if you haven’t seen, is impossible to miss), and I found myself meeting and shaking hands with supporters seemingly wherever I pulled up and parked. I appreciated hearing your personal stories and how much you value the work coming out of the Taxpayers’ Union. Similar sentiment was also shared among those of you I met at the Taxpayers’ Union 10th anniversary gala at Gibbs Farm. I could see how you all shared a common desire to see a government that shows respect for your hard-earned dollars. I felt lucky to have had the opportunity to contribute towards this goal for you all, even for just a short while. 

As my time with the Union now comes to an end, I would like to express my thanks to the Taxpayers’ Union for welcoming me into the team from day one. I look forward to seeing the fruits of your hard work behind the scenes come out over this new year as you continue advancing New Zealand in a positive direction. I am eager to see how some of my unfinished projects turn out after they are placed into the hands of another capable intern. Something tells me though that I’m not going to be able to keep my hands off, even if it means working on it remotely all the way from down under. 

Finally, I would like to thank Mannkal for supporting me during my time here. I feel fortunate to have been given so many incredible opportunities over this past year and it is only through the generosity of people passionate about liberty that I get to do something like this. 

$2 Million Cost Blowout for Senseless Development Demonstrates Everything Wrong with Kāinga Ora

The Taxpayers’ Union is dumbfounded by the endless examples of failure at Kāinga Ora – Homes and Communities that continue to come to light. Ruapehu District Council and Kāinga Ora’s $5.2 million housing development has blown out by over $2 million to $7.5 million according to a Crown Infrastructure Partners’ contracted projects document.

Commenting on this development proposal, Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy said:

“Just last month, an Auditor General report rightly slammed the decision-making and delivery process behind the previous Government’s covid ‘shovel-ready’ slush fund, and this is a prime example of why.

“The rationale behind this development project was flawed from the get-go. So much so that the initial proposal was turned down twice from Crown Infrastructure Partners due to the unlikelihood of it delivering planned outcomes and benefits, with the site even deemed a ‘no go’ on one of their early due diligence documents.

“It has also been blatantly apparent that both Council and Kāinga Ora have failed to engage with the community, with even Ruapehu’s own Councillors admitting how poor the consultation process has been.

“Ohakune has virtually no social services, no local GP, and a population of just over 1,500 people. With just 11 families on the current Ministry of Social Development Housing Register in Ohakune, it would have made far more sense to absorb applicants into existing stock, and reduce barriers to renting out existing private properties.

“Even this morning, we saw reports of more than a thousand new Kāinga Ora homes sitting completely empty. The failure of Kāinga Ora to deliver sufficient housing while continuing to waste money demonstrates why the Government should not be involved in house building and should instead cut cost-bloating red tape to allow a housing market which can deliver affordable homes.”

NOTES TO EDITORS:

In July 2020 (see page 2), Ruapehu District Council applied for Infrastructure Reference Group (IRG) funding to Crown Infrastructure Partners (CIP) for a ‘shovel ready’ project to enable the delivery of more affordable social housing in the district. It was initially turned down, as it was deemed unlikely to deliver outcomes or benefits, and that empty sections would potentially sit unoccupied.

Due Diligence Matrix was conducted in September 2020 looking into potential sites, where the eventual Tei Tei Drive option was deemed a ‘no go as a priority site.’

After being turned down a second time in December 2020, RDC applied once more in August 2021which was eventually agreed to by the Minister and the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development. Both an agreement between Kainga Ora and MHUD and Kainga Ora and RDC were signed on April 1 2023.

The cost of the development has now run out to $7.5 million, more than $2 million over the initial funding proposal.

Minutes from a Ruapehu District Council meeting on September 27 outline admissions from councillors that the local community had not been consulted thoroughly enough. (See page 5 onwards)

Kāinga Ora failings on display once again with thousands of vacant properties

The Taxpayers’ Union is astounded at the failure of Kāinga Ora to deliver for Kiwis with reports of more than 1000 empty new homes sitting empty for four months last year.

Commenting on Kainga Ora’s vacant properties, Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

“At a time when tens of thousands of applicants are stuck on the housing register, there is no reason why any new homes that are perfectly ready to be used should not be filled as soon as possible.

“As has been evident for years, many of these vacant properties are only collecting dust, and racking up millions in maintenance costs while they go unused. Kāinga Ora needs to get its act together and start delivering Kiwis with more efficient and timely access to housing.

“It is also clear that wider reform of Kāinga Ora is needed. The Government will never deliver houses as cheaply or efficiently as the private sector so they should instead focus on reducing the barriers to build and rent properties while also helping those with genuine need to find suitable private accomodation."

Taxpayers’ Union Calls on Government to Ban Bureaucrats from Using the Word ‘Free’

Hot on the heels of Argentinian President Javier Milei insisting on honesty from Argentinian officials, the Taxpayers’ Union has today launched a petition calling on the Government to ban public servants from using the word free when referring to taxpayer-funded public services.

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

“Describing public services as ‘free’ when New Zealanders all across the country are paying for them through their taxes is misleading and deceptive.

“There are strong arguments for the taxpayer to cover the costs of some services upfront, but to dishonestly label those services as free is disrespectful to the hardworking Kiwis footing the bill. It is political disinformation, and it’s time it stopped.

“Words have power. Government agencies misleading Kiwis erodes public trust in our institutions.”

Road User Charges for EVs Welcome – Fuel Tax Cuts Must Follow

Responding to the Government’s decision to introduce Road User Charges (RUC) for Electric and Hybrid Vehicles, Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

“The user-pays system for our roads has been eroded with more and more of the National Land Transport Fund (NLTF) being used for areas unrelated to roading while an entire class of road users has been excluded from paying anything at all.

“Applying RUC to EVs removes a senseless distortion that did not reduce transport emissions which are already governed under the capped Emissions Trading Scheme.

“The Government must now commit to redirecting all NLTF funding to road upgrades and maintenance and any surplus should be used to reduce the fuel excise and RUC rates.”

Taxpayers’ Union Slams Calls for Further Taxpayer Funding of Political Parties

 

Responding to today’s release of the Final Report of the Independent Electoral Review, Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

“The recommendation from the Review to increase funding for political parties is morally wrong, and erodes grassroots democracy.

“No taxpayer should be forced to fork out money to fund parties they find morally reprehensible. People pay taxes so that it can be spent on quality public services, not party propaganda.

“If parties can rely on guaranteed money from the taxpayer, they become less reliant on membership dues and fundraisers. This reduces the incentive for parties to be responsive to their members’ values and will lead to less accountability.

“Incumbent political parties already receive substantial taxpayer funding through the broadcasting allocation and the ability to use Parliamentary Service funding for political advertising that is not even subject to our Official Information laws. Rather than shifting the money around and adding even more taxpayer funding into the mix, all taxpayer funding for political parties should be scrapped.

“We call on all political parties to publicly reject the recommendation for further taxpayer funding of political parties and urge them to go one step further by removing the broadcasting allocation and the ability to use taxpayer funds for blatantly political advertisements.”

Taxpayers’ Union Celebrates Scrapping of $15k-per-Household White Elephant

Responding to the announcement that the Government is finally pulling the plug on Auckland Light Rail, Taxpayers’ Union Policy Adviser, James Ross, said: 

“Nearly a quarter of a billion dollars has been burnt without a single metre of track being laid. Auckland Light Rail has been a failure from the get-go, and taxpayers up and down the country will be cheering at the news the project is finally getting a long-overdue resignation to the scrapheap. 

“Vanity projects like this have no place, but doubly so during a cost-of-living crisis caused by irresponsible Government spending. With a blowout budget estimated to reach almost $15,000 per household, struggling Kiwi families will be overjoyed at no longer having to scrimp and save to subsidise exorbitantly overpriced nice-to-haves in Auckland.” 

Taxpayer Update: NZTE's Yoga classes + kids games 🧘🎲| More Uni Waste 🚧 🏗️ | The Tax on Your Summer Road Trip 🔥⛽

We hope you've had a relaxing summer break. Unfortunately, Government waste doesn't pause for summer and while Callum is still in Scotland visiting family, the rest of the Taxpayers' Union team have kept up the effort to find and expose government waste while standing up for taxpayers.

This week's taxpayer update covers the 'best of the worst' of waste we uncovered since Christmas... Happy New Year!

NZTE's spending your money on yoga, singing contests, scavenger hunts and even "paper, scissors, rock tournaments" 🧘✂️👀

We start with New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE). Thanks to a confidential tip-off to your humble Taxpayers' Union, we've obtained official documents showing that rather than getting serious work done, NZTE have used 'Regional Team Meetings' as an excuse to holiday blow out the budget on luxury accommodation, extravagant food and (frankly) what can only be described as children's activities.

Judge for yourself the activities paid for by taxpayers at just seven meetings costing taxpayers $809,450 over the past two years. Here are some of the agenda items:

Reading the information response, we thought someone was playing a joke. Rock, paper, scissors tournaments, silent discos and scavenger hunts? You couldn’t make this stuff up.

Taxpayer funded yoga

How this kind of expenditure was allowed to go on across multiple years is simply unfathomable. We say it is time for NZTE to grow up, front up and stop acting like children.

Universities Pouring Even More Money into Wasteful Projects Despite Financial Woes 🚧 🏗️

New Zealand's universities are in financial dire straits with low enrolments and shockingly high deficits. Yet despite a need to rein in spending – we've discovered that university leaders continue to blow budgets on vanity projects instead of focusing on core education.

A prime example is Victoria University of Wellington, which, despite announcing a financial crisis last year leading to staff layoffs and course cancellations, continues to spend heavily on a ‘Living Pa’ project. This sustainability-focused building has seen costs escalate from $35 million to an estimated $60 million. 

Wellington's The Post (Stuff.co.nz) covered our exposé that yet another $8 million was approved in December.

For a university that is constantly crying out for more taxpayer funding, they sure have a lot of extra money to blow on vanity projects such as this. Ironically, the cost blowout of the ‘Living Pa’ project is almost the same as the University's deficit that led to the job losses!

In response to us labelling the building a 'vanity project', The Post/Stuff went to the University for comment. Incredibly, Professor Rawinia Higgins, deputy vice-chancellor Māori, said that despite the ballooning costs she was appreciative that it is effectively too late to cancel!  

“The financial sustainability project has put a lot of pressure on everybody. We are fortunate the pā was already in flight,” [...] 

"When complete, the living pā will be a place for the “big conversations”, Higgins said.

There is a need for a 'big conversation', but we're not sure Prof Higgins thinks it should be about cost control!

Designed to be a sustainable living building, the three-storey pā is being built with minimal use of concrete and steel.

It will have a glazed facade, engineered timber cladding, solar array on the roof, and a closed loop water system. It must generate all its own energy, have its own water systems, be entirely carbon neutral and have used non-toxic materials.

Once completed it will be home to Te Kawa a Māui (School of Māori Studies), Māori student services, while also housing collaborative working, teaching, and marae engagement spaces to advance teaching and research models that draw on mātauranga Māori and emerging science and technology.[...]

Higgins (Tūhoe) saw how the building served as a “bridge” of understanding to who Tūhoe were as a people.

“To me that’s what learning should be about ... finding a bridge or commonplace that brings people together.”

Higgins said they had been “very deliberate” about the pā’s design so as not to detract from the wharenui which would be the “jewel of the crown in the whole complex”.

[...] Positioned in the heart of the campus, the pā will become a “beacon for Māori students”, with the wharenui no longer hidden behind “what used to be some very old colonial looking buildings”.

[...] With the building shape more evident, Higgins hoped it would provide a sense of hope about the university’s future.

But it isn’t just Victoria University... Otago claims that asking about the cost of a $110k sculpture is "culturally insensitive" 🤯

This week, we were in the Otago Daily Times calling out Otago University for spending $110k on a sculpture despite their own financial woes.

What’s worse is that the University refused to share how it spent the money until the Chief Ombudsman got involved to force their hand. They claimed that the request for the cost of the sculpture was “of a vexatious nature and culturally insensitive.”

We say it’s high time our tertiary institutions get back to delivering on their core purpose, and putting pretentious pet projects to one side. Nothing is more important to the future of our country than the provision of education. It is critical that our Universities focus (and focus their limited budget on) education and research.

Taxpayers Forking Out to Provide Foreign Aid to Countries with Space and Nuclear Programmes! 🚀 💥

In case you missed it over summer, Newstalk ZB covered our exposé that Kiwi taxpayers are spending millions on foreign aid to countries wealthy enough to have their own space and nuclear programmes!

For example, in the same year that India landed a spacecraft on the moon, they received $1,178,000 from Kiwi taxpayers, Indonesia has been granted a whopping $25,068,402.67 and Pakistan has been given $3,500,000.

On Newstalk ZB, our investigations coordinator Oliver argued that if a foreign government has enough money to invest in ambitious space programmes, it should not expect to be receiving funding from taxpayers that is earmarked for helping the world’s poorest. We say that New Zealand's limited foreign aid budget should be directed to those who need it most and, in particular, our Pacific Island neighbours.

Half the Cost of Your Summer Road Trip Went Straight to the Government Coffers! 

If you managed to get away for a road trip over the summer break, unfortunately it was unlikely that you were able to escape the grip of big government with almost half of the pump price of petrol being taxes. 

That's right, we revealed that 48% of the cost every time you fill up the car is tax that goes straight to the government – in Auckland it's more than 50% thanks to Labour's regional fuel tax!

Wellingtonians wanting to escape the city and head to Taupō for a few days will be forced to stump up $86 in fuel taxes for the journey. One of our young staffers decided to head to the Rhythm and Vines New Years festival in Gisborne and got stung with $120 in fuel taxes!

For many, the summer holiday period is the one time of the year that they are able to get off work and enjoy time with friends and families. After the costs of a more expensive Christmas this year (thanks to Grant Robertson and Adrian Orr), on top of exorbitant fuel taxes, the prospect of a summer getaway is unfortunately becoming less and less viable for many families. 

Now many people would be happy paying fuel taxes, if the money was actually spent on fixing and maintaining the roads, but anyone driving anywhere this summer can't have got very far without hitting sections of road riddled with potholes. Instead, the government continues to blow fuel excise revenue on projects completely unrelated to driving such as coastal shipping, cycle tracks and public transport pet projects. 

Share Secrets, Expose Extravagance: Are You Aware of Wasteful Spending?

Many of our waste stories come tip-offs from supporters like you, or from within the bureaucracy itself.

If you're aware of examples of government departments or local councils engaging in extravagant, inappropriate or wasteful spending that you think we should investigate, please send us a confidential tip-off with what you know. You can do so on our tip-line by clicking here.

Other News in Brief 

  • We called on the government to get rid of road-related excise taxes from marine fuel for recreational boaties. Currently, boaties pay all the same fuel taxes as motorists despite boats not being operated on the road. We suggested a similar claims process to that used by commercial fishing operators. 
  • We revealed that police officers filled up their cars with the wrong fuel 19 times in the past year, costing taxpayers almost $8000 to fix the damage. This is despite spending thousands of dollars over the past few years fitting the vehicles with attachments that are meant to prevent exactly this from happening!
  • ACC's lavish and patronising 'Have a Hmmm' campaign was revealed by us to have cost $2.4 million over just 7 months. We are asking questions to see whether this actually lead to a measurable reduction in injuries or if it was a costly and ineffective exercise.
  • The Ministry of Health was taken to court over incorrectly threatening a business after they misinterpreted their own regulations. We revealed that this legal action cost taxpayers $250,000, something that could have been easily avoided if the Ministry had accepted the businesses offer to meet and resolve the issue.
  • We dug into the police's $320,000 podcast and it turns out only 15,400 people downloaded it – that's $21 per download! We even invited them on our podcast, Taxpayer Talk, last year to promote being a cop, but they passed. Similarly, we also revealed the police have no clue how many folks used their $634,000 recruitment app. 

One More Summer Read? 📕

We've absolutely loved getting feedback over summer from people reading The Mission: The Taxpayers' Union at 10.  We even had a few text messages from Cabinet Ministers telling us they're reading the book (apparently it is a better read than the mountain of gloomy Ministerial briefing papers!).

If you haven't yet grabbed your copy, click here to get yours today.

Thanks for your support and all the best for the year ahead,


Connor Molloy
Campaigns Manager

New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union 

Donate

Media coverage:

NZ Herald Govt announces review of Kāinga Ora, Christopher Luxon responds to criticism over publicly-funded te reo lessons

Otago Daily Times Taxpayers foot bill for Luxon's reo Māori lessons

RNZ The Panel with David Cunliffe and Nalini Baruch (Part 1)

RNZ PM in hot water over tax payer funded te reo tuition

NZ Herald Gerry Brownlee off to a solid start as Speaker - Audrey Young

Rural News Tough times 

interest.co.nz Finance Minister Nicola Willis wants Treasury to report fiscal risks more clearly

MSN Fireworks in Parliament over Govt's mini-Budget

Otago Daily Times Criticism by Taxpayers' Union 'embarrassing'

BusinessDesk On the Money: the taxi waits for no one, Cecilia's in the market, hear Jordan, and more

Stuff Damien Grant: Being in Opposition can be a gift, but it's time which must be used wisely

Stuff Which council staff are earning more than $100,000?

Timaru Herald Waitaki council rejects 'vanity project' claim about $32m Ōamaru event centre project

The Post Costs jump $26m on Victoria University’s Living Pā project

Stuff Is $100,000 still a big salary in 2023?

NZ Herald Claire Trevett: National leader Christopher Luxon’s dire interview of no answers

ChannelLife Taxpayers' Union slams NZ Police's Virtual Cop app

Basset, Brash & Hide JOHN RAINE: Ministerial Spring Cleaning and the Parable of the Rowing Eight

Newstalk ZB Taxpayer Union questions prior Foreign Aid spending; urges focus on 'Pacific friends'

Newstalk ZB Afternoon Edition: 05 January 2024

Basset, Brash & Hide GRAHAM ADAMS: TVNZ’s naked bias on display

Otago Daily Times Secrecy shows ‘lack of respect’ for taxpayers

1 News Felix Desmarais: Ten faces to watch in politics in 2024

Otago Daily Times Learning to answer questions

Accountability Needed over Disastrous Failure to Care for Te Urewera

The Taxpayers’ Union is demanding accountability from the Department of Conservation (DOC) and the Te Urewera board following a ruling by the High Court that the burning and removal of the huts in Te Urewera was unlawful.

According to information obtained under the Official Information Act, The Department of Conservation continues to resource the operation of Te Urewera to the tune of around $2.1m a year given to Te Ura Taumata, and also pays over $100,000 annually to the Te Urewera Baord to manage the operation.

Commenting on Te Urewera’s management and operational issues, Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

“Since Te Urewera was handed over to Ngai Tūhoe nearly a decade ago, taxpayers have coughed up tens of millions of dollars to resource the upkeep and development of the area, yet the governing body has now been found to have failed to adhere to its obligations under the Te Urewera Act, destroyed the majority of critical huts in the area, and has conducted all of its work without an operational plan for the last two years.

“There have already been growing concerns from conservationists over the demise in monitoring of endangered bird species as well as insufficient pest control, but with the governing body now actively disregarding their legal obligations, it’s clear that the current leadership arrangement and operational structure is simply untenable.

“In the first instance, DOC’s director general must be held accountable for what has evidently been an appalling failure to oversee the management of Te Urewera. Additionally, an independent review into Te Urewera’s finances and operations must be conducted to determine whether the current monetary allocation has been spent responsibly and in accordance with legal obligations.

“As it stands taxpayers are essentially being forced to fund an operation with no plan, no checks and balances, and no evidence of success. It is vital that if Te Urewera continues to be resourced by taxpayers, it’s board and operational entity must deliver tangible results and effectively carry out its legal obligations. Currently, to the detriment of taxpayers, it appears to be doing neither.”

Wellington Water Must Sack Employee Caught Bragging about Wagging Work Amidst Water Crisis

Commenting on a Wellington Water employee posting footage of themselves on social media bragging about ‘slacking off’, doing no work whilst still getting paid, Taxpayers’ Union Policy Adviser, James Ross, said:

“In November alone, of over 3,800 leaks in the region, around 3,050 were left unattended. 44% of the region’s water is lost to leaks, and now residents are being told to buy emergency 170-litre water tanks to tide them over during a looming summer water crisis.

“Whilst Wellingtonians panic over how they’re going to get by this summer, the very same people who are responsible for this situation are filming themselves swanning about at the gym, going to the cinema and meeting up with friends all the while pretending to be working.

“The council engineer’s self-proclaimed wagging-off routine of lounging around on the sofa whilst ‘working from home’ or staring blankly at an empty computer screen should have been obvious to any manager worth their salt.

“The evidence is clear and the engineer must be fired without delay. But clearly Wellington Water’s problems go much deeper than one lazy engineer, and a full investigation is needed to root out any more bureaucrats who feel like the ratepayer owes them a free living.”

Taxpayers’ Union Calls on NZ COP10 Delegates to Reject Misguided WHO Vaping Call to Action

The Taxpayers’ Union is calling on New Zealand’s delegates to the Tenth session of the Conference of the Parties (COP10) to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control to reject the latest WHO call to action on e-cigarettes which ignores scientific evidence and will see more people suffering from smoking related illnesses.

“The call to action by the WHO is misguided and puts ideology over evidence. New Zealand’s incredible success in cutting smoking rates is off the back of smokers switching to vaping - as a reduced harm alternative, or pathway to quit.”

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

“This politicisation of health advice runs the real risk of being an own goal and discouraging smokers from switching to vaping as a safer alternative. Ironically, the WHO is playing into the hands of big tobacco. In New Zealand - along with similar countries such as the UK and Canada - there is explicit recognition by health experts of vaping as an effective smoking cessation tool that is less harmful than cigarettes.

“We share the concerns of many in relation to children accessing vaping products, however the evidence from ASH shows that in New Zealand the number of young people vaping is already on the decline. Rather than throwing the baby out with the bath water, we must therefore be cautious about heavy-handed regulation that risks reversing our current trend of declining smoking and youth vaping rates. Efforts should instead focus on stronger enforcement measures such as stings to weed out those retailers illegally selling to those under the age of 18.

“The WHO’s tacit endorsement of banning vaping outright shows just how unserious they are about tobacco harm reduction. Even at their ‘minimum’ recommended level of regulation, proposals such as complete flavour bans and higher taxes will remove much of the incentive for smokers to switch to safer alternatives. New Zealand must not fall for WHO fear-mongering and instead continue our evidence-based, health-focused approach to tobacco harm reduction and reject this latest call to action.”

Otago Uni’s Lack of Transparency Reveals Much Deeper Problem

Responding to the Chief Ombudsman's comments that the University of Otago initially refusing to release information regarding the cost of commissioning a sculpture was unjustified, Taxpayers’ Union Policy Adviser, James Ross, said:

“Otago Uni refusing until pressured to share how it spent over $110k on a sculpture clearly shows a lack of respect for the taxpayers’ back pockets, but the issues go far beyond that. The way in which this obstinance was dealt with hints to much deeper problems across the public sector.

“When information might embarrass a public body, they can simply refuse to release it despite being legally required to do so. This can be referred to the Ombudsman, who may pass judgment six months or even over a year later. By this point the story has more-often-than-not died and those bureaucrats who stuffed official information down the back of the sofa get away with their ploy scot-free.

“New Zealand needs a faster, leaner Ombudsman's office with some teeth to bring accountability back to the public sector. But that’s just the start, and major Official Information Act reform is needed to stop entire departments such as the Parliamentary Service from being able to hide behind the curtains.”

Taxpayers’ Union Slams Extension of Corporate Welfare for Gaming Industry Fat Cats

The Taxpayers’ Union is slamming the National-led government for giving in to well-connected gaming lobbyists and continuing to subsidise the gaming sector to the tune of tens of millions of taxpayer dollars each year.

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

“Subsidising an infant industry doesn’t help it to grow up. Instead, you end up with a lazy adult still living in mum’s basement and doing nothing productive. Giving an industry money when it can’t stand on its own two feet may prop it up, but it also swells the size of the subsidy required to keep it afloat. This vicious cycle forces taxpayers to fork out more and more each year.

“Investment should be occurring where it makes the most sense, which is best determined by markets not Ministers. The only way to ensure money is being allocated efficiently is by letting people decide for themselves what they value.

“Subsidising one sector simply forces the allocation of resources away from industries that are more productive or where New Zealand has a greater comparative advantage. Politicians are falling into the same trap as they did with the film sector by growing an industry dependant on subsidies that then become near impossible to remove.

“We call on ACT to stick to their principles and push back against the Government’s approach of subsidising the wealthy elite and instead cut all corporate welfare to fund an across the board reduction in the company tax rate for all businesses.”

Ministry of Health vaporises $250,000 after incorrectly threatening retailers

The Taxpayers’ Union can reveal that the Ministry of Health spent $249,267.50 on legal fees for a court battle against a vaping retailer who they wrongly threatened for selling non-compliant products.

The issue arose from the Ministry of Health incorrectly interpreting their own regulations in relation to maximum nicotine salt levels, eventually leading to an expensive court case where the Ministry conceded they were in the wrong.

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:  

“The Ministry appears to have been playing silly buggers here after refusing the retailer’s repeated requests to meet with them to clear the issue up – something that would have saved the taxpayer hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“The Ministry’s justification for refusing to meet with the retailer is laughable. Despite having met with the company in the past, the Ministry tried to use the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control as reason for it not being appropriate to meet. The issue with that is that it does not apply to vaping suppliers.

“It is especially damaging for business confidence when retailers are threatened despite following the letter of the law. Fortunately, this company was willing to challenge the threats but a similar situation could easily result in a business being too scared to do business in New Zealand.

“If we want people to start businesses in New Zealand, we can't force them to put up with the incompetence of regulators who put people in a position where they, despite their best efforts, can’t be certain that they are obeying the law. The Minister of Regulation must figure out what went wrong here and ensure it doesn’t happen again.”

New Zealand Sending Millions in Foreign Aid to Countries with Space and Nuclear Programmes

The Taxpayers’ Union is questioning why New Zealand taxpayers are forking out millions of dollars in foreign aid to countries that have state-sponsored space and nuclear weapons programmes.

A recent Taxpayers’ Union OIA reveals that in the past year, India has received $1,178,000 from Kiwi taxpayers, Indonesia has been granted a whopping $25,068,402.67 and Pakistan has been given $3,500,000."

Oliver Bryan, Investigations Coordinator at the Taxpayers' Union, said:

“It is concerning to see the government’s priorities in relation to foreign aid with millions of dollars going to countries who have state-sponsored space and nuclear programmes.

“If a foreign government has enough money to invest in ambitious space programmes, it should not expect to be receiving payments from New Zealand taxpayers that is earmarked for helping the world’s poorest.

"Our new Ministers must reconsider and refine our aid policies, putting genuine need at the forefront."

Taxpayers’ Union calls for an end to marine fuel tax

The Taxpayers’ Union is calling on the government to give boaties a break and bring fairness to how they are taxed by ending road-related taxes on marine fuel.

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

“Boaties enjoying their time out on the water this summer are being hit twice by the government’s punishing 48% fuel taxes. First when they fill up the ute, and again when they fill up the boat.

“When Winston Peters said he’d never seen a Waka on the road he was onto something. It is completely unfair that boaties should have to pay for the upkeep of roads that they don’t even drive on. He, and the government should commit to scrapping the tax on a beloved pastime of many Kiwis.

“Those using fuel for off-road commercial purposes such as fishing can already claim back their fuel tax, all we are asking is that a similar claims process be provided to recreational boaties too.”

Police have no idea how many people downloaded $634,000 app

The Taxpayers’ Union is shocked to discover that the New Zealand police have no idea how many people downloaded their $634,000 ‘Virtual Cop’ app intended for recruiting new police officers.

The costs of the app included $315,000 on concept creation and development, $265,000 on the development of new experiences and $54,000 on gear and hardware.

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

“Despite spending hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars on the app, we have no way of knowing whether or not it was actually worth it.

“With such a significant level of investment, you would think that at least the app would be a high-quality and enjoyable experience. Unfortunately, the reviews say otherwise,

“One user stated in a review entitled ‘Boring’ that the app had ‘probably some of the worst graphics I have ever seen, even my potato has better graphics. I like the idea but the game seems really budget. It’s got stupid and boring mini games. Overall it’s a boring and trash game DON’T GET’ – not exactly glowing feedback.

“Many other similar comments express frustration at bugs in the game suggesting it is not well developed and a waste of taxpayer resources. A sense check is needed at the police with the number of overzealous campaigns focusing too much on wasting money and not enough on catching criminals.”

Kiwis urged to get away for one last holiday before National’s app tax kicks in

The Taxpayers’ Union is encouraging Kiwi’s to get away for one last holiday before National’s app tax kicks in this year.

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

“Kiwis better make the most of their stay in an Airbnb or bach rental because it is about to get a lot more expensive. Adding GST to the cost of app-based services like Airbnb and Uber is distortionary, unfair and will punish Kiwis with higher prices.

“Despite campaigning strongly against the app tax, National’s dramatic u-turn will see families paying more to be a part of an increasingly digitised economy. Rather than cutting wasteful spending to fund its tax cuts, National is trying to do a bait and switch by reducing taxes in once place while hiking them up somewhere else.

“This year, the Taxpayers’ Union will campaign strongly against the new app tax, urging the National to revert to their original position while in opposition of opposing the app tax and to scrap it completely."

Relief at last: Taxpayers’ Union celebrates end of the regressive, ‘reverse Robin Hood’ ute tax

The Taxpayers’ Union is today celebrating the end of Labour’s ute tax and tesla subsidy that saw money being taken away from hard-working farmers and tradies and given to Wellington champagne socialists buying Teslas.

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy said:

“At last this costly, ineffective and unfair tax has come to an end. Not only did it punish those who had little choice but to drive a high emitting vehicle but it didn’t make a shred of difference for the climate either.

“Transport emissions are already governed under New Zealand’s capped Emissions Trading Scheme so any reductions from driving cleaner vehicles will simply free up carbon credits to drive up emissions elsewhere in the economy.

“While the removal of this tax will be a welcome result for many of those wanting new utes, it will offer little reprieve to those farmers and tradies who lost vehicles in the flooding last year and were forced to pay thousands of dollars more for a replacement.

“The Taxpayers’ Union is willing to meet with any journalist or MP to explain how the ETS works and help work towards the lowest-cost pathway to emissions reduction.”

New Year’s Resolution: Taxpayers’ Union calls for more transparency in the New Year

The Taxpayers’ Union is calling on politicians and public servants to commit to increased transparency and accountability as we head into the new year by reforming the Official Information Act and improving proactive release policies.

Taxpayers’ Union Policy Adviser, James Ross, said:

“The Government must start the new year delivering on its commitment of fiscal responsibility and reducing government waste. A core part of that is ensuring that taxpayers are aware of how their money is being spent to ensure value for money and demand accountability for poor spending choices.

“The first step must be beginning work to reform our long out of date official information regime. Expenditure by the Parliamentary Service and individual MPs must be brought within the scope of the OIA and the grounds for refusal across all public agencies must be narrowed.

“More widely, departments should be told by Ministers to proactively and regularly release details of all non-payroll financial transactions to allow close scrutiny of expenditure. Most of this information is already collected and the practice is common in many US states.

“For too long, taxpayers have been forced to rely on the leaks from the inside or fortunate OIA requests to become aware of egregious abuses of taxpayer money. If this government is committed to cutting waste, they should allow us to help.”

Tuning into Waste: NZ Police's $320K Podcast Gamble Falls Flat

The Taxpayers' Union is questioning the rationale behind the New Zealand Police's extravagant expenditure of $320,000 on their 'Offbeat' podcast series. The series has garnered a mere 15,400 downloads since its launch, costing taxpayers approximately $21 per download.

Oliver Bryan, Investigations Coordinator at the Taxpayers' Union, said:

“The $320,000 would be far better spent on visiting high schools and encouraging students to join the police and answering student’s questions. Any kid dedicated enough to endure an episode of the podcast is one who is likely to join the police anyway.

"It's concerning to see that despite the podcast's availability on multiple platforms—Spotify, iHeart, and Apple—yet it still failed to attract a larger audience. What's even more egregious is that of the $320,000 total campaign cost, a staggering 57% was allocated to advertising, which still yielded poor results."

"While it may be too early to determine if the downloads will translate into recruitment, at only 15,000 downloads since its launch it seems unlikely that there will be a high enough conversion rate to justify this extravagant expenditure.

“Unless the Police can demonstrate a direct and meaningful impact of this podcast on recruitment, it's safe to say that this project is an egregious misuse of taxpayer money."

ACC's 'Have a Hmm' Campaign: Patronizing, Inefficient and a Lavish Expenditure

Taxpayers’ Union Official Information request can reveal that ACC's 'Have a Hmm' campaign has cost taxpayers an astounding $2.4 million from January to July 2023. The campaign's primary objective is to encourage individuals to exercise caution before engaging in potentially risky activities in order to prevent injuries.

Oliver Bryan, Investigations Coordinator at the Taxpayers' Union, said, "ACC’s 'Have a Hmm' initiative appears to be an extravagant undertaking with minimal results, essentially patronizing the taxpayer and billing us for the privilege."

“As part of the campaign, social media videos were created, featuring scenarios such as one person contemplating whether to jump off a waterfall and another pondering the idea of climbing household furniture. This patronizing style of messaging not only raises questions about the campaign's effectiveness but also calls into question its respect for the public's intelligence. The fact that this video series alone cost $549,590, including production expenses of $239,165, gives the impression that this campaign was designed to irritate rather than assist.”

"Despite the campaign's lavish budget, engagement levels have been surprisingly lacklustre. Only 10,640 individuals completed the 'Attitude to risk' quiz, amounting to an approximate cost of $225 per quiz completed."

“Every year, government agencies spend millions of dollars on expensive advertising campaigns with no accountability as to whether this money is delivering results. The new government must ensure that these campaigns actually reducing injuries and if they aren’t the funding for them should be cut.”

New year tobacco tax hike will pile more costs onto smokers and increase crime

The Taxpayers’ Union is warning of the social costs and impacts on crime of this years’ 5.64% increase in tobacco excise tax.

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

“The goal of reducing smoking and preventing smoking-related illnesses is a laudable one but this latest tax hike will do little more than punish people and drive up crime.

“Those still smoking are the most committed smokers who understand the risks and more than pay their way. This latest hike is unlikely to push them to quit. Instead, the hike will push more smokers to the black market to source untaxed, unregulated tobacco where the proceeds can be used to finance organised crime.

“Already, one in eight cigarettes smoked in New Zealand comes from the black market, this will only make the problem worse. As demand for illicit tobacco increases, retailers are more likely to be targeted in what are now highly-lucrative robberies.

“It is worth noting that it is not just the smokers who suffer from these tax hikes. Their families feel the burden too with less money is left over at the end of the week for other things once cigarettes are paid for.

“A better approach would be to follow what is already working by continuing to promote vaping as an effective and less harmful smoking cessation tool.”

Victoria University of Wellington’s now $60m Living Pā is a disgrace to staff and students

The Taxpayers’ Union can reveal that University Council at Victoria University has approved an $8 million increase to their already massively over-budget Living Pā project, bringing the total spend to around $60 million – nearly twice as much as the initial $35m price tag set out in 2019.

According to an OIA and subsequent email correspondence, the institution has spent $27,175,000 so far, including $5,550,000 in consultation costs. It plans to have the entire project finished by the end of 2024.

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

“At a time when the University is struggling with record-low enrolments, low revenue, and sky-high deficits, it continues to recklessly funnel money into a needless vanity project where the budget alone could cover the university’s entire fiscal hole, and then some.

“The University Council must be financially illiterate if it thinks that continuing to pour funds into this wasteful endeavour will result in anything other than more blowouts and more pressure on staff and students.

“The Living Pā project has been a financial disaster from the get-go. Following the pandemic, the budget increased by nearly $20 million to accommodate ‘rising building costs’, and will now cost nearly two times as much as was initially planned.

“Over the last 2 years, Wellington’s University has been churning out shockingly high deficits, subsequently forcing hundreds of its staff into resignation to ‘keep costs down.’ It’s a damning insult to students, staff, and New Zealand taxpayers, that the University Council has continued to prioritise a wasteful development project over the provision of education.

“Victoria University should halt all work on the Living Pā, get a hold on its finances, and instead of selling out its staff for the sake of a new building, focus on what our tertiary institutions are really meant for.”

Fuelish Mistakes as Police Put Wrong Fuel in Cars 19 Times This Year

The New Zealand Taxpayers' Union is expressing astonishment at an OIA response revealing that police vehicles have been incorrectly fuelled 19 times in the past year, incurring costs of $7,570.48 for the taxpayer.

Oliver Bryan, the Investigations Coordinator at the Taxpayers' Union, said:

“Filling a vehicle with the correct fuel is a routine task accomplished daily by thousands of New Zealanders seamlessly. The fact that our police, expected to demonstrate meticulousness and thoroughness, have consistently stumbled in this fundamental duty is perplexing and, frankly, absurd.

“Police have spent the last couple of years spending taxpayer money on fitting “dieselhead” devices to their vehicles yet the misfuelling has continued. Either the modifications were ineffective and a waste of taxpayer money or those refuelling their vehicles showed a magnificent display of incompetence.

"This scenario would be laughable if it wasn’t taxpayers’ money. When taxpayers fund vehicles for the police, they expect that property to be treated with respect.

"Taxpayers are owed an explanation and a pledge to avert such preposterous errors in the future. That would seem an ideal New Year’s resolution for our Police Force.”

Mind-blowing $800,000 on ‘Team Meetings’ by NZTE

The Taxpayers’ Union is astounded at the staggering cost of New Zealand Trade and Enterprise spending $809,450 seven ‘Regional Team Meetings’ over two years, but the cost breakdown is even worse.

Taxpayers’ Union OIA can reveal:

  • Meals for these 2-3 day meetings totalled $185,696 and averaged $217 per person, per day, but for some meetings were as high as $296 per person per day.
  • Accommodation costs totalled $292,295
  • Key agenda items for the meetings included:
    • Rock, Paper, Scissors Tournament
    • Silent Disco
    • Scavenger hunt
    • Yoga
    • Song contest
    • Team Trivia Night
    • Animal Sanctuary Visit
    • Wellbeing Teambuilding challenge
    • Creativity session
    • Personal purpose and reflection time

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

“Despite the exorbitant costs charged back to taxpayers, it seems like the jaunts were little more than children’s holiday camps rather than getting down to business.

“Reading the information response, we thought someone was playing a joke. Rock, paper, scissors tournaments, silent discos and scavenger hunts? Seriously? You couldn’t make this stuff up.”

“How this kind of expenditure was allowed to go on across multiple years is simply unfathomable. It is time for NZTE to grow up, front up and stop acting like children.”

Taxpayer Update: What you made possible | Healthy Christmas Lunch? | The Tax on Christmas

As we wrap up the year and before the staff knock-off, the team are reflecting on a challenging but successful 2023 and looking to the year ahead. 

Some highlights of what our supporters made possible this year

How we Scrapped Three Waters

  • The pressure from the public surrounding Three Waters became too much for the Government. Our polling when Chris Hipkins became PM revealed we had turned it into the number one policy voters wanted Hipkins to scrap – including among Labour supporters. Labour substantially watered down their Three Waters policy (but still kept the worst elements). 

  • Labour were so worried, they re-branded Three Waters to 'Affordable Water Reform'.  But no one was fooled...

  • National and ACT's Three Waters proposals were in line with our alternative.

  • We made significant progress in drafting our replacement Three Waters bill which will end co-governance, restore local ownership and lead to higher quality, more efficient delivery of water services. 

And in the new year, the work will continue. We've scrapped Three Waters – but we need to ensure the replacement is up to snuff.

Three Waters 2.0 – Stopping David Parker's 'Central Planning Committees' power grab

And more...

A Christmas feast that satisfies the government health tsars

While Kiwis are busy preparing for a day of eating and drinking with loved ones, one of our interns has been busy preparing a Christmas feast that abides by all of the government’s dietary and health guidelines.  

Among the hundreds of pages of guidance and bureaucratic jargon, there is a whole range of health guideline suggesting that the almighty health overlords know how you should live your life better than you yourself. 

And the result is frankly depressing. You're gonna have to put the Christmas ham away, and alcohol? Don't even think about it. 

For breakfast, you're allowed two wheatmeal slices of bread with 40 grams of peanut butter and a 200ml cappuccino with 100ml of milk on the side.

Then, for your ‘big’ (government approved) Christmas Lunch, the official government guidelines would let you have 60 grams of roast lamb, topped with 3.4 grams of gravy, 1 unsalted baked potato, 2 unsalted baked kumaras, 1 carrot, 1 broccoli, and 15ml of cheese sauce to drip on top. You’re also allowed to have a pint of alcohol-free beer to wash it all down. Yum!

For dessert, we’ve lined up 19 grams of pavlova, to be served with a banana, half a kiwifruit, 1 strawberry, and topped with 8 grams of whipped cream. You’re also welcome to have half a mince pie, half a slice of fruit cake, and a quarter of a scoop of vanilla ice-cream (with no added sugar of course).

And for dinner... don't be silly. After those three meals you've nearly exceeded your government-approved daily limit and you'll be left with a handful of small snacks to tide you over through the night. 

If you're up for a sad Christmas this year, or you're just interested to see what the Ministry of Health does with its time, you can read the full report here. 

The Tax on Christmas 

For most of us, Christmas is about giving. But, for the Tax Man, it’s all about taking. Connor wraps up the year with a special video revealing the incredible reach of the “Tax on Christmas”.

Looking for some summer listening?

This year we released 19 new episodes of our podcast, Taxpayer Talk, featuring MPs, councillors, bureaucrats, policy experts, Taxpayers' Union board members, a Lord, and more. 

If you find yourself with any spare time over the break, you can catch up with Taxpayer Talk on our website | Apple | Spotify | Google Podcasts | iHeart Radio

One last thing🎅🏻🎄

As you've seen {{recipient.first_name_or_friend}}, no one can say we haven't worked hard this year! But everything done and accomplished has been thanks to the support of hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders who support our work, and the tens of thousands who donate and make our work possible. 

If you agree that it is important that we keep up the momentum next year –  and ensure the government delivers the fundamental reforms required to get New Zealand back on a path to prosperity – please embrace the holiday giving spirit and chip in to our 2024 fighting fund with an end of year donation.

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From all of the team at the Taxpayers' Union, wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Jordan

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

 

Media coverage:

NZ Herald Govt announces review of Kāinga Ora, Christopher Luxon responds to criticism over publicly-funded te reo lessons

Otago Daily Times Taxpayers foot bill for Luxon's reo Māori lessons

RNZ The Panel with David Cunliffe and Nalini Baruch (Part 1)

1 News PM denies his taxpayer-funded te reo Māori lessons are hypocritical

RNZ PM in hot water over tax payer funded te reo tuition

NZ Herald Gerry Brownlee off to a solid start as Speaker - Audrey Young

Rural News Tough Times

Interest.co.nz Finance Minister Nicola Willis wants Treasury to report fiscal risks more clearly



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