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Lawrence Yule billboard found to be an election ad

Taxpayer-funded billboards promoting National MP Lawrence Yule have now been deemed candidate advertisements by the Electoral Commission.

The Commission's decision was made in response to a complaint by the Taxpayers' Union, which understood the large billboards were recently erected and therefore could not be considered part of Mr Yule's standard display of contact details.

As a result of the Commission's decision, the money spent on these billboard will be apportioned into the election period, and will count towards Mr Yule's election spending limit.

Union spokesman Louis Houlbrooke says, "Mr Yule claimed he had written approval to erect these billboards with taxpayer money, but now we see the Electoral Commission find against him. Either the Commission has made a remarkable u-turn, or Lawrence was telling porkies."

"The question now is whether taxpayers will get their money back. That's a matter for Parliamentary Services, who, according to Yule, approved the billboard. However, now that the Electoral Commission has determined these billboards are candidate ads, Parliamentary Services needs to demand Yule repay costs for the portion of time the billboards have stood during the election period."

The Taxpayers' Union has written to the Speaker of the House to ensure this action is taken.

Taniwha taxes adding 8% to cost of infrastructure builds

Taniwha tax graphic

The New Zealand Taxpayers' Union can reveal that councils are allocating up to eight percent of total build costs for iwi engagement for COVID-19 response projects.

Taxpayers' Union Executive Director Jordan Williams says, "While trawling through council applications for 'shovel-ready' funding, we came across a proposal from the Waipa District Council that allocates eight percent of the total build costs for iwi engagement. When compared to project management costs of just six percent of the budget, eight percent — or $2,000,000 — for iwi engagement is outrageous."

"Ratepayers would be disturbed to know that eight cents on the dollar of these projects are going toward iwi engagement. Particularly since they're already on the hook for an expensive Resource Management Act process: $609,000 for the full $25,000,000 proposal."

​"The Council has framed this consultation as 'mana whenua will be invited to be involved through co-design of some aspects in the proposal and the sharing of iwi narratives of the region.' But there's a difference between inviting mana whenua to participate and making ratepayers hand over millions for iwi engagement."

"Greasing up local iwi so they agree to shoo away taniwha really isn't necessary, especially for minor cases like the Council's proposal. The proposal is a package of projects such as toilet facilities and playground upgrades. These projects aren't major builds, they're community facilities. Ratepayers are especially feeling the pinch right now and a taniwha tax cannot be justified." 

The Taxpayers' Union is conducting an audit of council 'shovel-ready' proposals to determine how widespread these practices are.

Attachments:

Taxpayer Talk: Auckland’s water crisis – interview with Water Care CEO Raveen Jaduram

Auckland’s water crisis has been in the media over recent weeks, and the 2020 drought reminds us a lot of the water restrictions in 1994.  Auckland’s population is now 50% larger than 1994, has water infrastructure kept up?  Just how vulnerable are we to dry years?  Is the Waikato river the solution?  Taxpayers’ Union Executive Director, and Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance Founder Jordan Williams sits down with the CEO of Water Care Raveen Jaduram for a deep dive into Water Care - its business model, how it’s funded, and how it trades the risk of drought with affordability.

To subscribe to the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union visit www.taxpayers.org.nz/sign_up

To subscribe to the Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance visit www.ratepayers.nz/join

*** If you are struggling to pay your Water Care bill and need some assistance, including details on the Water Utility Consumer Assistance Trust is available at https://www.watercare.co.nz/Help-and-advice/Help-with-your-account/Need-help-paying-a-bill and http://www.waterassistance.org.nz ***

Support the show (http://www.taxpayers.org.nz/donate)

You can subscribe to Taxpayer Talk via Apple PodcastsSpotifyGoogle Podcasts, iHeartRadio and all good podcast apps.

Government waste celebrated at 2020 Jonesie Awards

Photo from event

The third annual Jonesie Awards were hosted at Parliament today, celebrating the best of the worst of Government waste.

Every year, we host a glamourous Oscars-style award ceremony to highlight and lament the most absurd examples of wasted taxpayer money to emerge in the last 12 months.

Behind the tuxedos and gilded statuettes is a serious message: politicians and bureaucrats in both local and central government happily fritter away your hard-earned money on bizarre pet projects and ill-planned schemes without fear of consequence.

The Jonesies serve as a shot across the bow for anyone in charge of a government chequebook: rein in the waste, or see your name up in lights at the next Jonesie Awards.

Local government nominees

Dunedin City Council: Responding to COVID-19 with dots

Dunedin City Council responded to COVID-19 by spending $40,000 on red and blue dots for its main street. The dots were variously justified as a tool to assist social distancing, a way to attract people to the city, and as a “traffic calming” device. The Council also spent $145,000 on a new tourism slogan: “Dunedin, a pretty good plan D”.

Napier City Council: Golden handshake for a failed CEO

After a series of headline-grabbing failures, Napier City Council gave its CEO Wayne Jack a reported $1 million payout to leave before his contract expired. Mr Jack’s final official act was to throw himself a $4,000 farewell tea party. The Mayor complained that she was not invited.

Wellington Mayor Andy Foster for Extraordinary Leadership

When nine-term councillor Andy Foster was unexpectedly elected Mayor last year, he promptly enrolled himself in a $30,000 leadership course at Arrowtown’s Millbrook estate. However, he has refused to say what, if anything, he learned – and has since spent more money on a team facilitator to smooth over problems on his Council.

Auckland Council: Temporary cycleways for COVID-19

Auckland Council installed 17 kilometres of temporary cycleway in response to COVID-19. Like Dunedin’s dots, the initiative was intended to assist social distancing. All works had to be reversed in a matter of weeks. The total cost is estimated to be more than a million dollars.

Rotorua Lakes District Council: $743,000 for the Hemo Gorge sculpture

Rotorua’s 12-metre, 3D printed Hemo Gorge sculpture was initially planned to open in 2017 at a cost of $500,000. Three years later, it is still under construction, and costs have blown out to at least $743,000.

WINNER: Wellington Mayor Andy Foster for Extraordinary Leadership

Central government nominees

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Responding to COVID-19 with horse tracks

The Deputy Prime Minister and New Zealand First Party Leader led the Government’s COVID-19 response by announcing a $72 million funding package for the racing industry. This package included two synthetic horse tracks. No-one has been able to establish how horse tracks relate to coronavirus.

Rt Hon Trevor Mallard: $572,000 for a Parliamentary slide

As part of his initiative to make Parliament more “family-friendly”, the Speaker of the House commissioned the construction of a playground on Parliament’s lawn. The playground, which essentially consists of a slide and some stepping stones, was budgeted at $400,000, but ultimately cost $572,000.

Hon Chris Hipkins: $87 million for unwanted internet modems

An $87 million package to give students the means to study remotely during COVID-19 lockdown resulted in thousands of unwanted modems being sent to wealthy schools. Epsom’s Auckland Grammar alone received 137 unwanted modems, and even Mike Hosking’s child was a beneficiary of the policy.

Hon Shane Jones: Three train trips for $6.2 million

The Regional Economic Development Minister re-opened the Wairoa-Napier rail line last year, predicting that up to six train services would run per week. As of last month, only three services had run in total: a cost of more than $2 million per train trip.

Hon Kelvin Davis: $10 million for AJ Hackett Bungy

In response to a tourism downturn due to COVID-19, Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis singled out one of Queenstown’s most successful businesses – AJ Hackett Bungy – for a taxpayer handout. AJ Hackett received a $5.1 million grant, plus a potential $5.1 million loan, all on top of its substantial payout received under the COVID-19 wage subsidy scheme.

WINNER: Rt Hon Winston Peters for responding to COVID-19 with horse tracks

Lifetime Achievement Award

Hon Phil Twyford is this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award Winner for excellence in government waste.

First elected as a list MP in 2008, Phillip Stoner Twyford was thrust into power as Minister of Housing, Urban Development, and Transport in 2017.

His most high-profile election promise was to build 100,000 KiwiBuild homes in 10 years, with an initial investment of $2 billion. Two years into that period, KiwiBuild has delivered just 395 houses – fewer than the number of houses blocked by protestors at Ihumātao. At the current rate, Phil Twyford’s promise will be fulfilled in 436 years.

Even with the taxpayer subsidy, these homes are too expensive or located in places people don’t want to buy. As a result, many finished homes have sat on the market for six months or more, and the Government has promised to buy back homes that do not sell.

Last year, the Prime Minister finally removed Phil Twyford from the Housing portfolio.

However, his record of waste now extends far further than KiwiBuild. As Transport Minister, Twyford blew out the cost of SkyPath – a cycleway across Auckland’s Harbour Bridge – from $67 million to $360 million, with more cost increases expected once construction actually begins.

Twyford has also increased fuel taxes by 12 cents per litre – and even more in Auckland – across three years.

This tax hike was justified on the basis of paying for light rail from Auckland Central, down Dominion Road to the airport. Last month, after two and a half years and $5 million was spent investigating the project, the light rail proposal was shelved.

Despite the main justification for fuel tax hikes being void, Twyford has no plans to reverse his increases to the tax on commuters.

In his maiden speech in Parliament, he remarked: “At the end of our times here, some of us will be remembered, but most of us will not.”

He need not worry. We are confident that taxpayers will never forget Phillip Stoner Twyford.

'Aroha' posters deemed to be Labour Party ads

Poster with stamp

The Electoral Commission has confirmed that the 'Aroha' posters of Jacinda Ardern, promoted by artists Weston Frizzell and advertiser Phantom Billstickers, does indeed constitute a party advertisement for the Labour Party.

This judgment comes after the New Zealand Taxpayers' Union laid a complaint regarding the posters. The Commission's response to the Union can be viewed below.

Union spokesman Jordan Williams says: "It's a relief to have clarity on this matter. As a campaign organisation, we're forced to comply with strict rules around political advertising, especially in the lead-up to an election. It's a matter of democratic integrity that these rules are applies equally, regardless of a campaigner's political slant."

"These posters were obviously advertisements, even if the artists didn't think of them as such. You can imagine a scenario where a poster of Jacinda Ardern  or Todd Muller for that matter  was on every street corner, a week out from an election. This could absolutely influence voters, so the posters should have authorisation statements and count toward campaign spending limits."

"In its letter to the artists, the Electoral Commission notes that some posters may still be up, and that the artists will have to take 'corrective action'. If the Commission is not satisfied with this action, it has the power to refer the advertiser to the Police."

"Initial signs suggest the artists are not taking this warning seriously. They continue to actively promote the poster – without an authorisation statement – on their social media. Regardless, the posters have already reached hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders through social media and news coverage. Strong actions will be needed to remedy this influence. Perhaps, for example, the advertiser could fund poster space for campaigners with different political views."

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Blog: Why alternative monetary policy may not lead to investment spending in the economy

This blog post is written by Taxpayers' Union Economist Karan Menon.

Facing the biggest economic shock in our lifetime, Reserve Bank Governor Adrian Orr is signaling his support for the use of “alternative monetary policy” to jog the Kiwi economy.

He is currently holding the Official Cash Rate at 0.25%, the lowest it has been since the OCR was introduced in 1999, till March 2021.

The cash rate is predicted to be cut even further by the end of the year to fall below zero – that means banks will now be charged on their deposits with the Reserve Bank. The intention of this expansionary monetary policy is to curb a deflationary spiral (an overall decrease in price levels) caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and to disincentivise retail bank deposits held in the central bank.

The Reserve Bank of New Zealand (RBNZ) is already implementing another form of ‘alternative’ monetary policy with its LSAP (Large Scale Asset Purchase) programme.

The LSAP programme will reduce market interest rates further and thereby reduce borrowing costs for retail banks as their wholesale borrowing costs have reduced. This is due to interest rates being inversely related to bond prices. As the RBNZ purchases government bonds, the demand for bonds increases, thereby increasing the price of those bonds and decreasing interest rates.

The RBNZ will purchase $60 billion of government bonds over the next 12 months to achieve these reductions in interest rates on mortgages and term deposits. This value roughly amounts to 29% of NZ GDP.  This process is known as an open market operation where money supply is linked to the sale and purchase of government bonds

These tools are used by the RBNZ to control inflation – in this case, to keep it from dropping too low.

The RBNZ is given operational independence to keep inflation between 1 and 3 percent on average over the medium term, but with the recent COVID pandemic, sharp projected contractions in economic activity will likely reduce inflation and employment targets below RBNZ’s objectives.

Therefore, the RBNZ aims to lower the borrowing costs for households and businesses and increase spending across the economy. Retail banks are in the business of lending, and this lending is financed by depositor funds or borrowed funds. The ability to service this lending is based on a bank’s liquidity which is calculated by taking the total lending as a proportion of total deposits.

With expansionary monetary policy decreasing “hoarding behaviour”, we can expect lower retail interest rates on both mortgages and deposits for businesses and households.

The complication with decreased interest rates on deposits is that we could see (and in fact already are seeing) investments diverted away from bank deposits to other financial investments with higher rates of return.

The relationship between expansionary monetary policy and the diversion of investments can be seen internationally. The US currently has its cash rate at 0%, while its stock market has seen steady increases. The NASDAQ closed on a high Tuesday and the S&P 500 index saw a 0.43% gain. The increases in those indices obviously have additional explanations, but deposit interest rates are also decreasing, implying investors are looking to the financial market for higher returns.

Real economic conditions in the US are simply not reflected in the US stock market. A wave of optimism is sweeping through Wall Street, which stands in contrast to the stark economic realities of the US. Unemployment, which hovered around 4% in February shot up to 13% in May.

The real-world macroeconomic implication of expansionary monetary policy, and the subsequent diversion of investments, would be to diminish the capacity of retail banks to lend and further, lending would be on the back of bank borrowings.

Adrian Orr’s intention of increasing investment spending and incentivising businesses to spend more on their operations is in fact reasonable. The risk, however, is that the outcome of his approach will be an over-extension of the banking sector, which could further exacerbate the economic crisis. If in fact the RBNZ achieved its goal to encourage spending for both households and businesses, banks would be unable to increase their cash position in the case of any further shocks to spending.

If banks become unable to lend, any good achieved by Orr’s expansionary monetary policy would be wiped away and the economy would be left in an even worse condition than currently projected.

Taxpayer Talk: Chris Penk - Flattening the Country

In our newest episode of Taxpayer Talk, Jordan sits down (in-person!) with Helensville MP Chris Penk who has written a book investigating the claim that the Government had "gone early and hard" in its fight against
COVID-19. Support the show (http://www.taxpayers.org.nz/donate)

Flattening the Country is available at https://chrispenk.national.org.nz/flattening_the_country.

You can subscribe to Taxpayer Talk via Apple PodcastsSpotifyGoogle Podcasts, iHeartRadio and all good podcast apps.

Tool launched for Christchurch ratepayers to submit against rate hike

Chch rates preview

The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union has launched a tool for Christchurch ratepayers to submit against Christchurch City Council’s proposed rate hike options.

The official consultation form for the Council’s updated budget is frankly a scam. Ratepayers are asked to choose between three different rate hikes – 3.5 percent, 4.65 percent, and 5.5 percent. This is a false choice, engineered to manipulate submitters into endorsing the 3.5 percent rate hike, when in reality many or most ratepayers would prefer a freeze or even a cut.

With the submission period closing on Monday, we’re encouraging Christchurch ratepayers to submit against the proposed rate options. Our submission form, available at www.ChchRates.nz, provides different rate options, and submissions are sent straight to the Council’s consultation inbox.

Christchurch City Council cannot seriously cry poverty while setting aside $118 million for a sports stadium, and paying 531 of its staff salaries higher than $100,000.

In April, Lianne Dalziel said she was “laser-focused” on delivering a rates freeze to reflect the hardships caused by COVID-19. But she and a majority of her Councillors have been swayed by self-interested Council staff warning of redundancies. That’s disgraceful – the responsibility of a Council is to protect ratepayers, not to provide livelihoods for its own staff.

With unemployment forecast to spike in coming months, the case against increasing council taxes is stronger than ever.

Taxpayer Update: Ihumātao | Sack Dr Clark | Posters investigated

Will Winston put the kibosh on the Ihumātao deal?

Winston/Ihumatao

After months of delays, it's been reported again that the Government is on the verge of purchasing the land at Ihumātao using $30 million of taxpayer money.

This would be a disgraceful capitulation to illegal occupiers. 

However, we understand that New Zealand First Leader Winston Peter is furious about the deal and had a tense exchange with the Prime Minister on Tuesday night. He has the power to block the deal at the 11th hour and gain huge publicity.

Jordan texted Winston yesterday to remind him of our petition against the deal, which has 11,000 signatures. We're watching very closely.

Petition launched for resignation of David Clark

David Clark

Health Minister Dr David Clark was missing in action for virtually all of the COVID-19 pandemic after repeatedly breaching his own guidelines by travelling unnecessarily, mountain biking when that was forbidden, and moving house and his office at the exact time he was requiring people to stay home and work from home.

And now he's overseen a series of quarantine failures: most spectacularly, the two COVID-19 positive women who were allowed to travel the length of the North Island without being tested.

In fact, 51 out of 55 quarantined individuals released under compassionate exemptions were not tested. That is disgraceful and Dr Clark has accepted no responsibility.

He's now been shunted away from the media, with Megan Woods brought in as a "Dr Fix-It". Why keep David Clark on a $300,000 salary?

We've launched a petition calling on the Prime Minister to immediately sack the Minister for his repeated failures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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

Electoral Commission investigating 'Aroha' posters

Aroha poster

We're glad to hear that the posters of Jacinda Ardern plastered across the country have been taken down while the Electoral Commission investigates whether they count as election advertisements.

The posters are clearly advertisements: by the artist's own admission, they are drawn in a "propaganda style" and are inspired by the famous "Hope" posters of Barack Obama.

This means they need a promoter statement and should fall within election spending limits.

If the Commission finds that the posters are legit, we'll be surprised, but it means we can crowdfund our own poster campaign. Our posters could look like this:

Tax is Love poster

Ratepayer heroes! Horowhenua Council CUTS rates in response to COVID-19

Levin clock tower

This is what leadership looks like. Horowhenua District Council hasn't just frozen rates – it's cut them by 1.83% in response to COVID-10 hardships.

The Mayor and his officials wanted higher rates, but six out of eleven Horowhenua Councillors seized their democratic responsibility and put the interests of ratepayers first.

Well done to Councillors Wayne Bishop, Victoria Kaye-Simmons, Todd Isaac, Robert Ketu, Pirihira Tukapua and Sam Jennings.

Yes, the Council will have to cut employee costs and sacrifice spending plans, but it’s a necessary sacrifice that reflects the cut-backs being made in households across the country.

Ultimately, this move will make Levin and surrounding areas better off. More money in ratepayers’ pockets means more demand for local goods and services. And ratepayers from other parts of the country will be looking on in envy – perhaps even considering a move!

Is your local council hiking rates? Contact them NOW and tell them what Horowhenua District Council has done.

Petition launched: Keep it The Tron!

Hamilton sign

As if New Zealand doesn't have bigger issues to debate, Newshub, Stuff, and RNZ are all reporting on calls to change the name of Hamilton to "Kirikiriroa".

If the Council considers a name change, it will mean a divisive consultation process, a potential referendum, ratepayer-funded revamps of branding and signage, and staff and councillors' time wasted.

The change would then be considered by the New Zealand Geographic Board, meaning taxpayers across the country cough up.

--> Click here to sign our petition against the name change <--

We say Hamilton City Council should ignore the vocal minority and stick to their core business of delivering value for ratepayers.

There's also the suggestion the Council could go for a "compromise" option of a dual name. Based on previous government and council rebrands, we can imagine the new council logo looking like this:

Kirikiriroa logo

As if that will make anyone happy!

A surprise from Labour's list ranking...

Twyford promoted

Last week Labour revealed their updated Party list for the 2020 election.

We were astonished to see Phil Twyford moved from #5 up to #4 after his calamitous management of KiwiBuild, and more recently, his total failure to deliver his Auckland tram project.

(In fact, Twyford has now confirmed he's given up on Auckland Light Rail this side of the election. That project was the main reason for increased fuel taxes, so why is he planning to hike fuel tax again on 1 July?!)

For fun, I also researched Labour's lowest-ranked candidates. At the very bottom, #84, is a teacher unionist named Georgie Densey. Her Twitter page has one post, where she shares this praise of Metiria Turei:

Labour tweet

Interesting.

How would this look on a billboard?

National MP Nick Smith has revealed that Parliament's architecturally designed playground – which is basically just a slide and some stepping stones – went $172,000 over budget.

All up, the design, construction, landscaping, and engineering fees totalled $572,000.

Slide poster

We plan to make taxpayers remember this kind of waste when they cast their votes on 19 September.

All the best,

Louis circle


Louis Houlbrooke
Campaigns Manager
New Zealand Taxpayers' Union

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Media coverage:

Horowhenua Mail  Horowhenua District Council labelled 'heroes' for cutting rates

Stuff  Taxpayers' Union urges Human Rights Commission to speak up on Kiwis paying for quarantine

Star News  Ardern posters make cash, draw complaints

Southland Times  Southland District Council approve rate amid deficit budget

Stuff  Shots fired: Hunters hit back at Keep It Real Online ad campaign

Newstalk ZB  Artist behind Jacinda Ardern poster denies it's political advertising

Newshub  Hunters up in arms over Government's new online safety ad campaign

Croaking Cassandra  Little fiscal discipline at the RB

1 News  Art or political propaganda? Electoral Commission investigating artists' Jacinda Ardern appreciation poster

NZ Herald  Shovel-ready projects get the green light to go ahead under new infrastructure law

Newshub  'Forget about tax cuts': Economist warns of hikes ahead no matter who wins election

Newshub  ACT Party demands end to Government's 'Unite for the Recovery' campaign

1 News  John Armstrong: Is Jacinda Ardern utilising taxpayer-generated revenue in order to run a 'propaganda unit'?

The Press  Surprise in the post as Christchurch rates hike is less than thought


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