Lower Taxes, Less Waste,
More Accountability

Championing Value For Money From Every Tax Dollar

Taxpayers’ Union Slams Te Pūkenga Wasteful Ad Campaign

Despite facing consistent financial challenges and relying on taxpayer bailouts - most recently to the tune of $220 million in May's budget - The Waikato Times has revealed a staggering $15.6 million spent on ads, PR, and publications, which includes a $3.5 million campaign launch.

Oliver Bryan, Invesitgations Coordinator at the Taxpayers' Union, commented, "Feedback on Te Pūkenga's performance from experts in the tertiary sector echoes the country's sentiment that this is clearly an organisation costing us a fortune and delivering little in return."

“The consistent mismanagement and questionable spending decisions by Te Pūkenga are alarming and unacceptable. It is deeply concerning to see millions being channeled into advertising campaigns while the very core of Te Pūkenga is riddled with operational deficiencies. The latest feedback from experts and surveys clearly indicates that their hefty advertising investment is not yielding the desired results in terms of student numbers or improved public perception."

"Until the organisation rectifies its operational issues, the Government is just pouring money into a failing system. It needs to stop."

Taxpayers’ Union shivers at thought of more corporate welfare for ski fields

The Taxpayers’ Union is slamming Cabinet's decision to provide yet another taxpayer-funded handout to Ruapehu Alpine Lifts (RAL), this time to the tune of $7 million.

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

“We warned earlier in the year that taxpayer-funded bailouts for failing businesses would be a slippery slope and unfortunately we have been vindicated.

“Every dollar that the Government wastes on corporate handouts is a dollar that first had to be taxed from someone else. While the Government may claim that they are protecting jobs in the ski industry, the taxes to pay for this corporate welfare costs jobs in other industries.

“The Government would be better to let RAL go under and allow a new buyer to come in as a replacement – including leaving the door open for an international investor. This would allow a financially viable operator to take over the ski field while also saving taxpayers from funding unnecessary corporate welfare in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis.

“Once businesses realise that they can get money by coming cap in hand to the Government, the potential for pork-barrel politics and back-room deals is increased as businesses begin to respond to Ministers instead of markets.”

New Zealanders still waiting on NZ First to demonstrate economic credibility

The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union is calling on New Zealand First to release costings for each of their policies citing fears that they could cost more than Labour’s election spending spree.

When questioned by Jack Tame on TVNZ’s Q + A yesterday about the lack of fiscal detail in NZ First’s policies, Winston Peters said “Well our manifesto comes out later today. Why don’t you wait. We've made sure that were gonna have it out given the huge PREFU gaps and holes there are. We made sure ours stacks up.”

Despite early voting now being open, New Zealand voters are none the wiser as to how much NZ First’s policies will cost taxpayers and what new taxes will be levied to pay for them.

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

“New Zealand First has to date been the least transparent out of all the parties likely to get into Parliament in relation to how much their policies would cost taxpayers.

“In 2017, New Zealand First was campaigning on more spending than any other party and it appears this could be the case again this time around. Unfortunately, the lack of detail in the announced policies make it near impossible for us to independently cost the proposals.

“Included in the policy list is a number of eye-wateringly expensive proposals including $100 million on 'transmission upgrades', moving the Port of Auckland and establishing a naval base, establishing a new Ministry for Energy and a vague promise of corporate welfare in the form of tax incentives.

“This is on top of the policy to remove GST off ‘basic foods’ – a policy that will not only cost significantly more than the $2.6 billion needed for Labour’s GST proposal but will also require an even bigger army of bureaucrats to determine what is and isn’t basic foods.

“Winston Peters is trying to frame his party as one fit for Government yet to date we have had more clarity from Labour, the Greens and Te Pāti Māori. Voters deserve answers now.”

Grant Robertson’s apparent hole doesn’t exist - at least as it relates to Three Waters Alternative

 

Grant Robertson’s claim that there is a ‘hole’ in the funding as of a result of scraping Three Waters is nonsense on stilts.

Taxpayers’ Union Executive Director, Jordan Williams, says:

“Grant Robertson is trying to frame opponents of Three Waters - including the National Party - as not having an alternative. Nonsense. There is an off the shelf solution that has the broad backing of the countries largest two councils, Communities4Local Democracy, the Taxpayers’ Union, and ACT. The National Party’s policy is nearly identical.

“Unlike Three Waters, the Local Water Infrastructure Bill, doesn’t just splash cash and bureaucracy.  No government funding is required within the budget forecast period, and any that subsequently is needed requires disciplined analysis showing investment is justified before amounts are committed - similar to the tests for investment Transpower is subject to.

“The only hole here seems to be Grant Robertson’s knowledge about the alternative to Labour expensive, bureaucratic, undemocratic Three Waters.”

As per the Q&A released on 11 August when the Taxpayers’ Union announced that it had earlier appointed an expert group to develop the Three Waters Repeal And Replacement Bill:

Cost for water utilities and for communities depends on how much investment is needed and how much has been delayed. That differs from council to council.

But the government has promoted unrealistic estimates of costs and promoted the idea that somehow essential upgrades and replacements can only be afforded if everything is centralised and overseas savers’ funds can be accessed to pay for our water services. Castalia says that the investment plans for water infrastructure of most of the sample of councils they have audited appear prudent and readily fundable. They found that the consultants engaged by DIA wildly overstated investment needs.

As Castalia explains it “the government has assumed that one factor, scale, will deliver fantastical cost savings. This is plain wrong and the international evidence confirms this. Because the government’s consultants could claim such big cost savings from scale, they were able to include enormous estimates of needed capital expenditure”.

Labour's Grocery Store Subsidies Will Not Reduce New Zealand’s Food Prices

Responding to the Labour Party’s announcement that they intend to subsidise grocery stores to try and enable competition in New Zealand’s grocery sector, Taxpayers’ Union Policy Adviser, James Ross, said:

“There is a lack of competition in New Zealand’s grocery sector, and that does lead to extortionate food prices. But Labour seem to have missed that the reason for this is that the Government keeps propping up the big two supermarket chains.

“There is a massive contradiction in Labour’s story here. Given the enormous profits generated by the big two grocery chains, if there was an opportunity for foreign competition to establish themselves here than they would jump at the chance regardless of whether they received taxpayer-funded handouts. The fact that they haven’t just goes to show that, thanks to the Government interfering in the market, competing with Foodstuffs and Woolworths is not currently possible.

“Overly restrictive resource management under the RMA and restrictions on foreign investment make it nigh-on impossible for competitors to establish themselves in New Zealand. Coupled with Labour’s bizarre ruling that new grocery chains will have to supply their competition at wholesale prices should they be successful, this sends investors running. Just chucking more taxpayer dollars away in corporate welfare isn’t going make these problems go away, and so food prices will stay sky-high.

“Labour must at least be commended for their new-found transparency. Rather than just subsiding grocery store owners by stealth with their GST fiasco, at least with this new policy they’re being open with the public about their plans to line the pockets of grocery chain fat cats.”

National in Danger of Swapping One Middle-Class Subsidy for Another

Commenting on the National Party’s re-affirmation of their pledge to scrap the Clean Car Discount, Taxpayers’ Union Policy Adviser, James Ross, said:

“Under Labour’s Ute Tax, families, farmers and tradies have been subsidising the lifestyle choices of wealthy urban professionals. Robbing from hardworking people to the tune of half a billion dollars so that middle-class Kiwis can save a few bucks on a shiny new set of wheels is both immoral and unsustainable.

“National’s plan to scrap the Ute Tax by the end of the year will be a welcome Christmas present for Kiwis struggling under the cost-of-living crisis. However, rather than swapping one middle-class subsidy for another, National also need to commit to scrapping their plans to waste even more of the taxpayers’ money propping up the electric vehicle industry.

“Given Treasury’s recent update on the dire state of our nation’s finances, it is woefully irresponsible to commit to spending $257 million in taxpayers’ money on EV charging points. The market has been perfectly adequate at providing petrol pumps across the country without the need for the government to build, own, and operate them. If New Zealanders want to switch to electric vehicles, then the same will be true of charging points.

“Once again, when drafting this policy National seem to have completely missed the fact that this subsidy won’t reduce emissions by even a single gram. As net emissions are capped under the Emissions Trading Scheme, any reduction in car-related emissions will simply free up carbon credits to be used in other sectors.”

Taxpayers’ Union slams National’s alternative fiscal plan

The Taxpayers’ Union is slamming the plan released by the National Party today saying it barely touches the sides in terms of cutting waste, and realigning the sector to live within the country’s means.  

Taxpayers’ Union spokesperson Jordan Williams said:

“We expected the National Party to set operating allowances at least as small as what Sir Bill English achieved decade ago. Instead, the amounts are nearly four times larger, and somehow National says it is ‘prudent’.

“Grant Robertson has increased government spending by 70 percent. The National Party should be saving money, not simply saying ‘we’ll grow it a little slower’.

“National’s plan wont even get the books back into surplus any sooner than Labour. That means three-and-a-half more years of even more borrowing, and billions more taxpayer dollars wasted on servicing interest payments.

“This certainly snookers Labour though – it looks like those 16,000 extra bureaucrats’ jobs are safe under National. Frankly, that’s not good enough.

“Taxpayers want a Finance Minister to make the tough and necessary calls. While this plan ticks political boxes, it continues to kick the can down the road and is dangerous if and when New Zealand next faces an economic or natural disaster disruption.”

Taxpayers’ Union calls Hipkins' GST bluff – releases the modelling and challenges Hipkins to do the same

Download the spreadsheet containing our modelling of the cost of Labour's GST policy here.

Following recent concerns raised by the Taxpayers’ Union that Labour’s GST-exempt policy would leave a revenue hole of up to $411m because, as Labour have claimed, more people may eat fresh fruit and vegetables if they were cheaper, yesterday Chris Hipkins told media “We’ve already banked the savings that people make. So when people get their GST off their fruit and vegetables, we’ve assumed that 100% of the savings they get from that are going to be spent on more fruit and vegetables.

“If they spend that on something else then actually, our costings are overly conservative because they’ll pay GST on the other stuff. The Taxpayers’ Union beat-up is just fictional. It doesn’t make sense. They haven’t actually got their numbers right.”

To call the Prime Minister’s bluff, the Taxpayers’ Union is releasing the excel spreadsheet and is inviting journalists and analysts to come to their own conclusion on Hipkins’ version of ‘fiction’. The spreadsheet is available to download here.

“It’s certainly a big coincidence that Labour’s numbers match, almost exactly, our figures before we adjust them for behavioural changes. After this behavioural adjustment, Labour is left with a $411 million hole which they are yet to explain.

“Now that we’ve done so, Mr Hipkins and Robertson should release their spreadsheet showing how they came to the same number, but – as Hipkins claims – accounting for the substitution effect on demand for fresh fruit and vegetables from his GST-free policy.

“Either it’s an almighty coincidence, the Labour Party leader is being misled by his advisors, or Mr Hipkins is misleading voters. We are pretty confident it’s not the first one.

“It’s time for Mr Hipkins to put his money where his mouth is and release Labour's own costings.”

 

NOTES:

A downloadable copy of the spreadsheet can be accessed by clicking here.

The Taxpayers' Union is willing to sit down with any journalists, analysts or Labour MPs to explain how we came to our costings.

Further explanation of our analysis can be found in our earlier press release at: https://www.taxpayers.org.nz/gst_policy_hole

Ministry of Education Still Failing to Deliver for Kiwi Kids

 

Responding to the release of the OECD’s latest Education at a Glance report, Taxpayers’ Union Policy Adviser, James Ross, said:
 
“Since 2018, investment received by the Ministry of Education has increased by nearly 75%. Despite this, outcomes for our children are getting worse and worse by the year. Like with so many other departments across the public service, serious questions need to be asked about where this extra money has gone.
 
“Chucking billions upon billions more into the bureaucratic black hole clearly hasn’t been working, when this increasingly seems to be wasted on a growing culture of inefficiency across the public sector. With the Ministry of Education unable to tackle core problems like 40% of schoolkids still failing to regularly attend school, it’s no wonder Kiwi kids are being left behind.”
 
“Any incoming government needs to take a long, hard look at how taxpayers’ money is being spent, zero-base funding and do much more than just pay lip service to getting essential services like education working again.”

Grocery Supply Code Will Drive Food Prices Even Higher

 

Commenting on the Grocery Supply Code of Conduct coming into force, Taxpayers’ Union Policy Adviser, James Ross, said:

“The grocery supply code of conduct has completely missed the root causes of New Zealand’s sky-high grocery prices. Lack of competition in the sector is absolutely the main driving factor behind this, but rather than bringing prices down this code will only make things worse.

“The Government props up food prices by refusing to allow competition to spring up, through both its overly restrictive planning regulation and making it nigh-on impossible to attract competition from overseas. A law which requires any competitors which spring up to supply their competition with produce at wholesale prices is of course going to send foreign investors running.

“Rather than answering every problem with soundbite policies promising more bureaucracy, if the Government really wants to help Kiwis struggling under the cost-of-living crisis then it needs to cut the red tape and allow proper competition to the grocery duopoly.”

Labour’s Fiscal Plan Doubles Down on More Spending, High Taxes and Runaway Debt

 

Responding to the Labour Party’s Fiscal Plan, Taxpayers’ Union Head of Campaigns, Callum Purves, said:

“Labour’s current economic plan of overtaxing hard-working New Zealanders just to waste money on middle-managers, consultants and vanity projects clearly isn’t working. With the highest level of Government spending we have ever had, Labour is robbing our children by racking up billions upon billions more in debt every year.

“In its latest fiscal plan, Labour has doubled down on its high tax, high borrowing, and high spending model. When Treasury noted only two weeks ago that a razor-thin increase in borrowing would see New Zealand unable to return to surplus within the forecast period, for Labour not to announce significant cuts to Government waste is deeply irresponsible.

“When asked how Labour planned to deal with any large unexpected costs, as expected Robertson’s reply was “through the balance sheet.” In other words, Labour is already planning to borrow more to make ends meet. With every household’s share of this debt now at nearly $82,000 and rising fast, New Zealand can’t afford more of the same.

“Wasting billions on a GST policy that economists almost universally call inefficient and ineffective is bull-headed to the extreme. New Zealanders deserve sound, properly-costed policies and unfortunately that is not what they’re getting with this GST fiasco. The Taxpayers’ Union is once again calling to establish an independent electoral policy costing body so Kiwis can make informed choices at the ballot box.”

Hipkins completely misunderstands his own party’s GST costings

 

Chris Hipkins’ claim this morning that Labour’s costings for removal of GST off fruit and veg account for behavioural changes is completely untrue.

Responding to Mr Hipkins’ attacks on the Union, spokesman Jordan Williams said:

“We couldn’t care less what Mr Hipkins thinks about the country’s largest union, but to accuse us of getting it wrong when he fails to understand his own numbers stinks of desperation. The public deserve better.

“The Taxpayers’ Union last week highlighted that Labour’s costings for its flagship GST policy failed to account for any behavioural changes – the very same criticism Labour has made about National’s forecast Foreign Buyers Tax.

“If Labour is so confident that their modelling accounts for behavioural changes, the party needs to show us in its numbers because as it stands, we have managed to almost perfectly replicate Labour’s costings by calculating the cost of the policy without accounting for behavioural change. Mr Hipkins is either misleading the public or needs to release the spreadsheet.

“The point we made was that if the removal of GST is actually passed through to consumers, this will reduce the cost of fresh fruit and veg causing people to substitute their consumption away from GST-applicable products towards zero-rated fruit and veg as supported by academic research. This shift would significantly reduce the Government’s GST take.

“Of course Labour hates that we’ve pointed out the gaping fiscal hole in Grant Robertson’s fiscal plan. We’d much rather explanation or correction, than name calling.”

NEW POLL: Voters torn in Auckland Central electorate

A new Taxpayers’ Union – Curia poll in the Auckland Central Electorate has voters undecided between Greens incumbent Chlöe Swarbrick (polling at 26% of voters) and National candidate Mahesh Muralidhar (polling at 24%) - a statistical tie when accounting for the margin of error. Labour’s candidate, Oscar Sims is struggling to reclaim Labour’s electorate vote from 2020, polling at 12% of voters. 

Among minor parties, NZ First is attracting 3% of the electorate vote, despite their candidate pulling out of the race, while ACT’s candidate, Felix Poole, is currently polling at 1% of the vote. However, 29% of the electorate is yet to make up their mind about which candidate they support, leaving plenty of room for the front runners to take a lead in this pivotal electorate. 

The poll of 500 respondents was conducted on Sunday, 24 September 2023. The full results, including the most important local issues for voters, are available here. 

New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Callum Purves, says: 

“This poll shows a dead heat between the incumbent, high-flying Green MP Chlöe Swarbrick, and the resurgent National candidate, Mahesh Muralidhar, to represent this centre-city electorate. This is a notable change from 2020, when Auckland Central hosted a three-cornered contest after Nikki Kaye’s retirement – Labour’s support in the electorate has almost halved since 2020, leaving it in a distant third place this electoral cycle. With 29% of the electorate undecided about their electorate vote, time will tell if Chlöe Swarbrick will repeat history, or Mahesh Muralidhar will take back the electorate that National lost in 2020. 

“A damning statistic from this poll is that voters are assured that the country is heading in the wrong direction, with nearly two-thirds of the electorate unsatisfied with how the country is dealing with the nation’s problems. This may be reflective of local issues identified by those surveyed – law and order is at front of mind for nearly a third of voters, followed by public and transport at 10% and 9% respectively. Candidates will need to show how committed they are to these issues if they are to swing informed voters in this highly competitive electorate.”

Handing Climate Policy to Appointed Bureaucrats is Undemocratic and Ineffective

 

Responding to Labour’s promise to hand control over carbon pricing under the Emissions Trading Scheme to the Climate Change Commission, Taxpayers’ Union Deputy Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

“Handing control of carbon pricing away to faceless Wellington bureaucrats would strip away any democratic accountability over climate policy. A bloated, unaccountable crown entity should not have the power to effectively dictate prices for basic goods up and down the country on a whim.

"We would not accept the Ministry for Primary Industries dictating the milk price or the Minister for Transport setting the price of ubers, taxpayers should not be forced to face Muldoon-style interventions in a market that would function perfectly fine without heavy-handed government involvement.

"If anything, the problems with the current Emissions Trading Scheme arise from too much government involvement rather than not enough. Arbitrary minimum and maximum prices distort the market and decision making and prevent it from functioning effectively. With three failed carbon auctions this year alone, it should be clear to this Government that their meddling in the market is causing the system to fail. Rather than doubling down on failed policy, the Government must leave the ETS to work as intended.”

Taxpayers’ Union welcomes National’s sanction regime on the Jobseeker Benefit

 

Responding to National’s proposed changes to the Job-Seeker benefit scheme, Taxpayers’ Union National Campaigns Manager, Callum Purves, said:

“The current job-seeker benefit arrangements incentivise freeriding and provide little accountability for non-compliance. Taxpayers deserve to know that their money is only going towards helping people who actually intend to get back into work.

“While Kiwis actively seeking work should have the funding assurance to tide them over during periods of unemployment, it is vital that those who breach the obligations of their benefit face consequences.

“National’s proposals are a step in the right direction. Clearly the first attempt to resolve breaches should be non-financial, but ultimately, those who repeatedly breach the requirements of their taxpayer-funded benefit should be sanctioned financially.”

Labour’s Climate Announcement is Economically and Scientifically Illiterate

Responding to the release of Labour’s Climate Manifesto, Taxpayers’ Union Deputy Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

"Yet again, we are seeing a swathe of policies that fail to recognise the genius and effectiveness of our existing Emissions Trading Scheme. If we want to become world leaders in the climate change space, we must demonstrate to other countries how we can reduce net emissions in a low-cost way that doesn't allow Ministers to pick and choose winners. 

Establishing a Minister of Just Transitions:

“This sounds like nothing more than a push for more bureaucracy and Ministerial intervention in how our emissions are reduced. The Emissions Trading Scheme is already capped and set to reduce over time. Ministers picking and choosing winners does not reduce the country’s net emissions, it simply frees up carbon credits to be used elsewhere in the economy.

“Given that Labour has refused to clarify what role the minister would have compared to the existing Climate Change minister, we can only assume that the role only exists to expand the Government Cabinet and create another source of wasteful spending. New Zealand doesn’t need more high-level bureaucrats to make climate change decisions, it needs policy that allows us to meet our climate targets at the lowest possible cost – a robust Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).

More Corporate Welfare:

“Feel-good policies that won’t make one iota of difference to net carbon emissions are simply corporate welfare dressed up as climate action. Initiatives such as NZ Green Investment Finance and the GIDI fund do not reduce New Zealand’s net emissions. As we have repeatedly said, because net emissions are capped, if one of these initiatives manages to reduce emissions in a particular sector, that frees up those carbon credits to be used elsewhere and net emissions remain unchanged. The only way to reduce net emissions is by lowering the cap on the ETS to reduce the number of carbon credits available for sale.

“Furthermore, NZ Green Investment Finance is gambling with taxpayers’ money. Private investors carefully assess the viability of a project before stumping up the cash, what can NZGIF bring to the table except risking other people’s money on projects which are unlikely to be profitable – if they are profitable, they can be funded privately and the government does not need to duplicate the role of the private market in a way that is less efficient.

Removing Diesel Generators from all Schools:

“The cost of running a diesel generator already includes the cost of those emissions under the emissions trading scheme. Again, any reduction in emissions here will simply free up carbon credits to be used elsewhere and will not reduce net emissions.

“Schools should be free to judge for themselves whether, in light of the rising price of running diesel generators, it will be a prudent financial decision to phase out generators in favour of other forms of electricity generation. For some schools this will likely make sense, for others the benefit of reliability of diesel generators will be favoured.

Prioritising Gross Emissions Reductions over Net Emissions Reductions:

“This is ideologically driven madness. There is no difference as far as the climate is concerns as to whether emissions are reduced or offset through carbon sequestration. The role of the Government is to ensure a well functioning Emissions Trading Scheme that allows net emissions reductions at the lowest possible economic cost.

There is a better way:

“The Taxpayers’ Union has long supported a capped emissions trading scheme that, once in place, allows the market to respond to price signals so that net emissions can be reduced over time. The current system can be improved in a number of ways to mitigate the impact on consumers.

“Introducing a universal carbon dividend would distribute funds generated through the ETS back to consumers which will shield them from rising prices while still maintaining the incentives to consumer lower-carbon products which remain relatively cheaper.

“Allowing offshore offsets can help ensure that carbon offsets are done as cost-effectively as possible in the places where it makes the most economic sense to do so. This helps to avoid proliferation of forestry on productive land in New Zealand without arbitrary restrictions and also will prevent the carbon price from rising too high.

“As it stands, many politicians, climate activists and political commentators highlight the fact that the Government will have to offset some of New Zealand’s emissions through the purchase of carbon credits. We think those same international suppliers should be able to sell to New Zealand companies to mitigate their emissions so that more of the cost is borne by polluters rather than taxpayers.

“Agriculture should be incorporated into the ETS with a free industrial allocation of credits similar to other trade-exposed producers such as the steel and aluminium sectors. This free allocation should be reduced relative to how efficient overseas producers are – the purpose here is to prevent carbon leakage, if overseas farmers become more efficient than New Zealand producers the industrial allocation should be removed entirely."

Blanket Speed Reductions Increase Prices and Stifle Wages


Responding to National’s plans to reverse Labour’s blanket speed reductions, Taxpayers’ Union Policy Adviser, James Ross, said:
 
“The real cost of reducing speed limits is far more than just changing some signs, and it is not a policy which comes cheap. Trucks, buses and cars rely on being able to get from A to B as quickly as possible to keep the country ticking over. Longer travel times for transport and freight lowers productivity, which in turn means less growth, higher prices and lower wages.
 
“Where there is clear evidence that reducing speed limits on a specific section of road will have a significant effect on road safety, then this option should of course be considered. However, hobbling the economy with blanket reductions is a decision which has been taken far too lightly.
 
“At a time when improving our productivity is more important then ever, we should be looking for ways to safely allow people to travel faster, not slow them down. A return to evidence-based highways policy which makes full use of proper economic assessments will be a welcome change for Kiwis struggling under the cost-of-living crisis.”

Taxpayer Update: NZ's Debt Crisis 🛑⏰ | Labour's GST Hole Crisis 🥬🕳️ | Creative NZ's Crisis 😢✈️

It's foot to the floor here at the Taxpayers' Union – even Porky the Waste-hater student interns are working overtime this weekend.

As well as the the campaigns detailed below, we're still business-as-usual exposing government waste. This week, we take a look at the world through the eyes of those poor bureaucrats at Creative NZ. The staff have received a formal health and safety apology because [I'm not making this up] staff suffered flight delays due to the flooding in Auckland back in January! The formal apology related to some souls not being given money to get into the Koru lounge which, apparently, resulted in 'emotional trauma'. (yes, seriously – details below).

But first, we tackle the big numbers.

New Zealand's Debt Crisis: We need to 'Stop the Clock!' 🛑

Thanks to those who came along to Parliament and bought a sausage as part of our fundraiser to help Grant Robertson pay back the debt! 

Here's a video on the event and just how bad the debt now is.

Debt Clock Launch

Great to see 1News pick up on the concept in the 6pm bulletin, and Newshub run my interview with Christopher Luxon earlier in the day (skip forward in the Newshub video here or watch our captioned version over on our Facebook page here).

David Seymour also popped down to grab a sausage and helped reset the clock after the disturbingly high new debt figures were released in Treasury's Pre-election Economic and Fiscal Update.

David Seymour

Sadly, we didn't hit our target of selling 80 billion sausages @ $2 each to pay back the debt. We worked it out though, that it's enough snags end to end to get to the moon and back 14 times!

In the 12 days since launching the Debt Clock, New Zealand’s Government Debt has grown by more than $865 million. And the online version of the Debt Clock continues to spin. Right now, government debt sits at more than $161 billion – that's basically a $81,633 (and growing) credit card bill for every NZ household.

In the coming weeks we'll be putting in the miles to make sure the Debt Clock gets in front of as many eyes as possible. We need to ensure the politicians are forced to grapple with the cost of government crisis. 

The Debt Clock will be outside TVNZ for tomorrow morning's Q&A debate, at our Auckland Central electorate debate on Tuesday, and The Press Leader's Debate in Christchurch on October 3.

Grant Robertson's deficit now the second largest in the world 🧨

Some government apologists try to pretend these debt numbers aren't that bad. But despite COVID having passed, Grant Robertson's $72 million per day borrowing is, according to the International Monetary Fund, the second highest cyclically-adjusted fiscal deficit in the OECD.


Cyclically-adjusted general govt primary balance, per cent of potential GDP, 2023/24 IMF estimates/forecasts
Click for larger image

Hear that, kids? Tick tock, tick tock...

Labour's GST claims are cabbage: If Hipkins' claims about us eating more fruit and vege are right, there’s a $411m hole in Labour's GST costings 🕳️🥬

As the NZ Herald reported yesterday, a certain "Low Tax Lobby Group" (their words) has found a fiscal hole in Labour's GST-free fruit & vege policy costings

Despite Labour's policy document stating that taking GST off fresh fruit and vegetables “will have the additional benefit of encouraging Kiwis to purchase more healthy fruit and vegetables in their weekly shop”, the Party's costings assume not one more fresh or frozen carrot or blueberry is consumed!

You will recall Labour has been jumping up and down about National apparently not factoring in enough demand change in relation to its budgeted revenue from Nicola Willis's proposed foreign buyer's tax. But that is more of a debate of whether it was factored in enough – here Labour has ignored dynamic effects entirely.

Labour's GST policy has already been roundly rejected by economists and pundits across the political spectrum. But now we know that GST-free cabbages can't count either.

Using economic modelling based on what happens when food is subsidised, we can estimate that Labour has a budget hole of around $411 million if the GST reduction is passed on in full (as suggested by Labour’s election advertisements).

But if only 30 per cent of the GST reduction is passed onto consumers (as the Tax Working Group’s expert advice suggests – advice uncovered by your humble Taxpayers' Union last week), there is still a $123 million gap in Labour’s costings.

Labour is effectively saying its plan to destroy the best GST system in the world will not result in Kiwis eating one more carrot. Either Labour’s got a big hole in its costings, or the Party know its key sales pitch (that it's good for shoppers) is fresh baloney.

We say that dodgy costings like these show yet again why an independent costings unit to audit the spending promises that political parties put forward during elections is a no brainer. On that subject, I joined Heather du Plessis-Allan Drive recently to argue for just this type of office.

On Labour's costing hole, you can read the coverage over on the NZ Herald here, or our full explanation in the media release here.

Tackling co-governance in fiery post-1News Leaders' Debate panel 🗣️🔥

The Backbencher Panel

Tuesday brought with it the first head-to-head Hipkins v Luxon leaders' debate. Neither landed a knock-out blow or dropped a major clanger. The real fiery exchange came in our post-debate analysis show where Simon Wilson, Fran O'Sullivan, and I locked horns on co-governance.

Host of The Working Group podcast Martyn Bradbury moderated the, errr, spirited discussion with Fran O'Sullivan and Simon Wilson from the NZ Herald, Dr Bryce Edwards of Victoria University, Stuff columnist (and big Taxpayers' Union supporter) Damien Grant, and yours truly.

Unlike some mainstream media outlets (we are looking at you TVNZ!), at the Taxpayers' Union, we believe in giving a platform to people with a diverse range of views if we are going to have a worthwhile debate – even to people we strongly disagree with. The fiery discussion on co-governance is particularly worth a watch. 

On Tuesday, we host our next electorate debate in the Auckland Central. We'll also be releasing our exclusive Taxpayers' Union – Curia Auckland Central poll. Will Chlöe Swarbrick be on track to hold the seat?

If you're in Auckland, make sure you get your hands on one of the last of tickets still available.

Hipkins wants to hike fuel taxes 🤯⛽️

Great to see the Stop Higher Fuel Taxes campaign is getting cut through. Thank you for those who have bought "Wants to hike fuel taxes" signs – please keep those photos coming! We still have a few dozen in the office, so to get yours head over to our store (you only need to pay the postage).

Solomone_wants_to_hike_fuel_taxes.png

Cry Me a River: Stranded Creative NZ staff "betrayed" by lack of airline lounge access 😢✈️

Creative NZ Logo

In one of those stories that makes you double check the date is not 1st April, we noticed a Stuff story this week that Creative NZ had commissioned an independent reviewer to investigate apparent mistreatment of staff who were stranded at Auckland Airport during the flooding back in January.

Here's my email to Creative NZ's media team which speaks for itself (click here for larger version):

Email to Creative NZ

Initially they would not reply, but after following up yesterday we got the answer: it was a staff hui.

Grant's mismanagement sees ACT pull back tax relief promise 🟡💸

While no one wants to see tax relief more than the Taxpayers' Union, it is important to recognise that spending needs to come down dramatically first. The only true tax cut is a spending cut – the rest is just timing. Any tax relief or spending promises that don't come with matching spending reductions, simply means more borrowing today (and more taxes tomorrow). 

David SeymourOn Thursday, the ACT Party released its amended Alternative Budget factoring in the updated Government's books. The party has watered down its previous tax reform package. Kiwis will still be at least a few hundred bucks a year better off under this new plan, but it keeps (at least in the short term) the 33% tax rate.

Grant Robertson's economic mismanagement got us into this mess with public spending increasing by 68 percent in just six years, resulting in the second largest budget deficits in the developed world (see above). ACT says that damage can't be fixed overnight and wants to prioritise getting the books back in order.

The 'alternative budget' has some other measures that we quite like the look of, including:

  • Introducing a carbon dividend from Emissions Trading Scheme revenue
  • Abolishing the bright-line test in its entirety 
  • Reintroducing interest deductibility for residential landlords
  • Scrapping corporate welfare and Government picking winners 
  • Means testing or targeting more welfare spending
  • Abolishing ministries based on demographics  
  • Introducing sharing with councils for construction GST revenue 

Taxpayer Talk: Phil Barry On The Real Cost Of The Coming Crackdown On Smokers 🎙️🎧

Taxpayer Talk: Phil Barry

A radical set of new anti-smoking measures is set to bring New Zealand close to a de facto prohibition on smoking. But with the black market rearing its head, what is the real cost of this crackdown for taxpayers, businesses and the economy? Ironically, our health's finances rely on those few who still smoke. For a decade smoking taxes have paid more than four times over the health costs of lighting up.

A major new analysis of Ayesha Verrall's Smoked Tobacco Amendment outlines $1.3 billion in new costs, and argues the legislation is "largely, if not entirely, redundant".

This week on Taxpayer Talk, Taxpayers' Union outgoing spokesman for lifestyle economics Louis Houlbrooke is joined by Phil Barry, a director of TDB Advisory who worked with Infometrics to produce the new report.

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

You can also read the full TDB analysis of the Smoked Tobacco Amendment here.

One more thing... 😕

Next week we will be finalising our ad-spend and campaign budget through to voting next month. I'll admit we've been so busy campaigning, we are well below budget to book the advertising and events we had originally planned for the coming weeks. This work is fuelled by New Zealanders like you who back our work for Lower Taxes, Less Waste, and More Accountability. To join up as a member click here, or to make a secure and confidential donation, click here.
Donate

Thank you for your support.

Jordan

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

Media coverage:

Stuff
Newsable: Warriors fight on, political week wrap, animal dreams, Fun Fact Friday (08:20)

RNZ New TPU-Curia poll: National, ACT remain in position to form government

The Platform Free Speech Fridays #43 - Jonathan Ayling & Maurice Williamson

NZ Herald Election 2023: Labour polls at 27pc in Taxpayers’ Union-Curia poll for September

RNZ The Pre-Panel with Catherine Robertson and Steve McCabe (01:30)

Newstalk ZB Barry Soper: Newstalk ZB Senior Political Correspondent on another poll putting Labour below 30 percent

The Post Hipkins puts on a brave face in 'heartland' Ōhāriu

Newstalk ZB Afternoon Edition: 08 September 2023 – September Poll

NZ Herald Election 2023: Claire Trevett – NZ First rodeo, National-Luxon attack ads, Labour poll strain kicks in

The Post 
Extra spending doesn't always mean wasteful spending

Newshub Newshub Nation Battlegrounds: Labour MP scolds The Opportunities Party leader Raf Manji for splitting the vote in Ilam, Christchurch

interest.co.nz Most new polls show National would need support from both the Act and New Zealand First parties to form a majority government

RNZ 
Advocacy angst as campaign begins

Newstalk ZB Mike's Minute: This weekend opened a gap in the election race

NZ Herald On the Campaign: 'Trainwreck' interviews and packed policy announcements (11:10)

Northern Advocate Far North news in brief: Community grants; meet the candidates and Awanui crash

Newstalk ZB Live: Luxon gatecrashed while waving signs, Labour plummets in poll

RNZ Election 2023 updates for 12 September: Hipkins 'pretty pleased' with PREFU, National says it shows 'more pain to come'

NZ Herald Election 2023: Audrey Young - even an economic miracle can’t save Labour now

Newshub Election 2023: Taxpayers' Union says National 'bit ratty' about gatecrashed human hoarding event

Newstalk ZB Midday Edition: 12 September 2023 – Debt Clock

Newstalk ZB Election Fix: 12 September 2023 – Debt Clock (04:50)

NZ Herald On The Campaign: What does the PREFU mean for our politicians and the economy? (11:07)

RNZ Party leaders ride the highs and lows of new poll

1News Election 2023: Politicians react to economy revelations (05:31)

BusinessDesk Poll gives Jones little chance of winning Northland seat

RNZ Northland electorate poll predicts clear defeat for Labour's Willow-Jean Prime

The Daily Blog Taxpayers’ Union Northland Electorate debate hosted by The Working Group

RNZ Election 2023: Photos from the campaign trail, Tuesday 12 September

Newsroom Once safe blue seat of Ilam now more politically fluid

Politik To cut or not to cut

RNZ National not impressed by PREFU (05:49)

Northern Advocate Election 2023: Northland electorate looks like heading back to National — poll

RNZ Raucous Northland debate crowd rails at Covid, te reo Māori mentions

Newstalk ZB The Huddle: Can National afford their promised tax cuts?

NZ Herald Election 2023: Voters think National-Act-NZ First is a ‘coalition of chaos’ - poll

NZ Herald On The Campaign: The criticism grows for National's tax plan - will it matter to voters? (14:20)

The Crux Finance spokespeople face off in fun, sometimes fiery, Queenstown debate

NZ Herald Matthew Hooton: Tax cuts? It's spending cuts we need

Politik Willis under pressure in Queenstown

The Daily Blog Northland Debate: Winners and Losers

Newsroom When four politicians walk into a room

Newstalk ZB Morning Edition: 16 September 2023 – Willis Resignation Commitment (00:52)

Newsroom Electorates to Watch: the Battle for Northland

DemocracyProject Bryce Edwards: A Very hollow election

The Spinoff Angry Fence Man is in the house (or outside of it, anyway)

The Daily Blog The Working Group/Taxpayers’ Union Post Leaders Debate analysis live from Backbenchers Pub

The Spinoff Megapod 1: The first TVNZ leaders debate assessed (09:30)

RNZ Red wave may be breaking in battle for Ilam

Newstalk ZB The Huddle: Should Chris Luxon confirm a collaboration with Winston Peters- or wait til after the election?

The Listener Danyl McLauchlan: A week of prospects, protests and possibilities

NBR Still no sign of National's fiscal plan and detailed costings

Kiwiblog Official government advice was that only 30% of a GST exemption is passed on.

NZ Herald Election 2023: More fiscal holes as Labour faces questions about GST policy

NEW REPORT: Spoilt Policy: Why we must keep GST simple and free of food carve-outs

A new report published by the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union analysing the impacts of taking GST off fresh fruit and vegetables concludes that the policy would be expensive, complicated, poorly targeted and would see most of the benefits going to supermarkets rather than consumers. 

Using a collection of the leading research on GST and VAT systems from around the world, the report concludes:

> Evidence of significant litigation internationally over the categorisation of certain food products demonstrates the significant cost and bureaucratic complexity of determining whether different items should be zero-rated or not.  

> The inherent complexity of a GST system with a zero-rating regime adds significant compliance costs to small and medium sized businesses who currently enjoy the benefits of a system that is simple to calculate and administer. 

> Taking GST off fresh and frozen fruit and vegetables will not see a 100% pass through to consumers and is likely to be substantially less than this. Any pass-through of less than 100% therefore leads to wasted money which would be more effectively spent on other social policy tools such as an increase in Working for Families payments.

> The lack of competition in the New Zealand grocery sector means that consumers are even less likely than their international counterparts to see the GST reduction result in lower prices at the checkout. 

> Removing GST off food items is a poorly targeted way of reducing the cost of living for those most in need with most of the benefit going to those on higher incomes.

> Undermining the GST system for fresh and frozen fruit and vegetables is likely to lead to a slippery slope where lobbyists push for more exemptions to be made to other products such as other basic foods, sanitary products and children’s nappies which would further erode the efficiency and simplicity of the current system. 

In response to the report, Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Callum Purves, said:

“A flat-rate GST system with few exemptions is one of the few things economists have been able to almost universally agree on as being good policy. It is a shame that certain politicians and political parties are willing to go against the overwhelming consensus for a policy that supposedly focus groups well.   

“The Finance Minister’s own comments in relation to GST before the policy was announced shows that he knows creating GST exemptions is a bad idea, a sentiment which was also shared in earlier comments from former Revenue Minister David Parker and former Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. The Labour Party strategy seems to be one of simply hoping that New Zealanders are too silly to see this policy for what it is.

“If the Government wants to bring down grocery prices for struggling New Zealanders, they should focus on removing overseas investment barriers for supermarkets, particularly those relating to the purchase of land, and also cutting the red tape in our resource management system that make it so costly and complex for any major developments to occur.”

It Shouldn’t Take an Election to Get Government to Cut Waste

 

Responding to news that the Ministry for the Environment intends to cut back hundreds of jobs, Taxpayers’ Union Policy Adviser, James Ross, said:
 
“Since 2017, Government spending has increased by nearly 70%. Expenditure at the Ministry for the Environment alone was forecast to be 361% larger in 2023 than in 2017. Cash-strapped New Zealanders should be rejoicing at even the tiniest whiff of financial responsibility from this Government, but it shouldn’t take the threat of losing an election for Labour to pull their finger out and start cutting back waste.
 
“Robertson has committed to finding $4 Billion in savings in four years. That might sound like a lot, but it’s less than 1% of Government expenditure and not even 5% of the increase in spending since Labour took office. It is a start, but when it comes to reining in waste the Government has barely made it off the starting block.”

NEW POLL: Kiwis prefer Luxon/Willis over Hipkins/Robertson to tackle cost of living crisis

 

A new Taxpayers' Union – Curia poll found that New Zealanders preferred Christopher Luxon and Nicola Willis (46% of respondents) to Chris Hipkins and Grant Robertson (37%) as the most trusted team to deal with the cost of living crisis. 17% of respondents were unsure.

This month’s regular Taxpayers’ Union – Curia poll showed that the cost of living was the most important issue to voters ahead of the election on 36% followed by the economy more generally on 14%.
 
Taxpayers’ Union Head of Campaigns, Callum Purves, said:
 
“People across New Zealand are doing it tough as a result of the cost of living crisis and this poll suggests that they want to see a new team take responsibility for tackling it.

“Rampant inflation – fuelled, in part, by the Government’s wasteful spending – has meant Kiwis’ dollars can buy less and less at the supermarket while the Government continues to take a higher share of their wages in tax as a result of bracket creep.

“Canny New Zealanders clearly aren’t swayed by Labour’s lollies such as GST off fresh fruit and vegetables and free dental care, but National needs to go further on its current pledges to cut back wasteful spending and commit to ongoing annual tax bracket indexation or the cost of living crisis won’t be over for a long time to come.”

Taxpayers' Union Welcomes ACT's Revised Alternative Budget, Calls for Commitment to Further Lower and Flatten Taxes When Finances Allow

 

Commenting on the updates to ACT’s alternative budget, Taxpayers’ Union Policy Adviser, James Ross, said:
 
“The only true tax cut is a spending cut, and we welcome ACT’s commitment to tackling the damage caused by 6 years of Labour’s dangerous overspending. Public Spending has increased by nearly 70% in just 6 short years, leaving New Zealand with one of the worst budget deficits in the developed world. That damage won’t be fixed overnight.
 
“Whilst no-one wants to see tax cuts more than the Taxpayers’ Union, it is important to recognise that spending needs to come down dramatically first. It was Labour’s economic mismanagement that got us into this mess, and we commend anyone that puts responsible management of our nation’s finances ahead of poorly costed headline-grabbing policies.
 
“ACT’s switch to a three-tier income tax system is still a step in the right direction. However, cash-strapped Kiwis need to see a commitment that ACT will flatten the tax system when public finances allow. And if nothing else, the inflation-driven tax hikes by the back door faced by working people up and down the country must be brought to an end by indexing tax brackets to inflation.
 
“The move towards incentivising housing development through GST-sharing with councils is a much-needed step to drive growth, and ACT should be commended for taking real action to tackle the housing crisis. Kiwis will also be at minimum a few hundred bucks a year better off under this alternative plan. That is nothing to be sniffed at, but cash-strapped Kiwis need to see more.”

GST claims cabbage: If Labour’s claims are right, there’s a $411m hole in the costings

The Taxpayers’ Union can reveal that it appears the Labour Party has failed to account for behavioural change in its flagship election GST policy. Despite the policy document stating that it “will have the additional benefit of encouraging Kiwis to purchase more healthy fruit and vegetables in their weekly shop”, the Party does not seem to have factored this into its costings.
 
By using data from the 2019 Household Economic Survey and excluding canned dried fruit and vegetables, we can estimate that the share of current GST revenue that is levied on fruit and vegetables is 1.55%. Applying this to the BEFU GST revenue figures, allows us to almost perfectly match the figures in Labour’s costings:

 $m  2023/24  2024/25  2025/26  2026/27  2027/28
 Labour Cost  115.0  485.0  515.0  540.0  565.0
 Estimated Cost  114.7  485.3  514.0  539.1  562.8

 
Note that in the HES, fruit and vegetables are combined into canned, bottled and frozen. The above calculations assume that half of this category is frozen.
 
When a good becomes cheaper relative to another similar good, there is a substitution effect where consumers shift towards consuming the cheaper alternative. By removing GST from non-processed fruit and vegetables, it is likely that there will be some shift towards these products from processed alternatives. The shift away from processed fruit and vegetables will mean less GST is raised on these products and this should be taken into account in any costings.
 
Applying figures from a modelling study on effect of food taxes and subsidies on population health and health costs in New Zealand from 2019 by Blakley et al. would suggest a percentage change of around 17% and a resultant gap in the costings of $411 million if the GST reduction is passed on in full as suggested by some Labour candidates’ election advertisements. Even if only 30 per cent of the GST reduction is passed on as the Tax Working Group’s report on the issue suggests, there would still be a $123 million gap in Labour’s costings.
 
Taxpayers’ Union Executive Director, Jordan Williams, said:
 
“Labour’s policy of removing GST from non-processed fruit and vegetables has already been lambasted by economists and people across the political spectrum, but it seems that their proposals were even less well thought through than it first seemed. Despite boasting that the policy will encourage Kiwis to shift their eating habits towards more non-processed fruit and vegetables, even Labour’s own modelling leaves it out for the purpose of the costings.
 
“Labour is effectively saying its plan to destroy the best GST system in the world will not result in Kiwis eating one more carrot.”
 
“Either Labour’s got a big hole in its costings, or they know their key sales pitch is fresh baloney.”
 
“If some of their candidates’ rather unrealistic claim that supermarkets will pass on GST reduction in full, our estimates suggest that Labour would have a hole in their budget of over $400 million. Even using the Tax Working Group’s more conservative pass through estimates, we still see a gap of over $120 million that remains unaccounted for. Voters are already seeing through this cynical policy and this latest blunder would suggest that even its main champions haven’t even properly thought it through.
 
“Misleading costings like these show why an independent costings unit to audit the spending promises that political parties put forward is a no brainer.”

Taxpayers’ Union Welcomes National’s Plan to Revive the International Education Sector

 

Responding to National’s four step plan to boost international enrolments across Tertiary Education Institutions, Taxpayers' Union Deputy Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy said:

“At a time when universities all over the country are reporting crushing deficits and announcing hundreds of redundancies, it is paramount that New Zealand remains an attractive prospect for foreign pupils to boost revenue and stimulate our education sector.

“Despite the pandemic period strongly contributing to a sharp drop in international enrolments, the pick-up since then hasn’t nearly been strong enough. National’s plan will at least make it easier and more affordable for oversees students to study in New Zealand.

“While fast-tracking visas and extending working time allowances is a good start, more needs to to be done across the rest of the economy to strip back regulation, entice investment, and optimise productivity.”

New Zealand Needs to Boost Productivity

 

Responding to the latest update to New Zealand’s GDP figures, Taxpayers’ Union Policy Adviser, James Ross, said:
 
“As New Zealand struggles under the cost-of-living crisis, the Government must focus on increasing productivity in order to grow the economy. The markets are still gloomy about our prospects over the next 18 months, and so cutting red-tape, reining in government spending and responsibly pruning the tax burden back are needed to attract investment and kick our country into gear.”
 
"Unsurprisingly, between the fall in prices at the farm gate and crippling red tape, primary industries have taken a big hit. High interest rates fuelled by this Government’s addiction to spending are putting even more pressure on farmers who have to worry about servicing debt rather than improving productivity.
 
“Warning after warning from the likes of the IMF keep falling on deaf ears in the Beehive as this Government chokes the country with its reckless overspending. With people getting poorer by the day, is it really any wonder that the hundreds of thousands of the skilled Kiwis we need to grow the economy have been forced to move overseas?”

New Zealand’s Nanny State Has Too Many Fingers in Too Many Pies

Responding to news that the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Primary Industries are proposing limits on sugar, salt and portion size for food and drinks, Taxpayers’ Union Policy Adviser, James Ross, said:
 
“The Government is not your parent, and it has no right to tell you what you can and cannot eat. This latest example in a long string of government overreach is nothing more than puritanism disguised as health policy.
 
“First, hardworking Kiwis have been taxed out of being able to afford a few well-earned pints on a Friday night, and now under these plans you won’t even be able to grab yourself a proper glass of lemonade.
 
“It’s high time we put New Zealand’s nanny state back on the naughty step and trusted responsible adults to control their own private lives again.”

Wayne Brown Right to Call for Devolution of Powers

Responding to Mayor Brown’s Auckland Manifesto, Taxpayers’ Union Policy Adviser, James Ross, said:

“Wayne Brown is on the right track calling for devolution of powers from central government to local communities, but we need to go further. New Zealand is one of the most centralised nations in the OECD, and the result is that local interests are run over roughshod by Wellington bureaucrats.

“Handing revenue-raising powers to local bodies has the potential to facilitate tax competition between local areas, ensuring that ratepayers get the most bang for their buck. However, given that Auckland Council covers a third of all Kiwis, for this to happen there is a clear need to go further and devolve powers to smaller local councils.

“Control over local assets such as roads would eliminate perverse situations such as Auckland Council being forced to pay $171 million over three years just to get access to the National Land Transport Fund, let alone the vast sums wasted in litigation battles just to lay some tarmac.

“Furthermore, GST sharing with local bodies would give councils an incentive to manage their areas profitably. With estimates of $60-70 Billion required to maintain existing infrastructure in Auckland alone, this would go a long way towards lighting a fire under stagnant Councils.”

Space Agency's Flights Soar: Taxpayers Left Star-struck by the Bill

The Taxpayers' Union has once again highlighted the Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment (MBIE) for its overseas excursions. The New Zealand Space Agency embarked on another trip to the USA, racking up a bill of $36,075.62. An Official Information Request has unveiled that the NZ Space Agency covered the flight costs for three of its staff members to participate in an annual space symposium in Colorado.
 
Oliver Bryan, Investigations Coordinator for the Taxpayers' Union, remarked, “The New Zealand Space Agency's constant overseas jaunts on taxpayer dollars are beyond tedious. Spending $11,427.39 on just one flight, representing over 30% of the total trip cost, underscores the lavish tendencies of one of New Zealand's most pointless agencies.”
 
“Given today's technology that facilitates seamless and accessible online meetings from anywhere globally, frequent international travel should be reconsidered across all government departments, especially as we confront the imperative to rein in our escalating national debt.”

IRD and Treasury advice suggests supermarkets main beneficiaries from Labour’s GST policy

The Taxpayers’ Union can reveal that as part of the Tax Working Group appointed by Grant Robertson, and chaired by the late Michael Cullen, Treasury and IRD conducted analysis on what percentage of exempting GST from certain goods would actually be passed on to consumers.

The expert advice paper, concluded that while cuts to GST/VAT rates are passed on, exemption or multi-rate policies see just 30% of the tax relief passed on to shoppers.

The paper looked at the best available evidence and concluded: 

This research estimated that changes in the general VAT rate were on average fully passed through to consumers. However, changes in rates for specific goods and services were on average not fully passed through and had an estimated average pass through rate of approximately 30 percent.

Taxpayers’ Union Executive Director Jordan Williams said:

“A pass through rate of 30% to consumers means that 70% of Labour’s GST carve-out would be captured by the supermarkets. Labour costed the policy at $2.2 billion over the four-year forecast period, so supermarkets in effect get a tax cut of $1.54 billion while consumers enjoy just a fraction.

“This isn’t just a hole, it’s a weevil in Labour’s fruit and vege policy. Supermarkets already enjoy super profits thanks to regulatory taxes like the RMA that prop up their duopoly and put off newcomer competition. They are the last group that Labour should be supporting.

“Here at the Taxpayers’ Union we want tax cuts more than any other group. But we shouldn’t sacrifice what is the best GST or VAT system world over in terms of compliance costs and complexity. We favour income tax relief and other measures that cut out the middle man, and let kiwi workers keep more money in their pockets.

“This will be one of the many reasons Grant Robertson does not like this policy. Deep down Chris Hipkins will also know the policy is shoddy. He should put good policy over good focus group feedback and abandon the folly in favour of policies that will really help those struggling to afford the groceries.”

Tax cuts are the moral thing to do

 

The Taxpayers’ Union totally rejects Prime Minister Chris Hipkin’s claims that tax relief is unaffordable due to the so-called “cuts” he claims would impact delivery of public services.

Responding to the Labour Party leaders comments Jordan Williams said:

“Chris Hipkins is in la-la land. His flat refusal to acknowledge that Wellington is bloated is beyond belief. From the super-ministries, such as MBIE which has doubled in size, down to the window dressing agencies such as the Ministry of Pacific Peoples, which has tripled in size, New Zealanders are paying more but getting less from Wellington. Even bureaucrats are telling us that their colleagues have non-jobs.

“The only true tax cut is a spending cut. Grant Robertson and Chris Hipkins have driven up the cost of the government, driven up the back office headcount, and are primarily responsible for our cost of living crisis. Cuts to the waste, size and cost of Government isn’t just desirable, it is necessary and will help get New Zealand get back on track.”

Breakfast Blowout: Ministry For Pacific Peoples Does It Again

The Ministry for Pacific Peoples is once again facing criticism for its seemingly lavish spending habits. Recent figures posted by National's public service spokesperson, Simeon Brown, reveal that over $50,000 of taxpayer money was spent on post-Budget breakfast events this year.

Oliver Bryan, Investigations Coordinator for the Taxpayers' Union, reacted by saying, "Once again, we're seeing evidence of the Ministry for Pacific Peoples operating in a bubble, detached from the realities many New Zealanders face daily. Such expenses are hard to swallow, especially when this Ministry is meant to advocate for some of our most economically vulnerable citizens. The fact that they operate in a manner suggesting indifference to fiscal responsibility is deeply concerning."

“The significant growth in the number of staff at the Ministry, from 34 in 2017 to a current 145, combined with the parties and now this latest revelation, raises further questions. Not just about its operational and fiscal strategies, but about the broader culture of waste that appears to have taken root at the heart of our government. It's imperative for government entities to be judicious in their spending, ensuring they deliver value for money, especially at a time when our debt is soaring.”

Don Brash on why taking GST off fruit and vegetables is a bad idea

Don Brash GST

This week on Taxpayer Talk, Taxpayers' Union Executive Director, Jordan Williams, sits down with Dr Don Brash to discuss Labour’s proposal to remove GST from fruit and vegetables.

Dr Brash chaired the advisory committee that designed New Zealand’s GST system back in 1985 and has a strong understanding of what makes a simple, efficient tax system. Don has also been Governor of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand, the leader of both the National and ACT parties, and is currently the spokesperson for Hobson’s Pledge.

New Zealand’s GST system is widely accepted by economists as the best in the world, however many politicians over the years have campaigned to break it by creating exemptions. Creating exemptions polls well in focus groups but, as Don explains, the reality is that these exemptions create extra cost and complexity for very little gain. 

Later in the podcast, the pair discuss solutions for New Zealand’s productivity crisis and what we should be doing to catch up with Australia. 

To support Taxpayer Talk, click here

National Primary Industry Consenting Reform a Sticking Plaster Solution to New Zealand’s Red Tape Crisis

Responding to National’s Primary Sector Growth Plan, Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Callum Purves, said:

“National’s plan to get the Beehive out of farming should be welcomed. The agricultural sector is the backbone of New Zealand’s export economy, and any way that the ease of doing business can be increased will only make us more competitive on the world stage.

“Removing the consenting process from low-risk activities such as orcharding and water storage is a common-sense way of immediately reducing the bureaucracy faced by hardworking farmers. However, the fact that National recognize how burdensome this red tape is highlights that the RMA is clearly no longer fit for purpose.

“Removing consenting requirements from these sectors is a great start, but it is just a sticking plaster solution and doesn’t go nearly far enough. The RMA must be significantly reformed to unleash New Zealand’s growth potential.”

NEW POLL: National Lead in Northland Electorate

A new Taxpayers' Union – Curia poll in the Northland Electorate has National’s Grant McCallum reclaiming the seat with 43% of the electorate vote. Labour's incumbent Northland MP Willow-Jean Prime is currently on 18%, while New Zealand First's Shane Jones makes up 13%.

Among the other parties’ candidates, Matt King of Democracy NZ and Reina Penney for the Green party sit at 4%, ACT's Mark Cameron is sitting at 2% of the electorate vote as is Te Pāti Māori despite the party not standing a Northland candidate. 12% of voters are still undecided or refused to answer. 

As a proportion of the decided votes the breakdown is as follows:

  • National’s Grant McCallum: 49% 
  • Labour’s Willow-Jean Prime: 20%
  • New Zealand First’s Shane Jones: 15%
  • Green’s Reina Penney: 5%
  • Democracy NZ’s Matt King: 5%
  • ACT’s Mark Cameron: 3%
  • Te Pāti Māori (no candidate): 2%
  • Others: 2%

The poll of 400 respondents was conducted on Sunday, 10 September, 2023. The full results, including the most important local issues for voters, are available here

Taxpayers' Union Campaigns Manager, Callum Purves, says: 

"This poll again shows another sharp swing away from Labour, after they unexpectedly won this seat at the last election from the then National Party MP, Matt King. This doesn't necessarily spell bad news for electorate MP Willow-Jean Prime who will likely make it back into Parliament with a high list position but a swing this significant will definitely be a wakeup call for incumbent Labour MPs around the country. 

“Compared to previous electorate polling, each of the three top-name recognized candidates has just points between them in one of the most geographically spread electorates in New Zealand, with all three top-polling candidates having over 40% visibility within the electorate. 

“With just under three weeks until early voting opens, this seat looks to be safely making its return to National. Even if all of the 11% undecided vote goes to Labour’s Willow-Jean Prime, that won’t be enough to keep Northland red after Election Day.”

Government Debt soars past $160 billion – the time to slash spending has come

The Taxpayers’ Union is calling on all parties to commit to drastically slashing Government spending following today’s Pre-election Economic and Fiscal Update (PREFU) showing Government debt soaring past $160 billion*. By 2027, Net Core Crown Debt is expected to be more than $12 billion higher than forecast at the Budget Economic and Fiscal Update just four months ago.  

Reacting to the PREFU announcement, Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Callum Purves, said:

“It is clear that Grant Robertson has failed to sufficiently rein in wasteful spending to get the Government’s books back under control. Today’s figures show that the $4 billion in savings found by the Finance Minister are not enough to turn things around and debt continues to grow – we need more radical cuts.

“The books are now so bad that, on a per capita basis, the share of Government debt for a typical family of four is more than $123,000. The sustained levels of increased Government spending – 68% higher than in 2017 – punishes taxpayers twice. First, in the form of inflation which pushes up the cost of essentials, erodes savings and pushes kiwis into higher tax brackets, and secondly, in the form of higher taxes where all of the borrowed money eventually has to be paid back – with interest.

“Now is not the time for tinkering at the margins, New Zealanders need a clear pathway for the Government’s books to return to surplus and a focus on cutting wasteful spending and lowering tax to help drive the economic growth needed to raise the incomes and standard of living for all New Zealanders."

Taxpayers’ Union welcomes policy to bring back health targets

Reacting to the National Party’s announcement that they intend to bring back health targets, Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Callum Purves said:

“National’s policy announcement is a sensible one that should really be expected from political parties of all stripes.

“Setting targets is vital to ensuring that taxpayers are actually seeing the benefits of increased investment in health. For too long, more and more money has been pumped into the bureaucracy with no accountability for how that money is spent and no tracking to see if outcomes are improving.

“Since 2020, health spending has increased by 48% yet the performance of the health system continues to worsen. Taxpayers’ Union – Curia Polling shows that 70% of New Zealanders think the health system is worse than in 2020, the current approach to throwing money at every problem clearly isn’t working."

Taxpayer Update: NEW POLL 📊💥 | National's tax plan 👎 | Labour’s taxpayer-funded dental 🆓🦷 | Taxpayers’ Union debates 📺🗣️

NEW POLL: National/ACT could form government comfortably 📊💥

This month's Taxpayers’ Union – Curia Poll sees National and ACT being able to form a Government by a more comfortable margin than last month. Labour continues to languish at a record low while New Zealand First fail to reach the threshold to enter Parliament in this poll. 

Here are the headline results:

Decided Vote

Both National and Labour are unchanged on last month at 35% and 27%, respectively. ACT is up 1 point to 14% and the Greens are also up to 1 point to 13%.

The smaller parties are NZ First on 3.9% (-1.9 points), the Māori Party on 2.9% (+0.4 points), TOP on 2.7% (+1.7 points), New Conservatives on 0.8% (+0.2 points), Vision NZ on 0.5% (-0.6 points), and the Outdoors & Freedom on 0.2%. (-0.3 points).

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

Seats

National and Labour are both up 1 seat on last month to 45 and 35 seats respectively. ACT is up 2 seats to 19 while the Greens pick up 2 seats for a total of 17. The Māori Party is up 1 seat on last month to 4. NZ First would win no seats in Parliament (-7 seats).

The combined projected seats for the Centre-Right of 64 seats is up 3 from last month and would allow National/ACT to form a government. The combined seats for the Centre-Left bloc of 56 is up 4.

Had NZ First hit the five percent threshold, the Centre-Right would still be able to form a government, but only just (61 seats).

Favourability

Chris Hipkins has a net favourability of +16% (+7 points) while Christopher Luxon has a score -4% (+3 points) and David Seymour is on -13% (-5 points). James Shaw scores of -16%, Rawiri Waititi gets -23% and Winston Peters is on -38%.

Visit our website for more information, including 'party best at' data, and details of how to get access to the full polling report with the demographic breakdowns.

National goes with an underwhelming tax plan 🔵💸

Last election National ran on a policy to recalibrate the income tax system to account for inflation since John Key was Prime Minister. No such luck this time – despite Mr Luxon's repeated comments that the Government has wasted money, the tax relief being offered, only account for inflation (fiscal drag) back to 2021!

First the good. They committed to:

  • Scrapping App Tax. Labour slapped GST on all digital purchases even if the supplier is under the $60,000 threshold, pushing up the prices of Uber and Airbnb

  • Pausing Chris Hipkins' proposed fuel taxes hikes over the next three years

  • Dumping the Auckland Regional Fuel Tax – it hasn't even been used for the road infrastructure which had been promised!

  • Giving some of the money raised through the Emissions Trading Scheme carbon credit auctions back to New Zealanders in the form of a carbon dividend by reducing corporate welfare – but it still wants to keep the political slush fund (just make it smaller)

  • Dropping Labour’s GST carve out for fruit and vegetable that would increase the profits of supermarkets

  • Restoring interest deductibility on mortgage payments for landlords

  • Reducing the bright-line test back to two years – this is just a capital gains tax with another name. Rather than tinker with tax, the National Party should have scrapped it entirely and committed to actually fixing the regulatory taxes that continue to cause the lack of supply and unaffordable housing.

The party says its tax proposals will deliver up to $250 more per fortnight for an average-income family with children. It seeks to do this in two ways:

  • First, by expanding tax credits, introducing a new childcare tax credit, and increasing Working for Families tax credits. This is a more targeted measure of getting financial support to those on lower incomes compared with other policies such as removing GST of fruit and vegetables; and

  • Secondly, by adjusting tax brackets for the last two years of inflation.

National Indexation

A Labour-lite tax policy?

While the headlines would mislead you, National has watered down its previous pledges to adjust tax brackets to account for inflation since Labour took office in 2017. Never mind since when the brackets were last set back in 2010!

Only adjusting tax brackets for the last two years means that those middle earners not benefiting from their expanded tax credits will still be paying much higher tax on average than they would have been had brackets kept pace with inflation.

The party also committed to review tax brackets every three years, but even that is a backdown from their earlier commitment to indexation.

We say tax brackets should be adjusted for inflation automatically every year, not just when the Finance Minister feels like it.

A policy that basically states 'we'll look at tax relief just prior to each election' is really no different to the status quo.

... and National even want to introduce new taxes!

Despite Christopher Luxon having highlighted the shocking 68 per cent increase in Government spending since 2017 and calling out the Government for its excessive spending on consultants and contractors and other wasteful spending, the savings they have found are tiny.

The party has even had to pledge to introduce new revenue-raising mechanisms to fund its plans, including:

  • A new tax on foreigners wanting to buy a home in New Zealand. While Christopher Luxon says New Zealand needs foreign direct investment and become more like Ireland, he wants to welcome them with a new tax!

  • Removing commercial building depreciation. This is literally a Labour policy (to fund their own proposed GST fruit and vege carveout) which will make it less attractive to improve and develop buildings

  • Hiking the charges to the new immigrants that the National Party says they want to attract (in fairness, it is user-pays).

For those wanting to see something more than a "Labour-lite" economic vision to New Zealand "back on track", this is far from encouraging...

You can read National's tax plan here.

An aspirational target for long-term prosperity 📈💰

ACT announced its productivity policy this week with a bold target for New Zealand to be in the top 10 fastest growing economies in the OECD. 

Under all of the Helen Clark, John Key/Bill English, and Jacinda Ardern/Chris Hipkins governments, New Zealand has continued to become less prosperous and productive than Australia.

Productivity is arguably the most important factor for our long-term prosperity. It is the ultimate driver of higher wages. 

ACT's policy would explicitly require the Government to view policy decisions through a productivity lens. They say that it is only with higher incomes and more wealth can New Zealand afford to pay for high-quality public services. ACT reinforced its commitment to meaningful cuts to taxes and (unlike Mr Luxon) wasteful spending.

Learning lessons from the Celtic Tiger

NZ Initiative report on Ireland lessonsOur friends at the New Zealand Initiative think tank recently led a business delegation to Ireland where they learnt about that country's spectacular success in improving productivity, growing the economy (thanks, in particular to the country’s openness to foreign direct investment) and rocketing up the OECD economic and living standards league tables.

Ireland’s policies saw their per person income grow from 22% lower than New Zealand in 1979 to 78% higher today. The Initiative's report looks at how we could replicate the success in New Zealand. You can read the report here.

Coming for your digital wallet: Labour looks to introduce one more tax! 💻🤑

Amidst the whirlwind of the election campaign, you may have missed the Government’s announcement that they are introducing yet another new tax – a Digital Service Tax (DST). 

And it isn't just us warning against a DST, even the Government’s own advisors at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade warned the Government that New Zealand exporters could face $90 million in tariffs if we proceed on our own. When countries such as the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, Austria, Turkey and India considered or indeed did implement a DST, the USA responded with tariffs or threats of tariffs unless the tax was withdrawn. 

Another concerning aspect of this tax is that it applies to sales (i.e. revenue) rather than profit. Large tech companies such as Uber run at a loss for many years while they are in the initial stages of growing a company. Taxing them on revenue rather than profit could see tech companies such as Uber and Netflix pass these higher costs onto consumers (or even withdraw from New Zealand completely). 

Whatever happened to that "no new taxes" promise?

Drilling into Labour’s free taxpayer-funded dental policy 🆓🦷

From the desperate political bribes file, Labour have dusted off the old taxpayer-funded dental service.

While the policy sounds appealing on the surface, free dental is nothing to smile about. Just last month, Chris Hipkins said that “the system wouldn’t have the capacity to deal with it, and there would likely be significant investment required just in order to build capacity to meet the need for additional dental care” yet now he is willing to drive the Government’s books further into the red for the sake of buying a few votes!

If you think Chippy can deliver what the old-Chippy said would be too hard, we have 100,000 Kiwibuild houses to sell you.

You're humble Taxpayers' Union has a long memory – Labour appear to have forgotten that back in 2020, the Party promised to deliver an additional 20 mobile dental clinics, but only five have been ordered so far – and the first one hasn’t even arrived yet! So let’s not confuse the promise of more spending with the ability to deliver. 

Universal dental is also a costly and unworkable policy that fails to target support at those who need it most. New Zealand only trains 60 dentists a year, and Labour's strict immigration rules make it difficult for more to come in.

It's an F for MFAT: Kiwis Fund Diplomats' Private School Fees 🎒✈️

Private Schools

Last week, Ollie, our Investigations Co-ordinator, brought to light that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) has shelled out a staggering $5 million on private schooling for diplomats' children. What's particularly eye-opening are the amounts spent in countries such as the USA ($817,410.14), Australia ($74,776.98), and the UK ($158,006.02) – nations whose education systems are on par with, if not superior to, New Zealand!

Given the diplomats handsome compensation packages, one can't help but wonder: shouldn't well-compensated diplomats in some of the globe's most developed regions be covering their children’s education expenses?

We say the expenditure comes as a slap in the face to the Kiwi households grappling with financial challenges. You can listen to Ollie on Radio NZ's Morning Report here, or on Newstalk ZB's Mike Hosking show here.

Don't like predictable and boring political debates? We've got you covered! 📺🗣️

Party Debate

The Taxpayers' Union debate series hosted by The Working Group is in full swing. We held our party debate in Auckland on Tuesday evening that saw Willie Jackson, Paul Goldsmith, David Seymour, Ricardo Menéndez March, John Tamihere, and Jenny Marcroft battle it out over the economy, crime, the Treaty and the environment. 

Kudos to those politicians – in particular Willie Jackson, whom we often spar with – for fronting up and getting stuck into what was the fieriest debate of the election so far. It was great fun although some were perhaps enjoying themselves a bit too much... Willie Jackson got a little too carried away by initially claiming that National and ACT would abolish the minimum wage and the Prime Minister was forced to clarify his comments.

If you weren't able to watch it live, you can catch up on the action here.

On Tuesday, we head to Kerikeri for our Northland electorate debate. The details to buy tickets are here.

From gamekeeper to poacher? Casey Costello on why she has left the Taxpayers’ Union board to stand for Parliament🎙️🎧

Taxpayer Talk: Casey Costello

Casey Costello has been on our board since 2019 (including 8 months as our Acting Chair) but recently stepped down to become a candidate for New Zealand First (the Taxpayers’ Union is, of course, non-partisan and not affiliated to any party).

Jordan asked Casey to join the podcast to discuss her work fighting for her political passions: accountability in government, and equality of civil rights. They also cover what drives Casey, and why she chose NZ First over ACT or National.  You can listen to Casey’s exit interview here. 

Casey has been a long-time financial supporter of the Union, volunteered many hundreds of hours as a board member, and we thank her for her commitment to the cause.

Thank you for your support.

Yours aye,

Callum

Callum Signature
Callum Purves
Campaigns Manager

New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union

Media coverage:

Offsetting Behaviour 
Transport GPS

Bay of Plenty Times Council debt worries union Tolley refutes figures in report showing only Auckland has a higher net debt 

Hawke's Bay Today Election 2023: Mark Hutchinson decides he will attend Taxpayers’ Union-organised debate

Stuff  Here's how your home could be taxed even if you're not an investor

Hawke's Bay Today Election 2023 Napier: Poll suggests National’s Katie Nimon has early lead

The Daily Blog Taxpayers’ Union Napier Election debate hosted by The Working Group NOW WITH LABOUR CANDIDATE Mark Hutchinson

Hawke's Bay App National's Katie Nimon leading in race for Napier Seat, according to new poll

Newstalk ZB The Huddle: How low can Labour go before October?

The Post Public Service Watch: Rates dissatisfaction a growing storm

Stuff National leads polling in bellwether Napier, but 23 per cent of voters undecided

Interest.co.nz Cyclone & flood damaged homes exempt from bright-line test in voluntary buyout

Newstalk ZB The Huddle: Does David Seymour need to apologise? (00:38)

RNZ  MFAT spends $5 million on sending diplomat's children to private schools

NewstalkZB Oliver Bryan: Taxpayers' Union reveals $5m of taxpayer dollars spent on private schooling for diplomats' children overseas

The Platform Taxpayers Union's Connor Molloy on extravagant public service -"Culture of waste"

NBAir NZ revises capital plan, pays first dividend since 2019

Waikato Times Thames joins Innovating Streets project flops

The Press Cantabrians to be asked for stadium funding, may face levy on tickets

Chris Lynch Bill lowering voting age to 16 triggers alarm for Taxpayers' Union

Newstalk ZB Midday Edition: 29 August 2023

The Daily Blog Taxpayers’ Union Ilam Election debate hosted by The Working Group

BusinessDesk Ilam poll shows Raf Manji and TOP victory 'possible' but tough

NZ Herald Election 2023: National way ahead in Ilam, denting TOP’s chances of entering Parliament

Interest.co.nz A Taxpayers’ Union – Curia poll shows The Opportunities Party leader Raf Manji trailing behind National in the Ilam electorate

Newshub The Opportunities Party polling third in Christchurch's Ilam, cutting off path to Parliament

RNZ Christchurch's Ilam electorate swings back to National, according to latest poll

Newstalk ZB The Huddle: What can we expect from National's tax policy?

The Press Ilam's candidates struggle to cut through with voters

Interest.co.nz Reaction pours in to the National Party tax plan, much of it critical but some of it in support

Newshub National's tax policy unveiled: The key points as other parties go on attack

RNZ The Panel with Julie Woods and Nick Leggett (Part 2) – Voting Age

The Press When mention of a crisis is booed, we have a problem

RNZ CTU taks out full page attack ad on National in NZ Herald

Otago Daily Times Nats call out Labour over 'most negative' campaign

Otago Daily Times Hipkins says National 'thin-skinned' over attack advert

Newshub Election 2023: Chris Hipkins calls National 'thin-skinned' for getting offended by union ads, shows examples of attacks on him

The Spinoff Is the CTU running psyops for the NationalParty?

Interest.co.nz National accuses rival Labour of mean spirited attacks over union billboard showing a scowling picture of Christopher Luxon

RNZ The Panel with Moata Tamaira and Mark Knoff-Thomas (Part 1) – Adverts

RNZ National cries foul over new union attack ad against Chris Luxon

Newstalk ZB 'They wouldn't be alone': Finance Minister defends CTU attack ad targeting opposition

RNZ National decries CTU attack ads targeting Christopher Luxon

Newstalk ZB The Front Bench: Attack ads already being published- could this be the most negative campaign yet?

NZ Herald Chris Hipkins plays down unions advert attacking Christopher Luxon, labels National ‘thin-skinned’

The Daily Blog Taxpayers’ Union Party Election debate hosted by The Working Group

NZ Herald Election 2023: Co-governance, Treaty, Māori health, crime and cost of living topics for tonight’s debate

Waatea News CTU attack ads get under National skin

NZ Herald Election 2023: Audrey Young - Christopher Luxon attack advertisement a timely distraction for National

NZ Herald Election 2023: Council of Trade Unions locks building and calls police after anti-Luxon ad generates ‘concerning’ flak

NZ Herald Taxpayers' Union debate

Newstalk ZB Jordan Williams: Taxpayers' Union executive director supports the creation of an Independent Costings Watchdog

Newshub Election 2023: Willie Jackson, David Seymour trade barbs over justice policies

Gisborne Herald Election campaign piquing interest

NBR Aviation sector calls out for collaboration on decarbonisation

Newshub Election 2023: Willie Jackson clarifies claim ACT, Nats would lower minimum wage made during boisterous election debate

Newsroom Loudest voices compete with the Chardonnay

Pacific News Network News 06 September 2023 – Taxpayers' Union Debate 1

Waatea News Vaughan Winiata / Social Provocatuer – Taxpayers' Union Debate

Waatea News Willie Jackson | Minister of Maori Development – Taxpayers' Union Debate

Newshub Election 2023: Labour's Chris Hipkins says Willie Jackson made incorrect claim about National, ACT 'in heat of moment'

1News Hipkins defends MP's 'incorrect' minimum wage comments

BusinessDesk QLDC awards CEO with 8% salary boost, while rates rocket

Waatea News Seymour’s treaty act would overturn law

RNZ Hipkins to have a word with MPs after incorrect statements about National

Waatea News 6th Sept 2023 English News Bulletin 3:30pm – Taxpayers' Union Debate

Newstalk ZB Willie Jackson: Labour Minister maintains he's not deliberately disseminating misinformation after last night's debate

Pacific News Network News 06 September 2023 – Taxpayers' Union Debate 2

Te Karere TVNZ Willie Jackson addresses “most dangerous man in NZ” comments

Newsroom Reserve Bank chair’s ‘totally inappropriate’ work with National Party

Offsetting Behaviour Debating tax

CarbonNews Mixed reactions to Nats EV charger proposal

Newstalk ZB Beehive Buzz: Election 2023, attack ads and Trade Dispute with Canada

The Spinoff Everyone running in Ilam needs to win

NEW POLL: National/ACT could form government comfortably

National increases 0.1 points on last month to 35.0% while Labour drops 0.6 points to 26.5%. ACT is up 1.3 points to 14.3% while the Greens are up 0.7 points to 12.7%.

The smaller parties are NZ First on 3.9% (-1.9 points), the Māori Party on 2.9% (+0.4 points), TOP on 2.7% (+1.7 points), New Conservatives on 0.8% (+0.2 points), Vision NZ on 0.5% (-0.6 points), and Outdoors and Freedom on 0.2%. (-0.3 points).

National and Labour are both up 1 seat on last month to 45 and 35 seats respectively. ACT is up 2 seats to 19 while the Greens pick up 2 seats for a total of 17. The Māori Party is up 1 seat on last month to 4. NZ First would win no seats in Parliament (-7 seats).

Had NZ First hit the five percent threshold, the Centre-Right would still be able to form a government, but only just (61 seats).

The combined projected seats for the Centre-Right of 64 seats is up 3 on last month and would allow them to form a Government. The combined seats for the Centre-Left bloc of 56 is up 4 on last month. 

More detailed results, including polling on which party is best at dealing with particular issues and favourability ratings of different politicians are available on our website. 

Taxpayers’ Union raises serious concerns over Ministry for the Environment ‘dodgy deals’

Taxpayers’ Union raises serious concerns over Ministry for the Environment ‘dodgy deals’

The Taxpayers’ Union are seriously concerned to hear that Federated Farmers and other industry groups have been approached by the Ministry for the Environment and offered hundreds of thousands of dollars to help rush through plans under the new Resource Management legislation just weeks out from the election.

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Callum Purves, said:

“This is incredibly worrying and undermines public trust in the political neutrality of our public service. The RMA reforms are expected to be implemented over a 10-year period, there is no reason for the Ministry to be shovelling money out of the door and rushing through the plan development process just weeks before the election. It seems that the Ministry is of they view that if they can rush through enough of the changes before the election, the next Government may decide that the reforms have gone too far to unwind.

“It is wasteful and unacceptable that the Ministry is seeking to sign contracts that potentially add up to millions of dollars for work just before the election that the opposition have committed to scrapping if they are elected. No private business would sign a major contract for work just weeks before a decision on whether or not that work should be continued – there are clearly other motives here.

“The Taxpayers’ Union will be demanding answers from other government agencies to see whether similar approaches are being taken in respect of Three Waters, Fair Pay Agreements and the GIDI fund. We commend Federated Farmers for rejecting the money on principle and encourage other organisations to do the same."

National ignoring the power of the market when it comes to EV infrastructure

National ignoring the power of the market when it comes to EV infrastructure

Responding to the National Party’s policy announcement to spend $247 million of taxpayer money to fund charging infrastructure for electric vehicles, Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Callum Purves, said:

“The National Party needs to realise that more Government doesn’t always have to be the answer. Around the world, we are seeing many successful rollouts of EV charging infrastructure that is completely privately funded. With EVs being much cheaper to run and forecasts for the carbon price to increase, there are already market forces at play that will drive private investment in EV charging infrastructure if the Government simply gets out of the way.

“Removing the need to consent EV chargers is a good start and if the next Government wants more chargers they should sit down with some of the major industry players and work out what other regulatory hurdles can be removed to promote more investment.

“This announcement has nothing to do with carbon emissions which are already capped under the Emissions Trading Scheme. National seems to recognise this when it comes to scrapping the ute tax and Tesla subsidy but seems to forget it with other climate policies when it is politically convenient. Sensible policies that make it easier for people to reduce their carbon footprint to avoid ETS charges make sense but when the policy is simply more taxpayer funding, New Zealanders end up paying anyway through their taxes and end up no better off.

“If this is simple John Key-era corporate welfare for the companies who are making a coin anyway on EV charger networks, it a loss to taxpayers - in particular those who can only dream of affording an electric car.”

Taxpayers' Union Election Debate Series – Register Here

NZTU Debates

The Taxpayers’ Union is hosting a series of debates in the run up to this year’s election. 

The series will include debates in key electorates and debates on parties’ policies. They will give candidates and parties a great opportunity to set out their stall to voters in advance of the election. 

These debates will be moderated by the hosts of The Working Group podcast, Martyn Bradbury and Damien Grant. The debates will be streamed live on the Taxpayers’ Union website (www.taxpayers.org.nz), The Daily Blog (www.thedailyblog.co.nz), YouTube, Facebook, and Freeview Channel 200. They will also be available to watch or listen back on demand after the event. 

The schedule is as follows:

7 pm Tuesday, 22 August Napier The Puketapu Hotel, 679 Puketapu Road, Napier, 4183 SOLD OUT
7 pm Tuesday, 29 August Ilam Misceo, 251 Clyde Road, Bryndwr, Christchurch, 8053 SOLD OUT
7 pm Tuesday, 5 September Party Policies (Auckland) Everybody’s @ Imperial House, Imperial Buildings, 7 Fort Lane, Auckland, 1010 SOLD OUT
7 pm Tuesday, 12 September Northland The Homestead Sport Bar, 15 Homestead Road, Kerikeri, 0230 SOLD OUT
8.30 pm Tuesday, 19 September Post-TV1 Debate Show (Wellington) The Backbencher, 4 Molesworth Street, Thorndon, Wellington, 6011 SOLD OUT
7 pm Tuesday, 26 September Auckland Central Roxy’s @ Imperial House, Imperial Buildings, 7 Fort Lane, Auckland, 1010 SOLD OUT
7 pm Tuesday, 3 October Tāmaki Good George, 71 Tamaki Drive, Mission Bay, Auckland, 1071 SOLD OUT

Exclusive Taxpayers’ Union – Curia polling will also be released prior to the electorate and finance debates. 

Labour's 'free' dental care fails to address the root of the problem – higher taxes

Commenting on Labour’s universal dental care announcement, Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Callum Purves said:

“Labour has come up with another populist policy that like its GST debacle sounds good at first, but the cracks begin to show when you drill down into the detail.

“Labour’s announcement of universal taxpayer-funded dental care for under 30s with a long-term ambition to roll this out to all New Zealanders fails to tackle the root of the problem – higher taxes. New Zealanders – particularly those on low and middle incomes – are struggling with the cost of living, but providing dental care for everyone, including those who can well afford to pay for it themselves, will be incredibly expensive and will simply widen the fiscal cavity.

“Universal policies of this nature by definition fail to target support to those who need it most and are not a prudent use of taxpayers’ money. If Labour wants to support those on lower incomes, it would be better to look to increase tax credits or make direct transfer payments, rather than distorting the market and, like fees-free tuition, providing welfare for the well off.”

Phil Barry on the real cost of the coming crackdown on smokers

A radical set of new anti-smoking measures is set to bring New Zealand close to a de facto prohibition on smoking. But with the black market rearing its head, what is the real cost of this crackdown for taxpayers, businesses and the economy?

A major new analysis of Ayesha Verrall's Smoked Tobacco Amendment outlines $1.3 billion in new costs, and argues the legislation is "largely, if not entirely, redundant".

This week on Taxpayer Talk, Taxpayers' Union spokesman for lifestyle economics Louis Houlbrooke is joined by Phil Barry, a director of TDB Advisory who worked with Infometrics to produce the new report.

You can read the full analysis of the Smoked Tobacco Amendment 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. 

Milking Taxpayers: Taxpayers' Union Reveals Ministry of Primary Industries Fieldays Expenditure

The Taxpayers' Union can reveal the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) spent over $125,000 for its stall at the recent Hamilton Fieldays.

"MPI's extravagant display at the event showcases financial imprudence. On top of $20,350.72 for their stall, they coughed up nearly $8,000 to transport 30 staff! MPI should be at Fieldays and I am sure their presence is welcome, but 30 staff seems overkill. And with a staggering $96,477.09 for display set-ups, it becomes evident that MPI prioritised show over substance" commented Oliver Bryan, Investigation Coordinator at the Taxpayers' Union.

"With farmer confidence at historic lows, the last thing they need to see is the Ministry of Primary Industries spending money on glitzy stalls and sending an army of bureaucrats to Hamilton. Perhaps a better focus would be on reducing red tape and eliminating unnecessary bureaucracy and regulations that burden Kiwi farmers."

National tax plan heading in the right direction but needs to go further

Reacting to the National Party’s tax policy announcement, Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Callum Purves said:

“Today’s announcement is a welcome one with some significant victories for taxpayers but we need to see more radical change.

Tax bracket adjustments
“National has disappointingly significantly watered down its previous pledges to adjust tax brackets to account for inflation since Labour took office in 2017 – never mind since when the brackets were last set back in 2011. It’s plans announced today would only adjust tax brackets for inflation over the past two years, meaning those middle earners not benefiting from their expanded tax credits will still be paying much higher tax on average than they would have been had brackets kept pace with inflation.

“While we welcome the proposal to index tax brackets for inflation, these adjustments should be automatic on an annualized basis rather than every three years if the Finance Minister feels like it. If the Government wants to hike taxes, they should legislate for it rather than doing it by stealth.”

Tax credits
“Tax credits are a more targeted measure of getting financial support to those who need it compared with other policies such as removing GST of fruit and vegetables."

Carbon Dividend and climate policy changes
“We have long called for a carbon dividend as a way to help reduce the impacts of rising carbon prices on consumers while continuing to encourage the shift to lower emission production and consumption.

“Excluding agriculture, all other sectors of the economy are already covered by the ETS. There is no need to continue the wasteful spending and corporate welfare on ‘cost-effective climate action’ such as the Green Investment Fund.

Fuel Tax changes
“The commitment to cancel the planned tax hikes will be welcome for families struggling with the cost of living. National also needs to commit to tightening the National Land Transport Fund to ensure that fuel taxes aren’t used to subsidize projects unrelated to roading such as loss-making rail and cycleways.

“The Auckland Regional Fuel tax punished families trying to get by while. Fuel taxes disproportionately hurt those on lower incomes, we welcome its removal."

Landlord tax changes
“The restoration of interest deductibility corrects a distortion that unfairly targeted landlords and reduces long-run incentives to invest in providing housing for others.

“We welcome the move to put the bright-line test back to two years as a good start but this capital gains tax should be removed completely. It fails to address the root cause of the housing crisis which is supply. This tax simply encourages people to hold on to properties past the bright-line period. The way to stop speculation is to increase supply in order to stabilise the price so it is no longer a lucrative venture.

App tax changes
“We welcome the cancelling of the app tax which would further drive up costs of digital services such as Uber and Airbnb for consumers."

Foreign buyer tax
“A foreign buyer tax is better than a complete ban; however, as a country that urgently needs foreign direct investment and to attract international talent we should not be making it more difficult for that to occur.

“If we sort out our boondoggle resource management system and replace it with a system based on property rights and incentivising development, there is no issue with foreign buyers of property. Even before the ban, these buyers made up a fraction of the total property purchases in New Zealand.

Commercial building depreciation
“New Zealand’s location, combined with one of the highest corporate tax rates in the OECD, means we struggle to attract enough investment. Growth has stalled and standards of living have fallen as a result.

“Depreciation deductions encourage building and investment, and both National and Labour’s plans to scrap them will leave New Zealand much poorer in the long run. This short-term thinking from National is putting the election before New Zealand’s future prosperity."

User-pays immigration levies
“We support a user pays system where possible and practical, it is unfair on other taxpayers to subsidise those wanting to come to the country before they have contributed to the tax system."

Cost reductions
“While we welcome the reduction in spending on back-office bureaucrats, these reductions need to go further. With Government spending increasing by 68% since 2017, there is plenty more fat to trim.

“Removing corporate welfare through the GIDI fund is long-overdue with it being one of the most unfair, expensive and ineffective policies we have. It is disappointing to hear that National will continue with other forms of corporate welfare such as film and gaming subsidies which could otherwise be directed at further tax relief."

Costings
“It is encouraging to see that the National Party funded their plan without additional borrowing and received independent peer-reviewing from Castalia – this is the minimum level of fiscal discipline taxpayers should expect from all parties.”

Taxpayers’ Union Warns Against Unilateral Digital Services Tax

Responding to today’s announcement that the Government will implement a unilateral Digital Services Tax (DST) on large multinational companies, Taxpayers’ Union Deputy Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

“While we support strengthening multinational tax arrangements as a part of a multilateral approach with other OECD countries, taking a unilateral approach with New Zealand-specific rules risk New Zealand’s position in relation to free-trade or other tax negotiations.

“Where there are genuine loopholes in existing international tax arrangements, other countries are also incentivised to close these and we should work with them to do so. However, if we take a unilateral approach without coordinating with our trading partners, we may be seen as undermining free trade principles and unfairly favouring domestic firms over foreign ones. This has concerning implications for an export-based nation such as New Zealand that is reliant on free and open trade globally.

“If we proceed with this tax in the absence of an OECD-wide agreement, we lose all moral authority to argue against retaliatory protectionist measures from our trading partners with policies that, while neutral on paper, would go against the spirit of free trade through a structure that largely targets foreign firms.

“While the DST will only come into effect OECD negotiations if aren’t completed by 2025, this announcement demonstrates a clear lack of confidence in the multilateral process that we should be helping to lead.

“Most of the firms targeted under this proposal would be large US-owned firms, a country which has not been afraid to use protectionist measures against New Zealand in recent history. At a time where we should be seeking to expand our trading relationships with democratic OECD countries, this proposal puts these relationships at risk and could backfire on New Zealand-owned businesses.

“The proposals also risk raising prices for New Zealand consumers of digital services or seeing a reduction in the quality or quantity of services available as overseas companies direct their efforts elsewhere. Furthermore, larger New Zealand companies such as Xero may soon see themselves hit with retaliatory taxes in other countries leading to double taxation.

“The 2019 Government discussion document ‘Options for taxing the digital economy’ estimated that a DST would raise between $30 million and $80 million in tax revenue – a small amount of revenue in relation to the economic damage that would be caused if angered trading partners were to retaliate.”

NEW POLL: National Lead in Ilam Electorate

A new Taxpayers’ Union – Curia poll in the Ilam Electorate has National reclaiming their former Christchurch stronghold comfortably, with 33% of the electorate vote. Labour’s Sarah Pallett is currently sitting on 15%, while Raf Manji, the leader of The Opportunities Party is polling at 14% – a statistical tie for second place. 

Among minor parties, 5% of respondents would vote for the Greens candidate Mark Davidson, while 5% and 4% of voters said they would vote for ACT and Te Pāti Māori respectively, despite those parties not standing candidates in Ilam. NZ First and other parties are polling under 2%. 23% of voters, however, are either undecided or refused to answer. 

The poll of 400 respondents was conducted on Wednesday, 23 August 2023. The full results, including the most important local issues for voters, are available here.

New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Callum Purves, says: 

“This poll shows a sharp swing away from Labour, after they unexpectedly won this seat at the last election from then deputy leader of National, Gerry Brownlee. While a snapshot of public sentiment rather than a concrete prediction of October’s election, it spells bad news for Labour backbencher and electorate MP Sarah Pallett, who is unlikely to be re-elected on the list, as well as Raf Manji, who carries the hopes of The Opportunities Party on his shoulders in trying to improve on his results as an independent candidate in 2017. Both will need to break out from their competition if they want to stand a chance against the popular Dr Hamish Campbell, running for National and replacing Gerry Brownlee. 

“However, each of the candidates are struggling with name recognition in this remarkably locally focused election, with all three top-polling candidates having less than 40% visibility within the electorate. With 18% of the electorate undecided, and plenty of time to go before the election, this race is sure to be an interesting one.” 

Government cost “savings” announcement too little, too late

Reacting to today’s announcement that the Government intends to cut costs amounting to $4 billion over four years, Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Callum Purves, said:

“This is too little, too late. Government spending has increased by 68% since 2017 yet there is nothing to show for it, except out of control cost of living and ballooning government debt. Taxpayers’ Union – Curia polling shows that despite massive increases in spending, most New Zealanders think key public services have actually got worse.

“Kiwis have been struggling with rampant inflation and the rising cost of living for the past two years, yet it seems the Government has only just realised that they are the cause of these problems. We need cuts of $40 billion in one year, not $4 billion over four.

“With this underwhelming announcement, at least the Government has demonstrated that it is possible to reduce spending without reducing core services. The Government needs to show some courage and unwind the damage of the past few years’ excessive wasteful spending and deliver meaningful spending cuts to the tune of tens of billions of dollars."

Taxpayers Forking Out Millions For KiwiRail Staff Transport

The Taxpayers' Union can reveal that KiwiRail have spent millions of taxpayer dollars on flights and higher cars for staff transport in the past year yet have not spent a single cent on rail. Information obtained by the Taxpayers' Union under the Official Information Act can reveal that between April 2022 and April 2023, the organization spent a hefty $1.2 million on hire cars and a staggering $4.5 million on flights. Further clarification showed that of the latter amount, $900k was dedicated to international flights.

Taxpayers' Union Investigations Coordinator, Oliver Bryan, said:

“It seems that KiwiRail has little confidence in its own services. Kiwis will be rightly shocked to discover that while they battle the rising cost of living, KiwiRail staff are spending million galavanting around the country – and the world – at taxpayers' expense."

"With the National Land Transport Fund continually being raided to fund loss-making rail services, it is unfair that families have to bear the brunt of higher fuel taxes to fund the excessive and expensive travel of the organisation that continuously fails to deliver reliable, economic services to taxpayers."

“The excessive spending on flights and hire cars is unacceptable and demands immediate attention. KiwiRail needs to show some restraint with taxpayers’ hard-earned cash.”

Casey Costello on being a part of the Taxpayers' Union and standing for Parliament

This week on Taxpayer Talk, Taxpayers' Union Executive Director, Jordan Williams, sits down with Casey Costello, a former chair and board member of the Taxpayers’ Union who recently resigned in order to stand as a candidate for New Zealand First in this year's election. 

Casey has had a successful career in the police force, running her own business and as the spokesperson for Hobson’s Pledge. 

Jordan and Casey discuss how Casey got involved in the Taxpayers’ Union including her time as a board member and chairperson and some of the key battles that have been fought along the way.

Finally, Jordan quizzes Casey as to why she joined New Zealand First and what she envisions for the country should she be successful at this year's election. 

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. 

Kāinga Ora Needs More Accountability, After Spending $300,000 a Year on Bloomberg Computer Terminals

 

The Taxpayer’s Union is condemning Kāinga Ora for spending more than $300,000 per year on Bloomberg computer terminals, noting that issuing its own debt rather than going through Treasury is costing taxpayers more.

Kāinga Ora revealed that it spends $312,025 per year on seven Bloomberg computer terminals, to monitor an external debt of more than $12 billion that the agency has accumulated through its large-scale housing projects. These computers are on loan until March 2024, under contract. The Treasury, which handles the external debt of other government agencies, has thirteen Bloomberg terminals, by comparison. This will increase when Kāinga Ora’s financing is taken over by the Treasury, achieving cheaper servicing at the cost of the organisation’s independence.

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Callum Purves, says:

“As New Zealand’s worst landlord, Kāinga Ora has shown a continuous disregard for the taxpayers who fund them while also spectacularly failing to fix the ongoing housing crisis.

“With the incredible cost of leasing financial computers year on year, you would think that Kāinga Ora would be more careful with its budgeting. Instead, until the Treasury made the move to take over Kāinga Ora’s loans and debt services, the organisation was actively choosing further costs over checks and balances on its constant spending.

“The number of computers that Kāinga Ora have leased is not only inconsistent with its size compared to the Treasury, but also comparatively lavish. Recent Taxpayer’s Union – Curia polling has shown that despite spending more and more on the bloated public service, the public do not see that spending translating into results through better services and outcomes.

“The next Government must get Kāinga Ora under control and place a stronger focus on practical solutions such as reforming the RMA to enable more housing to be built and getting rid of the nonsensical rules that artificially constrain housing and drive up rents."

Government Waste Celebrated at 2023 Jonesie Waste Awards

 

Jonesie Waste Awards 2023

In a year fraught with challenges and uncertainties, The Taxpayers’ Union took it upon themselves to shine a light on the spending choices made by our governing entities. Presenting to you, the Jonesies Waste Awards 2023.
 
Local Government Nominees:
 
1. Otago Regional Council’s Wallaby Nightmare: Despite pouring more than $2.76 million and dedicating over 26,000 hours, the Otago Regional Council managed to capture only 18 wallabies. Price per wallaby? A whopping $153,422.72. It would’ve been cheaper to send them back to Australia on a private jet each.

2. Far North District Council Has Gone Barking Mad: Far North District Council's transformation of Melka Kennels for 24 dogs, with a budget of $200,000, skyrocketed to $2.4 million for just 10 dogs. That's $240,000 for each dog. And thanks to funds from the Covid “shovel-ready” Provincial Growth Fund grant, we all paid for it.

3. Auckland's Transport Shun Their Services at Our Cost: In 2022, Auckland Transport staff appeared to fly more than they rode their own buses. $189,993.47 went on flights, $27,524.16 on Ubers and taxis, dwarfing the mere $4,778.04 spent on bus services. It seems that Auckland Transport agree with residents that their service isn’t up to scratch.

4. Hamilton's Botched Bus Stop: Hamilton City Council in a joint project with Waka Kotahi, spent $2.5 million on building, tearing down and then rebuilding a bus stop. The project started four months later than planned and went $500,000 over the budgeted cost. Once construction was completed they realised that the concrete path had been laid at the wrong angle making it a risk to wheelchair users. After significant financial investment, they managed to make the bus stop less usable. Eventually, the new bus shelters had to be removed and then reinstalled in order to allow the work to be completed.

5. Horowhenua District Council’s Landfill Liability: Initially estimated at $7,500, the Horowhenua District Council’s consultancy costs for evaluating a landfill's profitability skyrocketed to $895,000 without a formal business plan or contract in sight. 
 
 
Top Honours for Local Government Wastefulness: The Otago Regional Council!
 
 
Central Government Nominees:

1. Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Private School Privileges: Taxpayers have forked out $4,999,823 for private schooling for diplomats’ kids in many countries with similar or superior state schooling to New Zealand. Despite Kiwi state education in ruins, 63 diplomats sent their kids to prestigious private schools internationally on the taxpayer dollar. $74,776.98 was spent in Australia and $817,410.14 in the US. Other countries included China, Korea, the UK, France, Germany, Netherlands, Japan, Ireland and Canada.

2. Let’s Get Wellington Moving, The Gaff That Keeps on Giving: The Cobham Drive crossing spearheaded by Let’s Get Wellington Moving came with a price tag of $2.4 million, with consultancy fees alone amounting to $500,000.

3. Ministry for Pacific Peoples’ Golden Goodbye Gala: The Ministry for Pacific Peoples hosted a $40,000 farewell bash for its former CEO, a lavish affair during tough economic times. The breakdown of the expenses includes $7,500 on gifts, $3,000 on photographers, drummers and flowers. $7,000 on travel and accommodation for specific attendees.

4. Ministry of Health, Penny For Our Thoughts: The Ministry of Health spent $334,000 seeking public opinions on its performance, and developing graphics highlighting the fact that barely anyone thinks they’re doing a good job. One social media graphic they promoted proudly said that only 6% had a positive view of them.

5. Ministry of Education’s Dot Com Bust: The Ministry of Education spent $100,000 on the development of a new website before deciding it wasn’t necessary and never launched it. It appears they began developing the site before realising they were creating a new online hub this year so the site would become obsolete almost immediately. $100,000 with nothing to show for it.
 
 
Lifetime Achievement in Waste

Donovan Clarke, the former Chief Executive (CE) of Toitū te Waiora, a Government Workforce Development Council, faced scrutiny over extravagant overseas expenditures on the taxpayer's dime. Clarke's expenses included lavish meals like lobster feasts and calamari canapés, daily late-night taxi rides, and considerable room service charges at his four-star hotel. Interestingly, the conference he attended was organized by the Council of Ambulance Authorities, chaired by David Waters, Clarke's own chairman. In one instance, Clarke indulged in an extravagant seafood dinner, followed by a taxi ride at 3:36 am to his hotel, only to leave for the airport just three hours later. After landing, Clarke charged taxpayers $22 for breakfast and $80 for access to Singapore Airlines' luxury sky lounge. Many of his expenses were ambiguously labeled, raising questions about the identity of his dining companions. In his first 11 months as CE, Clarke spent $72,862.03 on his taxpayer-funded credit card, more than double the amount of his five CE counterparts combined. Despite Toitū te Waiora's 2022 Annual Report, which Clarke approved, emphasizing its 'Sensitive Expenditure Policy', questions arose about its enforcement or adherence. Subsequent to the arising queries, Clarke was placed on six months of paid leave before resigning after an employment dispute costing taxpayers nearly $328,000 in various fees. The exact amount given to Clarke as part of a severance deal remains undisclosed. Satirically, there's speculation about a dispute over a taxpayer-funded lobster-bib, which remains unconfirmed. The article concludes by hoping that Clarke stays away from taxpayer-funded roles in the future and jests about his extravagant tastes. His cost to the taxpayer has been truly epic. And we hope you agree that he’s a worthy winner.

Ministry of Health's 'Your View on Health' Campaign: Where Your Money Goes to Die

 

The Taxpayers' Union has obtained information through an Official Information Act request (OIA) that the Ministry of Health has spent a hefty $330,000 on a nationwide advertising campaign. This campaign, ironically titled 'Your Views on Health,' was launched in December 2022. Its intention? To engage the public and prioritise their involvement in the health system, all while highlighting how poorly the public thinks the Ministry is performing.
 
An astonishing $80,000 of the total sum was allocated for social media boosting. Even more shockingly, the Ministry chose to proudly promote a post that exposed the fact that a dismal 6% of surveyed individuals believed they had access to adequate health services. 
 
Oliver Bryan, Investigations Coordinator at the Taxpayers' Union, remarked, “They've not only frittered away taxpayers' money but further tarnished the Ministry's already negative image. They’ve paid through the nose to broadcast their own ineptitude. One has to wonder if they're vying for a comedy award. A post triumphantly crowing about how a pitiful 6% of the public think they've got their act together on healthcare. You couldn't make this stuff up. It's like a chef spending a fortune on ads to tell you his restaurant will probably give you food poisoning.”
 
Bryan further commented, “It's high time the Ministry centred its efforts on creating tangible solutions to the health system's evident deficiencies, rather than pouring money into such fruitless advertising endeavours.”

National’s U-turn on Labour’s failed fees-free policy beggars belief

 

The Taxpayers’ Union is in disbelief over National’s announcement that they will continue with Labour’s failed and expensive fees-free tertiary education policy if elected in October.

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager Callum Purves, said:

“We are starting to wonder if Christopher Luxon has been reading Labour’s policies instead of his own. First it was the winter energy payment, now it’s fees free. National took the principled and morally and fiscally responsible stance by opposing fees free when it was introduced, now they have done a u-turn that is beyond belief.

Our 2017 report ‘Robin Hood Reversed: How Free Tertiary Education Robs Today’s Poor for Tomorrow’s Rich’ outlined the moral arguments around the inherent unfairness of forcing those on lower incomes to pay for the higher-education of people who will eventually earn more then them, explained why this would create free riders and would lead to lower quality education.

“Unfortunately we have been vindicated and, on top of that, the policy hasn’t even been successful in attracting more students to university. The policy is a moral and fiscal failure. Affordability of university fees is already addressed by the generous student loan scheme, if National want more people attending universities they need to focus their efforts on repealing and replacing the new RMA with a law that makes it cheaper for affordable housing to be built in our largest centres.”

Air NZ’s Foreign Bond Holder Bailout Should Come to an End - Luxon Must Confirm he Will Down Government Controlling Share.

 

Now that Air NZ is well and truly back in the black, it’s time the Government quit owning a majority stake in our national airline says the Taxpayers’ Union.

Responding to today’s market announcement that Air NZ's revenue has shot back to pre-covid levels, Taxpayers’ Union spokesman Jordan Williams said:

“Back in 2020, right at the beginning of the pandemic, Grant Robertson claimed that his support package ‘protected Air New Zealand’, and essential routes and allows the company to keep operating. In fact, the beneficiaries were foreign bond holders who didn’t lose a cent despite having lent to the airline for above average interest rates – to compensate for the inherent risks of airline businesses. Thanks to Grant Robertson, foreign giants got to have their cake and eat it too, on the back of taxpayers.”

“Across the Tasman, lenders to Virgin, took a bath thanks to the pandemic. But the planes were back in the air just as fast as Air NZ, and it didn’t cost Australian taxpayers a cent.”

“Any frequent flier will attest to the quality of Air NZ’s services having declined since it became a Government-owned company. With the obvious conflict of interest Christopher Luxon has with having worked for the airline and possibly becoming the Prime Minister, National needs to confirm that it is their intention to sell down the shareholding before the next inevitable shock hits the airline.”

National wrong to give winter energy payment to wealthy retirees

 

The Taxpayers’ Union is slamming the National Party’s decision to continue the Winter Energy Payment if elected, without further targeting it to those who actually need it.

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Callum Purves said:

“This is exactly the kind of wasteful spending that National should be campaigning against, instead they are choosing to do what they think is popular and continuing funding the Winter Energy Payment for all retirees regardless of whether they need it or not.

“Unfortunately for National, most New Zealanders agree with us that the payment should be means tested and targeted only at those superannuitants on lower incomes. Taxpayers Union – Curia polling in May showed that a majority (58%) of people supported means testing for those over 65 while only 30% oppose such targeting.

“National needs to show they are committed to fiscal discipline by promising to means test the Winter Energy Payment."

It's an F for MFAT: Kiwis Fund Diplomats' Private School Fees

 

The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union is sounding the alarm over a recent OIA response, revealing that of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade's (MFAT) $5 million annual spend on private schooling for diplomats' children, more than $2.25 million is being channelled into countries whose state education systems are either on par with or even surpass that of New Zealand.

Taxpayers' Union spokesman Oliver Bryan said, "In an era where countless Kiwi households wrestle with mounting living costs and the shortcomings of our own education system, it's downright scandalous for the taxpayers to bankroll the premium education of diplomats' children abroad. Considering the handsome packages diplomats already receive, why aren't they covering their own children's schooling expenses?"

"If these funds were catering to diplomats in regions with significantly worse education systems or in war zones, it'd be a different discussion entirely - and in some cases understandable, but this isn't the case. We are paying millions for children to attend private schools in countries where the state system is better than ours."

"It's simply indefensible for 63 of our 260 diplomats to enjoy taxpayer-funded private school perks, especially when our own education system faces so many challenges", said Bryan. "Our teachers, nurses and police officers don't enjoy such taxpayer-subsidized perks for their children. This stark inequality is unjust and must end. New Zealanders shouldn't be on the hook for the private schooling costs of a select few." 

Taxpayers’ Union calls for an immediate end to parties for bureaucrats

 

The Taxpayers’ Union is calling on the Public Service Commissioner to immediately direct all Government departments to put an end to extravagant parties for their staff. This comes after today’s revelations that the Department of Internal affairs spent $17,000 on a welcome party for the new Deputy Chief Executive.

Taxpayers’ Union Deputy Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy said:

“This shows that there is a culture of waste plaguing the Wellington bureaucracy. Far from being an isolated incident, the earlier $40,000 leaving party for the Ministry for Pacific Peoples was just the tip of the iceberg and a pattern of behaviour from bureaucrats who have no respect for taxpayer money is showing.

“At the Taxpayers’ Union, when a new staff member arrives we do home baking which is not only more cost-effective, but is also more meaningful and as it comes from the heart and is great for team spirits.

“Spending more than $5,000 on a livestream of the event is simply ridiculous. You would expect a live-stream of a funeral but live-streaming a welcome party is a new level of extravagance. The only thing to mourn here is the complete waste of taxpayer money yet ordinary taxpayers didn’t even get the opportunity to watch it.

“It is time for the Wellington bureaucracy to face up to the reality that they are spending too much while families continue to struggle with the cost of living. Extravagant parties provide absolutely no value to the taxpayer and so they must be ended.”

NEW POLL: National leads in Napier electorate

 

A new Taxpayers' Union – Curia poll shows that National's Katie Nimon is leading the race for the Napier seat with 48% of decided voters compared to Labour's Mark Hutchinson at 37%.

New Zealand First’s Laurie Turnbull is third with 5% and 4% of respondents said they would vote for the Te Pāti Māori candidate despite there being no declared candidates for the party in Napier. The remaining candidates are on 2% or less. However, 18% of voters remain undecided and 6% refused to say who they would vote for.

The poll of 400 respondents was conducted on Sunday, 20 August 2023. The full results, including the most important local issues for voters, are available here.

New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union Campaign Manager, Callum Purves, said:

“This poll is snapshot rather than a prediction but, if repeated on election day, would mean a convincing win for National’s Katie Nimon. Having been held by Labour’s Stuart Nash since 2014, these numbers would have the Napier electorate turning blue for the first time since Chris Tremain was the local National Party MP.

“Katie Nimon has managed to pull some voters away from the Labour candidate with 13% of those who voted for Stuart Nash in 2020 opting for Nimon this time around compared with just 1% of those who voted for Katie Nimon in 2020 opting to vote for the new Labour candidate, Mark Hutchinson.

“But with 24% of voters still either undecided or refusing to say how they intend to vote, there is still plenty of time for both candidates to make an impression and the result is far from a certainty.

Vaping crackdown will jeopardise Smokefree 2025 goal

The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union is warning against additional measures aimed at making vaping less accessible which will result in more people continuing to smoke rather than switching to safer alternatives.

Taxpayers’ Union Deputy Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, says:

“While we share the concerns of many around the sale and supply of vaping products to minors and support the increased penalties for doing so, we are concerned about the impact further restrictions on the accessibility of smoking alternatives will have on those seeking to switch to a safer alternative such as vaping.

“Banning advertising will make it even more difficult for vape retailers to market their products as a safer alternative to cigarettes meaning these people are less likely to be persuaded to switch to the option with less tar and less tax. As it stands the rules are already too strict when it comes to the promotion of vaping products with absurd rules making it illegal for a store attendant to suggest vape products to a person trying to buy cigarettes.

“Reducing the amount of nicotine in vapes will further limit the appeal of this safer alternative to smokers meaning more people continue to smoke instead. Furthermore, the additional restrictions on disposable vapes will make it more costly and inconvenient for a current smoker to try out vaping first before fully committing to a refillable unit.

“The decision to limit the number of stores to only 600 will leave many communities without a nicotine retailer, except the local gang who will be selling full-strength, tax-free and unregulated tobacco to anyone who wants it – no ID needed. This proposal will add more costs, both time and money, to smokers wanting to switch to vaping products. For many, the extra costs will be too much and they will simply revert to the tobacco black market that already supplies 1 in 8 cigarettes smoked in New Zealand."

Ratepayers Picking Up the Bill as Bureaucracy Chokes Wellington Nightlife

Responding to reports of a concerted effort to further restrict alcohol licences in Wellington, Taxpayers’ Union Researcher, James Ross, said:
 
“Wellington City Council has been crying poverty, leading to an average rates increase of 12.3% just this year alone. Is it any wonder the city is finding itself short of cash when it seems to be doing everything in its power to drive away business?
 
“Government agencies like Te Whatu Ora are using taxpayers’ money lobbying to make sure individual bars fail. These agencies have no right to moralise over how people choose to spend their hard-earned cash, and the Council certainly have no right to demand higher rates to compensate for the economic damage caused by their own puritanism.
 
“As it stands, why would you ever choose to invest in Wellington’s night-time economy? After investing hundreds of thousands of dollars in the city, the best case scenario seems to be ending up mired in months of bureaucracy and legal challenges. In far too many cases, when licences are arbitrarily denied, entrepreneurs may as well have just burnt the money. Wellington needs to reassess its priorities and signal that it’s open for business.”

Despite Eight Years of Denial, the IRD is Coming for your Family Home

Commenting on the IRD’s reinterpretation of Labour’s 2021 amendment to the bright-line test, Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manger, Callum Purves, said:
 
“When John Key’s Government introduced the bright-line test in 2015, this was the start of a slippery slope. Although the test originally only applied to investment properties sold within two years of being purchased, the National Party opened the back door for a capital gains tax.
 
“As many warned at the time, the IRD’s reinterpretation of Labour’s 2021 amendment to the test now means that working Kiwi families can be taxed on the value of their family home. Even if you only own one house, and even if your partner or kids are still living at home, if you spend a few months away the IRD is now bending logic to call you a property speculator to wring as much tax out of you as possible.
 
“The National Party’s commitment to wind the bright-line test back to 2015 doesn’t go far enough, and the test needs to be scrapped entirely. The IRD has shown it will bend the rules to tax families any way it can, and if National give an inch they will take a mile.”

Taxpayers' Union welcomes policy to target prescription fees, warns against undermining Pharmac’s independence

Responding to the National Party’s announcement of plans to fund 13 cancer treatments through the reintroduction of the $5 prescription fee, Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Callum Purves, said:

“Scrapping the $5 prescription fee saw taxpayers subsidising the well-off, and we welcome this move by the National Party to limit free prescriptions to those in genuine need.

“Rather than giving handouts to those who don’t need them, funnelling this money back into Pharmac’s main budget will allow greater funding for essential medical treatments. This is a much more efficient way to target support towards vulnerable Kiwis.

“However, Pharmac must be free from political interference. Ring-fencing these funds specifically for cancer treatments limits Pharmac’s ability to decide how best to fund effective treatments.

“Medical experts should be the ones making decisions on what treatments will maximise New Zealanders’ Quality-Adjusted Life Years within their given budget, not any political party.” 

Fuel tax increase will hit poorest and rural communities the hardest

Commenting on Labour’s transport announcement, Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Callum Purves, said:

“Fuel taxes hit the poorest and rural communities the hardest who rely on their cars to travel and get to work. The announcement that fuel taxes would rise a further 12 cents under the Government’s plans will be a further slap in the face to New Zealanders who are already struggling with the cost of living.

“Despite tough talk on supporting those on low incomes, the Government has already put fuel taxes back up to a level where about half of the cost of filling up is paid in tax.

“Fuel taxes are justified to road users on the grounds that they fund road maintenance, but they are already being used as a slush fund to cover the costs of public transport and cycleway investment. Today’s announcement suggests that motorists are going to continue to be used as cash cows to subsidize non-road projects.

“The Government could fund significant levels of investment without increasing fuel taxes if it simply reverted the National Land Transport Fund back to what it was designed for – funding road maintenance and upgrades - or other user-pays forms of funding."

Māori Health Authority’s Million Dollar Website

The Taxpayers’ Union has uncovered that the newly launched Aroā Wellbeing website, bankrolled by Te Aka Whai Ora (Māori Health Authority), carried a staggering price tag of $1 million. Of this, $300,000 was allocated to the website's actual design and creation. This discovery prompts the Taxpayers’ Union to scrutinize where the remaining $700,000 was directed, especially as the OIA stated that “the Ministry does not hold information on breakdown of costs into areas such as music, voice actors, and graphic design.”

Oliver Bryan, Investigations Coordinator at the Taxpayers' Union, commented, "It's alarming to see such a vast amount of taxpayer money funnelled into a project without clear cost transparency. Allocating close to $300,000 exclusively for the website's design is a tough pill to swallow. The pressing concern lingers – what became of the $700,000? New Zealanders rightly expect a transparent account of these expenditures."

"With a tally of just 47,784 website visits, the expenditure translates to an exorbitant $20 for each single view. This cost is hard to justify given the paltry results. Although they encouraged people to 'share their ideas' for the project, a mere three emails from the 47,000+ visitors have landed in their inbox."

"The concern extends beyond just the monumental sum invested. We need to gauge the benefit  this project brings. Given the lacklustre user interaction, it begs the question: are taxpayers truly seeing a worthy return on their investment?”

"Despite a $1.9 billion spend on mental health, Kiwis are still struggling to get the support they need and outcomes have yet to improve. For the cost of this website, the Government could have funded thousands of counselling sessions through a charity or funded more mental health nurses.”

Blink and You'll Miss it: Porirua's Costly Matariki

The Taxpayers' Union can reveal that Porirua City Council’s Matariki holiday public event cost ratepayers $200,000. The event ran for just five evenings in July, and consisted of a Matariki-themed animation projected onto the walls of the Te Rauparaha Arena. The animation looped for 3 hours a day, from 6 pm to 9 pm, working out at 15 hours total display time.

According to a Local Government Official Information Act request, the total cost for this project included $70,174 for design and video production, $8,100 on advertising, and $114,940 on "technical projection equipment and services.”

Reacting to this, Oliver Bryan, Investigations Coordinator at the Taxpayers’ Union, commented, “Given the significant investment poured into this project, I’d have expected at least a popcorn stand for the grand premiere. Any responsible council would likely aim for a longer exhibition or, at the very least, provide an extended online showcase post-event. But in what can only be described as blatant wastefulness, the council briefly showcased it and then hastily withdrew it.”

”Here's the real shocker: it's hard to fathom that this is the same council that audaciously approved a 10% rate hike earlier this year. They are now spending what amounts to 58 years of an average ratepayer's contributions on just 15 hours of display! It is a disgrace."

“The city council needs to reflect, reassess their priorities, and stop passing on costs for their extravagance onto struggling local kiwis.”

Taxpayer Update: A Tale of Two Taxes 🥝⛽ | Kiwis think public services getting worse 🏥📉 | Māori Health Authority’s $1 million website 🔍💻

It's definitely election season with the spending bribes announcements coming in thick and fast. Your humble taxpayer advocates are keeping count and will be 'keeping 'em honest' in the weeks to come.

The main news this week has been Labour's new tax policy. Here at the Taxpayers' Union we love tax relief. But Chris Hipkins has achieved the impossible: Proposing a tax cut that even we don't like! We didn't think it was possible.

While the heath system declines, we blow the whistle on a one million dollar 'wellbeing' website funded by the Māori Health Authority, sorry, taxpayers.

And last of all we respond to the hundreds of emails received last week questioning whether Ruth Richardson really still uses a Blackberry.

A Tale of Two Taxes: A few cents off fruit and veg 🥝🥕

On Sunday, we had Labour's much anticipated tax announcement. But it was something of a damp squib. The Prime Minister made just two announcements: A big bit of jam for the base in the form of an increase to the Working for Families tax credit and one to get the headlines, the removal of GST off fresh and frozen fruit and vegetables. 

This is same policy that Finance Minister, Grant Robertson, described as a 'boondoggle'. The old Mr Robertson clearly understood that the reduction in GST would unlikely be passed onto customers in full and would simply line the pockets of the big supermarket chains while also making our tax system more complicated.

These policies coupled with things like previous announcements on free prescriptions, free childcare and public transport subsidies are sticking plaster solutions that fail to tackle the root cause of the financial problems Kiwi families are facing. High inflation has been driven by high government spending and this, in turn, has forced Kiwis to pay a higher share of their wages in tax each and every year. If politicians really want to help Kiwi families, those are the issues they need to tackle.

Here's how: Cut wasteful spending and provide proper tax relief across the board to Kiwi families and job creators.  Fundamentally, tweaking GST carve outs and increasing welfare isn't charting a course for a more ambitious and prosperous New Zealand.

But another massive fuel tax hike to come 🤑

Fuel Tax

Rather than tax relief, on Thursday we got an announcement of another tax hike. To fund their new $20 billion transport plan, the Government intends to hike fuel taxes by a 14c per litre (that's 12 cents plus the GST) over the next three years. Let's not forget that fuel taxes were only just increased by 29c per litre on 1 July this year!

The whole point of petrol taxes is to raise money to fund road maintenance and investment – those who use the roads most should pay the most for their upkeep. But for years politicians have been using it as a slush fund for public transport and cycleways. The announcement suggests motorists are going to continue to be used as cash cows to prop up even more non-road projects.
Fuel taxes hit those in rural communities and the poor – for whom fuel is a bigger share of their income – the hardest. Despite tough talk on supporting those on low incomes, the Government seems intent on putting fuel taxes up to a level where half of the cost of filling up will be tax again.

Kiwis think public services are getting worse 🏥📉

Luxon Question Time

Spending on health is up 48% since the last election yet A&E waiting times are through the roof. Law and order spending has increased by 27%, but the country is gripped by ram-raiding and violent crime. And education spending is up 15% while attendance problems persist and literacy and numeracy rates remain poor.

This week The Post reported on our Taxpayers' Union – Curia polling that showed New Zealanders clearly see they are getting a raw deal with more respondents saying they thought services had got worse rather than better in all five service areas we asked about. Even Labour voters thought education, transport, health and criminal justice have got worse. 

Christopher Luxon put our poll's findings to the Prime Minister at Question Time on Wednesday, but Mr Hipkins refused to engage. We have a Government whose only answer to any problem is to blindly chuck more of taxpayers’ money on consultants and middle-managers. We urgently need to see a reduction in wasteful spending.

Taxpayers' Union Investigation: Māori Health Authority’s million dollar website 🔍💻

Aroā Wellbeing Website

This week, Taxpayers' Union, Investigations Co-ordinator, Ollie Bryan revealed that Te Aka Whai Ora (Māori Health Authority) has spent an eye-watering $1,000,000 on their new Aroā Wellbeing website that invites users to 'scroll through the forest' to 'cleanse', 'breathe' and 'connect'. 

While $300,000 was spent on the website's design and creation, the Ministry could not provide the detail of how the remaining $700,000 was allocated as it did "not hold information on breakdown of costs into areas such as music, voice actors, and graphic design." The website has only been viewed 47,784, which translates into $20 for each single view.

Kiwis are still struggling to get the mental health support they despite a $1.9 billion spend and action needs to be taken to improve outcomes. This money could have instead be used to fund thousands of counselling sessions through a charity or more mental health nurses.

Taxpayer Talk with Mark Mitchell 🎙️🎧

Taxpayer Talk: Mark Mitchell

This week on Taxpayer Talk, our Executive Director, Jordan Williams, sits down with National Party Police Spokesperson, Mark Mitchell, to discuss National’s plan for law and order if they are successful in the election later this year. 

Jordan and Mark discuss the increasing levels of crime in New Zealand, gang numbers, and what the National Party would do should they be in Government after the election. They also cover the new firearms registry, whether it will make the country more safe and if it is worth the significant establishment costs. 

Listen to the episode | Apple | Spotify | Google Podcasts | iHeart Radio

And one more thing: Yes, Ruth Richardson still owns a Blackberry 🤳🏻📞

Ruth Blackberry

Last week, Ruth Richardson sent many of our supporters an email about New Zealand's serious debt problem. We were surprised to receive quite a number of replies from people who couldn't quite believe the 'Sent from my BlackBerry' sign off at the bottom. We asked Ruth to furnish us with photographic evidence of her preferred telecommunications device and, yes, she is, in fact, possibly the last remaining BlackBerry user on the planet. You can't beat that full keyboard!

Thank you for your continued support.

Yours aye,

Callum

Callum Signature
Callum Purves
Campaigns Manager

New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union

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Media coverage:

NZ Herald 
Election 2023: New poll shows Labour crashing, NZ First rising, and National-Act with enough support to govern

RNZ POLITICS ELECTION 202310 Aug 2023 Taxpayers Union poll suggests seven seats for NZ First, in opposition

Hawke's Bay Today Tararua rates ‘middle of the pack’

The Spinoff Another poll shows NZ First would be back in parliament

NZ Herald Claire Trevett: Latest poll - Labour now at risk of collapse, driving voters to the Greens

RNZ The Panel with Anna Dean and Phil O'Reilly (Part 1) – TU Curia Poll

interest.co.nz The latest Taxpayers' Union poll shows NZ First could be back in parliament with Winston Peters at the helm of a 7-person caucus

The Daily Blog BOOM: Latest TU Curia Poll: Labour crash – Winston is back

The Common Room Hipkins’ government enters election season in disarray

Pacific Media News PMN News 10 August 2023 – TU Curia Poll

NewstalkZB Six And a Song - The Election Edition: NZ First's Winston Peters

NewstalkZB Afternoon Edition: 10 August 2023 – TU Curia Poll (01:20)

NewstalkZB THE HUDDLE: DOES ACT'S SENTENCING POLICY HAVE MERIT? The Huddle: Does ACT's sentencing policy have merit?

RNZ Taking the public pulse with political polls

Waikato Times Thames joins Innovating Streets project flops

NZ Herald Water reforms: Alternative plan from Taxpayers’ Union ready by October elections

Politik He’s back

NBR Jackson vs Seymour, Remuera lawyer-angst, Hallenstein over boards

Stuff Labour's new polling 'shows rosier picture' for party

NewstalkZB Brigette Morten: Political commentator examines latest Taxpayers' Union Curia poll

AM Show Election 2023: Labour does 'absolutely not' have plans to replace Chris Hipkins before voting day - Ginny Andersen

RNZ Political Panel – TU Curia Poll

Radio Samoa Sau i luma le vaa o le NZ First – palota a le Taxpayers Union

Waatea News Peters ready to plant more trees

The Platform The Taxpayers' Union explains their new significant poll

The Kākā by Bernard Hickey Our world-beating banks + AMA

The Westport News Buller District Council says staff numbers are wrong [print only]

NZ City Minor conservative parties could pull support from the right bloc this election

The Post Labour's not dead, but it's lurching into last-gasp territory

Newshub Nation 'Luxon has a very difficult decision to make': NZ First's polling - Jordan Williams

Newshub Nation '30-40% of people haven't fully made their mind up, there's votes to win'

The Central App Mayor’s column: Council debt - fact and fiction

Kiwiblog Proactive work on a Three Waters replacement

Bush Telegraph Report says council rates are average [print only]

The Listener Wealth tax or food GST exemption: Which could make our tax system fairer?

The Post Green Party's 'zero carbon' loans will compete with banks' no-interest energy efficiency home loan top-ups

The Spinoff Will Labour choke on its GST-free food policy?

The Platform David Farrar on New Zealand politics and polls

The Platform Mainstream media mired in mistrust

Croaking Cassandra The $11bn men and women of the MPC

The Post Voters to Labour: key govt services worse since 2020 - poll

NBR Fairer supermarket profit more important than GST on/off fruit

The Northland Age FROM THE OTHER SIDE Kids need rules -- they did me no harm as a child [print only]

NZ Herald Government unveils $20b transport plan - but fuel taxes going up 12 cents to pay for it

NZ Herald Government’s $20b transport plan: Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown and the AA support fuel tax hike to pay for major projects

Hawke's Bay Today Labour Party candidate Mark Hutchinson opts out of televised Napier electorate debate

NewstalkZB Kerre Woodham: With an election approaching, Labour have fallen in love with roads

NZ Herald On the Tiles – Episode 62: Political polls - how do they work?

Mark Mitchell on crime, police and National's ideas for making the country safer

This week on Taxpayer Talk, Taxpayers' Union Executive Director, Jordan Williams, sits down with National Party Police Spokesperson, Mark Mitchell, to discuss National’s plan for law and order if they are successful in the election later this year. 

Prior to entering Parliament, Mark was a police officer and was a member of the Dog Section and Armed Offender’s Squad. He has also had an international business career, including the start-up of his own company specialising in hostage rescue, supply chain security, and risk management. He has also worked in emergency response providing humanitarian support overseas. Mark is also National’s spokesperson for the Serious Fraud Office, Counter-Terrorism and Corrections.

Jordan and Mark discuss the increasing levels of crime in New Zealand, gang numbers, and what the National Party would do should they be in Government after the election. 

Also discussed is the new firearms registry, whether it will make the country more safe and if it is worth the significant establishment costs. 

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. 

Taxpayers’ Union Welcomes National Party’s Decision to Treat Savers like Responsible Adults

 

Responding to the National Party’s plan to cut red tape for KiwiSavers, Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Callum Purves, said:

“New Zealanders should be free to save and invest their money however they see fit, and we welcome this decision by the National Party to go back to treating savers like responsible adults.

“Allowing savers to choose how to invest their savings will not only allow New Zealanders to see greater potential returns on their investments, but diversified investments will allow Kiwis to reward innovation and entrepreneurship. This extra financial freedom will be a tremendous boon to New Zealand’s economy.

“Ineffective red tape which does nothing but invade savers’ privacy and drive up the cost of borrowing should also be resigned to the scrap heap. Hopefully National’s pledge to reform the Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance and Conduct of Financial Institutions Acts is only the first step of many towards getting bureaucracy out of the way of New Zealand’s prosperity.”

RMA Reforms Cannot Take Place without Time for Sufficient Scrutiny

 

Commenting on the news that Climate Minister James Shaw has proposed an inquiry into climate-related community relocation before the passage of the Government’s Climate Adaptation Bill, Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Callum Purves, said:
 
“Delaying climate adaptation legislation until the next parliament so that proper scrutiny can take place and cross-party agreement can be built is the right move. In this instance we welcome the Government’s acceptance that major reform should not be rushed through the House if it is to be effective.
 
“However, the Climate Adaptation Bill forms just one part of the Government’s misguided attempts to reform the RMA. The Natural Built Environment Bill and Spatial Planning Bill have been forced through Parliament, and they both will do untold damage to New Zealand’s economy and democracy.
 
“How then can the Government justify the public only being given enough time to properly scrutinize one third of its RMA reforms? Ramming these bills through in the final few days of this Parliament goes to show how little respect Labour have for voting New Zealanders.”

OCR Freeze Little Comfort to Working Kiwis Struggling Under the Cost of Government Crisis

Commenting on the Reserve Bank’s decision to keep the Official Cash Rate (OCR) at 5.5%, Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Callum Purves, said:

“The Reserve Bank’s announcement today that the OCR will remain at 5.5% will be tough news for Kiwi families up and down the country who are struggling with the cost of living crisis.

“Businesses and homeowners who are facing mortgage renewals at high interest rates will have a rough few months ahead, and this won’t be getting easier any time soon given Westpac’s expectation that there may be further OCR hikes later this year.

“This high OCR is necessary to try and rein in the runaway inflation which this Government has caused through dangerous levels of reckless overspending. Despite warnings from RBNZ and the IMF, this Government keeps throwing taxpayers’ money down the ever-growing fiscal black hole.

“The cost of government crisis is reaching tipping point, and New Zealand needs a government which will stop shifting the burden of its financial mismanagement onto ordinary Kiwi households.”

Paid Parental Leave announcement shows attitude of throwing more money at every problem

Reacting to Labour’s election policy announcement of providing taxpayer-funded paid parental leave for the partner of a primary carer, Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Callum Purves, said:

“Rather than looking for alternative ways to improve outcomes for families, this is another case of a political party deciding to tax and spend at every opportunity.

“Labour recently voted against a Member’s Bill that would have given parents flexibility to decide for themselves whether to take parental leave at the same time, one after another, in overlapping stints or leave it all with the primary caregiver. This approach would come at almost no cost to the taxpayer yet would have allowed families to decide what parenting arrangement works best for them and their child.

“Instead, Labour’s solution is an expensive proposal that even they will struggle to afford forcing Grant Robertson to phase the policy in over multiple years. Nicola Willis’ Member’s Bill would give families flexibility and choice straight away, without driving up taxes and spending even further.

“Political parties need to step away from a ‘Government knows best’ ideology and instead allow people to keep more more of their own money in the first place and decide for themselves how they want to spend time with their families."

Finance Minister’s Lack of Principle Putting New Zealand’s Economy at Risk

Commenting on Labour’s plans to fund the removal of GST from fruit and vegetables through the elimination of depreciation write-offs for commercial buildings, Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Callum Purves, said:

“In Grant Robertson’s own words, depreciation deductions encourage investment and stimulate the economy. When these deductions were reintroduced just three years ago, Robertson is on record stating this would not just be a temporary measure and would be a long-term plan to put New Zealand’s businesses on a competitive footing.

“The Finance Minister must be dizzy from u-turn after u-turn, and New Zealanders can see the idea that he happened to wake up on Sunday morning with a brand new set of political views as the electioneering it is.

“Once again, Labour are heading down the dark road of economic populism with their complete disregard for economists and tunnel-visioned focus on the results of their internal polls and focus groups.”

Labour GST hole demonstrates policy hasn’t been thought through

Responding to reports of a $240 million hole in Labour’s GST policy, Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Callum Purves, said:

“This is yet another example of Labour putting politics before good policy with their GST proposal which they clearly have not thought through beyond the impact it may have in the polls.

“They know that taking GST off fruit and vegetables is a terrible idea — Grant Robertson and Labour’s tax working group lead by Dr Michael Cullen both said as much. The basic errors in their costings indicate that they are more concerned with playing politics rather than creating policies that will actually work.

“Families who are struggling right now deserve better than a soundbite policy that won’t be effective at addressing the cost of living and will make our tax system more complicated, confusing and costly."

Sticking plaster solutions are uninspiring, unambitious and ineffective – we need to tackle the cost of government crisis

Commenting on Labour's tax policy announcement today, Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Callum Purves, said:

“Chris Hipkins's strong words on tackling the cost-of-living crisis ring hollow. The high inflation environment and higher interest rates on mortgages have been driven by the cost of government crisis. While the Working for Families tax credit increases will be welcomed by those on lower incomes, policies like these, free prescriptions, free childcare and public transport subsidies are sticking plaster solutions that fail to tackle the root cause of the financial problems Kiwi families are facing.

“Grant Robertson talks about a Road to Damascus conversion, but the Road to Hell was paved with good intentions. GST off fruit and veggies is a policy that sounds good at first, but does not stand up to scrutiny. New Zealand’s GST system is the envy of the world. These savings are unlikely to be be passed onto customers in full and the $2 billion cost of the policy will disproportionately benefit the wealthy and big supermarket chains.

“These proposals are uninspiring, unambitious and ineffective. Government spending has increased by 80 percent since 2017 and New Zealanders are contributing massive amounts in tax, but the quality of our public services has got no better. We need to cut wasteful spending and provide proper tax relief across the board to Kiwi families and businesses and chart a course more a more ambitious and prosperous New Zealand.”

Greens' Clean Power Policy Won't Reduce Net Emissions

Commenting on the Greens’ clean power announcement today, Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Callum Purves, said “The Green Party's proposal reveals a clear misunderstanding of the mechanics of our Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). Any emissions reduced in the housing sector by this policy will simply free up carbon credits to be used to emit in other sectors.

“The ETS drive industries towards net-zero emissions by 2050 through market mechanisms. Its ensures that emissions reduction is done in the most cost-effective manner and with the minimal burden on New Zealanders. The Greens’ proposal will come at great cost for no environmental gain.”

Expert group developing Three Waters repeal and replacement bill

The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union has commissioned a Bill to repeal and replace the Government’s Three Waters scheme. Law firm Franks Ogilvie has been working on the Bill for several months, with an experienced parliamentary drafter and a Technical Advisory Group.

The Local Water Infrastructure Bill builds on the model proposed to Parliament by Communities 4 Local Democracy. That model was supported by a large number of asset-owning councils across New Zealand and is similarly supported by the Taxpayers' Union

The Government’s Three Waters proposals would lead to higher water costs, no local control, more bureaucracy, and less democracy. The Bill project is intended to set out a substantive, workable alternative water infrastructure reform programme that addresses these concerns while fixing the problems councils currently face managing their water infrastructure.

Earlier this year, the Taxpayers’ Union Board appointed a Technical Advisory Group (TAG) to provide guidance for and scrutiny of the Bill drafting process comprising the following members:

> Malcolm Alexander (Chair) – Consultant, former Board member of Infrastructure NZ, and former Chief Executive of Local Government New Zealand 

> Dr Eric Crampton – Chief Economist at The New Zealand Initiative

> David Hawkins – former Chief Corporate Affairs Officer of Watercare and former Mayor of Papakura District Council

> Councillor Sam McDonald – Christchurch City Council

> Ray Deacon – Economist at the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union and former Regulatory and Government Affairs Manager for Rio Tinto NZ

The Taxpayers’ Union is today releasing a Question & Answer document explaining how the model would work.

The Taxpayers’ Union will also make available on request – to people who can help ensure the Bill is ready to go and of high quality – the current version of the drafting instructions. They are of the type that would be given to the Parliamentary Counsel Office for Government bills.

The model proposed in the Bill was developed from published work by international water infrastructure experts Castalia, who developed Communities 4 Local Democracy’s (C4LD) model, and who have advised LGNZ, several councils and the Department of Internal Affairs on the water reforms. Castalia were consulted on aspects of the model and the Q&A.

The project expects to result in a Bill ready to be completely fleshed out soon after the election. Some of the technical details will be best done by drafters and officials with access to all the information held within the Government, and the PCO will need to review the work to ensure consistency with their current drafting style. Some important provisions of the Bill will be fully drafted and available to all parties to allow for a swift repeal and replacement of Three Waters should a Parliamentary majority exist to do so after the election. 

The project has been made possible by the donations of thousands of Taxpayers’ Union supporters across New Zealand who have supported our campaign against the Government’s Three Waters proposals.

Callum Purves, Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, said:

“The Government’s Three Waters proposals would lead to higher water costs, no local control, more bureaucracy, and less democracy. While Taxpayers’ Union has successfully led the campaign against Three Waters, given that it is clear the status quo is not working, it is perfectly reasonable for people to ask ‘if not Three Waters, then what?’

“This repeal and replacement Bill project is designed to add some meat to the bones of some of the alternative proposals set out by other organisations and political parties. Our alternative for water infrastructure reform addresses concerns about the current plans while ensuring that services and upgrades can be delivered in a financially sustainable way.”

Malcolm Alexander, Chair of the Technical Advisory Group, said:

“I would like to thank the members of Technical Advisory Group for their work on this project. We have sought to present a workable alternative to the Government’s Three Waters proposals that will address the issues in the Three Waters sector, protect community property rights, and be closely aligned to the model presented to Parliament by Communities 4 Local Democracy, a consortium of 30 asset-owning councils.

“We propose that all councils are required to move their water infrastructure assets into Council-Controlled Organisations – either on their own or with neighbouring authorities – that will ensure that they are properly and professionally managed and that will have better access to finance while still respecting the property rights of local communities.

“We also propose introducing a long overdue utility regulation regime for water infrastructure. The Auditor General will have an enhanced role in scrutinising infrastructure plans while the Commerce Commission will take responsibility for economic regulation and infrastructure disclosure. Taumata Arowai retains responsibility for water safety.”

The Local Water Infrastructure Infrastructure Bill - the Taxpayers' Union alternative to Three Waters

This week on Taxpayer Talk, Taxpayers' Union Executive Director, Jordan Williams, sits down with Malcolm Alexander and Stephen Franks to discuss the bill that the Taxpayers' Union commissioned to repeal and replace the Government’s Three Waters scheme.

The development of the bill, along with detailed drafting of key provisions, has been a months-long project carried out by the law firm Franks Ogilvie.

Malcolm Alexander has a background in local government, infrastructure, consulting and law and is the former Chief Executive of Local Government New Zealand. Malcolm chaired the expert Technical Advisory Group that provided guidance for and scrutiny of the Bill drafting process. 

Stephen Franks is the Director of Franks Ogilvie Commercial and Public Law and has been working alongside an experienced former Parliamentary Drafter in drafting the Bill to replace Three Waters. 

The Government’s Three Waters proposals would lead to higher water costs, no local control, more bureaucracy, and less democracy. The Bill project is intended to set out a substantive, workable alternative water infrastructure reform programme that addresses these concerns while fixing the problems councils currently face managing their water infrastructure. 

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. 

Taxpayer Update: NEW POLL: Labour crashes and Winston's back 📊💥 | Tell Grant Robertson to Cut the Waste ✂️💰 | Let’s Get Wellington (Not) Moving;🛑🚌

Big newsletter today – we learn how the 'other half' (that is, those bureaucrats in Wellington) live. A new poll is bad news for the Government, but good news for Christopher Luxon and Winston Peters, plus Jordan sits down with expert pollster (and Taxpayers' Union Co-founder!) David Farrar to ask exactly how polls work, how the sample is selected, and why I'm never called! We also get to the bottom of that Green Party advertising we told you about last week.

Ministry for Pacific Peoples spends $40,000 on a farewell knees-up for CEO🪘 🎉🍾

But first up this week: It's been revealed that the Ministry for Pacific Peoples spent $39,262.22 on a lavish farewell party 'event' for its outgoing CEO, Leauanae Laulu Mac Leauanae.

Mr Leauanae – who was moving down the road to become CEO of the Ministry of Culture and Heritage – was showered with $7,500 worth of gifts, which included carvings and fine mats, with the Ministry spending $3,000 on “discretionary items” including photography, flowers and ceremonial drummers.

This comes not long after we exposed that the same Ministry had spent $260,000 on catering last year despite only having 127 staff members (in 2017, they had just 35!).

We say that it is stories like this that demonstrate how out of touch Wellington has become. While many New Zealanders are facing a cost of living crisis, those on the taxpayer dime are happy to continue to live it up.

Jordan on AM Show

As Jordan pointed out on the AM Show this morning, this is the Ministry that is supposed to be representing some of New Zealand's poorest communities. Clearly they have lost touch if they can spend forty grand on a party without anyone blinking an eyelid (until, that is, someone sends them an OIA). $40,000 is more than five years worth of tax for someone on the minimum wage!

Tell Grant Robertson to Cut the Waste ✂️💰

It appears that there is a growing multi-billion dollar hole in the Government accounts caused by their reckless fiscal management and out-of-control spending that has significantly weakened the economy and plunged the tax take.

We will know for certain how much trouble the country is in when the Government opens the books in September for the pre-election economic and fiscal update. But one thing is clear: Even Grant Robertson is worried. Recently he called an emergency meeting with the chief executives of Government departments instructing them to stop increasing spending.

But restraint or 'freezing' isn’t enough. With Government debt reaching almost $79,000 per household, Grant Robertson needs to significantly slash the billions in wasteful spending to help get the books back in the black.

Cut the Waste

We are calling on Grant Robertson to slash his wasteful spending to get debt under control and begin to grow the economy. If you have 30 seconds, add your name in calling for the Government to cut wasteful spending.

NEW POLL: Labour crashes, Winston back, Luxon neck-and-neck with Hipkins in preferred PM race 📊💥

This month's Taxpayers’ Union – Curia Poll sees National and ACT able to form a Government on their own. But only just. The poll suggests yet another return to Parliament for Winston 'never-rule-him-out' Peters.

Based on this poll, just a small shift in these numbers could see Winston Peters holding the balance of power yet again – with Mr Luxon needing both ACT and NZ First to form a government.

Here are the headline results:

Decided Party Vote over time

National increases 1.6 points on last month to 34.9% while Labour drops 4.0 points to 27.1%. ACT is down 0.2 points to 13.0% while the Greens are up 3.1 points to 12.0%.

The smaller parties are NZ First on 5.8% (+2.5 points), the Māori Party 2.5% (-2.5 points), Vision NZ on 1.1% (+1.1 points), TOP on 1.0% (+0.7 points), New Conservatives on 0.6% (+0.2 points), Outdoors and Freedom on 0.5% (+0.5 points), and Democracy NZ on 0.1% (-1.8 points).

Here is how these results would translate to seats in the 120-seat Parliament:

Seats

National is up 1 seat on last month to 44 while Labour is down 7 seats to 34. ACT remains steady on 17 while the Greens pick up 3 seats to a total of 15. The Māori Party is down 4 seats on last month to 3. NZ First re-enters Parliament on these numbers with 7 seats. 

The combined projected seats for the Centre-Right of 61 seats is up 1 on last month and would allow them to form government. The combined seats for the Centre-Left bloc of 52 is down 8 on last month. 

Preferred PM

For preferred Prime Minister, Chris Hipkins is up 2 points on last month to 25% while Christopher Luxon is up 5 points to 25%. This is the first time the two have been tied in our poll. David Seymour is up 1 point to 7% while Winston Peters is also on 7% (up 3 points). 

Visit our website for more information and details of how to get access to the full polling report with the demographic breakdowns and 'party best at' data.

Taxpayer Talk: David Farrar On Polling And Why He Is Leaving The Taxpayers' Union 🎙️🎧 

Taxpayer Talk: David Farrar

When we release our monthly poll, we get hundreds of questions about how the polling is done, who picks who is called, whether it's land line or cell phones, and whether the data can even be relied upon.

So we asked the guy Sir John Key said is "New Zealand's best pollster" to take us through how the polling works. Well before co-founding the Taxpayers' Union, David had established Curia Market Research and has developed a reputation for professional and insightful market analysis. 

Listen to the episode | Apple | Spotify | Google Podcasts | iHeart Radio

Let’s Get Wellington (Not) Moving 🛑🚌

LGWM

The National Party revealed their transport policy last week, proposing to scrap the $7.4 billion Let’s Get Wellington Moving (LGWM) project. Taxpayers will breathe a sigh of relief that the LGWM wasteful consultant-driven boondoggle is set for the scrapheap. Despite the name, every project to date has done anything but get the city moving.

Despite the lack of asphalt laid, consultant expenses have already exceeded $130 million, while the overall costs have ballooned from $2.3 billion in 2018 to $7.4 billion – that's $3,766 per Kiwi household, just for Wellington.

It comes as no surprise that the only project completed by the bureaucracy to date is a $2.4 million pedestrian crossing – so much for getting the city moving.

Some people have argued that because Mayor Tory Whanau was elected on a pro-LGWM platform, the project should continue. But there is a difference between central government running over the will of local communities who are spending their own money and central government deciding not to fund a wasteful project with money that comes from all taxpayers – not just those living in Wellington.

Amidst high inflation and living costs, families are suffering and more spending on LGWM will only require future taxes and rates to be increased even further. With Labour also hinting at withdrawing support for LGWM, it is instead time for the Council to deliver a no-nonsense transport plan that focuses on cost and efficiency rather than ideology.

Ditch The Broadcast Allocation: A Step Toward A Fairer Democracy 📺💵

Broadcast Allocation

Taxpayers fork out a lot of money to support political parties. In addition to the Parliamentary Services budget that goes well beyond advertising MPs' contact details and electorate work, each election cycle, we are made to foot the bill for broadcasting allocations. This year alone, taxpayers be contributing $4.1 million towards party political propaganda on our TV screens.

Such funding favours established parties while creating substantial barriers for new entrants. This is despite the major parties such as National, ACT and Labour amassing over $7.5 million in funds last year. One has to question the need for them to receive taxpayer subsidy. Taxpayers' Union – Curia polling suggests that 51% of New Zealanders oppose the broadcast allocation while 61% of Kiwis are against the direct funding of political parties. 

Taxpayer funding for political parties risks tilting the scales of our democratic process, disproportionately benefiting long-standing political giants. For a robust democratic process, it's time that political parties embrace a shift towards private funding to bolster democracy, ensure parties actively seek and value the backing of their constituents and promote greater transparency.

Our Investigations Co-ordinator, Oliver Bryan, looks into this issue in more detail here.

Green Party advertising: A clarification 🟢🖥️

In the last Taxpayer Update, we reported that Green Party local election adverts on Facebook had used Parliamentary Service (i.e. taxpayer funded) advertising account.

We were contacted by the Greens' Chief of Staff last week who has shown us evidence that the mistake was in fact by their advertising agency who had put the incorrect 'paid for by' disclaimer statement on the adverts. As such, no taxpayer money was used towards election advertising. We are delighted to be able to clarify this and appreciate the Greens being so forthcoming in showing us the documentation.

Until next time!

Yours aye,

Callum

Callum Signature
Callum Purves
Campaigns Manager

New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union

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Media coverage:

Whanganui Chronicle 
Whanganui District Council chief executive says $22 million spend on contractors and consultants most cost-effective option

NewstalkZB Morning Edition: 03 August 2023 – Ratepayers' Report (01:32)

Greymouth Star Coast residential rates 'some of the most affordable' [print only]

The Westport News BDC high earners top Coast [print only]

Newsroom Wairarapa communities light the way for new era of local council mergers

Wānaka App QLDC makes the podium for highest rates in New Zealand

Central App Mayor’s column: Context important when comparing rates

Kaikoura Star Kaikoura has 12th highest rates in the country [print only]

BusinessDesk Business of Government: Act wants to stop work, the cost of campaign promises, and more...

Northland Age FROM THE OTHER SIDE Democracy seems to be against the ropes in NZ [print only]

Te Awamutu News Council keeps mum on payments

AM Show Taxpayers' Union slams shortsighted Ministry for Pacific Peoples after $40k farewell party

RNZ Taxpayers Union on Ministry of Pacific Peoples $40,000 staff farewell

Ditch the Broadcast Allocation: A Step Toward a Fairer Democracy

Taxpayer funding for political party advertising distorts the democratic process. The current allocation process unjustifiably advantages large, established parties at the expense of smaller ones, unfairly denying them the ability to promote their policy platforms

With the election looming ever closer and the recent news about the broadcast allocations, now would be a good time to vent about the unfairness in the way Parliamentary parties disproportionately benefit from taxpayer subsidy.

This year, taxpayers will be forced to stump up $4.1 million for the parties’ election broadcast allocation. The Electoral Commission partly decides the level of allocation based on social media following, polling, party membership and votes in the previous election, all of which benefit the already well-established party behemoths. The barriers for newcomers become almost insurmountable. Moreover, existing parliamentary parties get a second helping from the Parliamentary Service coffers, amplifying their reach through taxpayer-funded messages for the duration of the Parliamentary term.

Why should our taxes subsidize an already powerful political party’s quest to cement its position, especially when they already bask in abundant funding and media privileges? This setup makes it nearly impossible for anyone outside the political bubble to break through or for alternative policy proposals to receive adequate airtime – an outcome completely contrary to the intended purpose of MMP or a competitive democratic field.

What is most egregious, however, is that last year alone, National, ACT and Labour raised over $7.5 million between them. Good for them in one sense, as it shows many Kiwis support their respective platforms, some more than others. This is how it should be, parties competing on as level a playing field as possible and receiving support from voters for their positions. However, even if they didn’t raise any money, the current system would still allow them taxpayer cash for their election campaigns. Is this acceptable? It seems that New Zealanders think the answer to this question is “no”.

According to a recent Taxpayers’ Union - Curia poll, 51% of New Zealanders want to end the Electoral Commission’s broadcast allocation to political parties. Even more people are against direct funding of political parties, with a Taxpayers’ Union – Curia poll from October last year showing 61% against compared with just 19% in favour.

Although political parties operate as non-profits, their race for votes is very much a commercial contest. Giving them an unfair edge over other voices vying for public attention is simply unjust.

A system of private funding would be more democratic. It would force political parties to rely on the support of their members and donors, fostering a strong connection between representatives and the people they serve. It would promote fair competition of ideas and ensure that parties prioritize the concerns of their constituents rather than focusing solely on election campaigns. As they do now, parties would have to disclose their major sources of funding, allowing the public to judge any potential conflicts of interest.

One of the concerns often offered by proponents of state funding of political parties is that it stops rich people from ‘buying’ elections, but the evidence just does not support this assertion. Take, for example, TOP, the Internet Mana Party and the Conservative Party, all of them spent vast sums of money on their campaigns with no return in terms of MPs elected. Parties must present ideas that voters appreciate in order to have any chance of success, regardless of the financial support from their backers. Political parties should be sustained by people who believe in them, not through taxes.

It’s time to jettison this imbalanced funding model and champion a transparent, equitable political arena. Let the parties prove themselves worthy of our support through their actions and ideas, not through handouts.

Commerce Commission must investigate media collusion for possible cartel behaviour

The Taxpayers’ Union understands from a senior media source that Stuff had invited competitors to a proposed meeting tomorrow with Broadcasting Minister Willie Jackson with the apparent purpose of agreeing to set of principles or guidelines for how Māori and Treaty matters should be reported on by those in the mainstream media industry. The Taxpayers’ Union had earlier requested an interview with Radio NZ’s CEO on the proposed meeting, but this was not agreed to.

Taxpayers’ Union Executive Director Jordan Williams said:

“Putting aside the constitutional questionability of the Minister getting together with the fourth estate executives to ‘agree’ on how a contentious matter should be reported, there appears to be Commerce Act questions about an attempt for industry collusion.

“Groupthink in our newsrooms is one thing, but agreeing with competitors on commercial conduct isn’t just wrong, it could be criminal.

“The Commerce Commission needs to launch an investigation into the circumstances of the meeting, who organised it, and what has been written about its purpose.  We hope that our source is wrong, and that nothing untoward is involved, but for the public’s trust in the media, we need them to get to the bottom of this.”

If We Want a Prosperous Country Again, We Need to Cut Government Waste

Responding to Damien O’Connor’s comments to the Red Meat Sector Conference that we “probably don’t have enough tax in this country […] If we want to continue to run our economy the way we have run it in the past, we are going to have to contribute more”, Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Callum Purves, said:

“This Government’s default response is always to take more of New Zealanders’ hard-earned money. We are in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis caused by dangerous levels of wasteful overspending, and this comment shows how little regard O’Connor has for the working families of this country.”

“Core Crown spending has increased by 67.9% since 2017, from 27.7% of GDP up to 32.5% in just six short years. Despite taxpayers’ money being thrown at them hand over fist, who can honestly say that Government services have improved in this time?”

“The issue is a Government culture which sees no issue with wasting billions on consultants, middle-managers and vanity projects. If we want a prosperous economy again, we need to start cutting the waste.”

Government Announces Fund That Will Do Nothing to Reduce Net Emissions

Reacting to the announcement that the Government intends to establish a climate infrastructure fund in partnership with Blackrock, Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Callum Purves said:

“This appears to be another Government corporate welfare slush fund that will cost taxpayers greatly without actually delivering net emission reductions. Because emissions are capped under the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), any reduction in emissions in the electricity sector will simply free up carbon credits to be used for emissions elsewhere in the economy, such as manufacturing, leading to no net reduction.

“If the projects this fund invests in are worthwhile, this investment will occur in the private sector without the need for government involvement. Price signals from the ETS already encourage emissions reductions and investment in technologies where it is most financially viable to do so. This fund simply puts some of this risk on taxpayers rather than leaving it with private businesses who are best placed to make decisions around what investments are financially viable.

“It seems the Government has been deliberately unclear as to the extent for which taxpayers will be contributing to the fund in order to shy away from how much ordinary New Zealanders will be paying for this climate virtue signal. Blackrock could set up this fund without government involvement; it is unclear why taxpayers should be on the hook for a scheme which will likely end up socialising the costs and privatising the benefits of the investments made through the fund.”

Petition launched calling on Grant Robertson to slash government waste

With the Government books now in crisis, the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union is calling on Grant Robertson to slash wasteful spending and reduce the number of back-office bureaucrats before it is too late.

“Revelations that the Minister of Finance has been calling public service officials into his office to discuss financial restraint shows just how dire the Government’s financial position is,” Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Callum Purves says.

“But restraint isn’t enough. With Government debt reaching almost $79,000 per household, Grant Robertson needs to significantly slash the billions in wasteful spending to help get the books back in the black.

“It’s clear that Grant Robertson is running out of excuses when it comes to justifying the Government’s monstrous budget hole. Even he knows the current state of the books is untenable.

“The actual budget deficit is already far worse than Treasury predicted and internal sources suggest that the deficit will be significantly larger by next month’s Pre-election Economic and Fiscal Update.

“It is time for Minister Robertson to prove that he is capable of getting spending under control in order to stop inflation and create the confidence for people to invest in New Zealand and grow the economy.”

Concerned New Zealanders can sign our petition here.

Taxpayers' Union Launches 2023 Ratepayers' Report

The New Zealand Taxpayers' Union, in collaboration with its sister group the Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance,  has today published the 2023 edition of the Ratepayers' Report at www.RatepayersReport.nz  

The RatepayersReport allows Kiwis to easily compare their local council’s performance and financial position for 2021/22 against others. The report provides transparency for ratepayers, with rate figures presented on a per-rating-unit basis for comparisons between district and regional councils. The Comparison Chart ranks councils by average residential and non-residential rates. 

Taxpayers’ Union National Campaigns Manager, Callum Purves, said: 

“The 2023 Ratepayers' Report showcases the inner workings of councils all over New Zealand. It provides an essential tool for ratepayers to evaluate their local council and hold decision makers accountable. 

"This year's report is our most comprehensive yet with brand new data aimed at arming ratepayers with all the information they need to scrutinize the decisions and spending of their local council." 

The RatepayersReport is free and available to the public at www.RatepayersReport.nz.

 

Notable Findings

> Residential rates: Rates continue to rise, with the average residential rate for district and city councils nationwide now at $2,781 – $171 more than just last year. Carterton District Council ranks highest for residential rates at $3,938.91 with Manawatū District Council a close second at $3,713.23. The lowest average residential rates in New Zealand comes from Buller District Council at $2,155.98. 

> Debt: Auckland Council has the highest net debt as a percentage of rates income at 525% with a net debt per rating unit of $17,451. It also has the highest interest per rating unit at $673. Only 9 councils have net debt as a % of rates income at or below 0 (New Plymouth, Northland Regional, South Taranaki, Bay of Plenty Regional, Napier City, Wairoa, Kawerau, Taranaki Regional and Environment Southland.) 

> Dismissals: There were a total of 18 dismissals due to poor performance across all councils in 2021/22. Christchurch City Council had the most with 8. 

> Consultants and Contractors: Hamilton had the highest expenditure on consultants and contractors out of any council at $314,971,368 – almost 3 times more than Auckland Council. South Taranaki District Council spent the least at $155,184. There were a dozen councils that refused our request for the expenditure on consultants and contractors. 

> Salaries: Auckland Council and its CCOs pay 3,742 staff salaries more than $100,000 – an increase of 740 from 2021/22. Greater Wellington Regional Council and its CCOs employees the highest percentage of staff at salaries over $100,000 (43.67%) - The lowest is Wairoa (7.93%).

> Fiscal safeguards: Only 2 councils (down from 7) met the full criteria for prudent Audit and Risk Committees – Dunedin and Kawerau. 

 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the purpose of the RatepayersReport?  

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

Where was the data sourced?  

The Taxpayers' Union compiled the data in the Ratepayers' Report from figures obtained under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act and cover the 2021/22 financial year. 

The data was sent to each individual authority to be review and error checked prior to public launch.  

Population and household data is taken from Stats NZ.  

Where did the group finance figures come from?  

Group finance figures are taken from each Council's annual report and LGOIMA requests from councils. They include figures from the council as well as all subsidiary council-controlled organisations (CCOs). 

Which councils are assessed in the Ratepayers' Report 

Of New Zealand's 78 territorial authorities and regional councils, 73 are examined in the Ratepayers' Report. That includes all city, district, unitary and regional councils, with the exclusion of the Chatham Islands Council (due to concerns surrounding that Council's workload pressure and unique position), as well as those who did not respond to our requests.  

Is this the first Ratepayers' Report 

No. The Ratepayers' Report was first published in 2014 jointly by the Taxpayers' Union and Fairfax Media (now Stuff). The Taxpayers’ Union has since published updated versions in 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022. This is the eighth edition, but the first to analyse regional councils.    

How are the councils grouped?  

Councils are grouped into 4 different categories (District, City, Unitary and Regional) according to definitions from Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) 

City councils represent a population of more than 50,000 that is predominantly urban based. District councils represent a smaller, more widely dispersed population. This allows us to make comparisons between councils of similar nature.  

How were the average rates calculated?  

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

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

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

Were councils consulted in the process? 

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

Can the results of the 2023 report be compared to the 2022 edition?  

The methodology means that the per-rating unit figures can be compared with the 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022 report, but not with the 2018 report which used a per-ratepayer figure (aside from the average rates metric which has remained consistent).   

What are the potential limitations of the RatepayersReport 

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

TDB/Infometrics flag $1.3 billion cost of 'redundant' tobacco crackdown

TDB Advisory and Infometrics, two of New Zealand's premier economic consultancies, have collaborated on a new analysis of the likely effects of the Government's planned tobacco crackdown.

A headline finding from their 142-page report: additional costs imposed on New Zealanders from the crackdown are conservatively estimated to total around $1.3 billion over the next ten years. That works out as an extra cost of about $3900 per current smoker to implement a set of measures that TDB and Infometrics consider "largely if not entirely redundant".

Ayesha Verrall's Smoked Tobacco Amendment (STA) will slash the number of tobacco retailers by at least 90 percent, slash the nicotine content in cigarettes by at least 90 percent, and prohibit anyone born after 2008 from legally purchasing cigarettes.

The massive costs estimated by TDB/Infometrics only cover those factors considered 'quantifiable': Costs of administration and Customs resources, costs to the retail sector, and costs to broader society including increased travel costs for smokers, increased crime from illicit trade, and impacts on the tax system.

Here's the breakdown:

Interestingly, the single largest cost is one that has received little attention so far: with a 90 percent reduction in retail outlets, smokers will be forced to get in their cars and travel far further to obtain their fix, forking out more in fuel costs and lost time. The report notes this cost will hit Māori smokers (who tend to live more rurally) especially hard.

The report goes on to examine other countries who've pursued strict restrictions on tobacco supply, finding 'little or no reduction' in actual smoking as smokers switch to black markets. Meanwhile black market-related crime increases while tax revenues crater.

On matters of public concern like tobacco harm, politicians on both sides of the political aisle suffer from a near-insatiable urge to be seen to do something. But any experienced policy analyst ought to consider the costs and benefits of a 'do nothing' option alongside proposals for intervention.

Indeed, the TDB/Infometrics report makes a surprising case for the do-nothing option: based on current trends, New Zealand is already on track to achieve its "smokefree" goal (defined by Tariana Turia back in 2011 as five percent of the population smoking) by 2026 as smokers increasingly make the switch to less-harmful vaping products. In fact, among year 10 students, the goal has already been achieved, with just three percent smoking daily.

For those specific population groups (such as Māori and Pacific) who are not on track to reach to reach the five percent goal, TDB/Infometrics recommend more targeted interventions that do not impose massive costs and fuel criminal activity.

TDB and Infometrics conclude:

Overall, this report finds the STA is largely if not entirely redundant, with the smokefree target of 5% likely to be achieved by 2026 even without the STA. The Act is also highly costly, imposing costs on society of over $1 billion, costs that do not need to be incurred. In addition, in some respects, the package may in fact be counterproductive in terms of discouraging smoking, such as if the growth in the illicit market sees reduced price (tax-free) product being more available, if reduced nicotine levels lead people to smoke more low-nicotine cigarettes to satisfy their desired nicotine levels, or if the reduction in the number of retail outlets encourages people to bulk buy cigarettes.

New Zealand's smokers are, of course, taxpayers persecuted with some of the highest tobacco excise tax rates in the world, paying far beyond any costs they impose on the health system. Instead of forcing them to procure their fix from a criminal-led black market, we ought to be thanking them for their contribution to vital public services.

While the STA has passed all three readings in Parliament, its implementation doesn't begin until mid-2024, meaning there is still the opportunity for repeal post-election.

David Farrar on polling and why he is leaving the Taxpayers' Union

This week on Taxpayer Talk, Taxpayers' Union Executive Director, Jordan Williams, sits down with Taxpayers’ Union co-founder, pollster and blogger, David Farrar to discuss how polling works along with his time at the Taxpayers’ Union and why he is stepping down. 

David founded Curia Market Research, a polling company, in 2004 and has had decades of experience organising, conducting and analysing polls. In this podcast, David answers some of the most common questions we get about how polling works and what makes a poll reliable. 

Also in the podcast is the story of how David came to be a pollster in the first place, his early successes and the eventual rise to being the National Party’s pollster of choice. Having provided polling services to three New Zealand Prime Ministers, and four Opposition Leaders, John Key famously described Farrar as “the best pollster in New Zealand”. 

Unfortunately, after almost ten years since forming the Union, David has decided it is time to resign as a board member. Jordan asks the obvious question: “where to from 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. 

Taxpayer Update: Exclusive: Greens "New Steal" exposed💰 | Shocking Three Waters salaries🚰 | DOC's te reo bonuses 🗣️💵 | Election Debates 📣📊

Exposed: Green Party misused taxpayer money for local body electioneering! 🗳️

An investigation by the Taxpayers' Union has exposed that the Green Party used money meant for MPs constituency activities to pay for election ads for their local council candidates.

Our Investigations Co-ordinator, Oliver Bryan, uncovered that the Greens used taxpayer-funded Parliamentary resources to boost Facebook advertisements linking to a political website advertising Green Party candidates across the country – hitting 10,000 New Zealanders on one day alone.

Green Ad

The rules are clear: Parliamentary Service resources are not to be used for electioneering. While sometimes there are grey areas between what is party political and parliamentary advertising, this is a clear breach that is a violation of the rules. 

The Greens even wasted our money on candidates that didn't exist! 🤯

One of the many adverts we have uncovered, was this:

Find your local candidate advert

But there is one small problem: the Greens didn't have any council candidates in Christchurch!

If they have not done so already, we say the Greens need to pay back back these misused taxpayer dollars. Parliamentary funding should not be used as a backdoor means for taxpayer funding of political parties. We've given the Party until the end of the week to confirm they've refunded the full amounts before we head to the Auditor General.

You can watch Ollie talk about this story to Scoop here.

Update: Moments before this newsletter was sent, we got a response from the Greens - they claim that despite the "paid for" statement (meaning that the Parliamentary Service Facebook "Ad Account" and Business Manager were used), they still deny any inappropriate spending. More to come next week...

Shocking salaries for CEOs of non-existent Three Waters entities💰🚰

Three Waters

Just when you thought Labour's Three Waters 'reforms' couldn't get any worse, yet another painful fact turns up. This time it is the revelation that the Chief Executive Officers for the original four water service entities are being paid between $602,500 to $815,500 per year – a big jump up from what the Chief Executives of Watercare and Wellington Water were being paid. 

The Department of Internal Affairs refused the NZ Herald's Official Information Requests on the grounds that revealing the salaries of the CEOs would breach privacy. But, once the entities have been created the information will be required to be disclosed – it is just officials trying to avoid political embarrassment.

Hate to say we told you so... 👀

Nania Mahuta sold Three Waters as a way to save money. But taking control away from local communities allows faceless bureaucrats to snub transparency and accountability with taxpayers paying more. This example is case in point.

Speaking of Three Waters, stay tuned for a big announcement from the Taxpayers' Union. We've been working on something for a while, and I can't wait to tell you all about it...

Broke Department of Conservation must scrap te reo bonuses 🗣️💵 

Callum – Te Ao Māori News

The Department of Conservation is paying staff bonuses of up to $3,500 a year for participation in Māori language courses. But when asked whether any of the roles in the Department required te reo proficiency, DoC admitted that it had no such roles.
 
At a time when DoC is scrambling around trying to find ways to dig itself out of a multi-million dollar black hole, we say it shouldn't be spending taxpayers’ money on skills that are not practical requirements of the job.

Coincidentally, since Callum arrived in New Zealand he's been attending te reo classes outside of work hours and for no bonus payment – why should it be any different for DoC staff? You can watch my comments on Te Ao Māori news here (skip to 27:16).

Government Censorship: far-reaching regulation regime proposed 💬

Safer Online Services

The Department of Internal Affairs recently closed its consultation on its so-called 'Safer Online Services and Media Platforms' discussion paper. In short, they want to 'protect you' from this newsletter.

I'm not kidding. The proposals are so far reaching, an undemocratic and unaccountable regulator would have the power to censor content that it deems to be 'harmful' or 'unsafe'. Even these newsletter updates from your humble Taxpayers' Union would be subject to the proposed suppression regulatory regime.

The Government argues that these proposals are necessary to reduce and remove harmful and unsafe content from the internet. But claiming words and political arguments are 'harmful' or 'unsafe' is a slippery slope that would likely lead to unpopular or contrarian opinions being silenced. 

Our Economist Ray Deacon made a robust response to the consultation, which you can read here.

Pub Politics: Taxpayers' Union announces Election Debates Series 📣📊🍻

NZTU Debates

The Taxpayers’ Union is hosting a series of debates in key electorates and on finance and party policies in the run up to this year’s election. The debates will give candidates and parties the opportunity to set out their stall to voters in advance of the election.

We are teaming up again with our friends at The Working Group podcast. Hosts Martyn Bradbury and Damien Grant will moderate the debates. Like The Working Group, the debates will be streamed live on The Daily Blog, the Taxpayers’ Union website, Facebook, and Freeview Channel 200. 

Prior to the electorate and finance debates, we will be releasing exclusive Taxpayers’ Union – Curia polling.

Rather than stuffy town halls, we're hosting the debates at pubs across the country. We hope to see many of you there. 🍻

More information will be released in the coming weeks at www.taxpayers.org.nz/debates 

Taxpayer Talk: Chris Bishop MP on RMA replacement and National's alternative 🎙️

Taxpayer Talk: Chris Bishop MP

This week on Taxpayer Talk, Taxpayers' Union I sat down with National Party MP, Chris Bishop, to discuss the Government's proposed replacement to the Resource Management Act (RMA) and what National would do with resource management if elected. 

Chris Bishop is National's spokesperson for RMA reform, Infrastructure and Housing and has been leading National's opposition to the contentious RMA reforms. In the podcast, Chris Bishop commits the National Party to repealing the Government's RMA replacement bills prior to Christmas if National is able to form a Government after the election. Chris makes the point that although the current RMA is bad, the proposed replacement is even worse and will make it even more difficult to build and develop.

As well as what's wrong with the proposed reforms, Chris discusses the principles National's alternative would be based on. They also cover a number of other policy areas, including indexation of tax brackets, the policies National would scrap are covered, plus, as campaign chair, how Chris believes National can win the election. 

Listen to the episode | Apple | Spotify | Google Podcasts | iHeart Radio

Thank you for your support.

Jordan

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

Donate

Media coverage:

The Platform 
Hipkins betrays Three Waters promise

The Platform Jim Rose on the threat the Greens' wealth tax poses to NZ

Te Ao Māori News DOC's te reo Māori proficiency bonuses (27:16)

Crux New Māori advisor for QLDC, but the salary is secret

Otago Daily Times University’s consultancy cost increase ‘exorbitant’ [paywalled]

Kiwiblog One in eight cigarettes now come from the black market

Te Ao Māori News National's proposed Minister for Hunting and Fishing (22:29)

Democracy Project Bryce Edwards: How NZ First might “take back our country”

RNZ Latest political polling, campaign finances, social media targeting and more

Scoop Election Podcast: Greens use parliamentary funds for local campaigns

The Post Government should invest $500 million in startup companies, report says

The Daily Blog The Liberal Agenda: The Working Group announces 7 live-streamed TV simulcast Election Debates for 2023 Election

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taxpayers' Union Announces Election Debate Series

After successful Hamilton West and Auckland mayoral election debates last year, the Taxpayers’ Union is hosting a series of debates in the run up to this year’s election. 

The series will include debates in key electorates, a finance debate, and a debate on parties’ wider policies. They will give candidates and parties a great opportunity to set out their stall to voters in advance of the election. 

These debates will be moderated by the hosts of The Working Group podcast, Martyn Bradbury and Damien Grant. Like The Working Group, the debates will be streamed live on The Daily Blog (www.thedailyblog.co.nz), Facebook, and Freeview Channel 200. The debates will also be available on the Taxpayers’ Union website (www.taxpayers.org.nz) or to watch or listen back on demand after the event. 

Each debate will begin at 7 pm and last approximately 90 minutes. The schedule is as follows:

  • Tuesday, 22 August: Napier 
  • Tuesday, 29 August: Ilam
  • Tuesday, 5 September: Party Policies (Auckland)
  • Tuesday, 12 September: Northland 
  • Tuesday, 19 September: Finance (Wellington)
  • Tuesday, 26 September: Auckland Central 
  • Tuesday, 3 October: Tāmaki

Exclusive Taxpayers’ Union – Curia polling will also be released prior to the electorate and finance debates. 

Register to attend one of the debates at: www.taxpayers.org.nz/debates

Vice Chancellors need to front up and explain overstaffing

The Taxpayers’ Union is calling for New Zealand’s Vice Chancellors to front up and justify why New Zealand’s universities are overstaffed with non academic staff.  A research report released by the NZ Initiative think tank today shows that New Zealand universities have a higher proportion of non-academic staff than any other country looked at.

Taxpayers’ Union Executive Director Jordan Williams said:

“This report is a wake up call for New Zealand’s education establishment. Non-academic staff add little to research output, teaching, and university rankings.”

“Students too should be outraged. The report suggests much of their university fees are being wasted.”

“Coming at a time when universities are laying off academic staff due to cost pressures, this report, showing how bloated the headcount of pen-pushers is, will be a slap in the face to those losing their jobs.”

“If VCs can’t publicly justify this spending, why should the Government increase funding in future budget rounds? This report is basis for the next government to insist universities cut the fat before they are handed more taxpayer funding.”

Three Waters Failing at First Hurdle

After two years debate on water reform and countless promises of more efficiency and transparency, today’s news that the Government is refusing to disclose the salaries of the recently appointed entity CEOs is a slap in the face of the hundreds of thousands of New Zealand ratepayers who objected to the reforms. The NZ Herald has confirmed, however, “that the salaries sit within a range of $602,500 to $815,500 per year, which suggests a very tidy pay rise for at least three of the four executives in question.

Responding to the report, Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Callum Purves, said:

“The Government’s Three Waters reforms are failing its own litmus test – reducing costs and delivering services more efficiently. There is no efficiency or transparency in Government officials trying to keep secret what they are spending on CEOs for organizations that don’t yet exist.

“This is precisely what the Taxpayers' Union warned about. By taking control away from local communities, faceless bureaucrats in their ivory tower head offices tend to snub transparency and accountability. This example is case in point.”

Another Public Sector CEO receives golden goodbye from taxpayers

Reacting to news that former Toitū te Waiora CEO Donovan Clarke received a taxpayer-funded settlement valued at almost $500,000, Taxpayers' Union Investigations Manager Oliver Bryan said:

"The wasteful spending that has transpired at Toitū te Waiora is a bitter pill to swallow for the New Zealand taxpayers who are unwittingly bearing the brunt of this debacle. It is utterly unacceptable that over half a million dollars have been drained from public coffers to settle a single employment dispute and foot the bill for questionable personal expenses. This is not the kind of financial stewardship that taxpayers expect from those in charge of public entities.

"In the midst of immense pressure on our vocational sector, it's staggering that such gross mismanagement is allowed to occur within an entity that was established to bolster this very sector.

"The public trust is not a limitless resource, and each of these incidents erodes that trust further. It's high time for stringent measures to be implemented to prevent such costly blunders in the future. Taxpayers expect and deserve better."

Te Pāti Māori tax policy would ruin New Zealand

Responding to today’s tax policy announcement from Te Pāti Māori, Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Callum Purves, said:

“The proposals laid out by Te Pāti Māori come from a place of fundamental misunderstanding of economics and incentives.

“Removing GST off food will make our world-leading consumption tax system more complex, open to abuse and is poorly targeted. Instead of making it cheaper for just those who struggle to put on the table, this tax reduction applies to all individuals whether they are buying caviar and eye fillet steak or fruit and bread. The wealthy spend a higher dollar amount on food and would therefore be the greatest beneficiaries of the policy.

“Shifting the tax brackets to have even higher marginal tax rates for those earning above $60,000 will ruin incentives for people to earn more money as the payoff for doing so is diminished. Anyone looking at taking on extra hours, up-skilling, gunning for a promotion or creating a side-hustle will have to consider the fact they will lose a significant amount of that money in tax. Many people will decide this isn’t worth it and either not try to increase their incomes or will simply go overseas where they can keep more of their own money.

“The tax free threshold, when paid for by higher tax rates elsewhere will also have significant impacts on incentives to work and encourage people to manipulate their income to get in under the threshold. Secondary earners in a household will likely cut back their hours to below the tax free mark, family owned businesses will pay non-working family members up to $30,000 to ensure that as much money as possible is not taxed.

“Our recent report on the Green’s wealth tax by Taxpayers’ Union research fellow, Jim Rose, highlighted how a wealth tax would be unlikely to generate much revenue, would discourage innovation, saving and investment and would see more highly-skilled New Zealanders heading offshore. The report also highlighted how the impact wealth taxes have on successful Māori who decide to go out on their own rather than operating within treaty governance entities.

“Taxes on foreign companies will raise costs for many everyday goods and services that are not produced in New Zealand. These costs will make products more expensive for New Zealanders while also discouraging overseas companies from investing in New Zealand, creating jobs and paying tax.

“The land-banking tax and vacant-house tax are solutions for the wrong problem. The policy proposal correctly identifies regulatory issues preventing the development of Māori land but similar issues apply to all land. Cutting red tape that prevents building, developing and renting properties would be a more effective and enduring solution for the housing crisis. By making it easier to build, the increased supply in the market will flatten the growth in property prices and will make it no longer worthwhile to speculate. Instead, these proposals will make it even risker to invest in creating more housing with the threat of a 33% tax on the market-value of a property for anyone unable to fill a property within 6 months.

“If money-hungry politicians were able to end tax evasion and get more money by simply spending more they would have done it already. These proposals in their totality will simply flood New Zealand with a tsunami of tax loopholes. If reducing tax avoidance is the goal, our tax system needs to be made simpler and flatter so that it becomes impossible to avoid."

RMA replacement bills a chaotic mess that must be paused

The Taxpayers’ Union is calling on the Minister for the Environment, David Parker, to pause the proposed Resource Management Act replacement bills until after the election to ensure that MPs have sufficient time to properly consider the changes they are voting on.

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Callum Purves, said:

“Rushed lawmaking more often than not leads to bad lawmaking, especially with bills as large and complex as those presented by Minister Parker. The 931 pages of legislation, the 1377 pages of select committee reports and the 977 page Supplementary Order Paper mean it is near impossible for any MP to truthfully say they have fully read and considered all aspects of the proposals. It is a chaotic mess.

“Those people who will actually have to deal with this legislation such as councils, developers, farmers and renewable energy companies have had to participate in a rushed process of submissions and consultations so have been unable to provide comprehensive feedback and recommendations.

“Pausing these reforms until after the election will allow for more time to ensure the reforms are done well and are an improvement on the status quo. Otherwise New Zealanders will be stuck with less certainty and more complexity leading to higher development costs and worse outcomes for the environment."

Media Release: Pre-election Books – Avoiding False Impressions

The Taxpayers’ Union has heard from sources that Nicky Hager is working on a book which is focused at the Taxpayers’ Union. We are aware of him approaching former members of staff asking them to breach confidences.

Chairman of the Taxpayers’ Union, Laurie Kubiak said:

“With elections often being the political equivalent of the ‘silly-season’, we wanted to make sure no one can be left with false impressions about who funds the Taxpayers’ Union and what we are about.

“Hager has in the past claimed he did not put allegations to the subjects of his books on the basis that they might injunct him. We won’t do so. Like any other journalist, Mr Hager he has the opportunity to approach us for comment – in fact, we’re happy to be interviewed by him so he can put any allegations to us.

“Nicky Hager has previously accused groups and individuals of having a secret agenda. The Taxpayers’ Union has an agenda, but it isn’t secret! We stand for lower taxes, less waste, and more accountability.

“Hager is very good at collecting disparate facts and then weaving them to suit an interpretation using selective and partial use of those facts. For example, in a previous book, Mr Hager used emails 11 months apart to suggest a sinister motive, even though the emails were totally unrelated.

“It is no surprise the Taxpayers’ Union is Mr Hager’s latest target. He is coming for us because we are successful. We are successful because we have hundreds of thousands of subscribed supporters, and more than 23,000 donors. There is a very sad history of hacks and theft of data from centre-right groups in New Zealand. It seems that if you are successful in advocating centre-right ideas you tend to get hacked by Nicky Hager’s friends. 

“As far as we are aware, our data is secure, but we are taking prudent steps to protect the sensitive information of our donors, supporters, and staff. In the United Kingdom, security services have been more proactive in assisting think tanks to defend themselves from politically motivated cyber-attacks.

“We also know that there is personal animosity from Nicky Hager towards our co-founder, Jordan Williams. Hager volunteered to give evidence and defend former Conservative Party leader Colin Craig who has been found by multiple courts and decisions to have sexually harassed his former press secretary.

“Journalists should also be wary of relying on Mr Hager’s claims. His last book Hit & Run, resulted in an enquiry led by a former Supreme Court Judge, and a former Attorney General and Prime Minister. They concluded that the “principal allegations” in Hager’s book “are not accurate".

Expected topics to be included in the book:
 
Mr Hager
loves to air dirty laundry.  He need not rely on illegal hacks leaks and broken confidences to write about the Taxpayers’ Union, he can come and talk to us. We’ve even put together a list.

Connection with other groups
 
New Zealand is small and, like on the left of politics, there is overlap between membership and organisers of different groups.  That does not affect the Taxpayers’ Union’s independence.  Jordan has been public about his involvement in assisting Groundswell NZ with their digital campaigns (websites and social media) through his company –
 you can read about the company in this sponsored article in the NZ Herald.  Staff at the Campaign Company work with private businesses and political groups on both sides of politics on digital marketing, both in New Zealand and overseas. The Taxpayers' Union has procedures in place to ensure any conflicts of interest are appropriately managed, and like any professional services firm, the views of clients are not necessarily shared by the company (or other clients of the same).
 
Casey Costello (a recent Taxpayers’ Union Board member, and a former Chair) is passionate about equality of citizenship, and
was heavily involved in “Hobson’s Pledge”.  She recently stood down from the Board upon deciding to became a candidate for NZ First.
 
Our policy independence is demonstrable. For example, Groundswell NZ advocates strongly against agricultural emissions being folded into the NZ Emissions Trading Scheme. The Taxpayers’ Union not only disagrees, it publicly lobbied for this to occur as part of its view that for the ETS to be effective, it should be sector neutral.
 
Similarly, while Hobson’s Pledge campaigns against Māori wards that is not the position taken by the Taxpayers’ Union.  We believe that those decisions should be up to ratepayers in the form of local referenda and that the franchise should be proportionate.
 
Campaigning on matters that relate to race, Te Tiriti
, and democratic accountability
 
During the whole of the Three Waters campaign, we have had two chairs – both are Māori. In fact, the Board had a higher percentage of Māori members than the New Zealand population. 
We did not cooperate or in any way collaborate with the “Stop Co-governance” group or events.  Indeed, wWe are proud that for both the Three Waters and the Stop Central Planning Committees campaigns, we have led with the economics.
 
But we don’t shy away from debating the merits and opposing co-governance arrangements that undermine the democratic accountability of decision-makers to those whose money they are spending.  Quite clearly, accusations of racism are intended to shut down debate.  We simply reject the premise that standing up for equality of civil rights, or holding to account Māori Ministers in the same way as we do any other politician is
racist inappropriate – as do our Māori board members.
 
One-sided
 
We are a mission-led lobby group. We make no apology for fighting for what we believe in – just like Greenpeace and ActionStation fight for their left-wing values. We wear our mission (and heart) on our sleeves.  No one is required to support or fund us.  However, our market research shows that a majority of New Zealanders agree with most, or all, of our mission.
 
While our board members are all supporters of the mission, we intentionally hire staff from across the political spectrum. We have had, and have, staffers who are Green Party,
Te Pāti Māori, and TOP supporters. We’ve had multiple staff members who used to work for NZ First. One of our student intern graduates, and subsequent researcher, is the daughter of a Labour MP.  While our mission tends to attract supporters from the centre-right, we’ve worked effectively with Labour and Green MPs when National was in government – particularly in our campaigns focused on government transparency and against corporate welfare.
 
We are mission-led, not party-political-led. When John Key was Prime Minister, we were just as active in calling out wasteful spending. See
 Taxpayers’ Union Has Attacked National More Often Than Any Other Party.
 
Secrecy of donors
 
We believe New Zealanders should be able to support causes without the fear of ending up in a book or having the motives of their philanthropic giving questioned. While we are required to respect the privacy of our financial supporters and members, we nevertheless encourage them to disclose widely that they are supporting our good cause.
 
Of the 22,000+ financial supporters, a tobacco company has disclosed that it was a member.  As is explained on our website, just 2% of our annual funding is from industry members – which include tobacco.
 
Our largest donor is our landlord – Sir Bob Jones.  Sir Bob has never asked us to do anything. In fact, the only thing he’s asked of our staff is for them to stop law and commerce degrees, in favour of something more useful (in his opinion): an arts degree.  It is well known that Sir Bob has donated generously to education and charitable causes and
to both major parties.
 
More information about how we are funded is available on our website:
 www.taxpayers.org.nz/our_mission

 

 
Foreign influence and foreign funding
 
If overseas donors have opened their wallets to fund the Taxpayers’ Union, the money never arrived.  While we are aware of a few ex-pat Kiwis who chip in, and a single person who lives overseas, is not a citizen, but has a house in New Zealand, we are not ‘foreign funded’.
 
We are transparent that the Taxpayers’ Union is a member of both the World Taxpayers Associations and the Atlas Network (see our website under the heading:
 International associations but independence of policy positions at https://www.taxpayers.org.nz/our_mission).
 
Both of those organisations are chaired by New Zealanders.  Atlas is chaired by Debbi Gibbs, and has provided professional development, scholarship,
grants and opportunities to participate in international competitions relating to freedom and liberty for numerous staff as is explained on our website (refer link above).  Recently Jordan Williams was elected Chair of the World Taxpayers’ Association (for which we issued a press release congratulating him).
 
Position on nicotine matters
 
We were ahead of the curve in saying that having among the world’s highest tobacco excise taxes will lead to underground illicit markets and that a better way to get people to quit is vaping. Since then, anti-smoking groups such as ASH have come to exactly the same view.
 
Our lifestyle economics file is managed by Louis Houlbrooke.  Louis is a vaper, and we are confident that every position taken by the Taxpayers’ Union in this area is both principled and supported by evidence.
 
The Taxpayers’ Union doesn’t like higher taxes – even for tobacco. Neither do those in the industry.  While we accept support from the industry, it remains an extremely small proportion of our work and output. The proportion of media statements relating to nicotine is even smaller than the percentage of funding (11 out of roughly 720 media releases since 1 August 2020).

Wage subsidy hypocrisy
 
We took the wage subsidy!  We never thought we’d need to, but when our income collapsed in February 2020 and, like many, it looked like the economic apocalypse, the Board determined that our duty as an employer (in particular to our staff who do not necessarily share our political views) trump
ed the desire to avoid bad publicity.  As it turned out, the Taxpayers’ Union bounced back financially and we were very vocal in calling for other organisations to join us in paying it back.
See
 Statement On COVID-19 Wage Subsidy, and Taxpayers' Union Calls On All Unions To Pay Back Wage Subsidy.

Ethics: use of pseudonyms to obtain information under the Official Information Act

In early 2017, the Taxpayers’ Union was approached by a whistle-blower working at Callaghan Innovation alleging that our requests the previous year under the Official Information Act were being treated differently by the agency and resulting in information not being released.
 
The reports from the whistle-blower led us to file a series of requests under pseudonyms – which is not our usual practice. But when we used pseudonyms in 2017 and 2018 we didn't have the same troubles getting requested information. That information led to media coverage concerning poor quality and wasteful spending by the agency.
 
The Taxpayers’ Union has publicly called on New Zealand to adopt an "applicant blind" rule to prevent officials from telling Ministers’ offices the identity of requesters, including journalists. This is a feature of many freedom of information regimes around the world.
 
We would prefer not to have had to go undercover to obtain information
for which any New Zealander was lawfully entitled to. But we certainly will not entertain ethical crusading or criticism from a self-described ‘journalist’ who has made a career off the back of illegal and politically motivated hacking and break-ins.

ENDS

National MP Chris Bishop on the RMA replacement and National's alternative

This week on Taxpayer Talk, Taxpayers' Union Executive Director, Jordan Williams, sits down with National Party MP, Chris Bishop, to discuss the Government's proposed replacement to the Resource Management Act (RMA) and what National would do with resource management if elected. 

Chris Bishop is National's spokesperson for RMA reform, Infrastructure and Housing and has been leading National's opposition to the contentious RMA reforms. The National Party have committed to repealing the Government's RMA replacement bills prior to Christmas if National is able to form a Government after the election. Chris makes the point that although the current RMA is bad, the proposed replacement is even worse and will make it even more difficult to build and develop.

In the podcast, Chris discusses what is wrong with the proposed reforms and the principles National's alternative would be based on. Later in the podcast, we also discuss a number of other policy areas such as indexation of tax brackets, the policies National would scrap and whether, as campaign chair, Chris believes National can win the election. 

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. 

Taxpayers’ Union applauds Chris Hipkins’ slimmed Cabinet

The Taxpayers’ Union says that Chris Hipkins is leading the way, and for the first time in a generation is delivering a slimmed down, more efficient, Cabinet.

Taxpayers' Union Executive Director, Jordan Williams, says:

“Any expert in governance and meeting dynamics will tell you that any more than about 15 is detrimental to diversity of expressed views debate and good decision making.

“Back in the old days, under Prime Ministers Seddon and Ward, Cabinet was made up of eight to nine.  Coates had 11, then Savage 14. Holland had 16, Holyoake (by his second administration) increased it to 17, Prime Ministers Marshall and Kirk had 18 Cabinet Ministers which continued under Prime Minister Muldoon until reaching 20 by the end of that Government.

“Of course in those days there were far more Parliamentary under-secretaries who are technically not in the Executive Branch, don’t attend Cabinet, and don’t get as many of the perks and staff as the Ministers outside of Cabinet that ‘hang on’ in the modern era.

“The Lange Ministry stuck with the 20, as have subsequent Prime Ministers - although the number of Ministers outside of Cabinet has vastly increased.

“Not since Prime Minister Kirk have we had such a streamlined Ministry, and Chris Hipkins deserves credit for not replacing Ministers Wood and Allan and being the first Prime Minister to arrest the growth.

“Christopher Luxon should seize the opportunity. If Hipkins can operate government with 18 Cabinet Ministers, Luxon should commit to doing the same. That would not only mean savings for taxpayers, but likely to lead to better collective decision making.”

Casey Costello thanked for significant contribution to Taxpayers’ Union mission

The Taxpayers’ Union recognises former chair and board member, Casey Costello and thanks her for the significant contribution she has made as a volunteer. Over the weekend, Ms Costello was announced as a candidate for NZ First. 

Taxpayers’ Union Chair, Laurie Kubiak, said:

“Casey has been a long-time financial supporter of the Union and was Chair just prior to when I joined the Board.”

“While we will miss Casey’s judgement and drive, we wish her the best of luck for the future.”

The Taxpayers’ Union is a non-partisan organisation and not affiliated to any party. As such, Ms Costello resigned from the Board on deciding to stand as a candidate in the upcoming election.

Taxpayers’ Union welcomes NZ First recommitment to indexation but condemns ‘picking winners’ tax incentives

 

Commenting on the tax announcements in New Zealand First’s campaign launch, Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Callum Purves, said:
 
“Record levels of inflation have not only eroded Kiwis’ incomes, but have forced many to hand over a higher share of their wages to the Government each year. We already adjust superannuation and welfare payments for inflation so it is about time that we did the same for working families through income tax bracket indexation.

“New Zealand First’s proposals for tax incentives are, however, concerning. When Government’s pick winners, they invariably get it wrong, costing the taxpayer for poor returns. Yes, we need to reduce our corporate tax levels to make New Zealand a more attractive place to do business and bring in more foreign direct investment, but it is not the Government’s place to play favourites.

“Removing GST on certain food products is a populist policy that does not stand up to scrutiny. It would almost certainly not be fully passed onto consumers, create more complexity for businesses when pricing, likely lead to expensive court battles over what is and is not exempt, and fail to target support to those who need it most. New Zealand’s clean and efficient GST system is something worth retaining.” 


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