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$15 Million Gifted to Multi-Billion Dollar Industry

Yesterday Stephen Joyce announced:

$15m investment in sheep and beef genetics

Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce today announced a $15 million investment over five years into advances in genetics research that will improve the profitability of New Zealand’s sheep and beef sector.

A new partnership, Beef + Lamb New Zealand Genetics, will also bring together New Zealand’s existing sheep and beef genetics research by consolidating Sheep Improvement Ltd, the Beef + Lamb New Zealand Central Progeny Test, and Ovita. Total funding for the new project from government and industry sources will be up to $8.8 million per year.

“Science and innovation are major drivers of economic growth and international competitiveness. The Government is committed to ensuring we invest in purpose-driven research that benefits New Zealand,” Mr Joyce says.

“Genetic improvement in the sheep industry has contributed greatly to farm profitability, and for every dollar captured on farm, another 50 cents is captured off-farm. In just 10 years Beef + Lamb New Zealand Genetics expect that farmers will receive $5.90 extra profit per lamb sold at that time.”

...

We think this is corporate welfare - the only winners are the sheep and beef farmers who will ultimately profit. Like most corporate welfare, it’s everyday taxpayers who will be left out of pocket.

As Mr Joyce goes on to point out in the release, New Zealand already leads the world in pastoral animal and plant genetics.

“As a nation, we are already leading the world in pastoral animal and plant genetics. This partnership will help us maintain this critical position and to continue to build on it through further research and development in sheep and beef genetics.”

The first part of that paragraph is correct - NZ does lead the word. What is not clear is why taxpayers need to stump up to keep us there. Why does this multi-billion dollar export industry suddenly need the Government pouring millions into it? Expecting increases in farmers' profits is not justification.

This funding is for good headlines, not good economics. What other industries have their normal research and development costs borne by the taxpayer?

Auckland Council charges for pool inspections

A reader has sent this in to me. They note:

Just got a letter today that informs me that the  will now inspect my pool fencing every three years to make sure it is still there and charge me for the privilege. Revenue generating at its best.

Original inspection received sign-off. It cost a fortune to put in a steel fence. Current charge for initial inspection is $75 – I am OK with that and foolishly thought that was the end of it.

Now it will be inspected every three years at a higher cost of $125 per inspection. For now.

My points are:

  • Why follow up inspections? It is a metal fence set in concrete – we are hardly likely to lift it out of the ground
  • Why more expensive since it is just (supposedly) reaffirming it is still there so technically they could look from the top of our drive and view it rather than inspect it
  • Why can’t we just send in a photo showing it is still there – saves them a trip and us a lot of money

This is revenue generating pure and simple. It is a loose interpretation of Fencing of Swimming Pools Act 1987 section 10 (Every territorial authority shall take all reasonable steps to ensure that this Act is complied with within its district.)Exploitation of vague legislation seen as a revenue opportunity.

Since Len(it’s all about me) came in our rates have increased and services decreased as well as additional charges sneaking into the mix. This is snowballing and there seems to be no vehicle to challenge other than talk to a child at the call centre who sounded very sweet but “that picnic may be short of a sandwich” if you know what I mean. She struggled to know what to say and failed to find me anyone to talk to. Any suggestions for recourse?

The $75 initial charge does seem okay, but checking every three years the fence set in concrete is still there seems indeed just revenue generating – especially as they will cost more than the original check.

NB: This post also appears on my personal blog kiwiblog.co.nzPlease feel free to comment on the post there.

Update on the AAE - DoC requests that logo be removed

Further to our questions about whether or not DoC is a supporter of the Australasian Antarctic Expedition (the scientific expedition that got stuck in the ice recently), yesterday we received another letter from DoC confirming that DoC has not supported the AAE. It states that DoC has now asked the AAE for its logo to be removed from the expedition's website.

To recap, after asking how much taxpayer money had been committed to the failed expedition, we discovered that the AEE was falsely claiming DoC as a 'supporter'. See my earlier posts here and here.

We look forward to receiving responses from the other New Zealand 'supporters', Landcare Research and the University of Waikato.

Ltr from DoC 15 Jan 2014

Policy victory

Last week we released material showing that millions of dollars is being wasted in a CTU/Business NZ deal for health and safety training that, according to ACC's experts, for every dollar spent 84 cents is wasted. As you'll recall, the Minister of ACC, Judith Collins, labelled the scheme a 'sham' and a 'rort'. It was clear that millions intended to improve workplace health and safety was being used for programmes that did little, if anything, except 'raise awareness'.

We are pleased to report that, despite the initial doubtthe Taxpayers' Union has now confirmed that ACC is cutting the taxpayer funding of the Council of Trade Unions and Business NZ for this dodgy training program. We understand that the final contracts revealed last week dramatically reduce the funding Business NZ and the CTU receive.

This is a big win for levy payers - who will no longer have the burden of funding a deal that achieves little, if anything. For workers this is a win - the money can now be redirected to measures that actually reduces accidents. It's also a win for Business NZ and CTU members - no longer are the two organisations conflicted in their ACC advocacy for members.

ACC has now publicly stated that the this training programme will end this year. That, combined with the CTU and Business NZ's new contracts is a policy victory.

Pressure builds on Len Brown

Pressure builds on Len Brown Newstalk ZB - 20/1/2014

Len Brown's opponents continue to apply pressure on the Auckland mayor.
Security guards protected Mr Brown from hecklers as he opened a railway station at Panmure on Saturday.
New Zealand Taxpayers' Union executive director Jordan Williams says if the mayor feels he needs extra security, he should foot the bill himself.
"And lets be honest, he only has that security to stop people ridiculing him and mocking him, I question whether it is for his genuine protection."
But a spokesman for the mayor's office says the Panmure transport interchange opening was an Auckland Transport event, and the extra security was ATs decision.
There are also claims that Mr Brown has already breached the censure enforced by his councillors.
All 20 Auckland councillors censured the mayor last month, requiring a stronger working relationship and level of accountability.
But councillor Cameron Brewer says the mayor has effectively thumbed his nose at the censure by informing news media of his six priorities for 2014, before telling councillors.
Mr Brewer says the media rang councillors yesterday for comment, but they didn't even know what Len Brown had said.
Mr Brewer says the mayor's actions are not in the spirit of what was formally agreed, not to mention the many assurances and promises the Mayor has made publicly.

Fiscal rules

Readers will be aware that Australia is facing huge deficits, despite the promise of the previous Government to get into surplus.

As a response to this, the Centre for Independent Studies has proposed some fiscal rules to bind future Governments.

They are:

  1. require the federal fiscal balance to be maintained within a range of +2% to -2% of GDP on both an actual and forecast basis
  2. limit the net debt to GDP ratio to 10%
  3. cap the federal revenue and expenditure shares of GDP to 25%
  4. capping real growth in federal spending at 2% per annum

Fiscal rules are not new for Australia. The Labor Hawke/Keating Government set rules being:

  1. Not to raise tax revenue as a share of GDP
  2. Not to raise government expenditure as a share of GDP
  3. To reduce the budget deficit in absolute terms and relative to GDP

Anyway what I like most of all is their mechanism to encourage Governments to keep to the fiscal limits or rules. They propose:

This would involve cutting federal politicians’ overall remuneration by 1% for every percentage point breach of each fiscal rule for the duration of the breach.

Now that appeals!

NB: This post also appears on my personal blog kiwiblog.co.nzPlease feel free to comment on the post there.

Newstalk ZB on funding for yacht race that never happened

Government won't seek repayment from axed yacht race Newstalk ZB - 16/1/2014

The Government has no intention of making the organisers of an axed yacht race repay $100,000 in taxpayer funding.

The inaugural Auckland to Bluff race - scheduled for next month - was cancelled due to a lack of entrants, but not before receiving a quarter of its $400,000 government grant.

The Taxpayers' Union says organisers should be made to pay it back.

But Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce says organisers have already spent the money and he doesn't expect them to find another $100,000 to pay it back. 

Business NZ finally responds to allegations of cosy deal

Stuff has just reported:

BusinessNZ rejects training scheme attacks

Business NZ has hit back at ACC Minister Judith Collins over her attacks on an ACC-funded health and safety training programme run by Business NZ, the Council Of Trade Unions and a private provider.

ACC announced this week that the $1.5 million a year programme would be canned at the end of of 2014 because it was not providing value for money.

Collins had joined criticism of the scheme, which has run since 2003, describing it as a cosy arrangement that had the hallmarks of a scam and a rort.

Business NZ today broke its silence on the issue, with a press release quoting its chief executive, Phil O'Reilly.

"For the record, Business NZ utterly rejects mistaken allegations made by lobbyist Jordan Williams since repeated by the ACC minister," O'Reilly said.

"The BusinessNZ family's involvement has been completely ethical at all times, and I am confident that this is also the case with the involvement of the CTU and Impac Services."

The CTU has also strongly rejected the criticisms by Collins and Williams.

O'Reilly said it was "unfortunate that important debate on workplace safety has been undermined by intemperate media comment".

Media reporting of uninformed assumptions by Williams appeared to have led to the minister's comments, O'Reilly said. continue reading...

Why is the Government picking losers?

Yesterday Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce announced research and development grants that are set to cost taxpayers $140million over three years. The Herald reports:

More than $140 million has been earmarked to go to 31 New Zealand tech companies in research and development grants.
Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce yesterday named companies awarded R&D growth grants from Callaghan Innovation, the Government's high-tech development body set up in 2012.
Recipients include NZX-listed companies Rakon, Scott Technology and a company owned by Wynyard Group.
The grants provide a 20 per cent contribution to a firm's annual R&D spend, capped at $5 million a year.
PTo qualify for the grants, businesses need to commit to spend at least $300,000 and 1.5 per cent of revenue on New Zealand research & development.
The grants last for three years and after two years of receiving funding, a firm can apply for a two-year extension to the assistance.

$19m wasted on health and safety training with 84c per dollar wasted

Health and safety training 'a waste of time' ONE News - 14/1/2014 

The ACC Minister is promising to scrap a Government-funded health and safety training scheme.

Judith Collins agrees with a taxpayers' lobby group, the Taxpayers' Union, that the 10-year-old scheme has been a waste of money.

Click here or the image below for video on demand.

TVNZ screenshot

ACC dumps workplace training scheme 3 News - 15/1/2014

Click here or the image below for video on demand.

 

ACC to can programme after $19m spent NZ Herald - 14/1/2014

The Accident Compensation Corporation will end a health and safety training programme it said today after activist group the Taxpayers Union highlighted almost $20 million in spending on the training which generated few benefits.

The union today released documents detailing the corporation's spending since 2003 on the programme to train employees in health and safety practices.

Beginning in 2003, the money was paid to the Council of Trade Unions (CTU), employers' group Business NZ and private training provider Impac Services.

However the documents showed the $19 million spent "did little, if anything, to reduce workplace accidents", Taxpayers Union executive director Jordan Williams said.

The documents released under the Official Information Act showed reviews of the programme showed its net effect in reducing injuries were "small in size and were inconsistent in direction to be considered effective".

ACC analysis found that over the time the programme was working there was a reduction in claims even in workplaces where no safety or workplace activity has occurred.

The analysis suggested that even if the training was responsible for half of the reduction in accidents, at best only 16c in every $1 spent did any good, or in other words, 84c in every $1 was being wasted.

The documents reveal that Business NZ and the CTU worked together with ACC to create the venture and doubts about the value of the scheme had existed since at least 2008.

"Business NZ and the CTU have created a nice little earner for themselves", said Mr Williams.

"It's a disgraceful example of big corporate and union welfare chewing through taxpayer cash."

ACC spokeswoman Stephanie Melville today said the corporation decided late last year "that the training programme wouldn't be continued past its current contract".

"While the training programme did provide some value, it did not meet our level of expectations, nor deliver value for money."

Click here to continue reading.

ACC cuts $1.5m in health, safety training stuff.co.nz - 14/1/2014

Accident prevention training may end Otago Daily Times - 15/1/2014

Lucrative training programmes which the Taxpayers Union says has cost ACC levy-payers $19 million since 2003 may be close to ending.

The union released documents yesterday which showed ACC knew millions of dollars paid to BusinessNZ and the Council of Trade Unions to provide health and safety training did little, if anything, to reduce workplace accidents.

The documents were obtained under the Official Information Act.

Taxpayers Union executive director Jordan Williams said the documents showed BusinessNZ and the CTU worked together with ACC to create the venture. Doubts about the value of the scheme had existed since at least 2008.

''BusinessNZ and the CTU have created a nice little earner for themselves. It's a disgraceful example of big corporate and union welfare chewing through taxpayer cash.''

ACC axing union health and safety partnership Newstalk ZB - 14/1/2014

ACC admits programme poor value Radio NZ - 14/1/2014

Click here to listen to item on Checkpoint ( 2' 39'' )

ACC programme a cosy deal, says minister Radio NZ - 15/1/2014

Click here to listen to Judith Collins on Summer Report ( 7' 08'' )

BusinessNZ rejects training scheme attacks stuff.co.nz - 16/1/2014

Business NZ has hit back at ACC Minister Judith Collins over her attacks on an ACC-funded health and safety training programme run by Business NZ, the Council Of Trade Unions and a private provider.

ACC announced this week that the $1.5 million a year programme would be canned at the end of of 2014 because it was not providing value for money.

Collins had joined criticism of the scheme, which has run since 2003, describing it as a cosy arrangement that had the hallmarks of a scam and a rort.

Business NZ today broke its silence on the issue, with a press release quoting its chief executive, Phil O'Reilly.

Continue reading.

Minister softens over claims of rort in ACC workplace safety training NZ Herald - 17/1/2014

Judith Collins said the programme had 'all the hallmarks of a rort' which 'added very little for the money'. Photo / NZPA
Judith Collins said the programme had 'all the hallmarks of a rort' which 'added very little for the money'. Photo / NZPA

... Ms Collins had spoken to CTU Secretary Peter Conway and while she wouldn't apologise "she said she will no longer use the word rort".

Ms Collins last night confirmed she had spoken with Mr Conway and had agreed to try "not to use those words".

However she maintained the scheme had been "a complete waste of money and a disgrace". Read more.


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