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Getting around without a car

The Taxpayers’ Union is questioning the merits and costs of the “No car? No problem! Getting around your community without a car” brochure, released by the Office for Senior Citizens. The brochure’s purpose is to explain to senior citizens transport options when they can no longer drive.

The primary purpose of the taxpayer funded brochure is to make suggestions such as:

  • “walking more often”
  • “getting lifts from family and friends”
  • “using taxies”
  • “using public transport"
  • “letting others use your car to drive you places”
  • "public transport and getting family to drive you"

It has cost taxpayers over $37,000 to produce the brochures since 2005 (excluding the cost of staff time).

Instead of addressing pressing issues such as fraudsters preying on our seniors and elder-abuse, the Government is throwing money away at brochures that parrot what is surely common sense. When the brochure launched, the Minister for Senior Citizens even put out a press release to welcome it!

We think that publishing a brochure explaining that people can walk places is a waste of taxpayers’ money and public servants’ time. Take a read and tell us what you think via our Facebook page.

We know that politicians like to be seen to be doing something, but surely New Zealanders don’t need to be told by the Government that taking a bus is an option, when you can no longer drive.

No Car No Problem

 

To view the responses to our information requests lodged with the Minister and Office for Senior citizens, click the links below. 

OIA response 19 June 2014

OIA response 3 July 2014

 

 

When someone else is paying, why walk?

A few months ago a Ministry of Health official contacted us regarding the use of taxi charge cards within the Ministry, and suggested we look at the number of 'micro-trips' taken by managers, often between the Ministry's Wellington offices and Parliament.

Details of the Ministry's taxi charges show its Wellington staff are making more than 1,000 taxi trips a year costing less than $10.

In the 2012/2013 financial year, Ministry staff based in Wellington charged taxpayers for 8,645 taxi trips with 1,076 of those for journeys costing less than $10.

It is sadly ironic that while the Ministry of Health spends taxpayer money to promote active living, officials are getting taxis a few hundred metres down the road. 

A taxi trip for the sake of a five minute walk is simply not justifiable when it’s someone else's money. The documents show that these short trips make up more than ten percent of all taxi charges by Wellington based staff.

Taxpayers will not be impressed that Wellington health bureaucrats are the in habit of getting them to pay for micro-trips when it is probably faster to walk.

Ministry of Health response 05/06/2014

Letter to the Speaker

News broke on Wednesday that Mana Party leader Hone Harawira had erected hoardings for the election which displayed the crest of the House of Representatives. This led to questions about how the hoardings had ben funded – had taxpayers’ money been used?

When we questioned if taxpayers’ money had ben used by the MP, Mr Harawira aggressively claimed that funding for the hoardings had not come from Parliamentary Service.

So why do they all contain the crest? It’s a symbol that generally denotes that taxpayers’ money has been used to purchase advertising or other goods and services. 

We have written to the Speaker in order to gain some clarification on this matter.

The rules applicable to fundings MPs receive are clear:

  1. Taxpayers’ money should not be used for, or in a way that could be seen to promote a candidate or party during the election; and
  2. The House of Representatives crest should not be used on materials that contain electioneering.

Which rule has been broken? And what repercussions, if any, are likely to follow?

We’re looking forward to the Speaker’s ruling and response.

24/07/2014 Letter to the Speaker

Taxpayers Union plays part reducing foreign aid waste

In May the Taxpayers' Union revealed that  $116,000 of NZ Aid money, intended for economic development, was used to buy Cook Island Prime Minister, Henry Puna a new boat and outboard motor. The Cook Islands Government initially denied the claims, which were later found to be well founded following a 3 news investigation. Two months later, in July the New Zealand Government denied the Cook Island Prime Minister eligibility to receive future NZ aid funding.

Cook Island Government Initially Refutes Taxpayers' Union Claims: 

Cook Islands government dismisses PM aid money allegations 'Dateline Pacific' Radio New Zealand - 22/05/2014

The New Zealand Taxpayers' Union says there has to be better oversight of NZ Aid money after revelations in the New Zealand media that Mr Puna got a large aid grant through a pearl farming programme. The Union's Jordan Williams says aid money needs to be targetted at people who need it and New Zealand taxpayers shouldn't be forking out funds for a new boat and outboard motor to senior politicians. He says Foreign Minister Murray McCully needs to reveal if he knew Henry Puna would be the largest recipient of the project funds.

JORDAN WILLIAMS: If everything was above board this conflict would have been acknowledged and it would have been handled properly. Instead the Cook Islands government has reacted to the story just with secrecy. There are plenty of questions to be answered both by the Cook Islands Prime Minister and indeed by our own Minister of Foreign Affairs.

The Cook Islands Financial Secretary, Richard Neves, says the allegations of large payments to the Prime Minister and comments from the Taxpayers' Union are outlandish and ignorant. He says the Cook Islands is one of the leaders in 

transparency across the Pacific. He says the Manihiki Pearl Farmers Association and the Ministry of Marine Resources work out what each farmer needs and the Finance Ministry buys the materials and then finalises who gets what.

Click here for the full Radio NZ report - 22/05/2014

New Zealand Government Denies Cook Island PM Further NZ Aid Payments: 

Cook Islands PM denied pearl farm funding 3 News - 18/07/2014

Cook Islands Prime Minister Henry Puna has been denied NZ Aid funding for his pearl farm following a 3 News investigation earlier this year.

In May, it was revealed that Mr Puna had requested $116,000 worth of equipment and loan funding for his Manihiki pearl farm despite an apparent conflict of interest.

Since then, pearl farmers who requested funding have been reassessed under the requirements signed off between the Cook Island and New Zealand governments. Mr Puna did not meet the criteria. It is unclear whether the reassessment was a direct result of 3 News' investigation.

One of the requirements was that pearl farmers had to be active to receive funding. However, Mr Puna's pearl farm was struck off by the Companies Office in November last year and his media adviser Trevor Pitt said the farm had been dormant since 2010.

Jordan Williams, executive director of the New Zealand Taxpayers' Union, is happy with the response but has further questions he wants answered.

 "While we are delighted that future aid money won't be wasted on the Cook Islands oligarchy, NZ Aid needs to front up and explain how this happened in the first place.  

"We still don't know precisely what the New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister knew and when."

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) says it is working with the Cook Islands Ministry of Finance to ensure compliance with the terms and conditions of New Zealand's funding arrangement.

Prime Minister Henry Puna has not responded to interview requests.

Click here for the full 3 news article - 18/07/2014



When burritos become sandwiches

In recent days we have heard how NZ First leader Winston Peters wants to take GST off some foods, but not others. While any reduction in the tax-burden should be welcomed, this picking and choosing of which items should include a sales tax causes unnecessary confusion for suppliers, retailers and consumers. 

Take the humble burrito. 

It’s a Mexican staple; a food that’s becoming increasingly popular in New Zealand. And in New York State there is significant debate (think tax lawyers and accountants) on the question of whether it counts as a sandwich for tax reasons.

When politicians pick and choose sale taxes willy-nilly there are often unforeseen circumstances. In New York this has meant that the eight percent “sandwich tax” has become applicable to burritos. It’s also led to numerous hours of government officials and tax experts debating the trivial point of just what constitutes a sandwich. 

At a cost of at least $3 billion, removing GST on items of Mr Peters’ choosing is a big-ticket policy. But as with New York sandwiches, there would be endless regulations, descriptions and exemptions.

If politicians want to truly reduce the tax burden facing New Zealanders, they should start by cutting sales or income taxes across the board. Playing politics with your pantry is an expensive exercise that leads to some truly bizarre outcomes.

Winston playing favourites with gst

Tax dodgers, GST on food top NZ First hit list  The New Zealand Herald - 21/07/2014

New Zealand First would take GST off basic food items and rates bills and would target tax dodgers to fund the expensive policies, leader Winston Peters said yesterday.

But both proposals have already been tagged as difficult to implement.

… 

Taxpayers Union executive director Jordan Williams said he welcomed Mr Peters' recognition that New Zealand families were over-taxed, "but introducing new complexity to GST won't reduce the burden".

 

Click here to read the full story on nzherlad.

Party, Party, Politics and the Taxpayers' Purse

Political parties often engage musicians to drum up support during the election season. It’s the time of year when party hacks attempt to swell their numbers by using musicians as Trojan Horses for their political ideals. We all remember The Feelers’ song used in National Party adverts last election.

But what happens when taxpayer funds are propping up these artists?

The Party, Party put on by the Internet Party features numerous bands that have recently received significant grants of taxpayers’ money courtesy of NZ On Air.

Sons of Zion, State of Mind and PNC all received subsidies from NZ On Air as recently as late last year. The sums involved are not insignificant. A quick glance at the list of subsidies suggests that in the past few years these acts have received well over $200,000 of taxpayer funds.

Laughton Kora of L.A.B was also part of a group that received $245,000 NZ On Air funding to visit prisons for a Maori TV programme. 

While we can all appreciate that bands are comprised of individuals with their own political beliefs, it seems wrong for bands to be enabled to support a political cause by being propped up by the taxpayer.

Like Russian nesting dolls Auckland Council secretaries need secretaries

That’s right – the Auckland Council’s CEO has a secretary that is advertising for a secretary.

We have all heard about stories of politicians looking to empire build courtesy of the taxpayers’ pocket, but this really takes the cake.

No wonder Auckland Council now has more bureaucrats on living off ratepayers than all of the councils it replaced combined.

So what will this new position entail?

“Your day will involve providing administrative support as and where required, this includes anything from managing correspondence, records management to diary management. This role is vital to ensuring that items are actioned, recorded and accurate.”

If that’s the role of the secretary’s secretary, what’s left for the secretary to do?

At a time when the Council needs to find savings of $860 per ratepayer, empire building in Council offices should not be tolerated.

With nearly 6,000 bureaucrats on the pay-roll, 811 of which are earning over $100,000 a year, Len Brown and his CEO ought to be out trimming the fat rather than increasing the burden on ratepayers even further. 

Taxpayers Union on Greens Economic Policy: 3 News

Greens announce $1B economic policy 3 News - 16/07/2014

Meanwhile, the Taxpayers' Union says the Greens' policy is the "lesser of two evils" and is taking a cautiously optimistic approach.

"Although the Greens' policy still leaves room for picking winners, on balance it is better than the existing corporate welfare scheme operated by Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce," executive director Jordan Williams says.

The union is concerned tax credits could be vulnerable to businesses manipulating what they do to qualify for new research and development funding.

Click here to read the full report.


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