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New paper highlights how vaping brings New Zealand closer to Smokefree 2025

White paperA new white paper on international best practice towards vaping regulation features a case study on New Zealand, with data showing how increased vaping uptake has correlated with significant progress towards our Smokefree goal.
 
The white paper is published by the Property Rights Alliance, with contributions from the UK, New Zealand, France, and Canada. The New Zealand case study is written by New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager Louis Houlbrooke.
 
Mr Houlbrooke says, “Historically, public health commentators have attributed reductions in smoking rates to annual excise tax hikes. But now, despite an end to annual tax hikes, we see progress accelerating. This latest data makes it increasingly difficult to deny that it is alternative products like e-cigarettes – not tax – that will ultimately bring New Zealand to our Smokefree goal. However, the question remains to what extent our progress will be slowed by new regulations currently being implemented to reduce access to vaping products.”

Commenting on the white paper, Centre of Research Excellence Director Dr Marewa Glover says, “Enabling people to switch from smoking to vaping is not only delivering on reducing risk to health, the New Zealand experience is proof that access to vaping can reduce inequity in smoking rates. Despite the FCTC saying countries should ensure that Indigenous peoples also benefit from tobacco control measures, the gap in smoking rates between Māori and  European New Zealanders has never been reduced. The higher rates of daily vaping among Māori compared to European New Zealanders is the first sign that this inequity may be lessened. It is significant also, that daily vaping prevalence increases in line with higher deprivation. The lower the income quintile the higher the smoking prevalence, but also the higher daily vaping occurs.”
 
The white paper has been published ahead of the WHO’s COP9 conference, which will be attended by delegates from across the world as they consider updates to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.
 
“We’re urging New Zealand’s delegates to tell our story with pride," says Mr Houlbrooke. "During our long period of essentially unregulated access to vaping products, the sky did not fall – in fact, smokers took the opportunity to switch in droves. This success has been reflected by the Government’s own information campaign on vaping, which highlights vaping as an effective means to quit smoking, with a 95 percent reduction in harm relative to cigarettes.”
 
This morning Mr Houlbrooke joined a live webinar hosted by the Property Rights Alliance along with contributors to the white paper. Click here to watch the recording.

Taxpayer Update: A new tax grab | Grant's confession | Super tax

Dear Supporter,

Congestion charging: A new raid on commuters' wallets?

Traffic

Parliament's Transport Select Committee has completed an inquiry into congestion charging – and every party involved is keen on the idea.

The proposal would initially involve charging motorists entering central Auckland during peak traffic hours, but the door has been left open for other councils to introduce charges of their own.

Is this just another tax grab? It doesn't have to be: Parliament could mandate that all revenue from the charge is used to cut fuel tax. That would mean motorists who avoid peak-hour inner-city traffic get a discount.

But the committee is proposing raiding the revenue for public transport projects and "active transport" (read: cycleways).

On our Taxpayer talk podcast I spoke with National MP Chris Luxon, who was part of the inquiry, about whether his party is supporting a tax grab.

Luxon🔊 Click here to listen to the podcast.

He makes a strong case for using pricing to manage congestion the same way that private companies (such as airlines) vary prices according to demand. But, while he's keen on cutting fuel tax, he doesn't rule out using some of the revenue on other projects.

As we warned in June, if there’s even a hint that this policy will be used to extract more money from commuters, the idea will become politically toxic. With the hikes to fuel taxes, the ETS, and the Ute Tax, that last thing we need is yet another nasty tax on motorists.

It's early days yet (the legislation will need to be drafted and put through a consultation process) but your humble Taxpayers' Union is ready for a fight to demand any new tax is 'revenue neutral'. Watch this space.

Robertson's stunning $3b admission shows potential for taxpayer savings

Last week in Parliament the media somehow missed Grant Robertson admit something incredible: he's looked back at his "COVID response" spending projects and reckons he can "claw back" $3 billion.

In other words, he's confessed that he misused taxpayer money.

This comes after a week of pressure from the Taxpayers' Union and Opposition MPs. Here's National's Michael Woodhouse in Parliament citing some of our examples of how the COVID response fund was frittered away:

Michael WoodhouseClick here to watch the clip.

The $3 billion Robertson says he can reclaim equals around $1600 for every household in the country from his previously-allocated spending. If he can find this much money just by looking between the couch cushions, that suggests far more money could be reclaimed if he does a deep clean.

If Robertson doesn't do a thorough job clawing back low-priority spending, he's signalled he's willing to simply borrow to cover new costs. His justification is that thanks to better-than-expected economic performance we can keep borrowing while staying within debt forecasts. But the forecasts are disastrous, showing a Debt Monster of around $100,000 per household by 2024. Why on Earth would we treat that like a target?

A new push to hike taxes on working superannuants

Susan St John

An Auckland University academic is promoting a new plan to offset rising superannuation costs: Susan St John wants to hike taxes on superannuants, with a 39 percent flat rate tax on any income additional to Super.

It's a dumb idea. Working superannuants should be celebrated, not punished with higher taxes. They make a positive contribution to our national productivity and to our tax system. In fact, once you account for income tax, GST, and council rates, many working superannuants pay more in tax than they receive in Super.

A 39 percent tax rate would discourage older New Zealanders from remaining in work, which ultimately shrinks the tax base. It would also introduce a disturbing element of age discrimination to our tax system.

This plan is an attempt to dodge the fundamental problem of rising costs. A more sensible proposal would be to adjust Super payments for inflation instead of average wages. That would curb rising costs without cutting real incomes for over-65s.

Councils shouldn't be issuing parking tickets during lockdown

Wardens

Wellington City Council is ticketing parked vehicles in the CBD during lockdown a practice out of line with other cities that have rightly told parking wardens to stay at home.

This is nasty revenue maximisation at a time when councils should be showing kindness. Parking charges and time restrictions are to ensure vehicles aren’t parked longer than necessary and to keep the parks revolving for other people. That is totally unnecessary when the City is largely abandoned.

In fact, Wellington City Council's ticketing strategy risks pushing people onto buses and trains where COVID is more likely to spread. Madness.

Three Waters reform: you need to know about this

What could be the downside to centralising our water infrastructure and allocating 50% ownership to iwi?

Three Waters reform is an issue we're following closely. The proposed reforms would remove control of billions of dollars' worth of assets from local authorities. We're preparing a tool to ensure ratepayers and taxpayers have their say in the submission process, which closes at the end of this month.

In the meantime, here's two new episodes of Taxpayer Talk to get you up to speed with the issue:

🔊 Click here to listen to the interview with Westland Mayor Bruce Smith.

🔊 Click here to listen to the interview with ACT MP Simon Court.

An Unexpected Premiere

Hobbitses

Finally, Taxpayers' Union Analyst Neil Miller has been dwelling on the disastrous outcome of the taxpayer-funded subsidy granted to Amazon's Lord of the Rings series, which has now shifted production to Britain. Below I've pasted Neil's take on the saga in full.

***

In a hole in the Beehive there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms: it was a Ministerial hole, and that means comfort. It had a perfectly round door like a porthole, painted bright red like a KiwiRail locomotive, with a shiny yellow brass knob in the exact middle.

The door opened on to a very comfortable office with panelled walls, floors tiled and carpeted, and polished chairs. This Minister was a very well-to-do Minister, and his name was Bilbo Twyford. Twyford had lived in the neighbourhood of The Hive for over four years. He was always accompanied by his loyal gardener, Samwise Nash.

One day, there came a loud knock. Not a ring, but a hard rat-tat on the Minister’s beautiful red door. Somebody was banging with a stick! Twyford and Nash were confused, they had no meetings in their diaries. Summoning up his most assertive tone, Bilbo Twyford wavered: “No thank you! We don't want any more visitors, well-wishers or distant relations!"

A deep voice boomed “And what about some very new friends?” The door swung open and there, clad in finest shimmering Armani, stood Amazon the Grey, the legendary wizard of taxpayer subsidies for multi-million-dollar films. “I have an adventure for you Masters Twyford and Nash. In truth, I have five seasons of adventures which will spread the name of the Hive far and wide,” Amazon told the astonished Ministers.

Bilbo and Samwise raced to their strongroom, deftly sidestepping the sleeping figure of Smaug Robertson. They returned with gold, silver, jewels, frankincense, myrrh, and most valuable of all in the Second Age of Pestilence, three-ply toilet paper. The deal was sealed with a solemn round of “paper, scissors, rock.”

In the first eon, matters appeared to be going well and there was no cause for alarum. Then, on a stormy night, Amazon the Grey returned to the Hive, this time accompanied by thirteen intellectual property lawyers, all stroking their beards and laughing into their bulging money pouches.

Amazon told the Ministers he had dark and troubling news. Then there was a flash of light and a cloud of smoke, and while Bilbo and Samwise were left gagging in the vapours of a cheap flash bang grenade, Amazon was spotted riding away on a Jaguar, laughing manically, and twirling his moustache. His lawyers left behind a short note saying the adventures had all moved to the Northern Kingdom, including taking the infrastructure of the whole series developed by the Hive, for various exciting tax purposes. They obviously attached an enormous legal bill.

A crestfallen Bilbo Twyford eventually penned a warning letter to the stout yeomen of the Northern Kingdom, to be delivered by Light Rail when the line was complete. He wrote these prophetic words:

Do not be seduced by Amazon’s bewitching words and card tricks. Watch out next year when the Kingdom of Croatia or the Lords of Canadaor come calling on the ring bearer with even larger taxpayer funded subsidies. There is no loyalty, there be only dragons. We know what it is like to have what we thought was Our Precious taken from us. Multi-national wizards like Amazon will always up and follow other people’s gold. They never put a Ring on it.

***

Enjoy the rest of your week,

Louis circle


Louis Houlbrooke
Campaigns Manager
New Zealand Taxpayers' Union

Donate

Media coverage:

The Wanaka App  Upper Clutha District Council: pros and cons

Sunday Star-Times  An economic catastrophe is looming

Stuff  Meet the Bewildered: They're not ignorant or deplorable, just confused by change

Chapter I: An Unexpected Premiere

Hobbitses

The following is an op-ed by Taxpayers’ Union Analyst N C C Miller. It is free for publication. (544 words)

In a hole in the Beehive there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms: it was a Ministerial hole, and that means comfort. It had a perfectly round door like a porthole, painted bright red like a KiwiRail locomotive, with a shiny yellow brass knob in the exact middle.

The door opened on to a very comfortable office with panelled walls, floors tiled and carpeted, and polished chairs. This Minister was a very well-to-do Minister, and his name was Bilbo Twyford. Twyford had lived in the neighbourhood of The Hive for over four years. He was always accompanied by his loyal gardener, Samwise Nash.

One day, there came a loud knock. Not a ring, but a hard rat-tat on the Minister’s beautiful red door. Somebody was banging with a stick! Twyford and Nash were confused, they had no meetings in their diaries. Summoning up his most assertive tone, Bilbo Twyford wavered: “No thank you! We don't want any more visitors, well-wishers or distant relations!"

A deep voice boomed “And what about some very new friends?” The door swung open and there, clad in finest shimmering Armani, stood Amazon the Grey, the legendary wizard of taxpayer subsidies for multi-million-dollar films. “I have an adventure for you Masters Twyford and Nash. In truth, I have five seasons of adventures which will spread the name of the Hive far and wide,” Amazon told the astonished Ministers.

Bilbo and Samwise raced to their strongroom, deftly sidestepping the sleeping figure of Smaug Robertson. They returned with gold, silver, jewels, frankincense, myrrh, and most valuable of all in the Second Age of Pestilence, three-ply toilet paper. The deal was sealed with a solemn round of “paper, scissors, rock.”

In the first eon, matters appeared to be going well and there was no cause for alarum. Then, on a stormy night, Amazon the Grey returned to the Hive, this time accompanied by thirteen intellectual property lawyers, all stroking their beards and laughing into their bulging money pouches.

Amazon told the Ministers he had dark and troubling news. Then there was a flash of light and a cloud of smoke, and while Bilbo and Samwise were left gagging in the vapours of a cheap flash bang grenade, Amazon was spotted riding away on a Jaguar, laughing manically, and twirling his moustache. His lawyers left behind a short note saying the adventures had all moved to the Northern Kingdom, including taking the infrastructure of the whole series developed by the Hive, for various exciting tax purposes. They obviously attached an enormous legal bill.

A crestfallen Bilbo Twyford eventually penned a warning letter to the stout yeomen of the Northern Kingdom, to be delivered by Light Rail when the line was complete. He wrote these prophetic words:

Do not be seduced by Amazon’s bewitching words and card tricks. Watch out next year when the Kingdom of Croatia or the Lords of Canadaor come calling on the ring bearer with even larger taxpayer funded subsidies. There is no loyalty, there be only dragons. We know what it is like to have what we thought was Our Precious taken from us. Multi-national wizards like Amazon will always up and follow other people’s gold. They never put a Ring on it.

Taxpayer Talk: Will congestion charging turn into a tax grab?

A Parliamentary select committee has unanimously recommend a charge on motorists entering central Auckland at peak hours. Louis is joined by National MP Christopher Luxon to discuss whether the revenues will be used to cut fuel tax, or if they will be raided by greedy councils.

Subscribe to Taxpayer Talk podcast via Apple PodcastsSpotifyGoogle PodcastsiHeart Radio and wherever good podcasts are sold.

Taxpayer Talk: Mayor Bruce Smith on Three Waters

As part of our continuing discussion on the subject, Jordan and Bruce sit down for a chat about the now infamous Three Waters reforms. Topics include that patronising television ad, the government's reasoning for why reform is needed and the growing groundswell among Mayors and ratepayers in opposition to the reforms.

Subscribe to Taxpayer Talk podcast via Apple PodcastsSpotifyGoogle PodcastsiHeart Radio and wherever good podcasts are sold.

Taxpayer Talk: Simon Court On Three Waters

What could be the downside to centralising our water infrastructure and allocating 50% ownership to Iwi? Today on Taxpayer Talk Jordan is joined by ACT MP Simon Court for a discussion about the consequences of the 'Three Waters' proposal and what ACT would do differently.

Subscribe to Taxpayer Talk podcast via Apple PodcastsSpotifyGoogle PodcastsiHeart Radio and wherever good podcasts are sold.

Dr Oliver Hartwich on the consequences of lockdown and civil liberties

Jordan Williams is joined by the New Zealand Initiative director Oliver Hartwich for this episode of Taxpayer Talk. They discuss the impact lockdown is having on New Zealand, the similarities and lessons to be drawn from history and what the likely effects will be on our country's future.

Subscribe to Taxpayer Talk podcast via Apple PodcastsSpotifyGoogle PodcastsiHeart Radio and wherever good podcasts are sold.

Taxpayer Update: Where your money went | Clean car propaganda | Higher ETS levies

Dear Supporter,

Exposed: how the Government exploited COVID-19 to spend more of your money

Since my last newsletter, the Taxpayers’ Union has continued to expose how the Government has frittered away the $62 billion COVID-19 response fund.

The COVID response fund was 20 times larger than Shane Jones’s infamous Provincial Growth fund, and yet even before the current lock down, Grant Robertson had whittled it down from $62 billion to a measly $5 billion.

COVID meme

So, what happened to the money?

Grant Robertson is trying to tell New Zealanders that the money went toward essential business support like the wage subsidy. In reality, wage subsidies made up less than a quarter of the spending.

Below are some examples of how the money was actually spent. Judge for yourself whether this spending really has anything to do with COVID-19.

  • Flood protection in the Far North: $12,500,000

  • Cameras on fishing boats: $26,600,000

  • "Regional digital connectivity": $50,000,000

  • Horse racing: $52,500,000

  • "Public Interest" Journalism: $55,000,000

  • Internet modems for students: $87,000,000 (even Mike Hosking’s kid got one)

  • Affordable housing projects: $100,000,000

  • "Transformative energy" projects: $155,000,000

  • Various large-scale construction projects: $180,000,000

  • Construction of one building at the University of Auckland: $200,000,000

  • "Climate resilience" projects: $210,000,000

  • Arts grants: $374,000,000 (e.g. $17 million for art therapy clinics)

  • School lunches: $515,800,000 (yes, half a billion dollars)

  • "Jobs for Nature": $1,219,000,000 (e.g. the infamous wallaby-culling job creation scheme, which cost $200,000 per low-paying job created)

In short, the Government abused New Zealanders’ trust, exploiting a pandemic to establish New Zealand’s largest-ever political slush fund.

Following our work exposing this abuse of the COVID fund,it's good to see the Opposition parties now picking up our examples and pushing them hard in the media.

With a new lockdown imposing massive costs on businesses, households, and taxpayers, there is a real risk that the money will run out. Grant Robertson now claims that he can claw back some of the funding that was allocated but not spent – that’s almost an admission that he misused the fund.

But he’s also talking down the problem of the dwindling fund, saying that New Zealand’s overall economic position is better than expected. That’s code for: don’t worry, I'll just keep borrowing.

Revealed: Government spends $183,000 advertising 'Clean Car Discount'

You might have noticed recently full-page ads like this in the newspaper:

Clean car ad

Notice how the ad is all about the discount on EVs, and completely ignores the other side of the policy: new fees on petrol vehicles.

This ad was funded by taxpayers. In fact, as we revealed to Radio New Zealand's Morning Report, the New Zealand Transport Agency has spent a total of $183,751 advertising its “Clean Car Discount”.

What a pointless exercise in self-promotion. The amount of media attention this feebate scheme has received since it was announced has surpassed anything NZTA might hope to achieve through paid advertising.

Regardless, retailers of low-emissions vehicles already have an incentive to promote the discount themselves. If the widely-publicised discount is failing to attract people to electric vehicles, that suggests a problem with the policy itself.

The most egregious part of this campaign is the $34,000 allocated for 'content partnerships' with Stuff and NZME. In other words, NZTA is buying positive media coverage. You can view the taxpayer-funded fake news story here.

This raises serious questions about the independence of the media. How can a media outlet effectively scrutinise a policy when at the same time they're paid to promote it?

This campaign isn’t just wasteful – it’s misleading. The ads say the discount will help you 'do your bit to help get New Zealand to carbon neutral'. A simple understanding of New Zealand's Emissions Trading Scheme shows that choosing an EV over a petrol vehicle just frees up emissions to be produced elsewhere under the cap. Buying an electric vehicle might reduce the emissions for your household – but claiming it cuts New Zealand's overall emissions is greenwashing. NZTA should do better.

Higher fuel levies are coming: so why introduce a ute tax?

James Shaw

With the headlines dominated by COVID-19, an important story escaped attention: motorists are set to pay more in ETS levies at the pump. That’s because the Government is lifting the price cap on carbon credits.

ETS levies are nothing new. But this latest move raises an obvious question: if the Government can reduce transport emissions with the ETS, why is it bothering with the new ute tax?

The ute tax is paid in addition to the ETS levies you pay at the pump, making it a double tax.

At least ETS levies are fair – the cost to the taxpayer is proportionate to the amount of emissions produced. In contrast, the planned ute tax unfairly whacks a minority of New Zealanders with disproportionate costs. It's less about reducing emissions and more about bullying ute drivers into lifestyle change – costs and practicality be damned.

Climate Change Minister James Shaw needs to explain to his colleagues that, because we have an ETS, we can scrap the ute tax, along with the other costly and pointless regulatory interventions proposed by the Climate Change Commission.

Fire service wastes money, then runs out of fire trucks

Ladder trucks

Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ) has a major problem: its fire trucks are breaking down, and it doesn’t have any plans to replace them.

FENZ does not have a funding shortage. In fact, its latest annual report reveals that it collected $13 million more in revenue from the fire services levy than it had forecast for the financial year.

The problem here is a failure to focus spending on the things that matter. A research paper we released last year found that the merger of urban and rural fire services led to massive cost blowouts in back-office bureaucracy.

The department’s culture of wasteful spending appears to have been solidified by the merger. We revealed the rebranding alone for that merger came with a $6.2 million price tag.

Graphic

Meanwhile, new fire stations, even in small communities, have been gold-plated with extra bays, kitchen facilities, and training rooms. Lake Okareka's station cost $1.9 million, Wanaka's $4 million. FENZ's newest fire station in Athol, a community of 87 people, cost $1.6 million – an incredible $46,000 per resident. Admittedly in that case, FENZ was able to swindle most of the station's cost out of the Government's COVID response fund, not that they needed the extra money.

FENZ does not have to justify wasteful spending to Cabinet, as it collects revenue through the fire insurance levy, bypassing the Budget bid process. We’re urging the Government to switch to a more accountable funding model as part of the current review into FENZ's funding.

A very strange new government job

A now-deleted job ad reveals that the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet is hiring someone specifically to track "disinformation".

DisinformationClick here to view a larger version of this image.

This sounds Orwellian, to say the least. Who gets to decide what counts as disinformation?

DPMC of course reports to the Prime Minister's office.

Taxpayer Talk: 'Aoteanomics' – the latest public sector fad

Leading public sector bosses are increasingly dismissing the importance of productivity, preferring to focus on broader concepts of "wellbeing". Some have called this new way of thinking "Aoteanomics".

In our latest episode of our Taxpayer Talk podcast series, I was joined by Professor Robert MacCulloch of Auckland University to find out what exactly Aoteanomics is, and why such a radical shift in public sector thinking has escaped public debate.

Click here to listen to the podcast.

Alternative, find and subscribe to Taxpayer Talk via Apple PodcastsSpotifyGoogle PodcastsiHeart Radio and wherever good podcasts are sold.

A final message from the Taxpayers' Union propaganda communications department

UniteClick here to share this on Facebook.

We hope you and your family are doing OK in the current lockdown. Fingers crossed for a great weekend at home.

Louis circle


Louis Houlbrooke
Campaigns Manager
New Zealand Taxpayers' Union

Donate

Media coverage:

RNZ  $180k Clean Car Discount ads a waste of money - Taxpayers' Union

Stuff  Timaru District Council says staff turnover below national rate

RNZ  The Weekend Panel with Lavina Good and Louis Houlbrooke

Newshub  Grant Robertson says strong economy means there's enough money to get us through another lockdown

NZ Initiative  Get it done

Revealed: Government spends $183,000 advertising 'Clean Car Discount'

Clean car ad
The New Zealand Transport Agency (Waka Kotahi) has spent $183,751 advertising its Clean Car Discount, reveals the 
New Zealand Taxpayers' Union.

An official information response shows the advertising campaign was developed by Clemenger BBDO and ran for most of July including print, radio, posters, flyers, Google ads, and "content partnerships".

What a pointless exercise in self-promotion. The amount of media attention this feebate scheme has received since it was announced has surpassed anything NZTA might hope to achieve through paid advertising.

Regardless, retailers of low-emissions vehicles already have an incentive to promote the discount themselves. If the widely-publicised discount is failing to attract people to electric vehicles, that suggests a problem with the policy itself.

The most egregious part of this campaign is the $34,000 allocated for 'content partnerships' with Stuff and NZME. In other words, NZTA is buying positive media coverage. This raises serious questions about the independence of the media. How can a media outlet effectively scrutinise a policy when at the same time they're paid to promote it?

Examples of the advertisements can be viewed here and here (bottom right). The online ‘content partnership’ can be viewed here.

The ads weren't just wasteful but misleading, saying that the scheme would help you 'do your bit to help get New Zealand to carbon neutral'. Anyone with a basic understanding of climate policy knows that in New Zealand carbon emissions are capped and traded, so choosing an EV over a petrol vehicle just frees up emissions to be produced elsewhere under the cap.


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