Lower Taxes, Less Waste,
More Accountability

Championing Value For Money From Every Tax Dollar

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.” 

National’s Minister for Barry Crump a Slap in the Face for Those Facing Financial Pressure

The Taxpayers’ Union is telling the National Party not to waste money on a ridiculous “Minister for Hunting and Fishing”, which will add little, but cost a lot. Jordan Williams, a Spokesman for the Taxpayers’ Union said:

“It’s all very well to have a hunting and fishing policy, but a Minister – complete with staff and bureaucracy – is laughable. We might as well have a ‘Minister for the Weekend’ or a ‘Minister of Video Gaming’.

“You don’t need a permanent Minister to pass laws about hunting access, and to not licence sea fishing.

“These are the sorts of ‘Minister you’ve never heard of’ jobs we thought Christopher Luxon was promising to axe.  Or does he not intend to follow that through?

“Kiwis are struggling to pay for groceries and fill the car, and that’s where National’s focus should be.  Instead, the Party is creating a Minister for those heading out on the boat.

“Included in the policy is yet more support for Fish and Game.  Fish and Game have a role to play - but there is nothing in this policy that tackles the fact that Fish and Game have turned into taxpayer funded sock-puppet lobbyists against nearly all forms of farming and development - forcing fishing licence holders to fund campaigning many do not agree with.  It’s a racket, a cozy deal, and shouldn’t be allowed to continue.’

“No one who actually hunts or fishes would have come up with this idea.  The policy should be tossed back in favour of far more import issues facing New Zealanders.”

Broke Department of Conservation Must Scrap Māori Language Bonuses

Commenting on the news that the Department of Conservation (DoC) has agreed to pay staff bonuses of up to $3,500 a year for Māori language skills, Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Callum Purves, said:

“If a role at the Department of Conservation – or any other department for that matter – requires proficiency in te reo Māori, then of course fluent speakers should be hired. However, DoC freely admit that they have no such roles.

“Where it is not directly relevant to their job, public servants who want to learn te reo should, of course, be encouraged to do so, but in their own time. Like many, I attend te reo classes outside of working hours and for no bonus payment, why should it be any different for DoC staff?

“At a time when DoC is scrambling around trying to find ways to dig itself out of a multi-million dollar black hole, it is simply unjustifiable to be spending more of taxpayers’ hard-earned money on skills that are not practical requirements of the job.

“Refusing to answer basic questions on how much this policy will cost in the hopes of stalling through the weeks-long OIA process undermines transparent government. This ‘too-good-for-scrutiny’ attitude just goes to show how little respect many public servants have for the people that pay their salaries.”

Taxpayers and Ratepayers Subsidizing Irresponsible Property Investors

Responding to news that the Government has pledged $15 million towards the restoration of the St James Theatre in Auckland, Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Callum Purves, said:

“The Government’s offer to provide $15 million in funding towards restoring the St James Theatre - in addition to the $15 million already pledged by Auckland Council - is an incredibly brazen waste of taxpayer and ratepayers’ money.

“The tax burden on working families is spiralling out of control, and Auckland Council has just recently passed its largest ever rates rise. This is a time to be making hard financial choices about where to cut back spending, not committing vast sums of the public’s hard-earned money to local nice-to-haves.

“The owners of the theatre chose not to insure the building. Taxpayers should not be subsidizing the poor financial decisions of property investors.”

Taxpayer Update: Wealth tax will hamper entrepreneurial growth 🤑📉 | Taxpayers footing bill for Pamū animal welfare fines 🐮😔 | Pūhoi to Warkworth blowout 🚗🥳

More bad news on the cost of living front

This week's slight dip in the inflation figures will not come as much consolation for families across New Zealand who are struggling with the cost of living. While the overall rate may have dropped, food price increases and domestic inflation both continue to remain stubbornly high despite the aggressive interest rate hikes by the Reserve Bank.

Stop with the excuses Grant... IMF puts blame on Government's wasteful spending 

The Government likes to talk tough on the cost of living, but fails to acknowledge that its own spending is one of the biggest drivers of the problem.

Even the International Monetary Fund said last month that Grant Robertson needs to rein in his excessive spending. If the Finance Minister really wants to bring down inflation, he needs to cut the waste.

Here are some places he could start...

Taxpayers still footing bill for Pamū/Landcorp animal welfare violations 🐮😔

Pamū Fines

This week, we revealed that taxpayer money is being used to reimburse animal welfare fines for farmers at our taxpayer-owned farming company, Pamū (formerly known as Landcorp). 

Pamū states that they are ‘proud guardians of our land and animals' but the string of offences that taxpayers have been made to stump up for paint a very different picture. 

You wouldn't expect your employer to pay a speeding ticket you received while working, would you? Well that's what is happening here. Taxpayers are being forced to subsidize the small minority of farmers who mistreat their stock. This isn't even the first time this has happened, the Taxpayers' Union called out exactly the same practice by what was then called Landcorp three years ago

Allowing Pamū farmers to get off lightly is unfair on private sector farmers who work hard to maintain world-leading standards of care. It's certainly unfair on the animals who suffer. Having taxpayers cover the fines removes individual responsibility and weakens the deterrent effect that ensures Pamū farmers treat their animals with the care they deserve. If you would like to contact Pamū urging them to stop paying these fines, you can do so here.

Pūhoi to Warkworth opening ceremony blowout 🚗🥳

Opening Ceremony

What roundup of Government waste would be complete without a party for politicians and public servants?

Your humble Taxpayers' Union this week revealed that despite Labour opposing the Pūhoi to Warkworth highway (remember Chris Hipkins and Grant Robertson labelling it the 'holiday highway'?), they couldn't give up an opportunity for a knees-up!

Having learnt nothing from the lavish Transmission Gully opening ceremony last year, Waka Kotahi – along with Auckland Transport this time – spent at least $44,380.74 on the opening ceremony for the Pūhoi to Warkworth highway.

And one has to question whether there was that much to celebrate. This vastly over budget $880 million road is already falling apart at the seams. Multiple internal reports made it clear that landslides were leading to cracked barriers and warped surfaces, and this has been happening regularly since at least 2019. Waka Kotahi had also only completed 8 of 117 tests at the time of opening. 

Let's not forget that at the start of this month, the Government hiked taxes on petrol by 29 c/litre and road user charges by 56%. Motorists can rightly be annoyed that during a cost of living crisis, these tax hikes are paying for, well, parties. 

Reel Waste: Film Commission splashes out on another foreign jaunt 📽️🏖️

NZ Film Commission

It is time again to roll out the red carpet for another instalment of 'Reel Waste', brought to you by the New Zealand Film Commission (NZFC). Earlier this week, Taxpayers' Union Investigations Co-ordinator, Oliver Bryan, pulled back the curtain on their recent Cannes trip.

Four members of the NZFC's staff embarked on a jaunt to the French Riviera, courtesy of your hard-earned money, costing $73,000. They spent $31,000 on plane tickets, $24,000 on wining and dining in style, and hosting a series of events, including 'producer speed dating', and $17,000 on lavish accommodation.

And guess what? They arrived in Cannes five whole days before the festival officially kicked off and stayed for three days after it wrapped up! Now, call me a sceptic, but this sounds more of a holiday to me than a work trip. Something smells a bit off, and it isn't just the scent of croissants and escargot.

NEW REPORT: Wealth tax bad for savings, innovation and entrepreneurial growth 🤑📉

The Great Escape

Chris Hipkins is trying to rule out introducing a capital gains tax or a wealth (i.e. asset) tax under his leadership. While he may have ended up with a few disgruntled caucus members, as the leader of a majority government, that is a promise he can make with reasonable certainty. If the Prime Minister does manage to hang on after the election, however, he will undoubtedly require the support of the Green Party who have very different ideas. 

This week, we published a new report by our Research Fellow, Jim Rose, on the Green Party's proposals for an asset and trust tax. 

Pulling together the world’s leading economic research on the effects of asset taxes, the report finds that the Greens' proposals would be seriously damaging for our economy and would discourage savings, innovation and entrepreneurial growth.

Jim gave an overview of the key findings of his report in yesterday's edition of The Post.

Resource Management Act Reforms: What you need to know 🏘️🗳️

RMA Connor

David Parker's radical reforms to the Resource Management Act were back in Parliament this week. Despite the increasing public opposition to this 'Three Waters 2.0', Labour rammed the undemocratic proposals through their second reading just three weeks after the whopping 1,377 page select committee report was released. How many MPs do you think actually read, and fully understood, the recommendations in that time?

Our campaign against the Government’s proposed replacement to the Resource Management Act has been going strong with more and more people and politicians starting to take notice. Earlier this month, our Deputy Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, released a video outlining the problems with the proposed reforms and why they are destined to be a costly failure.

While proponents of centralization often make wild claims of efficiency gains through economies of scale and a more streamlined decision-making process, this is far from the reality. As Connor explains well, every time in recent history that a Government has tried to centralize power, we end up with higher costs, worse decision making and less accountability for those making bad decisions.

Resource management and urban planning is one of the key factors that will either stifle or power-up productivity and so it is fundamentally important that it is done well. You can help spread the word by taking a moment to share Connor’s video on Facebook so we can alert as many people as possible to what the Government is doing. 

Thank you for your support.

Yours aye,

Callum

Callum Signature
Callum Purves
Campaigns Manager

New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union

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Media coverage:

NZ Herald 
New Taxpayers’ Union – Curia poll delivers more bad news to Labour’s Chris Hipkins and National’s Chris Luxon, but a boost for Te Pāti Māori

Stuff Labour hit with second bad poll result in as many days

The Daily Blog BOOM: NEW POLL – HUNG PARLIAMENT

NewstalkZB Barry Soper: ZB senior political correspondent doubtful Taxpayers' Union – Curia poll will be reflected in election

NewstalkZB The Huddle: Did the Government think they could get away with a wealth tax in an election year?

NZ Herald Labour’s Chris Hipkins eyes new tax policy as poll struggles bite, rules out wealth, capital gains tax

NZ Herald Editorial: A tale of tax reform and two new polls

Newshub Election 2023: Political pundit Bryce Edwards says back-to-back bad poll results will have Labour 'very worried'

The Kaka by Bernard Hickey The Kākā by Bernard Hickey

NewstalkZB Afternoon Edition: 13 July 2023 (Poll)

Waatea News Support for Māori Party widens

The Listener Political week in review: Labour polling down as Chris Hipkins missing vision

Hawke's Bay Today Canny View: Don’t let tax creep get you down

RNZ Week in Politics: Hipkins makes a captain's call as Labour slides in the polls

Gisborne Herald Wealth tax call a high-risk strategy

NZ Herald Poll of polls: Race tightens with National only just ahead of Labour

NewstalkZB The Huddle: Are the Commonwealth Games worth preserving?

The Post The risk the Greens’ wealth tax poses to our economy

 

Revealed: Taxpayers Pay For Yet Another Film Commission Junket

The Taxpayers’ Union can reveal that the New Zealand Film Commission spent over $73,000 sending staff to Cannes Film Festival.

The Taxpayers' Union condemns the New Zealand Film Commission's (NZFC) recent excursion to the Cannes Film Festival. An Official Information Act request (OIA) has revealed that the NZFC sent a delegation of four staff members to the festival, costing more than $73,000 in total.

The cost of the plane tickets reached a total of $31,348.01, and the NZFC hosted a multitude of events, including two offsite events and fifteen onsite ones, such as 'producer speed dating', dinners, and lunches, which cost over $24,000. Accommodation expenses amounted to over $17,000.

Oliver Bryan, Investigations Coordinator at the Taxpayers' Union, said, "This is not the first time we have seen such excessive spending from the film commission during their junkets abroad. We were told that staff didn’t stay longer than necessary despite arriving in Cannes five days before the festival's official start and staying until three days after its conclusion. This extended stay raises serious questions about the true purpose of this excursion and whether it was simply a trip at the expense of hardworking taxpayers."

"Ironically, one of the events the NZFC staff attended was a 'best practice exchange' event. However, the lack of tangible results from this trip, coupled with the exorbitant costs borne by taxpayers, exposes the film commission's incapacity to deliver anything other than expensive vagueness. If the NZFC truly wishes to uphold best practices, they must be held accountable for their spending decisions and demonstrate concrete outcomes that benefit both the industry and taxpayers."

Parker's Fuel Tax Comments Tone-Deaf During Cost-of-Living Crisis

Responding to David Parker’s comments that hiking fuel taxes even further is not out of the question for Labour’s much-delayed transport budget, Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Callum Purves, said:

“Fuel taxes hit poor and rural households the hardest, and we are just a few weeks since Labour last hiked fuel taxes by 29 cents per litre. As Kiwi families struggle to get by in a cost-of-living crisis caused by reckless Government overspending, David Parker’s comment that Labour won’t rule out yet another cash grab is simply tone-deaf.

“The National Land Transport Fund is used to subsidize loss-making railways, walkways and cycleways, as well as paying for swanky opening ceremonies where public servants can pat themselves on the back for overseeing vastly over-budget projects. This announcement just goes to show that this Government’s default action is taxing working Kiwis more, when it needs to be cutting out waste.”

James Shaw called out for greenwashing with $90 million in corporate welfare

The Taxpayers’ Union is calling out James Shaw for greenwashing for wasting $90 million on corporate welfare for Fonterra which will not reduce one gram of New Zealand’s net emissions.

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

“The taxpayer-funded handout to one of the country’s largest companies won’t make a shred of difference to New Zealand’s net emissions which are already governed by the Emissions Trading Scheme. It is nothing more than greenwashing — being seen to be doing something rather than actually doing anything.

“Our correspondence with Minister Shaw in relation to the earlier NZ Steel announcement revealed that the subsidy was not part of a package that also reduced the cap on emissions so the emissions will simply be shifted elsewhere in the economy.

“Over the past five years the Government has wasted billions of dollars on pointless emissions reduction policies that don’t actually reduce emissions. The money generated from the Emissions Trading Scheme should be returned to taxpayers through a carbon dividend rather than dished out by a Minister set on buying the world’s most expensive photo-ops.

“If Minister Shaw wants to be a world leader in climate change, he should be aspiring to create the most efficient, low-cost ETS in the world for other countries to use as a blueprint for their own emissions reduction."

NEW REPORT: A wealth tax taxes savings, innovation and entrepreneurial growth

A new report published by the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union analysing the impacts of a wealth tax reveals that it would be significantly damaging for New Zealand economically and would discourage savings, innovation and entrepreneurial growth.

Using a collection of the world’s leading research in the area of wealth taxes, the report assesses the impact a wealth tax would have on New Zealand using the Green Party’s proposed wealth tax policy as a framework for the analysis.Key findings of the report are that the Green's tax proposals would:

> Tax many ordinary families and capture substantially more people than the 0.7% of New Zealanders claimed by the Green Party.

> Set up a Green tax haven whereby moderately wealthy New Zealanders who are reasonably debt free will put their assets into a trust to avoid the 2.5% wealth tax.

> Create a substantial barrier to growth for small and medium sized businesses.

> Make it harder to start a business by taxing family homes that are kept in a trust for asset protection.

> Impose a substantial tax on farms amounting to a $45,000 tax for the average dairy farm or a $120,000 tax if it is owned by a family trust.

Reduce the ability for founders of public companies to continue to control and reinvest in those companies.

Tax the innovation and investment that underwrites wage growth and lead to lower wages.

Make it less attractive for entrepreneurs to pioneer new technologies in New Zealand.

Make New Zealand a less attractive location to move for skilled and entrepreneurial individuals living overseas.

Taxpayers’ Union Research Fellow and author of the report, Jim Rose, said:

“It's clear that the Green Party’s proposed tax policies would be economically devastating for New Zealand and would see many of our best and brightest entrepreneurs and innovators discouraged from making our country a better, more prosperous nation.

“Not only will much greater proportion of the population than claimed by the Greens be captured by their proposed wealth tax but it will also tax, and therefore discourage, the innovation, skilled immigration and entrepreneurial flair that grows the economy and makes us all wealthier. In other words, it is not just the rich who suffer from a wealth tax.”

Revealed: Taxpayers Still Being Forced To Pay Animal Welfare Fines For Pamū Farmers

The Taxpayers’ Union can reveal that in the past three years, Pamū Landcorp has paid $2530 in fines on behalf of their employees for animal welfare offences.

The Taxpayers’ Union is shocked this is still occurring having called this out three years ago and is renewing calls for the practice of using taxpayer money to pay fines for individuals who have committed animal welfare offences to be stopped immediately.

Pamū provided information under the Official Information Act revealing the following reimbursements had been made:

> A $500 reimbursement for an animal welfare fine for allowing a ewe to be transported that had an udder with a lesion that was bleeding or discharging. The vet inspecting the animal noted that “the condition would have been present on farm and is a chronic condition. It should have been identified at shearing, or during selection for transport. This condition would have caused pain and discomfort.”

> A $500 reimbursement for an animal welfare fine for allowing a ewe to be transported that had an udder with a lesion that was bleeding or discharging. The MPI inspector noted that the ewe “was found to have a burst unhealed udder. The udder had burst some time ago and had attempted to heal unsuccessfully with raw tissue and discharge still present. These ewes were shorn, and this likely would have been present at shearing. It should also have been found prior to transport and she should not have been selected for transport.”

> A $530 reimbursement for an animal welfare fine for allowing transport of a bobby calf that was not free from showing signs of injury.

> A $500 reimbursement for an animal welfare fine for transporting a cow with an overgrown claw and low body condition (2.5/10) which lead to additional injuries and “would have caused this animal considerable unnecessary pain and distress”. The MPI inspector believed that this condition would have been noticeable on the farm before transport. The injuries sustained by the cow during transport included abrasion injuries across multiple areas of the body, inflammation, bruising, loss of hair and bleeding.

> A $500 reimbursement for permitting a calf to be transported with a navel cord that was red, raw and fleshy and was not fit for transport.

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

“The purpose of a fine is to punish those individuals who break the law and act as a deterrent for everyone else. Fines should be paid by the offending individual, not law-abiding taxpayers. We would never expect a government agency, or a private company for that matter, to pay speeding tickets for their employeesthe same level of individual responsibility and accountability should apply here too.

“Forcing taxpayers to pay the fine for farmers who have broken the Animal Welfare Act softens the individual responsibility of such behaviour and weakens the deterrent effect that ensures farmers treat their animals with the care they deserve. Occasionally mistakes happen on farm or in transport and it is not noticed until the animal is harmed. This is understandable, but the fine for mistakes and negligence provides a stinging financial reminder of farmers’ duty of care.

“Allowing Pamū Landcorp farmers to get off lightly is unfair on private sector farmers who work hard to maintain world-leading standards of care and it is certainly unfair on the animals who have to suffer as a result. While proclaiming its values on its website as being ‘proud guardians of our land and animals’, Pamū Landcorp is forcing taxpayers to effectively subsidise the small minority of farmers who mistreat their stock.

“Forcing taxpayers to foot the bill for this behaviour is abhorrent and casts a bad light on the vast majority of farmers who treat their animals with the dignity and care they deserve. We call on Pamū to commit to stop paying fines on behalf of the individual offenders immediately."

A copy of the documentation outlining the offences and internal Pamū correspondence in relation to the fines can be viewed here. (Note: The correspondence contains distressing photos of injured animals).

Government spending driving up cost of living

Commenting on today’s Consumer Price Index announcement, Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Callum Purves, said:

“Today’s inflation figures will not come as much consolation for families across New Zealand who are struggling with the cost of living. While the overall rate may have dropped, food price increases and domestic inflation both continue to remain stubbornly high despite the aggressive interest rate hikes by the Reserve Bank.

“The Government’s excessive levels of spending have undoubtedly had a large bearing on the rate of domestic inflation. As the International Monetary Fund indicated last month, the Government needs to rein in its wasteful expenditure and focus new spending only on cyclone and flooding recovery. If the Government really cares about the cost of living, it should stop contributing to the problem and cut back its spending.”

Highway Hoedown: Waka Kotahi and Auckland Transport throw $45k Party for Puhoi-Warkworth Highway Opening.

The Taxpayers’ Union can reveal that Waka Kotahi and Auckland Transport have spent $44,380.74 on the opening ceremony for the Puhoi to Warkworth highway. Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Callum Purves, commented:
 
“Clearly Waka Kotahi still hasn’t learnt their lesson after last year’s Transmission Gully opening ceremony fiasco. It’s simply outrageous that Waka Kotahi and Auckland Transport think spending just shy of $45,000 on a massive party is anything close to an acceptable use of taxpayers’ hard-earned money.
 
“In the middle of a cost-of-living crisis caused by reckless Government overspending, this Government has just hiked tax on petrol by 29c per litre and road user charges by 56%. This tax grab goes straight into the National Land Transport Fund, which Waka Kotahi clearly thinks is appropriate to use to throw extravagant parties for public servants.
 
“After having been open for less than a month, the highway is already starting to crack up. Is it any wonder our roads are in such a state of disrepair when this is how the Government and public bodies waste taxpayers’ money?”

A breakdown of expenditure can be found here.

Waka Kotahi's Office Splurge

The Taxpayers' Union strongly condemns Waka Kotahi's overspending of nearly $4 million on a new office. Despite clear warnings about potential risks and high costs, the agency chose to spend $28.5 million on the new premises, raising serious concerns about fiscal responsibility and the prioritization of taxpayer funds.

Callum Purves, spokesperson for the Taxpayers' Union, commented, “This exorbitant expense equates to an astonishing $25,900 per staff member, with Waka Kotahi choosing the highest cost among the short-listed options. The decision to overlook warnings of higher fit-out costs and potential negative public perception is particularly alarming. Whatever desirable features they wanted, they cannot justify such a significant overspend.

Waka Kotahi has exceeded its initial budget of $24.8 million by a substantial 14.9%. This pattern of lavish spending on staff accommodation while neglecting critical infrastructure is becoming more and more common, all while our country's infrastructure goes to rack and ruin. Taxpayers rightly worry about such mismanagement of funds, as it directly impacts the safety and quality of our infrastructure. Yet the Minister remains silent.”

Ineffective $1 million truancy awareness campaign simply unjustifiable

Ineffective $1 million truancy awareness campaign simply unjustifiable

Commenting on the $1 million advertising campaign to raise awareness about low school attendance, Taxpayers' Union Campaigns Manager, Callum Purves, said:

“Declining attendance rates were receiving media coverage throughout 2022. Kiwis didn't need a $1 million advertising campaign to tell them that New Zealand has a truancy problem.

“Inflation has been high for some time and so is the cost of living. Every dollar the Government spends needs to be justified. Spending such a large amount on a campaign that was not even intended to improve attendance rates is simply unjustifiable.

“Earlier this year the Prime Minister announced funding for new truancy officers, but he might also want to have quiet word with the former Minister of Education, Chris Hipkins, about whether the $1 million wasted on this campaign could have helped start to tackle this problem a lot earlier."

One in eight cigarettes now come from the black market

New data from KPMG suggests organised crime will the biggest winner from new measures targeting cash-strapped smokers, warns the New Zealand Taxpayers' Union.

The share of tobacco consumption sourced from New Zealand's black market has increased to 12.1%, up from 9.2% in 2017, according to KMPG's latest regular inquiry into illicit tobacco consumption in New Zealand.

While the total size of the black market has shrunk in kilogram terms, this is in line with wider reductions in the smoking rate as savvy smokers switch to vaping.

"The worrying sign here is that among those Kiwis who continue to smoke, the black market is normalised as a source of affordable durries," says Louis Houlbrooke, the Union's spokesperson for lifestyle economics issues.

"A taxed and regulated pack of Marlboros now costs $43, and the vast majority of that is tax. With smokers being disproportionately lower-income it's little surprise that they're jumping at the opportunity to buy homegrown tobacco leaf or cigarettes smuggled from China and Korea."

"Artificially high legal tobacco prices create massive profit margins for illicit importers and growers of tobacco — profits that can be used to fund further criminal activities."

"The obvious risk is that with an illicit market already thriving, new measures to make legal cigarettes less appealing and proposed crackdowns on vaping products will only fuel illegal activity. We need only look at Australia, where vapes are effectively prohibited and a study estimates a massive 23.5% of tobacco consumption comes from the illicit market."

"Right now, smokers pay more than enough tax to cover associated health system costs. But if Labour follows through with plans to slash nicotine content and availability of legal cigarettes, or if National pursue a signalled vaping crackdown, the tobacco black market will boom, cratering tax revenues and normalising crime."

 

Disclaimer: 2.1% of the Taxpayers' Union annual income is from membership dues and donations from private industry, which includes contributions from the nicotine, alcohol, , and construction industries. We gratefully accept any legal donations from anyone wishing to support our work, but our policy positions cannot be influenced by donations. For more information on our mission and how we are funded, please visit: www.taxpayers.org.nz/our_mission

Taxpayer Update: NEW POLL: Hung Parliament, Māori Party up 📊😳 | Hipkins rules out wealth and capital gains taxes

NEW POLL: Hung Parliament as Māori Party and ACT make gains 📊😳

Exclusively for our supporters like you, here are the results of July's Taxpayers’ Union – Curia Poll:

National drops 2.4 points on last month to 33.3% while Labour drops 1.8 points to 31.1%. ACT is up 0.5 points to 13.2% while the Greens are down 0.8 points to 8.9%.

The smaller parties are the Māori Party 5.0% (+1.5 points), NZ First on 3.3% (+1.7 points), Democracy NZ on 1.9% (+1 point), New Conservatives on 0.4% (-0.9 points), and TOP on 0.3% (-0.5 points).

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

National is down 3 seats on last month to 43 while Labour is down 1 seat to 41. ACT is up 1 seat to 17 while the Greens are unchanged on last month at 12 seats. The Māori Party is up 3 seats on last month to 7.

The combined projected seats for the Centre Right of 60 seats is down 2 on last month while the combined total for the Centre Left is up 2 seats to 60. On these results it would be a hung parliament – meaning neither bloc could command a majority in the House of Representatives. 

Just 22.1% (-2.7 points on last month) of New Zealanders think the country is heading in the right direction while 64.5% (+7.1 points) think the country is heading in the wrong direction. This results in a new record low for the net country direction of -42.4% (-9.8 points).

Visit our website for more information and details of how to get access to the full polling report.

Taxpayer Victory! Hipkins rules out wealth and capital gains taxes – but must go further 🎉💸

Hipkins Ratepayer Victory

The Prime Minister today announced that he is ruling out a wealth or capital gains tax despite having asked officials to give the Government advice for consideration of introducing a wealth tax as part of the budget process earlier this year.

The Taxpayers' Union has been calling on the PM to commit to this for some time, but it seems another poll earlier this week that had Labour at its lowest level of support for many years may have bounced him into making this announcement. He understands that such proposals are politically toxic. But these aren't just politically bad, they are economically ruinous too. 

No country has ever taxed itself into prosperity. Mr Hipkins shouldn't just be ruling out these two taxes, but ruling out any new taxes while he is Prime Minister – including extending or raising existing taxes. Only by doing this can we look to make New Zealand a high-growth, high productivity country where people want to live, work and invest. 

Can we trust Chippie at his word? 😉

A word of caution. We cheered when Jacinda Ardern made a commitment to rule out "any new taxes", but she broke her word – repeatedly – despite the Labour majority. Since the 2020 campaign, we have seen:

> Continued tax hikes by stealth through bracket creep

> Introduction of the ute tax 

> Annual tax increases to alcohol and tobacco 

> The extension of the bright line test

> Stopping interest deductibility for rental properties

> Increasing the trust tax rate 

Plus, today's poll confirms that any Government Chris Hipkins leads post-election would have to involve the Greens and the Māori Party who both want nothing less than exorbitant tax hikes and new asset taxes.

Just who's to blame for high supermarket prices? 🛒 👀

James Ross

The Government has established as new 'Grocery Commissioner', which it says will tackle New Zealand’s excessive grocery prices. But while it likes bashing the supermarket companies, the real issues behind paying too make for groceries lies in over-regulation. 

The grocery duopoly is propped up by restrictions on both foreign competition and land use. High corporate taxes and the ban on foreign companies owning land make New Zealand an unattractive market for international discount chains to invest in.

And the Government has doubled down with the Grocery Industry Competition Bill’s ridiculous requirement for potential future competitors to supply their competition (i.e. the two big established players) with produce at wholesale prices.

Restrictions under the Resource Management Act (RMA) prevent would-be competitors from setting up shop, resulting in localized monopolies and price gouging. David Parker’s RMA reforms are only going to make this worse.

And all of this is before the Government continues to drive inflation through its reckless overspending. It is little wonder food price inflation of 12.5% is causing families to feel the pain.

Instead of fixing the drivers of high food costs, the Government appears to be trying to shift the blame. Adding more bureaucracy isn’t going to reduce barriers to entry and cut grocery costs.

Writing in today's edition of The Post, Taxpayers’ Union Researcher James Ross explains in more detail how the Government is fuelling excessive grocery prices. Read his piece over here.

Taxpayers were made to foot the bill for up to $2 million in census giveaways 🎁

Alex Murphy

As if the census earlier this year was not disastrous enough with its poor return rate, your humble Taxpayers’ Union can reveal that up to $2 million was budgeted for handing out support vouchers to get non-responding individuals and households to complete the census.  

From that $2 million budget, $1 million went to communities nationwide and the other half went to households in Auckland. Across both streams of work, vouchers were given out at up to $100 dollars in value. As of 18 May, the total spend on food and fuel vouchers was $176,090. 

Taxpayers' Union Researcher Alex Murphy looks into this issue in more detail in a blogpost and asks whether it is really the right approach to offer those who refuse to fill out their census forms a free meal. The scheme leaves a rather bad taste in the mouth.

Thank you for your support.

Yours aye,

Callum

Callum Signature
Callum Purves
Campaigns Manager

New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union

Donate

Media coverage:

NZ Herald 
Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown sets record for the Super City’s highest rates increase ever

Business Desk Queenstown adds $30m to ratepayer bill to pay debt

The Post How the Government is propping up our excessive grocery prices

 

 

OCR freeze is little comfort to Kiwis already struggling with the cost of living

OCR freeze is little comfort to Kiwis already struggling with the cost of living

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

“Today’s OCR freeze will be of little comfort to Kiwis who are already struggling with the cost of living. While businesses and homeowners facing mortgage renewals will be relieved not to be paying even higher rates on their debts, the current levels of interest rates remain painful.

“A high OCR has been necessary to tackle the level of inflation driven in large part by the Government’s excessive spending. Even the International Monetary Fund has pulled Grant Robertson up for this calling on him to limit discretionary spending.

“Unless the Government acts quickly, it does not look as if things are set to get much better soon. Recently released Government financial statements show borrowing is $10.6 billion more than forecast just back in May – that’s an extra $5,389 of debt for evert household in the country.

“The Government needs to get its house in order and significantly strip back wasteful spending, to dampen inflation, and ease cost of living pressures for families.”

Census 2023 - A Complete Failure or an Absolute Disaster?

The 2023 Census – a complete failure or an absolute disaster?

It was a census that Statistics Minister Deborah Russell said she would ‘absolutely’ stake her job on if there wasn’t a 90% response rate or higher. But as the collection process officially came to an end, and the raw figure putted out at just over 89%, not only did Russell keep her job, but she even had the nerve to call it all a ‘success.’

Maybe ‘success’ is in the eye of the beholder, but how anyone can look at this year’s edition and call it anything other than a disaster, frankly, is unfathomable.

For starters, the cost has been enormous. Initially, the budget was $210 million. That was already a significant jump from the funding used in 2018, but Stats NZ advised that it would only barely be enough to provide data in line with statutory requirements. As a result, the Government injected the Census with extra funding to combat growing operational costs and threw even more at it to mitigate the effects of Cyclone Gabrielle. Somehow, all up, the total figure ballooned to well over $300 million.

With the vast amount of funding available to Stats NZ, you’d think they would comfortably have enough to deliver a Census with excellent data and an efficient delivery process. As it turns out, apparently not…

Throwing the kitchen sink at Census 2023 for Marlborough's best stats yet |  Stuff.co.nz

The raw individual response rate ended at a meagre 89% meaning it falls under the 90% target set by Stats NZ through their KPIs. That figure could be even lower too given that the raw rate is calculated using duplicate responses and outdated population statistics. For context, the 2018 figure ended at an embarrassing response rate of 82%, a truly pathetic outcome given the cost. This year’s census has only provided marginally better results on a budget of nearly $200 million more.

It looks worse still when you compare these results to the censuses prior to 2018. In 2013 the national response rate was 92.9%, done on a third of the budget, and in 2006, the response rate was 94.8%. Consider that Stats NZ’s most expensive proposal for the 2023 Census of over $280 million aimed for an individual response rate similar to 2006 figures. With a budget of almost $40 million more than that, the 89% response rate we got isn’t just underwhelming, it’s appalling.

And not only did this census fail to deliver for New Zealand as a whole, it also disproportionally failed to appropriately count Māori and Pasifika for the third time running. In 2013 the response rate for Māori and Pasifika was under 90%. That was concerning enough, but nowhere near as bad as it was in 2018 where response rates fell to below 70% for both groups respectively. Stats NZ prioritised shifting that disproportion for the 2023 edition, yet the response rates in these communities have barely improved.

One might claim that the collection process was hampered by Cyclone Gabrielle, a disaster which tore right through Hawke’s Bay and Gisborne. But whilst that may excuse the disappointing outcomes through those regions, it fails to explain the lack of response elsewhere. Northland and Waikato were notably poor, and almost the whole North Island had responses below 90% going into the final week.

Despite these clear failings, Russell will pretend the KPIs don’t exist and continue to compare the results solely against the mess that was 2018, but this couldn’t be more misleading.

For context, the 2018 census was an experiment gone disastrous. It implemented a completely new design from its predecessors aimed at reducing costs and expediting the transition towards digitalization. Delivery was almost entirely structured through online access codes and distributed and collected using a heavily reduced ground crew. Not only did the team fail to keep costs down, but the online approach didn’t work…at all. Almost a fifth of New Zealanders failed to complete the census and nearly a third of all Māori and Pasifika

As a result, the independent review of the Census was scathing of the process. It was so damning that even Stats NZ’s Chief Executive, Liz MacPherson, couldn’t defend it and resigned. Core to its message was how the model undervalued the importance of paper in the delivery process and focused too much on the online-first approach, but it also acknowledged how the “aggressive reduction in the field workforce meant Statistics NZ had a reduced capacity to respond when the response rate began to fall below acceptable tolerance levels.” The review recommended that both points were addressed for future versions of the Census.

Consequently, changes were made to this year’s model. The number of paper forms initially deployed was increased and the field staff capacity boosted. Still though, 56% of households only received online access codes and the expansion of ground crew was well short of what was required. In the end, only 3500 workers were deployed making it barely half the size of the number in 2013.

Material and operational costs of delivering a traditional census have increased over the years, but the importance of quality data has never been more paramount. Given that the budget was well over twice the price of 2018 and 3 times more than 2013, why didn’t the team go back to basics? In all five of the initial proposals, Stats NZ had virtually the exact same delivery model. Given that resourcing ended up being practically infinite, Stats NZ could have sent paper forms to all households by default and possibly even doubled their ground crew.

Regardless of poor response rates and an inadequate delivery model, it was how Stats NZ incentivized people to complete their forms which was arguably the most concerning.

In May, Stats NZ partnered up with Warriors NZ using $150,000 of taxpayers’ money to provide free tickets and food to those who attended one of the games and filled out their Census form. It gave those stragglers a chance to complete their census and earn a prize and it was rightly denounced as incredibly unfair.

As it turns out, though, the Warriors Campaign wasn’t the only form of bribery used by Stats NZ. The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union asked for costings on all incentives used to promote the Census. According to our OIA, both food and fuel vouchers were given out at up to $100 a head with a total budget of $1 million to support communities nationally and another $1 million for households in the Auckland region.

On the one hand, rewarding those who were too lazy to complete their forms on time is an insult to those who had already done so. More concerningly, though, it makes a mockery of the importance of completing the census. If people think that the only consequence for failing to fill in their forms is free food, why would anyone take it seriously.

Enforcing hefty fines on those who reject the Census is paramount for maintaining its national significance. Throwing millions of dollars at bribing those who have failed to complete what is legally required of them will only reinforce the apathy some New Zealanders already have towards completing their forms.

If providing an excellent Census wasn’t pivotal enough this year, then 2028 will absolutely be make or break. We cannot have our most important source of statistics be derived from poor data once again.

Russell will continue to hang her hat on the improvement from five years ago. Frankly though, for $317m, New Zealanders deserve much better.

Taxpayers’ Union welcomes ruling out of wealth and capital gains taxes – but Hipkins must go further

The Taxpayers’ Union has welcomed today’s announcement from Chris Hipkins ruling out a wealth or capital gains tax under any future government he leads, but is calling on him to extend this commitment by promising no new taxes whatsoever.

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

“This is the announcement many New Zealanders and overseas investors have been waiting for and we are glad the Prime Minister has recognised how economically – and politically – unviable these two proposals are.

“Countries cannot tax themselves to prosperity. Now it is time for Mr. Hipkins to outline his vision for a high-growth, high productivity New Zealand that makes this country an attractive place to live, work and invest.

“Part of this vision must firstly be a commitment to no new taxes, a promise made (but not kept) by his predecessor Jacinda Ardern. Business owners, investors and workers need certainty that there is a future of opportunity and reward for those who work hard, something that is not tenable when new taxes are imposed.

“A commitment to no new taxes must be clear that this also means not extending any existing taxes such as those on incomes, companies or trusts."

Peeni Henare Conflicts is Banana Republic Stuff

The Taxpayers’ Union is calling today’s revelations that at least a quarter of a million dollars from the Ministry of Health were given to a company run by the Associate Minister Peeni Henare’s partner “banana republic stuff”.

Responding to the Parliamentary questions released by the National Party, Taxpayers’ Union Executive Director, Jordan Williams, said:

“Taxpayers are entitled to know that conflicts of interests are, at minimum, truthfully disclosed. Why has, yet again, a senior Minister been caught short?”

“The first question we have for the Minister is whether all of the relevant contracts were tendered. If not, that would be an astonishing failure by the Ministry, and heads should roll.  New Zealand is not a family affair at the bottom of the Pacific.  High standards must be applied, and seen to be, to avoid slipping into banana republic territory.”

Education Mandarins Put Taxpayers Before Farming Lobby

Education Mandarins Put Taxpayers Before Farming Lobby

Commenting on the news that the Ministry of Education has chosen to use cheaper imported carpet rather than use more expensive alternatives made from domestically produced wool, Taxpayers' Union spokesman, Jordan Williams, said:

"We commend the Ministry of Education for prioritising value for money over politics and special interests. Year on year, billions more are chucked at the Education Ministry, and yet education standards continue to fall.

"Education mandarins have rightly resisted pressure from the farming lobby, and should be using every cent of taxpayer funding to improve our dismal and declining literacy and numeracy rates."

Taxpayers' Union Co-founder Retiring After 10 Years

Almost ten years after co-founding the NZ Taxpayers’ Union with Jordan Williams, David Farrar is retiring from the board.

“When Jordan and I set up the Taxpayers’ Union in 2013, I never imagined that almost ten years on we would have attracted 200,000 supporters and would have had so many successful campaigns." says Mr Farrar. "I have been humbled by the number of New Zealanders who have joined, donated, and support our vision for a prosperous New Zealand with efficient and accountable government."

"We have a top class board and excellent staff who, combined with our supporters, have the Union’s future in good hands.”

“I’m over-worked with my current commitments and most importantly am the parent of two young kids. I want to prioritise my family, so I am cutting down on a number of my non-commercial activities. I will of course remain an active supporter and donor to the Taxpayers' Union."

Jordan Williams says, "David has put up with me and the highs and lows of governing what is a unique organisation –at least in New Zealand. I could not have have asked for a better side-kick in the journey we've been on.  I know David has more ideas in the pipeline, and I am sure the Taxpayers' Union will only be one of many organisations he is involved in establishing that will make their mark for a better New Zealand."

"On behalf of the Board, the staff, our tens of thousands of donors, and hundreds of thousands of subscribed supporters, David deserves a big thanks.  We certainly look forward to marking his efforts in a few months, at the ten year mark."

Green’s Plans to Drive Renters into Squalor Won’t Tackle Housing Crisis

Responding to the Green Party’s proposal to cap rent increases to a maximum 3% per year, Taxpayers’ Union Deputy Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

“There have been countless attempts to introduce rent control in countries all over the globe, and the evidence is clear as day; rent control does not work.

“Wishful thinking that this policy will guarantee safe and affordable accommodation for low-income households isn’t enough, when time and again it has been shown to have exactly the opposite effect.

“By destroying any incentives for law-abiding landlords to invest, rent control reduces the number of properties which are available to rent and removes any incentive for landlords to maintain properties to a liveable standard. Black market rental properties inevitably fill the gaps, leaving renters with even less legal protection.

“There is a housing crisis in New Zealand that desperately needs tackling, and the key to that is removing overly restrictive planning constraints which stifle supply and drive up prices. Restricting supply through rent control will make the crisis worse.

“All this cheap populism from the Greens will achieve is driving New Zealanders’ living standards down even further, and if their plan to end poverty is condemning generations of Kiwis to living in squalor then they have missed the mark by a mile.

“Economist Assar Lindbeck put it best: “Rent control appears to be the most efficient technique presently known to destroy a city – except for bombing.”

Taxpayer Update: Parker's planning power grab gets worse 🏘️⚖️ | MBIE's rocketing expenses 🚀💸 | David Farrar on New Zealand media bias 📰📺

It has been another busy week in politics. While the Prime Minister has been away in China, his Ministers have continued to cause him problems at home. Having already lost three Ministers in the last few months, he will have been relieved to hear that the Privileges Committee found Minister of Education, Jan Tinetti, not guilty of contempt of Parliament. Instead it found that her incorrect statement to the House on the publication of school attendance data was simply due to "a high degree of negligence". Well that's ok then! 

Parker's planning power grab gets even worse 🏘️⚖️ 

RMA Bills

On Tuesday, the Environment Select Committee dropped its reports on the two bills with which the Government proposes to replace the Resource Management Act (RMA). The reports setting out the Committee's recommended amendments total a staggering 1,377 pages – longer than the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy!

While we are still working through the detail of these reports, from what we've seen, this revised version of the bills is even worse than the original. With hundreds of amendments to work through and just two months left before Parliament rises, it is simply inexcusable to seek to rush through such a fundamental and radical change to the planning system. We called on the Government to go back out to consultation, but David Parker told Heather du Plessis-Allan he had no intention of doing so.

In better news, our campaign to raise awareness about these reforms seems to be having an impact. Taxpayers’ Union – Curia polling undertaken last month showed strong public opposition. 48% of respondents believed that planning rules should be set by local councils compared with just 26% who preferred that these rules be set by the proposed regional planning committees. 26% of respondents were unsure.

As with Three Waters, our roadshow tour has strengthened the positions of opposition parties. After previously only having committed to amend any replacement to the RMA that the Government might pass before the election, this week the National Party joined ACT in committing to repeal. The Greens also dissented in the Select Committee report, which is why Labour wants to ram this through before it loses its majority at the election. To help us put a stop to that, chip in to the fighting fund here.

Houston, we have a problem: MBIE's rocketing expenses 🚀💸

Rocket

The search for the purpose of the New Zealand Space Agency continues, and most recently, it took the form of a sky-high junket for two staff members in the USA.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment (MBIE) treated some of New Zealand's Space Agency staff to business-class flights to Washington DC, costing $31,000. They attended the 25th Annual Federal Aviation Administration Commercial Space Transportation Conference (no, we don't know it either).

But the trip wasn't just about the conference itself. Oh no, MBIE officials decided to extend their stay for a leisurely five days. The conference itself lasted only two days. The officials enjoyed the luxurious Grand Hyatt Washington Hotel, incurring a bill exceeding $5,500. Nice 'work' if you can get it!

MBIE defended the business-class tickets and the length of trip, claiming they were "in line with policy." Seems like a very tone-deaf policy during a cost-of-living crisis.

We say it's time MBIE focused on its actual responsibilities instead of squandering our hard-earned cash on justifying the existence of our Space Agency.

David Farrar examines media bias in New Zealand 📰📺

David Farrar on Media Bias

On the Common Room this week, our Co-founder, David Farrar, discussed media bias in New Zealand

The makeup of New Zealand's media landscape with very few centre-right media outlets is causing New Zealanders to lose trust in media. We know from research and scientific polling that journalists who classify their political ideology as left-leaning outnumber those who classify themselves as right-leaning by 5 to 1 – a stark contrast to the New Zealand population. 

David also examines the controversial Public Interest Journalism Fund (PIJF). While media outlets receiving taxpayer funds are keen to stress that this does not bias their reporting, our public polling shows that most New Zealanders believe government funding undermines media independence – something that is in itself harmful even if the funding has no real influence at all.  

As the fund is wrapping up (although some projects will remain funded until 2026) we have created a list of the top recipients of the PIJF since its inception.

Watch David’s video over on The Common Room here.

High-tax campaigners' hypocrisy exposed 🖋️🤑

You might remember the open letter from last month signed by various wealthy people, celebrities, and former civil servants that called for higher taxes. The letter began with "We write as people who are frustrated with how much tax we pay. We want to pay more". 

We were concerned with how distressing not paying enough tax must be for these individuals so your humble Taxpayers’ Union kindly wrote to them with details on how they could make an additional contribution to the Government's coffers by making a donation into the Crown Treasury bank account.

A month on, we checked in with Treasury to see how many millions had been generously deposited by these virtuous benefactors. We were shocked to discover that not a single person who said they wanted to pay more had made a contribution. Not even one.

These champagne socialists clearly weren't prepared to put their money where their mouths were. As we said at the time, we all agree that good public services are important, but there is so much Government waste that needs to be cut back, that tax rises are simply unjustifiable. 

Today's quadruple-whammy tax hikes 🧾🔺

Cleaning Out Your Wallet

I hope you managed to catch our advert in yesterday's New Zealand Herald on Grant Robertson's latest action to clean out your wallet. As of today, the Government hikes petrol tax by 29 cents/L, Road User Charges by (at least) 55%, alcohol taxes by 6.6%, and the ute tax by up to $1,725.

The cost of living crisis has been driven by the cost of government crisis. Government spending is out of control and has forced the Reserve Bank to hike interest rates, which will compound the pain for families needing to renew their mortgages.

This unnecessary cash grab will be used to fund nice-to-haves such as fancy new Teslas for the already well off, loss-making railways, and barely used cycleways. Hardworking families, farmers and tradies are being forced to subsidize the lifestyles of better-off city residents.

These tax hikes are completely avoidable if the Government can bring itself to stop wasting other people’s hard-earned money.

Thank you for your support.

Yours aye,

Callum

Callum Signature
Callum Purves
Campaigns Manager

New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union

Donate

Media coverage:

Newshub 
Indefensible, or necessary? The tool to solve health inequities that turned into a political football

Stuff David Farrar: Labour's spending 60% more on health for longer waiting times and fewer surgeries

Fed Talks Restoring Farmer Confidence: Feds' General Election Platform 2023 (17:52)

Rural News Farmers need less red tape, not handouts

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Government must stop giving handouts to universities returning surpluses

Government must stop giving handouts to universities returning surpluses

Responding to news that a number of universities returned significant surpluses last year while still calling for government handouts, Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Callum Purves, said:

“Universities across New Zealand have been crying poverty for months, and in response this week the Government announced it would be handing universities another $128 million of taxpayers’ money.

“As it turns out, a number of universities were not being particularly upfront with the public.

“For example, Victoria University has been one of the squeakiest wheels, when it turns out that last year they returned an operating cash surplus of $31.4 million. Worse still, last year they also found the spare money to spend a net $44.8 million on land and new buildings.

“Clearly this shows that some cash-grabbing unis are not in anything close to the financial dire straits their PR teams would have you believe.

“Rather than caving in to such demands, the Government should do its due diligence before throwing away hundreds of millions of hard-earned taxpayer dollars.”

Taxpayers’ Union exposes hypocrisy of High-Tax Campaigners

Taxpayers’ Union exposes hypocrisy of High-Tax Campaigners

The Taxpayers’ Union can reveal that none of the various wealthy people, celebrities, and former civil servants who signed a letter calling for higher taxes have put their money where their mouth is and contributed further from their own pocket to fuel Grant Robertson’s out of control spending.

Taxpayers’ Union Executive Director, Jordan Williams, said:

“As signatories of a May letter that begins, ‘We write as people who are frustrated with how much tax we pay. We want to pay more.’, these people are clearly not as willing to pay more as they say they are and this whole exercise was cringy virtue signalling to gain public attention.

“When the letter was published, we kindly wrote to them with details on how they could do so via direct transfer into Crown treasury bank account to make the process as easy as possible. More than a month later, not a single one of them has donated as confirmed by the Treasury.

“The rhetoric of these individuals has proven to be nothing more than empty words. As we said at the time, we agree that good public services are important, but until it is clear that public money is being spent well and efficiently, it is not fair to demand fellow citizens pay more.”

Farmers need less red tape, not taxpayer handouts

Farmers need less red tape, not taxpayer handouts

The Taxpayers’ Union is calling on the Government to prioritise reducing unnecessary and costly regulations for those growers, farmers and businesses affected by North Island weather events rather than providing them with taxpayer-funded handouts.

Commenting on today’s support package announced by the Government, Taxpayers’ Union Deputy Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

“While we acknowledge that many farmers, growers and businesses have been badly affected by the recent weather events, today’s support package will significantly reduce the long-term viability of the farming sector by leading to increased costs and regulations in the future.

“Rather than playing the role of the bank, the Government should be speaking with farmers to see what red tape needs to be cut to make it easier for these businesses to do what they do best. Significant cutbacks to costly red tape would make farms more viable for the future and, in turn, would lead to an increased willingness for banks to lend right now.

“Minister McAnulty’s claim that ‘[m]any businesses severely affected by the weather events are likely to be commercially viable with the right support’ seems to espouse a view that Government is the only one who can provide support and banks are too short-sighted to look beyond the present situation. The whole purpose of a bank is to take well-informed investment decisions that look not just at the immediate term but also, in many instances, decades into the future. If these farms are likely to be commercially viable in the future, banks will recognise this and adjust their lending conditions appropriately.

“The Government may try to claim that taxpayers aren’t paying for this because much of the support is in the form of loans, or underwriting loans. For commercially viable farms, banks are already fronting up. The only loans that the Government could underwrite that a bank wouldn’t otherwise provide are those that are inherently the most high-risk. The Minister seems to think he knows more than the banks but it is ultimately taxpayers who will have to foot the bill in the event of default.

“We are concerned that this could lead to a similar situation as the leaky buildings debacle where the Government, knowing it will be expected to bail out farmers, will make even more costly and over-the-top red tape and levies for farmers to reduce the financial risk for the Government. This will only make farming harder and more costly in the future, jeopardising the long-term viability of one of our greatest industries and provide even more need for taxpayer bailouts in the future. Responsible farmers plan for events like this and should be able to work with their bank who has a vested interest in the long-term success of the business.

“If the Government really wanted to help farmers, they would start by cutting back on existing red tape that stops farmers getting on with the job and withdrawing their proposed replacement to the Resource Management Act, which would lead to even higher farming costs and even more red tape.”

Taxpayers' Union Exposes Outrageous Government Junket to Space Conference

Taxpayers' Union Exposes Outrageous Government Junket to Space Conference

The Taxpayers' Union has uncovered that the Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment (MBIE) indulged New Zealand's Space Agency in a recent trip to the USA, costing $36,760.07. An Official Information Request revealed that the NZ Space Agency flew business class to Washington DC and stayed in luxury accommodation while attending the 25th Annual Federal Aviation Administration Commercial Space Transportation Conference.

The lavish excursion saw MBIE officials staying at the Grand Hyatt Washington Hotel for five days, despite the conference lasting only two days. The hotel bill alone amounted to over $5,500, averaging more than $1,000 per night. Furthermore, taxpayers were burdened with a hefty price tag of over $31,000 for business class travel, which MBIE defended as being "in-line with policy."

Oliver Bryan, Taxpayers' Union Investigations Co-ordinator, expressed deep concern over this misuse of taxpayer money:

"This seems to have been an exercise in flying around the world trying to find a purpose for the Space Agency's continued existence. Their five days in Washington DC for a two-day conference that no one has ever heard of is a clear example of officials having a junket at taxpayer expense.

"It is outrageous that hardworking New Zealanders are footing the bill for a lavish jolly like this. It's high time the Ministry began focusing on its actual remit rather than wasting our money on once again proving the Space Agency's is nothing but a government vanity project."

Government continues to pour taxpayer dollars down Three Waters drains

Commenting on the news that the new Three Waters reform plan has already blown out costs by around $1 billion, Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Callum Purves, said:

“Three Waters is adding layer upon layer of pointless bureaucracy. Inefficiency is baked into the design of these reforms, so is it really any wonder that they are already behind schedule and over budget?

“It has been clear from the get-go that Three Waters offered tremendously poor value for taxpayers’ money. More bureaucracy, no job losses, yet lower costs was a sum that never added up. McAnulty’s attempt to pull the wool over voters’ eyes with the changes introduced to Parliament earlier this month simply make this power grab even more expensive, and yet the Government is still failing to meet even these revised targets.

“The public has made it clear that they do not support seizing community water assets, whether they’re being handed to four distant entities or ten.”

Taxpayers’ Union welcomes National Party Commitment to repeal RMA replacement bill

The Taxpayers’ Union is today welcoming the news that National is joining the ACT Party in its commitment to repeal the Government’s replacement to the Resource Management Act if it is passed before the election.

The announcement comes as a Taxpayers’ Union  Curia poll undertaken earlier this month showed strong opposition to the Government’s planning proposals. 48% of respondents believed that planning rules should be set by local councils compared with just 26% who preferred that these rules be set by the proposed regional planning committees. 26% of respondents were unsure.

The full results and demographic breakdowns are available here

Reacting to National’s announcement, Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Callum Purves, said:

“This is great news for the future of local democracy. We need to ensure that we have a resource management system that is fit for purpose, drives productivity, and makes it easier for people to get things done rather than tying them up in even more red tape and bureaucracy.

“Our nationwide roadshow raised public awareness of just how bad these reforms would be. We demonstrated to politicians that there was strong public opposition to these reforms, which would lead to higher building costs, more red tape, no local control and more co-governance.

“What is particularly interesting is that supporters of all parties and across all demographics – with the exception of Wellingtonians – had more people wanting planning rules to be set by elected local councils than by the Government’s proposed regional planning committees.

“We call on the Government to listen to their own voters who recognize that these reforms are a bad idea. The Government needs to withdraw these bills and restart the RMA reform process after the election with a replacement that prioritizes local control, certainty, simplicity and private property rights.”

Government should encourage universities to trim the fat

Commenting on Grant Robertson’s and Jan Tinetti’s recent announcement of a $128 million bailout for the tertiary sector, Taxpayer’s Union Campaigns Manager, Callum Purves, said:

“Rather than giving universities and polytechs a cheque, the Government could save a lot of taxpayer dollars by asking them to trim the fat. Given that both Victoria University of Wellington and the University of Otago have higher administration staff numbers than research and teaching roles, universities could easily make savings without cutting frontline roles.

“While the universities need to make savings, one of the primary drivers of funding gaps has been the drop in student numbers, which has been directly affected by the Government’s restrictive travel policies during the latter stages of the pandemic.

“We also need to have proper rethink about how the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) doles out subsidies to universities around New Zealand as it is becoming very clear that the current funding model is costing taxpayers more and more for diminishing returns.

"At the very least, this money should come from a reprioritisation from within the tertiary sector, specifically scrapping the fees-free policy that overwhelmingly benefits wealthy families without increasing enrolment numbers."

Who has received Public Interest Journalism Fund money?

Now that the Public Journalism Fund's excessive spending has come to an end, which media companies received the most unneeded welfare? Here's our top ten government-funded media organisations for the last three years, and what that money has gone to!

Total - Top Ten Recipients
   
     
Media Organisation
What They Got: Total Amount:
NZME

37 Journalism Cadetships for Māori, Pasifika and diverse journalists, an online tool detailing Pakehā land ownership over time, Kaupapa Māori and Audio Innovation role for accessibility for low-vision mana whenua, 15 roles for coverage of remote court proceedings, support for community journalists in provincial newspapers, weekly bilingual section in Rotorua Weekender about iwi issues.

*Includes $635,020 in indirect funding.

$6,880,099.25
RNZ New journalism unit covering topics in Hindi & Mandarin for Asian communities, strengthen Māori knowledge across the organisation, 20 local democracy reporting roles across New Zealand, The Detail podcast, the Party People podcast. $5,800,207.00
Stuff Media Stuff Circuit - project covering more risky topics in New Zealand, Te Reo Māori translator, 20 Pou Tiaki & Community reporters to cover Māori and minority issues, retaining community coverage in Marlborough, The Whole Truth - limited series covering public health, Xin xi Lan - multimedia project about first Chinese immigrants to Aotearoa, cultural competency course for Stuff journalists. $4,806,528.00
Sunpix Tagata Pasifika - flagship Pacific news program, two journalists for Tagata Pasifika, Ifoga - documentary on Pasifika abuse in state care, Maisuka - documentary about Type 2 Diabetes in Moana Pasifika youth. $4,251,360.00
TVNZ

Q&A with Jack Tame - current affairs program, 2022-2023, News 2 Me - news program for children, series 1 & 2, Ohinga 2 - reo Māori-fluent show focused on Māori current events, Manutaki Māori role for cultural competency.

*Includes $264,386 of commissioned projects

$3,187,649.00
Discovery NZ Newshub Nation, 2022-2023 - current affairs programme, Pacific Affairs Correspondent for Discovery NZ TV shows, Newshub Cultural Partnership Navigator to bring kaupapa māori framework to newsroom. $2,356,696.00
Newsroom Newsroom Investigates - (2022-2023) series of investigative news videos, The Detail - near-daily podcast covering news issues (2021-2023), four Te Rito graduate roles for new journalists, Video Content Creator to share news stories wider, Climate Change Interview Series - videos about New Zealand's low-carbon future, Sub-Editor for more online content, four part-time South Island reporters and one Māori Editor, upskilling of two graduate journalists. $2,189,301.00
Great Southern Television The Hui Series 7 & 8 - weekly bilingual Māori cultural affairs programme, The Hui: Summer Edition Series 1 & 2 - six cultural stories and training for four cadet journalists. $1,834,367.65
The Spinoff

Two Sub-editors for fact-checking, vetting, captioning and accessibility of videos, 10-month upskilling program for editors with partner publications, Local Elections 2022 coverage, The Quarter Million - series on royal commission into abuse in care homes, IRL - series covering online life after thepandemic, Nē? - Podcast and articles covering te ao Māori issues, Māori politics and Pacific communities reporters for dedicated coverage, mentorship programme for journalism cadets.

*Includes $544,654 of commissioned projects.

$1,782,353.00
UMA Broadcasting Paakiwaha - bilingual radio programme broadcast on Radio Waatea, about Māori perspective on news and current events, 6.5 FTE staff (editors, senior & trainee journalists) for Radio Waatea. $1,664,000.00

 

Sixth Round recipients    
     
Roles
   
95bfm 1 x Digital News Sub-Editor creating content for website and social media channels $36,956
Te reo o Ngati Kahungunu 1 x Digital Content Creator & 1 x Producer $204,176
Indian Newslink 1 x Audience Engagement Expert & 1 x Hamilton Reporter $199,650
Stuff 1 x Te Reo Māori Translator & 2 x Marlborough Reporters $249,260
Pacific Media Network 1 x Political Reporter, 1 x Digital Producer, 1 x Digital Editor/Camera Operator, 1 x Sub-Editor $430,849
Te Reo Irirangi o Maniapoto 1 x Video News Journalist $85,000
AgriHQ 1 x Farmer's Weekly Digital Editor $89,981
NZME 1 x Kaupapa Māori Editor $123,600
Allied Press 1 x Family Court Reporter, 1 x Youth Court Reporter, 1 x Employment Relations Authority Reporter  $266,591
E-Tangata 1 x Senior Writer/Editor - Pacific News, 1 x Senior Writer/Editor - Māori News, 1 x Editor/Mentor, 1 x Digital Marketing Manager $350,496
Metro 1 x Te Ao Māori Editor & 1 x Sub-Editor $51,066
Ashburton Guardian 1 x Rural Content Editor, focused on agricultural concerns around Ashburton $85,000
Gisborne Herald 1 x Kaupapa Māori Reporter to suit large Māori populace $77,464
Local Matters 1 x Auckland Council reporter, for analysis of council activities for nine local outlets $84,579
Newshub 1 x Māori Affair Reporter, to bring Kaupapa Māori to the newsroom $145,810
Newsroom 1 x Sub-Editor to draft/edit reporter submissions $94,395
The Spinoff 1 x Māori Political Reporter (part time) & 1 x Sub-Editor $166,500
Valley Profile 2 x News Reporters (one full-time, one part-time) for Hauraki/Coromandel area $89,300
BayBuzz 2 x Local Accountability Reporters (part time) for Hawkes Bay area $88,800
Crux 1 x Senior Editorial Role, news coverage for Wānaka/Queenstown area $126,250
     
Industry Development Funding    
Attitude Pictures Additional multimedia training for disabled journalism cadet $7,600
Go Global Extension of two more cadetships for Chinese-background cadets in digital journalism $141,280
NZ Geographic Four day wānanga to train 18 journalists in data journalism w/ Science Media Centre $98,824
     
Emergency Resilience Relief    
Gisborne Herald   $12,324
Hawkes Bay App   $21,429
Te Reo Irirangi o Kahungunu   $29,663
Te Reo Irirangi o Ngāti Porou   $30,000
BayBuzz
  $19,500

 

Fifth Round recipients    
Te Reo Irirangi O Te Hiku O Te Ika 1 x 12-month season for video news series $460,000
Aotearoa Media Collective A new Māori current affairs project $452,198
The Big Idea A 26 video series covering topical art news and investigations $181,800
Great Southern Television Ltd Production of 6 current affairs stories for series 2 of The Hui: Summer Edition  $187,114
Business Desk A project to investigate agencies' involvement in healthcare spending across NZ, through a series of 50-70 articles. $85,255
Metro Media Group Limited A series of feature articles that look at commercial properties development in Tamaki Makaurau $30,460
Indo Kiwi United Trust Weekly series of 48 videos for Punjabi and Sikh audiences $169,440
Kiwi Kids News A 12-month project producing 2 weekly news articles written in te reo Māori, with English translation $46,706
Mediaworks Tova O'Brien Special, which includes an interview with Volodymyr Zelensky $50,000
Te Korimako o Taranaki A 9-month training programme for 5 Māori journalists $395,000
Attitude Pictures Continued training and coaching for disabled interns $142,520
Global HQ 2 x 12-month mentorships for tertiary students $25,000
Go Global Ltd 2 x 12-month training programmes for Chinese cadets $137,280
Inland App Company A 12 month journalism programme in Central Otago for high school students $7,800
The Spinoff A 10-month initiative to train journalism editors $201,036
Hawke's Bay App 1 x Editor/Presenter and 1 x Video Journalist for 2 years $388,700
Consumer NZ Incorporated 1 x Reporter for one year, to focus on economically marginalised groups $85,600
Migrant News 1 x Reporter for one year, to focus on migrant audiences $55,854
Radio Ngāti Porou Charitable Trust 1 x Digital Content Designer and 1 x Digital Producer for one year $128,784
Inland App Company 1 x Local Democracy Journalist for 2 years  $101,400
Warner Bros Discovery NZ 1 x Pasifika Affairs Correspondent for 2 years $248,240
Indian Newslink 1 x Digital Graphic Designer and 1 x Audience Engagement Expert for one year  $186,992
The National Pacific Radio Trust 1 x Chief of Staff and 1 x a Newsreader for one year $207,461
Metro Media Group Ltd 1 x Part-time Sub-Editor for one year $20,316

 

Fourth Round recipients    
Allied Press Training for five new journalists $516,000
Indo Kiwi United Trust Professional development for existing journalists at NZ Punjabi News $35,300
North & South Media Limited 1 x trainee/cadet journalist for up to one year $68,200
Allied Press To deliver local video news content to local communities $695,000
Apna Networks Ltd A podcast series to empower migrant ethnic communities to appropriately respond to mental health issues $101,897
Cinco Cine Film Productions Ltd A pilot development and content creation programme introducing tamariki and rangatahi to journalism as a viable career $800,000
Metro Media Group Limited 4 x long-form articles about how the arts get funded $39,380
The Spinoff A team of writers and contributors to cover the 2022 local body elections $160,187
Very Nice Productions Ltd Regional video news for Bay of Plenty, Gisborne, Hawke's Bay, Wairarapa and Whanganui with accompanying articles $604,520
Te Reo o Ngāti Kahungunu Inc 2 x roles to utilise current radio content and make it available for online distribution $214,245
BayBuzz 2 x roles to deepen coverage of agribiz-environment, healthcare delivery and public body accountability $88,800
Indian Newslink 2 x roles to report on issues related to youth South Asian communities $362,520
Newsroom NZ Ltd 1 x video content creator $159,340
Crux 1 x junior/intermediate role to support public interest journalism in the Southern Lakes and Central Otago districts $139,520
Te Reo Irirangi o Maniapoto 2 x roles to support Te Reo Kahika news service to share tribal news using bilingual local narratives $160,000

 

Third Round recipients    
Allied Press 1 x Partnership Editor role $145,650
Campus Radio 95bFM 1 x Sub-Editor $32,916
Discovery NZ 1 x Newshub Cultural Partnership Navigator $130,500
GlobalHQ 1 x Digital Editor $105,000
Kowhai Media Ltd 1 x Kaiwhakatiki Hourua $55,020
Mana Trust 1 x Editor/Mentor and 1 x Digital Marketing Manager $165,000
Newsroom NZ 1 x Sub Editor $91,679
NZME 1 x Kaupapa Editor and 1 x Audio Innovation role $200,280
Radio One 91FM 1 x Digital Content Edit $20,000
RNZ 1 x Kurawhakaue Partnership Editor Role $108,000
Stuff 1 x te reo Māori Translator $103,000
Te Po 1 x Kawea Te Rongo Kaiwhakahaere $68,250
The Spinoff 1 x Sub Editor role $105,450
The Pantograph Punch 1 x Business Development role and 1 x Social Media Specialist (3 months) $95,040
Tikilounge Productions 1 x Pasifika Youth Digital News Editor $75,000
Allied Press 6 x long-form articles and staff training programmes $61,725
BusinessDesk Charity Sector Investigation minimum 30 stories $154,020
Discovery NZ Newshub Nation 2022, 41 x 50 mins and a podcast series  $978,175
Great Southern Television The Hui, 40 x 28 mins shows and 40 x 28 mins podcasts Māori current affairs $737,036
Kakalu Media Online project for Kakalu o Tonga $9,817
Kowhai Media, A Voice for Tangaroa 4 x 3000-word written features, 6 x 400-1,500 word stories about the ocean $146,745
Luke Nola & Friends 80 x 4 mins videos for digital platforms and 80 x 2 mins videos for social media  $653,773
Mahi Tahi Media 50 x 4 mins videos $264,386
Māori Television Journalism training wānanga  $189,200
Muster Vibrant Rural Communities Women’s perspectives on social and cultural issues, 9 x 3000 words, 72 x 600-1,500-word stories, 6 x 3 mins videos  $292,692
Newsroom NZ Newsroom Investigates 2022, 60 mins video investigative affairs $336,358
Newsroom NZ Climate Change Interview Series, 10 x 12 mins video interviews $40,000
North & South Media Exploring Aotearoa’s Chinese Communities, 4-6 features totaling 20,000 words $25,000
NZME, Whenua: Is it yours? Interactive database and map, 4 x 1,500-3,000-word features $80,500
Stuff Stuff Circuit 2022 a minimum of 90 mins of video, investigative current affairs $324,000
SunPix Tagata Pasifika  51 x 23 mins and 2 x 90 mins Pasifika news $1,919,913
Te Parerē National Māori Students Magazine 32 digital issues focused on Māori youth current affairs $28,240
The Spinoff, The Quarter Million 2 x 4,000 – 5,000-word feature and Instagram titles $152,304
TVNZ, Kids Kōrero 30 x 5 mins linear videos, 30 x 2 mins explainer videos, and 30 x 5 mins podcasts $517,364
TVNZ, Q + A with Jack Tame 2022 40 x 59 mins episodes, plus a two-hour special of current affairs, $842,200
NZME for two years to support newsgathering $940,188
Stuff for two years of its Marlborough newsgathering. $731,300

 

Second round recipients    
Stuff  20 x roles  $2,789,240
RNZ 20 x Local reporting roles $3,554,000
NZME 15 x roles  $2,995,702
Maori Television 7 x roles  $1,593,000
School Road Publishing  1 x role for Woman magazine $189,660
SunPix 2 x roles for TP+ $273,600
Local Matters 1 x role for Local Matters $150,148
Crux Publishing 1 x role for Crux   $151,200
The Spinoff 2 x roles for The Spinoff $427,800
Ashburton Guardian  1 x role for the Ashburton Guardian $150,000
Central App 1 x role for Central App $31,200
North & South 1 x role for North & South Media $230,000
Newsroom 4 x roles for Newsroom and shared role $528,316
Allied Press 4 x roles for Otago Daily Times and other Allied Press $711,797
Valley Media 1 x role for The Valley Profile $127,096
The Gisborne Herald 1 x role for The Gisborne Herald $183,240
Metro Media Group 1 x part-time role for Metro Magazine $47,600
Mana Trust 4 x roles for E-Tangata $650,000
Kiwi Media Publishing 4 x roles for The Indian Weekender

$705,000

National Pacific Radio Trust 4 x roles for Pacific Media Network $275,000
Television New Zealand 2 x roles for TVNZ News, for one year $206,000
Te Reo Irirangi O Te Hiku O Te Ika 1 x role  $176,200
Very Nice Productions 1 x role for Local Focus $105,000
UMA Broadcasting 6.5 x roles for Radio Waatea $774,000
Discovery New Zealand 3 x roles for Newshub $695,560

 

First round recipients    
Newsroom for RNZ The Detail, 322 x 22 mins podcasts $806,135
Stuff The Whole Truth, an animated fact-checking project $591,465
UMA Broadcasting for Waateanews.com Paakiwaha A bilingual news and current affairs show $433,000
Hex Work for The Spinoff IRL doing investigative features and personal stories $335,746
Aotearoa Media Collective Aotearoa Media Collective for RNZ, Tūranga FM, Radio Waatea Party People, an audio and video series $236,930
Hex Work for The Spinoff Nē? a podcast and written series $217,325
Red Sky Film & Television for Three Inside Child Poverty 10 Years On, a review by Bryan Bruce $204,970
SunPix for TP+, E-Tangata, Māori Television, Pacific Media Network (NPRT) Ifoga, video series about Pasifika who have suffered abuse in state care $181,118
Great Southern Television for Newshub.co.nz The Hui: Summer Edition a Māori current affairs programme $178,729
BusinessDesk for BusinessDesk How Good Is Our Public Service? multimedia series   $174,092
SunPix for TP+, Pacific Media Network (NPRT), E-Tangata, Māori Television  Maisuka, a documentary about Type 2 diabetes for Moana adolescents $131,139
Kowhai Media for New Zealand Geographic Being Teen, A text and photography-based longitudinal series $98,533
Tech-day for SecurityBrief,  CFO tech N, IT Brief, bizEDGE, ChannelLife, FutureFive  Cybersecurity In Aotearoa text-based stories and interviews on security $73,152
North & South Media for North & South System Overhaul  long-form text story about fixing state care $42,500
Lifestyle Publishing for Wilderness Magazine The Living Forest A text-based series about three iwi in NZ $4,250
Very Nice Productions for NZ Herald and NZME  Local Focus a regional video news service $840,000
Allied Press for ODT.co.nz The South Today expanded service of video news for the South Island $675,000
Awa FM for Awa FM Te Awa - News made from the perspective of Whanganui Māori $498,370
Te Reo Irirangi O Te Hiku O Te Ika for Tehiku.nz Haukāinga - initiative providing news to Māori audiences in Northland  $460,000
Te Wāhanga Reo Rua, NZME for Rotorua Weekender Rotorua Weekender, weekly bilingual Te Reo Māori and English section in the Rotorua Weekender $440,000
Stuff for PlayStuff and Māori Television Forever A Foreigner multimedia series about NZ's first Asian immigrants $214,360
Crux for Crux.org.nz Deep South video series examining social and economic issues in the South Island  $189,522
Vanishing Point Studio for North & South and multiple local newspapers Fault Lines, cross-platform piece looking into the Alphine Fault $166,600
Whakatupuria Te Moana A Toi Whakatupuria, multimedia project that looks into the Provincial Growth Fund in the Eastern Bay of Plenty $97,000
Salient Magazine Te Ao Mārama A special edition of Salient produced by Māori students  $7,291
 NZME, Māori Television, Newshub and Pacific Media Network with 11 support partners Te Rito Journalism Project, a programme to train and hire 25 cadet Māori, Pasifika and diverse journalists. $2,419,253
Aotearoa Media Collective Pīpī Paopao initiative providing regional workshops to 100 iwi radio staff $361,815
Stuff Training: Multi-lens Journalism $300,800
The Spinoff Current Affairs and Culture Magazine Mentorship Programme training initiative pairing journalism cadets with a mentor $287,310
BusinessDesk Cadet Training Programme, training two speicalist business journalists  $191,000
Attitude Pictures Disability Roadshow, workshops for journalists to learn about disability rights and reporting $121,420
Kowhai Media Photo Aotearoa a workshop and a three-month mentoring programme training photojournalists $98,256
Newsroom Training to upskill Newsroom’s graduate journalists  $50,610
Tikilounge Productions Coconet Reporter Training - Training three reporter trainees $49,324

 

Round six recipients  Made public on Monday 5th December 2022  

 

 

 

 

 

Taxpayer Update: Stop Central Planning 📰 ☭ | Future of Local Government 📜 | Tax Hikes 🛑

Three Waters 2.0: Our ad in the Herald exposing David Parker's central planning "reforms"

With the support of hundreds of supporters like you, we managed to secure a four-page lift-out in the NZ Herald this week to coincide with the final day on our 'Hands Off Our Homes: Stop Central Planning Committees' roadshow.

Herald RMA advert

View a high-res image of the ad here

David Parker's reforms would strip democratic control over resource allocation and planning decisions from local councils and place them in the hands of unelected, co-governed central planning committees.

The Government has learnt its lesson from Three Waters and isn't spending millions of taxpayer dollars on TV adverts (or otherwise talking about what they are doing) this time. Our main objective with the nationwide roadshow tour was to raise awareness about these reforms and explain to New Zealanders what these radical changes will mean for them.

RMA Ad 2

Over the coming weeks we will continue to expose Minister Parker's Soviet-style central planning committees for what they are and make it a major political thorn in the Government's side as we head towards October's election.

We can only force this matter onto the political agenda with people power. If you haven't already, please take a moment to add your name to the petition opposing these undemocratic reforms.

🔍 Future of Local Government 👩🏻‍💼👨🏻‍💼🔺

Not content with ripping away democratic control of water infrastructure and planning powers from local councils, a Government-appointed panel this week released their final report into the future of local government. 

As we predicted, the report advocates for even more centralisation and removal of local voice and democratic accountability from decision making. The report recommends reorganizing local government with "the resource management reform boundaries as a starting point for discussions". 😳

This would amount to a mass amalgamation of New Zealand's councils further reducing the ratepayers' ability to engage in the democratic process. 

New Zealand is one of the most highly centralized countries in the world. Just a tenth of government expenditure is delivered through our councils. And those councils are extremely large by international comparisons. Auckland's Super City is a prime example of bigger not being better – rather than save money it's led to more managers, more layers of bureaucracy, and much higher rates.

This Review presented a great opportunity to fix the issues in local councils and put power closer to the people, Instead it has focussed on identity politics and public sector gimmicks like citizens’ assemblies and "participatory budgeting". And the only structural reforms it proposes would likely see more centralizations and a further undermining of democratic accountability.

New Zealanders aren’t interested in nebulous concepts like embedding a wellbeing focus in local government – they want to see high quality services delivered at a local level for the lowest rates possible. That means small, democratically accountable, powerful local councils where local people have the opportunity every three years to kick out politicians who aren’t performing.

Hold on to your wallets: Tax hikes are coming 

Tax hikes are coming

At the end of this month, in the middle of a cost of living crisis, taxpayers up and down New Zealand will be slapped with four new tax increases, so get ready as Grant Robertson is coming for your wallet.

On 1 July, the following taxes are increasing:

🛑 Petrol excise by 29 cents/litre (including GST)

🛑 Road user charges by 56%

🛑 Ute tax by up to $1,725

🛑 Alcohol tax by 6.6%

Worse still, all four tax increases will have a disproportionately large impact on rural and poorer households. 

Cost of living crisis? What cost of living crisis?

The fuel excise and diesel road user charge increases will punish those who often don't have any other choice but to drive either due to where they live or the nature of their work.

Similarly, the ute tax will slam hard-working farmers and tradies who simply don't have any other option but to drive a ute – for them, they are tools of the trade. This increase is particularly cruel for those who lost vehicles in the recent flooding and will now have to pay up to $6,900 in tax just to replace a damaged work vehicle. 

And where does this money go? To subsidize those in the cities (where public transport is an option) so they can buy themselves a new Tesla. 

Ute tax petition

Tens of thousands of New Zealanders have already signed our petition calling for the ute tax to be scrapped. You can sign the petition here.

After all those tax hikes, you may need a beer or two to relax but, after a 6.9% alcohol excise hike last year, it's going up a further 6.6% this year too! Cheers.

Tax Preferences Principles Bill – David Parker trying to screw the scrum

David Parker’s Tax Principles Bill faced scrutiny at Select Committee last week, and of course your humble Taxpayers’ Union was there to give them a piece of taxpayers’ minds.

Scores of interested parties turned up to rip holes in this bill, which if nothing else shows one thing: Despite David Parker’s protestations that his 7 ‘principles’ were universally agreed upon fact, clearly they are little more than the preferences of one man and his lackeys.

For instance, take the Government’s attempt to enshrine in law the idea that tax systems must be progressive. Our economist, Ray Deacon, made the point that “there is no reason why a flat tax applied across all income levels, with an appropriately structured system of transfer payments, cannot achieve the goals that a progressive tax system is aiming for.” As it happens, even the Inland Revenue Department agrees with us!

Many of these "principles" would screw the scrum by shutting down democratic debate on our tax system by claiming Labour's opinions are objective fact and handing the power to dictate tax policy to an unelected Commissioner. If these principles are universal, Minister Parker must live in a different universe to us. 

In our written submission, we suggested that the bill be withdrawn or, at the very least, should be reworked to be based on the Tax Foundation's Principles of Sound Tax Policy. 

Ray also suggested that it would be more appropriate to rename the proposal as the Tax Preferences Bill. At least then the Government would be honest in their intentions. You can watch our submission here.

Taxpayer Victory: Michael Wood Resigns

In our last update, we called for Michael Wood's resignation over his failure to appropriately manage his conflict of interest as Minister of Transport while owning shares in Auckland Airport. Our petition has since gathered thousands of signatures.

Michael Wood Resigns

It subsequently emerged that Wood had undeclared financial interest in a number of other areas that conflicted with his Ministerial responsibilities. It was also revealed that Minister Wood was contacted 16 times by the Cabinet Office to sell his shares, not just the 12 times that had previously been stated. For multiple breaches of disclosure requirements as bad as this, Prime Minister Hipkins shouldn't have given Wood the opportunity to resign and should have sacked him instead!

This is a significant victory for taxpayers and one we care deeply about – accountability is one of the three key pillars of our mission. All taxpayers are entitled to expect that Ministers appropriately manage conflicts of interest and are, well, honest. Democracies can only function properly when the public has confidence that Ministers' personal financial interests aren't influencing decisions. 

When Ministers fail to uphold high standards of transparency and accountability, public trust in Government is eroded and it lowers the bar for what is considered acceptable conduct by future Ministers. Hipkins has yet to rule out Wood's return to the Cabinet table in a future Government. We say this should be the end of Mr Wood's political career. 

We welcome the announcement that work is underway to improve Cabinet's systems for managing conflicts of interest, we can only hope that this yields more accountability rather than just another box-ticking exercise. 

Thank you for your support.

Yours aye,

Callum

Callum Signature
Callum Purves
Campaigns Manager

New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union

Donate

Media coverage:

The Spinoff 
New poll points to National-Act government despite bump for Greens

NZ Herald Political poll: National, Act could form Government

Stuff National and ACT could form government, according to latest poll

RNZ New poll shows National, ACT keeping edge ahead of Labour

Politik Collins paves the way

The Working Group with David Farrar, Raf Manji and Damien Grant

Newstalk ZB Afternoon Edition: 14 June 2023 (02:08)

NZ Herald Te Pāti Māori coalition a drag on Labour - poll

Otago Daily Times Council won't pay for statue: mayor

Newstalk ZB THE RE-WRAP: Gang Gaslighting Continues (07:09)

NZ Herald Will a recession lose Labour the election? PM Chris Hipkins, Grant Robertson respond

Otago Daily Times Poll: mayor should stay, not chief exec

The Press Govt told capital gains tax is not a ‘universally accepted’ taxation principle

NZ Local Government Magazine Reactions to Local Government Review report

The Platform David Farrar on the DIA making unauthorised changes to the Three Waters bill

interest.co.nz A super-majority of voters want to fix tax bracket creep but only two political parties agree

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Michael Wood’s resignation was the right thing to do

Reacting to the announcement that Michael Wood has resigned as a Minister, Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager Callum Purves said:

“Michael Wood put himself in a position where it became simply untenable for him to remain as a Minister. Today’s developments of further undisclosed conflicts emerging simply reaffirmed the need for his resignation but also raised concerns that the Cabinet Office simply has to rely on the word of the Minister that there are no conflicts. This is not good enough.

“This whole episode is incredibly damaging of public confidence and perceptions of Cabinet’s conflict of interest processes. Just over a week since we launched our petition calling for Mr Wood’s resignation, thousands of concerned New Zealanders have signed it. The public are demanding higher standards from those in power which the Taxpayers’ Union has long called for.

“We welcome the announcement that more robust and timely processes will be put in place and await further details on any proposed restrictions regime for Minsters’ shareholdings.”

Future for Local Government Report focuses on the wrong issues

Commenting on He piki tūranga, he piki kōtuku –The future for local government final report, Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Callum Purves, said:

“New Zealand is one of the most highly centralized countries in the world. Just around a tenth of government expenditure is delivered through our councils. And those councils are extremely large by international comparisons. The Auckland Super City is a prime example of bigger not being better where a merger has simply led to more managers, more layers of bureaucracy, and higher rates.

“This Review presented a great opportunity to fix this and put power closer to the people, but instead it has focussed on identity politics and public sector gimmicks like citizens’ assemblies and participatory budgeting. And the only structural reforms it proposes would likely see more centralizations and a further undermining of democratic accountability.

“New Zealanders aren’t interested in nebulous concepts like embedding a wellbeing focus in local government – they want to see high quality services delivered at a local level for the lowest rates possible. That means small, democratically accountable, powerful local councils where local people have the opportunity every three years to kick out politicians who aren’t performing.”

Taxpayer-funded bailouts for failing businesses a slippery slope

Reacting to the news that the Government is set to become a part owner of the Ruapehu ski fields, Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager Callum Purves said:

“The Government should not be getting involved with propping up businesses that cannot stay afloat on their own. If the current operators go under, the mountains, ski-lifts and other infrastructure will still be there for another company to take over.

“Many international companies would be interested in buying the rights to operate the ski-fields for the reported price of $1, without the need for taxpayer loans, bailouts or buy-ins. Investing in New Zealand would be an attractive option for international companies seeking to diversify risk geographically and smooth income during the off-season in their respective countries.

“If the government wants to do something, a good start would be speaking with the many international ski-companies to see what regulatory barriers there are which are preventing them from taking over operations and seek to reduce them in time for the winter ski-season.

“People often forget that these things have an opportunity cost. The ski industry is one dominated by wealthy families who can afford to get away over the winter for some time on the slopes. Spending taxpayer money on bailing out the Ruapehu ski-fields means that we are effectively subsidising the hobbies of the wealthy at the cost of say funding frontline education or health services that have the greatest impact on low-income New Zealanders.”

ETS must be allowed to do its job of reducing net carbon emissions

 

Responding to the publication of the Ministry for the Environment’s consultation document, New Zealand's Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Callum Purves, said:

“The beauty of the Emissions Trading Scheme is that it ensures that we reduce net emissions and work towards our international climate commitments in the most efficient way possible and at the least cost to the taxpayer. But in order to do this effectively, the ETS must be neutral in the way that emissions are reduced or taken out of the atmosphere.

“The Government’s shift towards focussing on gross rather net emissions will ultimately not make any difference to tackling climate change and seems to prioritize virtue signalling over effective action. Instead it should focus on small tweaks such as removing the price floor to allow the market to clear and granting NZUs for sequestration from new carbon capture technologies.

“Concerns around the proliferation of forestry and land use more generally should be dealt with through separate environmental rules outside the ETS."

Back Doctors Over Bureaucrats to Prioritise Patients

 

Commenting on reports in today’s New Zealand Herald that Te Whatu Ora – Health New Zealand has introduced a new Equity Adjustor Score that requires patients to be prioritised on the basis of geographic location, deprivation and ethnicity alongside standard factors such as clinical priority, Taxpayers’ Union Executive Director, Jordan Williams, said:

“Decisions over deciding the priority of patients for surgery – and how taxpayer dollars are spent – should be made solely on the basis of clinical need and not on demographic factors such as ethnicity. We should trust the judgement of experienced surgeons to make decisions about which patients are in most urgent need.

“Enforced ranking of patients on the basis of ethnicity has no place in New Zealand’s health system. We should be backing clinical professionals over Wellington-based Te Whatu Ora bureaucrats to make these critical healthcare decisions.”

Government’s high taxes and big spending are stunting economic growth

Commenting on this morning’s GDP figures, Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Callum Purves, said:

“While the impacts of the severe weather events earlier in this year will have damaged primary production, the Government needs to shoulder much of the blame for this economic contraction. Its spending addiction has driven inflation to record levels and forced the Reserve Bank to hike the Official Cash Rate repeatedly, which has undoubtedly hampered economic activity.

“New Zealand might have only just entered a technical recession, but without drastic and urgent action from the Government to rein in its spending, this situation may well persist for some time to come.

“While Grant Robertson might not want to listen to us, he should take heed of the IMF’s damning indictment of his economic policies. They rightly argue that other than investment in cyclone recovery and social housing, the Government should tighten its belt by cutting spending and ensuring that cost of living support is targeted to those who need it most.”

Te Pūkenga payout highlights why public sector golden goodbye culture must end

Commenting on news that the former Te Pūkenga chief executive, Stephen Town, was paid out close to $200,000, Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Callum Purves, said: 

“The Government’s polytechnic merger was always a bad idea and one driven by their obsession with centralization. Far from delivering efficiencies, Te Pūkenga has simply created additional layers of bureaucracy while worsening financial problems and failing to address the issue of student numbers.

“The fact that the chief executive presiding over this mess was given a nearly $200,000 payout after having already been paid $65,000 for a period of ‘special leave’ is simply outrageous and completely unjustifiable. The golden goodbye culture in the public sector of rewarding failure must end immediately.”

Tim Shadbolt's request for a ratepayer-funded statue of himself beggars belief

Commenting on former Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt’s request for a ratepayer-funded statue of himself, Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Callum Purves, said:

“It beggars belief that Tim Shadbolt thinks this is an appropriate use of Invercargill residents' money, especially considering that the public have already had to pay for his enormous ratepayer-funded mayoral portrait.

“We commend Mayor Nobby Clarke for standing firm on this issue and looking out for ratepayers’ interests. If Mr Shadbolt would like a statue of himself, he is more than welcome to fundraise for one privately.”

Taxpayer Update: NEW POLL 📊🟢 | Parker's First RMA U-Turn ↩️⚖️ | ACT's plan to slash red tape ✂️🟡

NEW POLL: Centre Right could form government while Greens see bump in support 📊🟢

Exclusively for our supporters like you, here are the results of June's Taxpayers’ Union – Curia Poll:

Decided Party Vote over time

National is unchanged from last month on 36% while Labour drops 1 point to 33%. ACT is also unchanged on 13% while the Greens are up 3 points to 10%.

The smaller parties are the Māori Party 3.5% (-0.2 points), NZ First on 1.6% (-1 point), New Conservatives on 1.3% (-0.3 points), Democracy NZ on 0.9% (+0.6 points), and TOP on 0.8% (-0.9 points).

Here is how these results would translate to seats in the 120-seat Parliament, assuming all electorate seats are held:

Seats

National is unchanged on last month on 46 seats while Labour is down 2 seats to 42. ACT remains constant on 16 seats while the Greens pick up 3 seats to a total of 12. The Māori Party is down 1 seat on last month to 4.

The combined projected seats for the Centre Right of 62 seats is unchanged on last month and would allow them to form a government.

Following National's decision to rule out working with the Māori Party, we are now including their seats in the Centre-Left bloc. Given that the Green gains have come at the expense of Labour and the Māori Party, the Centre Left's total is unchanged on last month at 58 seats.

Some good news for Christopher Luxon in the favourability stakes 📈🔵 

Net Favourability by Current Party Vote

Net favourability is a measure of the number people who have a favourable view of a politician minus those who have an unfavourable view. A positive score means more people have a favourable view of someone than unfavourable while a negative rating means the reverse.

Chris Hipkins drops 3 points to a net favourability of +19%. While still some way behind the Prime Minister, Christopher Luxon jumps 5 points for a net favourability rating of -2%.

David Seymour has a net favourability of -4% (+7 points) while Māori Party co-leaders, Rawiri Waititi and Debbie Ngarewa-Packer, have net favourability ratings of -26% and -27%, respectively.

Among undecided voters, it is now an effective tie in the net favourability stakes between the two candidates for Prime Minister as Chris Hipkins drops 36 points to -6% while Christopher Luxon increases 19 points to -7%. David Seymour has the highest net favourability among undecided voters of those politicians we included of +5%.

Visit our website for more information and details of how to get access to the full polling report.

David Parker U-Turns Under Pressure From Taxpayers’ Union ↩️⚖️

David Parker

Our Hands Off Our Homes: Stop Central Planning Committees roadshow is well under way. We’re traversing the length and breadth of the country from Invercargill to Whangārei to raise awareness about the Government's latest power grab. By increasing the profile of this issue, we are putting pressure on the Government to scrap these undemocratic reforms.

And we have already made some progress. 

We invited all Members of Parliament, mayors and councillors to come along and listen to voters' concerns about these reforms and give their own view about the proposals. On the very first day of our roadshow, I received an email from Minister Parker where he refused to attend one of our events as they were, apparently, "political grandstanding".

While he clearly wasn't interested in hearing what New Zealanders think, he did confirm a Government back down. 

Under his original plans, these reforms would have given the new National Māori Entity the ability to monitor and issue directions to the Minister and all bodies acting under these new laws, including the Environment Court. This prompted an unprecedented intervention from the Chief Justice, Dame Helen Winkelmann, who said such an approach was "inconsistent with New Zealand's constitutional arrangements".

In his email, Minister Parker announced that the Government would remove National Māori Entity oversight of the Environment Court. This simply goes to show that our efforts are already making a difference. Everyone who signs and shares our petition, or comes along to one of our roadshow events, or buys a banner or yard sign, is applying pressure on the Government.

It is a small step in the right direction, but we will continue to ramp up our campaign. These planning reforms are so bad that they must be withdrawn and the Government must go back to the drawing board. 

ACT announces plans to slash red tape ✂️🟡

David Seymour

Here at the Taxpayers' Union, we believe that excessive regulation is holding New Zealand back. Red tape hampers productivity and growth by putting costly and unnecessary barriers in the way of working, operating a business, or making improvements to your property.

But unlike tax and spend policies, the introduction of new regulations often receives little scrutiny. The current lack of careful analysis often leads to the implementation of unworkable rules, which in turn produce unintended consequences. In many cases, the costs associated with such regulations far outweigh any potential benefits they may bring.

Last weekend, ACT announced a policy to create a new Ministry for Regulation run by a minister responsible for subjecting proposals for new regulations to the same level of scrutiny we give to public spending. The Minister would also have the responsibility of reviewing existing regulations to see whether those that are unnecessarily burdensome can be scrapped.

We are generally cautious of proposals to create a new Ministry – there are far too many already – but we believe that this may be one of the few exceptions. Too often cost/benefit analyses can be a tick-box exercise, but having a Minister specifically charged with casting a critical eye over new and existing regulations will ensure that preventing and reducing unnecessary red tape will be given the priority it requires. 

Michael Wood must resign over shares scandal 🔍

Michael Wood

At the time of writing, Michael Wood remains a Minister and has only been temporarily relieved of his transport portfolio. In the unlikely event that you missed it, Michael Woodhouse failed to declare his financial conflict of interest in Auckland Airport despite being the minister responsible for rules around aviation and the wasteful Auckland Light Rail to the airport. 

While the story is news to the public, it apparently isn't to Michael Wood. Two-and-a-half years ago, he was instructed by the Cabinet Office to sell his shares to ensure that his financial interest would not influence his decision making. Despite assurances that he would do so, Minister Wood only just sold his shares this week after the story appeared on the front page of the NZ Herald.

And this wasn't just a case of the Minister being careless and forgetting to sell the shares after a single reminder. The Cabinet Office told him to sell the shares not once, not twice, but a staggering twelve times. On at least one occasion, the Minister actually told the Jacinda Ardern's office that the shares had been sold despite this being demonstrably false. In addition, we now know that Minister Wood mislead the media, in response to a question from Newsroom about the accuracy of his interests register decorations.

Call us old fashioned, but we remember when Labour Ministers were sacked (or forced to quit) for lying to the media, let alone, the Prime Minister. Just ask Lianne Dalziel...

We say it is simply untenable for Michael Wood to remain a Minister. Chris Hipkins should have taken swift action to remove Wood from office immediately to send a clear signal that this type of conduct is unacceptable. This demonstrates a lack of respect to New Zealanders who expect our MPs – and Ministers especially – to be transparent (and honest).

As the Prime Minister isn't taking decisive action, we have set up a petition calling on Michael Wood to do the honourable thing and resign. You can add your name here.

>> Sign the petition <<<

Thank you for your support.

Yours aye,

Callum

Callum Signature
Callum Purves
Campaigns Manager

New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union

Donate

Media coverage:

NZ Herald On the Tiles: Episode 54 – The challenges facing National pre-election (01:51)

Stuff 
Where is the Green Party at for the upcoming election campaign?

TVNZ Donations, voting age: Panel recommends sweeping election changes

Wairarapa Times-Age Groups link up to oppose RMA plan

whatsoninvers.nz Huge Response In Southland To Hands Off Homes Roadshow

Otago Daily Times Mayor's comments on media funding labelled ignorant 

The News Addressing the people

Southland Times Gore District Council chief executive breaks his silence on bullying claims




 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

















Taxpayers’ Union welcomes ACT policy announcement to reduce red tape

Commenting on ACT’s ‘Policing Red Tape and Regulation’ policy announcement, Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Callum Purves, said:

“Red tape and regulation are some of the biggest hand brakes on New Zealand’s prosperity. They make it more difficult for people to run businesses, hamper growth and investment, and ultimately drive up the costs of goods and services for us all.

“Unlike tax and spend policies, new regulations get little scrutiny. This leads to rules that are often unworkable and have many unintended consequences where any benefits of regulation can be significantly outweighed by the costs.

“ACT’s proposal to apply the same discipline to analysing regulations that we already do to public spending is a sound one that would prevent ill-thought-through rules being implemented and would reduce the overall burden of red tape on New Zealand.”

Taxpayer Update: Stop Central Planning Committees 🛑🏘️ | Trustee tax rate hike 💰🔺 | It's time for tax cuts ✂️💵

Taxpayers' Union on Tour: Stop Central Planning Committees 🛑🏘️

On Monday, we kicked off our nationwide tour to Stop Central Planning Committees in Christchurch and the team are currently working their way down the South Island – tonight we are jointly hosting an event with Federated Farmers at 6pm at the Invercargill Workingmen's Club (details of all the events are on our website here)

Make no mistake, David Parker's replacement to the Resource Management Act will make resource consenting even harder. While Three Waters was about taking control of community assets — to put into centralized, co-governed entities — these bills are about taking control of planning laws and what you can do with your home, your property, or your farm — taking the control away from democratically elected councils to put them in 15 centralized, co-governed, so-called 'Regional Planning Committees'.

The effects will be dramatic. As a voter, you will no longer be able to hold to account the decision makers who will determine what you can produce on your farm, build on your property, or how your community is planned.  The Federated Farmers and the Taxpayers' Union are no fans of the current Resource Management Act, but David Parker's new regime will make getting a resource consent much, much harder.

Unlike Three Waters, the Government isn't talking about these bills or making the public aware of what it is doing. That's why we've taken to the road.

David Parker's replacement to the RMA is Three Waters 2.0. It will mean:

🔴 Higher building costs

🔴 More red tape

🔴 No local control

🔴 More co-governance

Sound familiar?

Thanks to everyone who has come along to our events so far. Check out this video from Star News to see what we have been up to.

Ashburton Event

You can learn more about the proposed reforms at www.HandsOffOurHomes.nz

We'll be in your town soon 🚗🚩

You can find our full itinerary at www.taxpayers.org.nz/roadshow

Rolleston Event

We look forward to meeting you on the road.

No new taxes? Trustee tax rate hike 💰🔺

David Parker

To be fair to David Parker, he has certainly been keeping busy (and keeping us busy!). Not content with trying to ram through undemocratic planning laws to replace the RMA, he's also been continuing his long-standing campaign to radically change our tax system.

His pet project report that was published several weeks ago used an extremely wide definition of economic income – including things like unrealized capital gains – to suggest that wealthier New Zealanders were not paying their fair share of tax and make the case for higher taxes. Despite the Prime Minister quickly ruling out a capital gains tax or wealth tax in this term, David Parker got his way with the trustee tax rate.

In the budget, Grant Robertson announced that the rate would rise from 33 to 39 percent from 1 April next year. This won't just affect the wealthiest David Parker says he is targeting. There are around 400,000 trusts in New Zealand, but only 9,000 have an income of more than $180,000 and they may be able to pay the 28 percent rate by leaving more money in company structures. 

This will be yet another tax hike on families who legitimately use trusts to protect assets such as their homes and small businesses. On average, each trust will pay an extra $1,260 each year. So much for 'no new taxes'...

It's time for tax cuts ✂️💵

The budget was also a bitter disappointment for people across New Zealand who are struggling with the cost of living. The increased deficit will drive inflation further and forced the Reserve Bank to hike interest rates yet again, which will be felt be those looking to renew their mortgages. 

And what did Kiwis get in return? Not a lot. The removal of the $5 prescription charge, 'free' childcare for 2-year-olds while not addressing the lack of staff, and a large subsidy for the gaming industry. What people really desperately need is some tax relief.

And it seems most New Zealanders agree. A new poll out on Sunday encouragingly showed that more than half of voters think that now is the right time to introduce tax cuts. 

Chris Hipkins protests that tax cuts now would be inflationary while conveniently ignoring the inflationary effects of Grant Robertson's larger deficit. Tax cuts would only drive inflation if not matched by spending cuts. Scrapping the $2.8 million campaign to tell us to take shorter showers would be a good place to start...

Government's populist policies aren't even that popular 🔥📉

For all the talk of focussing on the cost of living and supporting those who are struggling, Labour's congress last weekend announced anything but. Despite previously acknowledging that the retirement age of 65 is unaffordable, Labour committed to keep it in place and the so-called 'winter energy payment'.

The Universal Winter Energy Payment for retirees isn't even that popular. A Taxpayers' Union – Curia poll from earlier this month found that 58 percent of New Zealanders supported targeting the payments to those superannuitants on lower incomes. Only 30 percent opposed targeting.  

Winter Fuel Payment Poll

Making handouts universal means working class taxpayers pay more for the better off to heat their pools. New Zealanders can see through the spin and understand that this is not a good use of taxpayer money. Support should be targeted to those people who are most in need.

The tyranny of unelected council bureaucrats ⚖️🗳️

Ben Bell

Here at the Taxpayers' Union, we believe that decisions are best made as close to the people they affect as possible. More often than not that means getting the Government to stop interfering with our lives full stop, but sometimes it means taking decisions in our communities rather than letting them be taken by politicians in Wellington. 

The problem is that too often the real power in our councils doesn't rest with mayors and councillors but instead is in the hands of unelected officials. We have seen these problems come into sharp focus in Gore where a longstanding council chief executive seems to be unwilling to work with their new democratically elected mayor.

I faced similar challenge serving as a councillor in Scotland where unelected officials would use all manner of ways to obstruct the wishes of democratically elected representatives and, ultimately, of the voters. Writing in the Otago Daily Times, I explain why this issue is such a problem for our local democracy. 

Thank you for your support.

Yours aye,

Callum

Callum Signature
Callum Purves
Campaigns Manager

New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union


Donate

Media coverage:

Rural News 
Expensive pet food!

NZ City 
Latest polling has National's support once again overtaking Labour's

NZ Herald 
Taxpayers’ Union-Curia poll: National and Act could govern alone; Labour down but Hipkins more popular than Luxon

Stuff National and Act could form government, new Taxpayers’ Union Curia poll suggests

The Spinoff National moves ahead of Labour in new poll

RNZ Taxpayers Union-Curia poll points towards National-ACT government

RNZ The Panel with Ali Jones and Jeremy Elwood (Part One) (11:44)

Te Ao Māori News Poll: National + Act coalition could fly

The Daily Blog BREAKING: New Taxpayers Union Poll – ACT soar to victory while Greens stall!

Newstalk ZB Barry Soper: ZB senior political correspondent on Chris Luxon ruling out working with Te Pāti Māori after the general election

The Working Group with David Seymour, Matthew Hooton & Damien Grant

Newstalk ZB David Seymour: Act leader says a vote for Act prevents a National govt that campaigns from the right and governs from the left

Newstalk ZB Aaron Dahmen: Te Pāti Māori's glee has been palpable over the last few days

NZ Herald Herald’s poll of polls shows Christopher Luxon’s big gamble

NBR Political jockeying, budget pressures, election race

Kiwiblog Bet you none of them have paid additional tax?

Gisborne Herald Sentiment might be shifting again

Gone by Lunchtime Coalitions, coronations and chaos

Newstalk ZB Friday Faceoff: Josie Pagani and Peter Dunne (24:16)

RNZ Week in Politics: Te Pāti Māori in spotlight as Luxon paints a picture of 'chaos'

Indian Newslink Labour and National stay in close fight, not their leaders

The Press It's time to drop the 5% MMP threshold and let more smaller parties into Parliament

Rotorua Now New political poll: Main parties in a tight race

Newstalk ZB Kerre Woodham: I don't think it's unreasonable to have a co-analysis of any government programme

InfraNews Campaign launched against ‘undemocratic’ RMA reform

The Post Callum Purves: If the Government really wants to tackle cost of living, it needs to kick its spending habit

The Spinoff Free prescriptions an ‘important step forward’ – Greens

Indian Newslink Labour’s populist budget of relief brings a few surprises

Stuff Trustee tax increase 'is response to spike in trust use to avoid tax'

RNZ Political opponents take aim at Budget 2023: 'Blowout', 'broke', 'Budget for the rich'

Stuff The no frills, higher bills Budget

Feds News Federated Farmers launches nine-stop RMA rural roadshow

The Spinoff Five very similar polls, three very different results

NZ Herald On the Tiles: Episode 54 – Post-Budget, post-polls, and post-housing u-turns (02:51)

Stuff Janet Wilson: National should be doing better in the polls, but it's not happening

Otago Daily Times Callum Purves: Spotlight on power imbalance

Star News Taxpayers Union trying to halt RMA reforms

whatsoninvers.nz Taxpayers' Union Launches Nationwide Hands Off Our Homes! Roadshow

The Working Group with Ruth Richardson, Bernard Hickey and Damien Grant

The Common Room NZ "Co-governance for your deck!"




 

 

 

 

Taxpayers’ Union kicks off roadshow, first Government backdown on RMA reform

On the same day the Taxpayers’ Union kicked off the Hands Off Our Homes: Stop Central Planning Committees roadshow, David Parker has shown his first backdown in relation to one of the most controversial aspects of his RMA reforms.

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Callum Purves, says:

“After contacting Minister Parker, informing him of our nationwide roadshow and inviting him to come and justify his proposals before any one of our 30 public meetings, he has committed to fixing the constitutional issues in the bill that would have seen the Environment Court subject to review by the National Māori entity.

“The Chief Justice, Dame Helen Winkelmann shared our concerns in a rare submission to the select committee, stating that such an arrangement would be “inconsistent with New Zealand’s constitutional arrangements” and “would be constitutionally unprecedented and problematic”.

“This significant flaw in the law should have never made it past the drafting stage. It demonstrates that this government is set on ramming these proposals through before the election despite widespread agreement that the proposal is worse than the dog of a bill they are seeking to replace.

“This government has a history of playing fast and loose with our constitutional framework - whether it be with the latest RMA proposals or the attempted entrenchment of Three Waters, there is either a lack of competence or a lack of care from the Ministers involved. We call on Minister Parker to front up and justify himself at one of our public meetings.

Taxpayers’ Union Executive Director to lead World Taxpayers Associations

The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union extends its congratulations to its Co-founder and Executive Director, Jordan Williams, who was elected Chair and President of World Taxpayers Associations (WTA) at this week's WTA General Meeting in Prague, Czech Republic, by the attending 22 taxpayer-protection organisations from 20 countries. The WTA is an international coalition of 47 taxpayer advocacy groups from across the globe and is incorporated in Sweden. Mr Williams has served on its Board since 2019.

The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union, an independent grassroots organisation dedicated to protecting the rights and interests of New Zealand taxpayers, commends Williams on his new global leadership role.

Laurence Kubiak, Chair of the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union, said:

“This is a significant recognition of Jordan's work in advocating for taxpayer rights and making the Taxpayers’ Union a respected organisation in the international movement. New Zealanders can be proud that one of our own is now leading this global charge for fiscal responsibility, fairness, and accountability."

“As Jordan takes up this new role, we are confident that he will bring the same passion and rigour that he has shown in his service to New Zealand’s taxpayers.”

The Chair and President role is part-time, and is assisted by a General Secretary (based within the Spanish Taxpayers’ Union) and Treasurer (Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation). Jordan will continue as Executive Director of the Taxpayers’ Union.

The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union extends its warmest congratulations to Jordan, and anticipates that his leadership of the WTA will contribute positively to the global conversation around taxpayer rights, accountability, and fiscal prudence.

 

About World Taxpayers Associations

The WTA was founded in 1988 with the following Statute purpose:

“The taxpayers movement has grown out of the desire of citizens to protect themselves from the increasing tax claims of the state. It works toward a society with lower taxes and more individual freedom. It wishes to stimulate efficiency and economy in the public sector. It supports legislation to limit tax burdens, prevent unjust harassment by tax collectors, and provide clear information about government taxation and expenditure.”
~ World Taxpayers Associations Statutes, adopted 1988

The WTA is incorporated in Sweden and comprises taxpayer protection groups from over 60 countries representing millions of who have a shared believe in “Flatter and simpler taxes, tax competition, government transparency, protection of fundamental taxpayer rights and reasonable limits on government spending, taxes and debt that will increase freedom, economic opportunity, government efficiency, and impede corruption.”

OCR hike demonstrates need to rein in Government spending

Commenting on the Reserve Bank’s decision to increase the Official Cash Rate (OCR) by a further 25 basis points, Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Callum Purves, said:

“Continuing high levels of inflation have clearly forced the Reserve Bank to hike up interest rates even more. This means that families will not only have to bear the brunt of that high inflation, but higher interest rates will hit those renewing their mortgages soon too.

“The Government continually talks about tackling the cost of living crisis, but fails to recognize that it is partly responsible. Grant Robertson’s decision to increase spending over the next four years in his budget last week while forecast tax revenues have declined will simply add fuel to the inflation fire. If Chris Hipkins means what he says, he needs to rein in his Government’s spending.”

Taxpayers' Union launches nationwide Hands Off Our Homes! roadshow

After the success of the Stop Three Waters roadshow last year, the Taxpayers’ Union is hitting the road once again for a four-week, nationwide roadshow to hear and highlight the concerns of ratepayers and councils threatened by the Government’s proposed replacement to the Resource Management Act.

The itinerary will see Taxpayers’ Union team members visiting 30 local centres in a ‘Hands Off Our Homes: Stop Central Planning Committees’-branded van, from Invercargill to Whāngarei. The team will meet mayors, councillors, and MPs and ask them to sign a pledge to do everything within their power to resist the Government’s reforms.

Ratepayers at every stop are invited to meet the Taxpayers’ Union team and hear the commitments of local politicians to oppose these proposals. Local mayors, councillors, MPs will also be invited to address the public meetings.

Nine of the events will be jointly hosted with our friends at Federated Farmers who have been at the forefront of the opposition to the proposed planning reforms.

The full itinerary can be viewed here.

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Callum Purves, said:

“New Zealanders are rightly frustrated with the cumbersome Resource Management Act, which restricts how we use our land and has fuelled a serious infrastructure and housing shortage, but this proposed replacement will make the situation much worse.

“Not content with seizing water assets from local communities, the Government is now proposing to grab planning powers from local councils and transfer them to fifteen unaccountable, undemocratic, so-called Regional Planning Committees. At this rate there won’t be much left for your council to do.

“These changes will significantly reduce local control over decisions affecting communities while introducing many new and undefined concepts that will likely lead to legal challenges through the courts. And this increased red tape and bureaucracy will simply lead to higher building costs for everyone.”

Hands Off Our Homes: Stop Central Planning Committees Roadshow Itinerary

North Island

Wellington @ 7 June, 6PM
Academy Galleries
1 Queens Wharf, Wellington CBD, Wellington, 6011

Lower Hutt @ 8 June, 10AM
26 Laings Rd, outside the Council offices

Masterton @ 8 June, 6PM
Co-hosted by our friends, Federated Farmers
Lansdowne House
15 Keir Crescent, Lansdowne, Masterton, 5810

Palmerston North @ 9 June, 6PM
Co-hosted by our friends, Federated Farmers
Palmerston North Community Leisure Centre - The Neville Butler Exhibition Hall
569 Ferguson Street, Terrace End, Palmerston North, 4410

Whanganui @ 10 June, 6PM
Co-hosted by our friends, Federated Farmers
War Memorial Centre - The Concert Chamber
Watt Street, Whanganui, 4500

Hastings @ 11 June, 11:30AM
207 Lyndon Road East, outside the Council offices

Napier @ 11 June, 3PM
159 Dalton Street, outside the Council offices

Taupō @ 12 June, 12:30PM
Corner of Ferry Road & Redoubt Street

New Plymouth @ 13 June, 10:30AM
Co-hosted by our friends, Federated Farmers
Pukekura Function Centre - La Mer Lounge
New Plymouth Raceway, Rogan Street, Pukekura, New Plymouth, 4310

Te Awamutu @ 13 June, 6PM
Co-hosted by our friends, Federated Farmers
Te Awamutu Golf Clubs
2293 Kihikihi Road, Te Awamutu 3800

Hamilton/Mystery Creek Fieldays @ 14-17 June, 8:30AM - 5:00PM Wednesday-Friday 8AM - 4PM on Saturday
Rural Living Marquee, 125 Mystery Creek Road

Rotorua @ 18 June, 1PM
Outside Rotorua Museum/Bathhouse
Government Gardens, Oruawhata Drive, Rotorua 3046

Tauranga @ 19 June, 6PM
Classic Flyers Museum Hangar
9 Jean Batten Drive, Mount Maunganui 3116

Auckland @ 20 June, 6:30PM
Ellerslie Event Centre - The Guineas Room 1
100 Ascot Avenue, Ellerslie, Auckland 1050

Pukekohe @ 21 June, 12:15PM
Pukekohe Indian Community Centre, 
59 Ward Street, Pukekohe, 2120

Mangawhai @ 22 June, 10AM
The Hub shops, 6 Molesworth Dr, outside the Council offices

Whangārei @ 22 June, 1.30PM
Town Basin, outside Claphams Clock Museum
32 Dent Street, Quayside, Town Basin, Whangārei 0111


South Island (Completed)

Christchurch @ 29 May, 6PM
Waimairi Road Community Centre
166 Waimairi Road, Ilam, Christchurch, 8041

Rolleston @ 30 May, 10:30AM
56 Tennyson Street, outside the Te Ara Ātea Library

Ashburton @ 30 May, 6PM
Co-hosted by our friends, Federated Farmers
Ashburton Club & MSA
266 Havelock Street, Ashburton 7700

Wānaka @ 31 May, 12PM
47 Ardmore Street, outside the Council offices

Alexandra @ 31 May, 6PM
Co-hosted by our friends, Federated Farmers
Alexandra Community Centre, Memorial Theatre
15 Skird Street, Alexandra, 9320

Balclutha @ 1 June, 11AM
South Otago Town & Country Club
1 Yarmouth Avenue, Balclutha, 9200

Gore @ 1 June, 6PM
Co-hosted by our friends, Federated Farmers
Croydon Lodge - The Trust Room and Lager Bar
100 Waimea Street, Croydon, Gore, 9776

Invercargill @ 2 June, 6PM
Co-hosted by our friends, Federated Farmers
Invercargill Workingmen's Club - Corinthian Conventions Centre
154 Esk Street, Invercargill, 9810

Dunedin @ 3 June, 11:30AM
The Octagon

Oamaru @ 3 June, 3:30PM
20 Thames Street, outside the Council offices

Timaru @ 4 June, 10:30AM
2 King George Place, outside the Council offices

Nelson @ 6 June, 10AM
At the bottom of the Cathedral steps
1 Upper Trafalgar Street, Nelson, 7010

Blenheim @ 6 June, 3:30PM
Seymour Square, 16 High Street, outside the Council offices

 

Budget 2023 – From the Beehive lock-up: What you need to know

Callum and I are just out of the Beehive bunker where we’ve spent the morning poring over Grant Robertson’s sixth budget with media and analysts before it is delivered in Parliament.

Summary: nothing big bang spending wise other than free ECE for 2-year-olds. Tax hikes for those with trusts, and at the fuel pump. The economic news is better than had been previously forecast, but the government debt figures are getting much worse.

There’s nothing game changing or visionary in this year’s budget. Grant Robertson and Chris Hipkins have taken a scatter gun approach to this year’s new spending. Dobs of cash here, there and everywhere, but no major initiatives that are likely to shift the electoral dial. 

The first half of this email lists initiatives the Government wants you (and the media) to focus on.  The second part is what we’ve found, and they don’t want you to know.

The headline initiatives (what Chris Hipkins wants you to focus on) 😉

Here are the things the spin doctors in the Beehive are highlighting:

  • Extending 20 hours ECE to 2-year-olds (eventually costing c.$380m/year)

This is the closest thing this year’s budget has to an electoral sugar hit.  For those with young families and working, it’s a boost to get back to work. A less expensive way of bringing down childcare costs would be to bring staff to child ratios in line with other OECD countries.

  • Scrapping the $5 prescription co-payments for everyone (c.$175m/year)

The Government argues that this will relieve pressure on the health and care system by ensuring more people collect their prescriptions and fewer have to go into hospital.

  • Free public transport for kids – half price for teenagers (c.$80m/year)

Children under 13 will get buses, ferries, and trains for free with under 25s getting half-price.

  • Cyclone recovery, infrastructure, and “National Resilience Plan” (allocating $6b capital over the four-year forecast period).

As expected, there is large capital expenditure allocated to Auckland flooding and Cyclone Gabrielle recovery. The Government has also announced a “National Resilience Plan”.

  • 3,000 additional public housing places ($3.1b, $465m operating over the four-year forecast period)

This is a mix of community, Māori, and temporary (cyclone related) housing.

  • Investment in education to build more schools and classrooms, reduce class sizes, increase teacher pay and tackle truancy ($1.3b capital, $3.6b operating over the forecast period)

Populist policies such as reducing class sizes haven’t been shown to have much of an impact on attainment and paying teachers more is all well and good is they are high performing, but it means the bad teachers get paid more too.

The Gimmicks 🤡

It is usual in budgets to be crammed full of headline-grabbing gimmicks to oil the political squeaky wheels.  This year’s budget is sadly no different:

  • “Cheaper energy bills” i.e. subsidies for heat pumps, insulation installations, and LED light bulbs

The Government is expanding the “Warmer Kiwi Homes Programme” to provide 100,000 new heating and insulation installations, 7,500 hot-water heat pumps and 5 million LCD light bulbs. That’s nearly one each!

  • Supporting the growth (corporate welfare) of gaming sector

The Government is picking winners by announcing it’s doing to video games what it does already for international movie studios: Competing against Australia for economically dubious ‘rebate’ subsidies.

  • More electric vehicle charging infrastructure

  • “Investments” in Green Hydrogen and subsidies for trucking companies to buy electric trucks

Yet again, the Government repeats the claim that increasing the use of electric vehicles “reduces emissions”. Of course, that’s not true. Any decrease in transport emissions are simply made available under our fixed cap emissions trading scheme for other areas to use.  These subsides simply make climate change mitigation more expensive that it need be.

  • Improving data on impacts on climate change, including data on how climate change impacts Māori.

What Chris Hipkins doesn’t want the media to focus on 🤫

As part of Ruth Richardson’s Fiscal Responsibility Act, since 1993 Treasury has been required to prepare independent fiscal and economic forecasts twice a year (and just prior to an election). 

So the first thing we do when we get into the Budget lockup is to check the headline forecasts against the half-year update back in December.

The numbers don’t lie

Despite better GDP and employment forecasts, gross debt forecasts are skyrocketing.

The debt figures are starting to look ugly.  Grant Robertson’s speech would have you believe that the Government books are rosy.  Yes, Treasury are no longer forecasting a recession, and unemployment is now forecast to peak less at 5.3 percent next year (compared to December’s forecast of 5.5 percent), but that makes the debt situation even more questionable.

Back in December, Treasury forecast gross debt to be $193 billion ($98,229 per household) or 39.9% of GDP by 2027.  Just six months later, the same officials are now forecasting gross debt to be $214.5 billion ($109,171 per household) or 44.3% of GDP.  That is an alarming change for just six months given the economy is not expected to be as bad between now and then.

The elephants in the room: the tax hikes that Grant Robertson insists aren’t a tax hike 🐘🐘🐘

Do you have a family trust? So much for Chris Hipkins’ ‘no tax hikes’ promise. Tax hikes for 1 April 2024 ⬆️

Yesterday, Mr Hipkins was saying that today’s Budget would not be putting up taxes.  Maybe Grant didn’t tell him, but today’s Budget puts up the trust rate from 33 cents in the dollar to 39 cents. 

In his comments to media, David Parker tried to frame it in context of his recent ‘Nosey Parker’ report into the country’s uber wealthy.  In reality, it will hit SME-business owners who own their family business via a family trust.  For the uber wealthy, this change will incentivise keeping capital within companies (which will soon be paying a considerably lower company rate of 28%). 

Do you own a car? Tax hikes for you in six weeks’ time 🚗⛽💸 

The Budget locks in tax hikes for motorists.  From 1 July, fuel tax will be increasing 29 cents per litre.  That will return to a situation where for many (in particular, Aucklanders) pay more than half of the amount paid at the pump will be tax!

And for all the talk of helping those most in need, fuel taxes disproportionately hit the poor (who can’t afford electric vehicles), or live in rural areas.

So much for savings and reprioritisation! 🤷

For all of Grant Robertson’s recent show of promoting himself as some sort of fiscal hawk, the “Savings and Reprioritisation” section of his 154-page Budget Document amounts to half a page – and all of it has already been announced.

And of the $4billion, a big chunk of it (c.$850m) is thanks to efforts of your humble Taxpayers’ Union: the dropping of TVNZ/RNZ merger, and the “re-focusing” (i.e. delaying) of Three Waters.  You’re welcome, Mr Robertson!

Is a return to surplus credible?

The Government is making a lot out of the projection that it will return New Zealand to surplus in 2024/25.  But the economists we spoke to in the lock up agree that this is very optimistic. It’s forecast to be just a surplus and assumes no more shocks (such as weather events).  It also assumed that, like every year’s budget, future governments will spend less on new initiatives going forward.  If you believe that, I have a bridge to sell you.

Join us tonight to discuss today’s budget with the NZ Initiative Think Tank.

In a few hours, our Chairman (former CEO of the NZ Institute of Economic Research) Laurence Kubiak, and I will be joining Eric Crampton and Oliver Hartwich from the NZ Initiative Think Thank to discuss the Budget and economic data released.  To listen in, head over to our Facebook or YouTube page at 7pm. 

Until then, we will have our head down continuing to work through the material.  Our comments to media on the budget and individual initiatives are linked below. 

Thank you for your support. For those interested, you can read the full documentation on the Treasury website here.

Jordan

Jordan_signature.jpg
Jordan Williams
Executive Director

New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union

BUDGET 2023 — MEDIA RELEASES:

Two tax hikes and an LED light bulb. Nothing for middle New Zealand in this budget

So much for no new taxes 

Cost of living be damned! Fuel tax hike from July will hit lower income and rural New Zealanders hardest

Grant's Gaming Gamble

Government is greenwashing

Grant’s gaming gamble is corporate welfare for well connected friends

The Taxpayers’ Union has condemned the Government’s decision to allocate $160 million in rebates to the gaming sector over the next four years – calling it ‘corporate welfare’.

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Callum Purves, said:

“It was quite incredible to watch the gaming sector lobbyists in the budget lock up celebrate the ‘win’ for their wealthy clients. Gaming, now joins the film industry as an exalted industry that somehow justifies special treatment with politicians taxing ordinary Kiwis more to fund corporate welfare schemes.

“Corporate welfare to help ‘grow’ an industry is a false economy. Just like film, these companies get addicted to the rebates and subsides. Even if the industry grows, so too does the subsidy. 

“Rather than pick winners, a far better economic strategy would be to slash the subsides for gaming and film and deliver every business and entrepreneur tax relief. Maybe then our company tax rate wouldn’t be among the highest in the world.”

Government is greenwashing: $182.5 million more in climate subsidies that won’t reduce net emissions by a single gram

The Taxpayers’ Union is calling out Government Greenwashing in its justification of spending at least $182.5 million of taxpayer dollars over the next four years on environmental subsidies that will fail to reduce net emissions. 

Taxpayers’ Union Executive Director, Jordan Williams, said:

“The Government loves to crow about the action it is taking to tackle climate change, but today’s announcement that the Government plans to throw at least another $182.5 million of taxpayer dollars on environmental subsidies will not reduce net carbon emissions by a single gram. 

“Under New Zealand’s Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), any reduction in carbon emissions in these areas will simply free up carbon credits for other less efficient industries to emit more. The Government should allow the ETS to do its job and ensure that reduce net carbon emissions in the most efficient way possible and at the minimum cost to Kiwis.”

“Every electric car that reduces transport emissions, simply frees up ETS credits for emissions in other areas of the economy. It’s literally undermining the whole purpose of the ETS – to find the most cost efficient ways to meet client targets – for the sake of political expediency.”

“Justifying spending with claims that it ‘reduces emissions’ is dishonest greenwashing. If it was done by a private company, the Commerce Commission would be investigating for deceptive conduct.”

So much for no new taxes. Government hikes trustee tax rates

The Taxpayers’ Union has condemned the Government’s announcement that it will increase the trustee tax rate to 39 cents in the dollar to align it with the highest personal income tax rate.

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Callum Purves, said:

“Chris Hipkins’s ‘no new taxes’ pledge lasted about a week with today’s trustee tax rate hike. It’s a broken promise.

”The Government is trying to justify this tax hike by pointing to the most wealthy. But those people can keep money within company structures and pay the 28% company tax rate. In reality this tax grab will hit small business owners who often hold business in trusts for legitimate reasons.” 

Two tax hikes, and an LED light bulb. Nothing for middle New Zealand in this budget

Commenting on today’s budget announcement, Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Callum Purves, said:

“With the exception of rolling out free ECE to two years and dropping prescription co-payments, there is almost nothing that the average taxpayer receives from today, except higher fuel taxes and a promise to increase trustee taxes next year.

“The effects of record high levels of inflation mean that families are paying higher levels of taxation each and every year. Instead of any tax relief in this budget, they get a LED light bulb, and a bus ride for their kids.

“Compared to the half-year fiscal and economic update, the revised Treasury forecasts are alarming. Gross debt is projected to be $21 billion higher by 2027 than estimated just 6 months ago – despite Grant Robertson’s attempts to paint a rosier picture.

“Government is driving inflation even higher. Government is forecast never to return to the size as a proportion of the economy as pre-COVID. It needs to tackle its spending problem, and this budget just doesn’t deliver.”

Cost of living be damned! Fuel tax hike from July will hit lower income and rural New Zealanders hardest

The Taxpayers’ Union has slammed the Government’s decision to hike fuel taxes from July. The 25 cent reduction in petrol excise (29 cents with GST) and the equivalent reduction in diesel road user charges will be scrapped at the end of June.

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Callum Purves, said:

“Despite all the promises of focussing the cost of living, July’s fuel tax hikes contained in today’s budget will hit Kiwis already struggling with rising inflation. Outside the main cities, most people still rely on their cars to get about on a daily basis. This increase will particularly hit lower income families and New Zealanders living in rural areas – the very people struggling the most with the costs of living.

“If the Government stopped allowing the National Land Transport Fund to subsidize loss-making railway lines, walking and cycle ways, and even the expensive ‘Road to Zero’ advertising campaign, it could maintain fuel taxes at lower levels while still maintaining and investing in our roading network.” 

Labour should be stealing taxpayer-friendly policies from opposition parties

Reacting to today’s policy announcements from National and the alternative budget from ACT, the Taxpayers’ Union is calling on the Labour Party to copy the best parts of these proposals and show some fiscal restraint.

Taxpayers’ Union Executive Director, Jordan Williams, says:

“We congratulate the opposition parties for putting forward taxpayer-friendly policies and urge Labour to treat these changes as a shopping list of good ideas for fiscal discipline. Just because the opposition announced these policies doesn’t mean they own them.

“Proposals such as linking the pay of public sector chief executives to performance, targeting policies such as the winter energy payment to those most in need and providing ‘taxpayer receipts’ are likely to be politically popular among the electorate and at the same time would deliver better value for money for the taxpayer.

“At a time when the number of managers in the public service is growing at twice the rate of front-line staff, it is more important than ever that we work on improving our public sector productivity rather than throwing more money at the bureaucratic black hole. No party has a monopoly on good ideas so, when one comes up, other parties should adopt them as their own."

Phillip Mills gets the hypocrite of the week award

The Taxpayers’ Union is calling on Phillip Mills – of Les Mills – to pay back the $4.5 million his company took in wage subsidies before spouting off about how much he wants to, he says, pay more to the Government.

The Taxpayers’ Union has been tipped off by Auckland University Professor Robert MacCulloch that Les Mills New Zealand Ltd claimed a total of $4,510,078.80 in wage subsidies and has not repaid the amount despite many companies and even not-for-profits doing so.

Taxpayers' Union Executive Director Jordan Williams said: “It is a special kind of hypocrisy to tell national media about how you ‘want to pay more' to the Government, but not have your business join all of those who have paid back the wage subsidy."

"Mr Mills is right to point out that money is better spend on quality health and education than lining his own company pockets. That's why those who can afford it have done the right thing and paid back wage subsidies.”

“Actions speak louder than virtue signalling. Talk is cheap. Mr Mills should put his money where his mouth is, or get off his high exercise horse.”

Background: 

On Thursday, Philip Mills was reported in Stuff as one of the people who added their name to the a public letter that begins “We write as people who are frustrated with how much tax we pay. We want to pay more."

Mr Mills is quoted as saying that the current tax system is “broken” and “We’ve been focused too much for too long on paying lower and lower taxes. We need to focus more on having a world-class education system and not having people living in poverty and children coming to school not having enough to eat.” and “Those who can afford it should be paying significantly more taxes.” 

Screenshot from MBIE's wage subsidy online employer database:

Image

 

Taxpayers’ Union Launches Major New Campaign to Stop David Parker’s Central Planning Committees

The Taxpayers’ Union is today launching a major new campaign to protect NewZealanders from higher building costs, more red tape, no local control and more co-governance that would result from the Government’s proposed replacement to the Resource Management Act.

Taxpayers’ Union Executive Director, Jordan Williams, said:

“We never thought we’d be defending the Resource Management Act but David Parker’s proposed replacement is much worse than the problems it is trying to fix. It replaces NewZealand’s biggest regulatory tax with an even higher one based on co-governance and central planning.

“Undoubtedly, reform of our bureaucratic resource management system is needed but tying productive New Zealanders up in even more red tape will only slow development, increase the costs of housing and doing business, and will make our country less attractive as a place to invest — ultimately this will make our country poorer.

“These proposals along with their ill defined, and often conflicting, ‘system outcomes’ would lead to expensive, drawn out court battles while people try to figure out what any of this even means. Lawyers and consultants are already rubbing their hands.

“Not only will these proposals mean more costs, but with decision-making powers being ripped away from democratically accountable councils and placed in the hands of unelected so-called ‘Regional Planning Committees’, environmental and community outcomes will be worse off too. Local communities, with the right incentives and financing vehicles, are best placed to make the decisions that directly impact them.

“This will be our most important campaign yet, our country’s local democracy and prosperity depend on it."

The Taxpayers’ Union has launched a new website and petition opposing these reforms at: www.handsoffourhomes.nz

Hands off our homes: Stop Central Planning Committees merchandise and roadside banners can be purchased at www.taxpayers.org.nz/shop

Taxpayer Update: NEW POLL: Centre-Right can form government 📊🟡 | $420k for a new website 💻💸 | Axe the Inflation Tax 📈💵

NEW POLL: ACT boost means Centre Right can form Government in latest poll 📊🟡

Exclusively for our supporters like you, here are the results of May's Taxpayers’ Union – Curia Poll:

National drops one point this month to be on 36% but retakes the lead over Labour which falls back three points to 34%. ACT is up three to 13% while the Greens are unchanged on 7%.

Of the smaller parties, the Māori Party is on 3.7% (+0.8 points), NZ First on 2.6% (nc), TOP on 1.7% (+0.9 points), New Conservatives on 1.6% (-0.1 points), and Democracy NZ 0.3% (-1.3 points).’

Here is how these results would translate to seats in the 120 seat Parliament, assuming all electorate seats are held:

Seats

Labour is down four seats on last month to 44 while National is down one seat to 46. ACT is up four seats to 16 while the Greens are unchanged on 9 seats. The Māori Party is up one seat to 5.

On these numbers, the Centre-Right bloc would be in a position to form government with a combined total of 62 seats, which is up three on last month. The combined total for the Centre Left drops four seats to 53.

The Hipkins star fades but warning signs for Luxon too 🚨🔵

Net Favourability

Chris Hipkins's net favourability score of +22% is six points lower than last month and down 11 points on his March peak of +33%.

Christopher Luxon’s score of -7% (-1 point) is at its lowest level since he became National Party leader in November 2021 while David Seymour is on -11% (-5 points).

Chris Hipkins has a slight positive net favourability rating with National voters +7% while Christopher Luxon has a score of -56% with Labour voters.

In another worrying sign for Christopher Luxon, among undecided voters, Chris Hipkins has a positive net favourability of +30% while Christopher Luxon is on -26%. David Seymour is on -32%.

Visit our website for more information and details of how to get access to the full polling report (which includes favourability figures for the two MPs in the centre of the Green Party's 'cry baby' text scandal: Chlöe Swarbrick and Elizabeth Kerekere).

‘Take a Moment’ (to get angry) at the Human Rights Commission’s shiny new website 💻💸

Human Rights Commission Website

They say ‘less is more’, but the Human Rights Commission (HRC) took it a bit too literally when its website redesign amounted to little more than a change of colour scheme and a new tool to 'help' New Zealanders appreciate the HRC and its work. Our Investigations Co-ordinator, Ollie Bryan, revealed earlier this week that HRC has spent $417,962 on the new site.

One of the few changes is a new tab on their home page called ‘Take a Moment’. We pointed out that all this button did was take you to a plain blue screen and a pulsing HRC logo... and nothing else.

Soon after our story was covered in the media, the HRC quickly updated this page. The page now includes relaxing music, soothing bird song and calming animations. I'm not sure they quite understood the point we were making...

Given that taxpayers like you, dear reader, paid $417,962 for the privilege, your humble Taxpayers' Union encourages you to 'take a moment' and appreciate what your money is being spent on... 

With so many pressing needs in our society – the cost of living, healthcare and education in crisis, and infrastructure falling apart – these sort of vanity projects really make us wonder whether the Human Rights Commission itself needs to 'take a moment'...

Axe the Inflation Tax: Time for Income Tax Bracket Indexation 📈💵

With high inflation, bracket creep means that workers' taxes are being hiked without a single vote having been cast in Parliament. If politicians want more of our money, they should have to make the case to Parliament – and the public.

There is a simply solution: Linking the thresholds at which different rates of income tax kick in to inflation.

The Common Room NZ is an excellent resource for those interested in debate, politics, and public policy. This week they feature Jordan who explains the inflation tax, and how to fix it.

Common Room Indexation

Taxpayers' Union – Curia Poll last month showed that 65% of New Zealanders favoured automatically increasing income tax thresholds in line with inflation as is already the case for welfare benefits. 19% of those polled were against while 17% were unsure.

Many countries already adjust tax brackets for inflation and it is not a difficult policy to implement. Here in New Zealand, there are already inflation adjustments for welfare benefits and superannuation payments. Why should working New Zealanders be punished with stealthy tax hikes when they are not actually earning more?

You can watch Jordan's video here.

Taxpayer Victory! Film Commission avoids this year's Oscars 🏆

Film Commission

Last year, the New Zealand Film Commission sent two employees to Hollywood to attend the Academy Awards in Hollywood. Despite the ceremony only lasting a few hours, the two employees managed to bag themselves a ten-day extended trip. Their extravagant jaunt cost taxpayers like you a staggering $58,000 including more than $5,000 on wine at one event and $1,223 on spirits, beer, wine, and bar snacks at another.

Well, not this year!

It seems our pointing out this waste of taxpayer dollars put the Film Commission off from sending a representative again. A recent Official Information Act response confirmed that your hard-earned money was not squandered on a lavish Hollywood trip this year.

The Taxpayers' Union will continue to hold government departments and agencies like the Film Commission to account on their spending. We’ll be keeping a close eye on whether any New Zealand public servants rock up to the Cannes Film Festival later in the year...

Thank you for your support.

Yours aye,

Callum

Callum Signature
Callum Purves
Campaigns Manager

New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union

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Chucking millions of taxpayers’ money at 'green' banks will not reduce emissions

The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union slams spurious claims by the Minister for Climate Change, James Shaw, that a $300 Million increase in New Zealand Green Investment Finance’s (NZGIF) funding will reduce emissions.

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Callum Purves, says:

“Once again, the Government doesn't seem to understand its own Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). Any emissions reductions that this funding brings about will simply free up carbon credits to be used by other businesses under the ETS. This is a government vanity project that will not reduce net emissions by even a single gram.

“On top of that, this investment is gambling with taxpayers’ money. Private investors will carefully assess the viability of a project before stumping up the cash, which begs the question what NZGIF can bring to the table except risking other people’s money on projects which are likely to be unprofitable?

“We shouldn’t need to keep highlighting the same point every time the Government throws taxpayers’ money at one of its ineffective climate vanity projects. The bank should instead be privatised and the money raised used to pay down debt. A privately-owned green bank would likely do a better job of financing viable green investments."

Taxpayers Liable for Second-Rate Development Risks

The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union questions the Government’s decision to double down on exposing taxpayers to risky development schemes following the announcement that they plan to invest a further $159 million in projects at risk of failure.

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Callum Purves, says:

“We all recognize that the housing shortage is the single biggest factor in Kiwis’ increasing difficulty in getting a foot on the property ladder, and we welcome genuine attempts to try and alleviate this crisis.

“However, making taxpayers liable for propping up the developments that banks deem too risky to fund themselves is a recipe for disaster. The reason that banks won’t fund these projects is because they lack confidence that they can recoup any of their investment, so how can the Government justify being so reckless with hard working New Zealanders' taxes during a cost-of-living crisis?

“If the Government is serious about tackling the housing crisis, it needs to focus on removing barriers to supply, rather than doubling down by putting even more red tape of development with their proposed Resource Management Act replacement.”

Government ideology driving up house prices, increasing cost of living

 

The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union is slamming the Government’s plans to implement a cap on emissions from new buildings - a policy which will drive up house prices and put more pressure on Kiwi families during a cost of living crisis.

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Callum Purves says:

“A cap on construction emissions would unnecessarily drive up construction costs and in turn would result in increased house prices, higher rents and a reduced growth in supply.

“25.9% of renters spend more than 40% of their income on housing, if the Government truly cared about reducing the cost of living, they would focus on removing barriers to supply rather than making it more expensive to build houses.

“Not only will this proposal make people’s lives even tougher, but it won’t even make a shred of difference to the environment. Construction emissions are already governed under New Zealand’s Emissions Trading Scheme so any reduction would simply free up carbon credits to be used to increase emissions in other sectors.

Taxpayer Update: Nosey Parker's envy tax report 🤑💰 | Scrap the Ute Tax 🏹🛻 | Ruth Richardson on 'no solutions' budget 📰🎙️

Nosey Parker's Pet Project: The envy tax report 🤑💰

Last week, the IRD published its much anticipated report on high net wealth individuals. Their research project looked at the level of tax paid by just over 300 of the wealthiest New Zealanders. They carried out this project thanks to new investigatory powers handed to them by the Government that were snuck through under urgency a couple of years ago.

The report purports to show that these high wealth individuals pay half the level of tax on their income when compared to the average Kiwi. But the way the IRD defines 'income' in this report is very different to how you or I would define it. Most of us would think that this covers our salary and perhaps capital gains from selling an asset.

But the IRD have used the widest possible definition of 'economic income'. It suggests that all capital gains should be included even if they are unrealized. For example, if your house increases in value but you don't sell it, by their logic, you should pay tax on that increase. But you can bet you wouldn't get a rebate if the house price fell. Even more strangely, this measure of income includes things like 'imputed rents'. In other words, if you own a house and live in it, your taxable income should include the rent that you would pay yourself to live in your own home. Keeping up? 👀

Stretching the definition of income this far is what has allowed the report to magic up the figure that high net wealth individuals pay only 9 percent of their income economic income in tax. And in doing so, it has served David Parker's real purpose: To fuel the politics of envy and provide a justification – however misleading – to introduce some kind of capital gains tax or wealth tax.

The Prime Minister is being just as slippery. While he has ruled out such measures for this month's budget and the rest of this 'parliamentary term', his careful choice of words signals that something is on the horizon. 

In short, the Government has essentially wasted over $5 million to produce a report that tells us something we already knew: We don't tax capital gains here in New Zealand. 

Careful what you wish for: Killing the goose that lays the golden egg 👋🇳🇴🛫

In completely unrelated news, Norway recently increased its wealth tax (applicable to net wealth above NOK 1.7 million – approximately $250,000 NZD) from 1.0 percent to 1.1 percent and has seen an exodus of, well, the wealthy.  According to that well known right wing newspaper, The Guardian:

A record number of super-rich Norwegians are abandoning Norway for low-tax countries after the centre-left government increased wealth taxes to 1.1%.

More than 30 Norwegian billionaires and multimillionaires left Norway in 2022, according to research by the newspaper Dagens Naeringsliv. This was more than the total number of super-rich people who left the country during the previous 13 years, it added. Even more super-rich individuals are expected to leave this year because of the increase in wealth tax in November, costing the government tens of millions in lost tax receipts.

That's right: The tax increase has actually resulted in less tax being available for public services. Given that the top 10 percent of New Zealanders already pay half of the total income tax take (not to mention the investment, jobs, and entrepreneurship we all benefit from), a wealth tax right would simply serve to wave goodbye to even more Kiwis across the ditch to Australia.

Is Labour credible on tax? Government tax hikes hit low and middle income New Zealanders hardest 💵🔺

It seems that some Cabinet Ministers didn't get the memo about 'no new taxes'. Within 12 hours of Chris Hipkins leaving the country for the King's Coronation, Transport Minister Micheal Wood hiked the Ute Tax!

To make matters worse, either Transport Minister, Michael Wood, isn't on speaking terms with the Finance Minister, or Mr. Robertson lied when he said just 12 hours before the Government hiked the Ute Tax that they would not be hiking the Ute Tax... Have a listen:

Scrap the Ute Tax: Government's reverse Robin Hood tax won't even cut emissions 🏹🛻 

Ute Tax

This tax will now set you back up to $6,900 to buy a new ute or up to $3,500 to buy one second hand. This will hit tradies and farmers hard, particularly those in flood-affected areas like Hawke’s Bay, East Coast, Northland, and the Coromandel. At the very least those needing to replace a ute due to flood damage should be exempted.

This reverse Robin Hood tax sees the money raised on hard-working low- and middle-income Kiwis used to fund subsidies for the wealthy who want to buy the latest Tesla.

And the worst thing is that – for all the virtue signalling – the policy does not actually achieve its own objective of reducing emissions. New Zealand's "cap and trade" Emissions Trading Scheme means that any reduction in transport emissions will simply free up New Zealand Units to be emitted by other sectors. So no net gain for the environment.

We are calling on the Government to scrap this unfair and ineffective tax. We are asking our supporters to register their opposition by signing the petition here.

Ruth Richardson: New Zealand set for a 'no solutions' budget 📰🎙️

Taxpayers' Union Board Member and former Minister of Finance, Ruth Richardson, has been doing the media rounds following the publication of the Nosey Parker report and suggesting that Chris Hipkins's 'no frills budget' in two weeks' time might better be described as a 'no solutions budget'.

Ruth spoke with Ryan Bridge on TV Three's AM Show about the hostile economic environment that this Government has created and the excessive levels of state spending. In the On the Tiles podcast with Thomas Coughlan of the NZ Herald she tears into the methodology used by the IRD's research project on high wealth individuals and warns that the report will be used to justify future tax hikes. And she spoke with Heather du Plessis-Allan on Newstalk ZB Drive about the problems that New Zealand has with a lack of earnings and capital, which will just be made even worse by a wealth or capital gains tax. 

Starting them early: Youth Parliament costs increase fivefold 🗳️💸 

Youth Parliament

Taxpayers’ Union recently received a tip off about how much the Ministry of Youth Development was spending on New Zealand’s Youth Parliament. With the honourable exception of Epsom, unlike most parliaments, these ‘representatives’ are not elected, but rather are hand picked by Members of Parliament.

Back in 2013, the cost for a two-day sitting of the Youth Parliament was $90,464.78 or about $112,000 in today’s prices. But 2022’s political shindig cost a whopping $451,500 to cover travel, food, accommodation and photographers.

As a former youth parliamentarian myself, I don’t begrudge a little being spent on engaging young people in our democracy, but a fivefold increase in the costs is simply unnecessary and inexcusable. Sadly it seems that the current model for the Youth Parliament is just as wasteful as the House of Representatives itself.

We previously uncovered spending by the Ministry of Youth Development of almost $300,000 on rather odd anime videos that seemed to have no point to them whatsoever. Given all this wasteful and unnecessary spending, it make you wonder what the point of the Ministry itself is. 

If you know of an example of bureaucratic buffoonery from a government agency or council, send us a tip on our confidential tip line here.

Thank you for your support.

Yours aye,

Callum

Callum Signature
Callum Purves
Campaigns Manager

New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union

Donate

Media coverage:

Bay of Plenty Times 
Tauranga, Western Bay, Bay of Plenty regional councils’ spending on consultants revealed

Interest.co.nz 
Revenue Minister David Parker says IRD survey showing wealthy kiwis pay significantly lower tax rate than middle-income families will enable future discussions on tax policy to be based on solid evidence

NZ Local Government Magazine 
Views on revamped three waters reform

Newstalk ZB  Barry Soper on the new IRD data revealing how much tax the wealthiest Kiwis pay

SunLive Super-wealthy: Reports show large tax gap in NZ

RNZ Revenue Minister on report that found richest paying half as much tax as average New Zealander

NZ Herald Election 2023: How National, Labour placed to fight cost-of-living election, the Chris Luxon and Chris Hipkins battle and the voters they think will decide it

Newshub Ruth Richardson, Finance Minister behind infamous 'Mother of all Budgets', not convinced Govt can rein in spending

Kiwiblog Revealed: Who funds the Taxpayers’ Union

Southland Times CEO cops flack for 'airing his dirty laundry' in conflict with Gore mayor Ben Bell 

NZ Herald On the Tiles: Ruth Richardson on fiscal, monetary and tax policies

Stuff Who should pay for local body politicians' parliamentary aspirations?

Newstalk ZB Former Finance Minister predicts Labour's no-frills budget will present no solutions

The Working Group with Matt McCarten, Jordan Williams and Mike Treen

Outrageous that ‘super rich’ getting winter energy payments to warm pools

Outrageous that ‘super rich’ getting winter energy payments to warm pools

The Taxpayers’ Union is accusing Government Ministers of crocodile tears about the so-called ‘super rich’ inequality given their defence of the winter energy payment going to those who clearly don’t need it.

Taxpayers' Union spokesperson, Jordan Williams, says:

“Taxing those struggling with the cost of living in order to subsidise the super wealthy to heat their pools is disgraceful.  Government support should be laser focused on those who need it most.”

“The ‘universality’ Chris Hipkins is defending means that less is available for those who most need support.”

Tax hike to fund Teslas a kick in the guts to the provinces recovering from flooding

Tax hike to fund Teslas a kick in the guts to the provinces recovering from flooding

In the middle of a cost of living crisis, today’s move to hike the taxes on utes and other, so-called, gas guzzler vehicles is a kick in the guts to provincial and rural communities who already have it tough post-cyclone Gabrielle, says the Taxpayers’ Union. It’s calling for Hawke’s Bay, East Coast, Northland, and the Coromandel to be spared from the Ute Tax to allow those needing to replace work vehicles to do so affordably.

“There still not a practical electric ute,” points out Jordan Williams, a spokesperson for the Taxpayers’ Union.  “That means those importing a second hand ute to replace one of the hundreds lost due to the flooding, are now forced to pay even more for it. This is a kick in the guts to those who can least afford it, for the sake of politicians and the urban elite who are eyeing up a Tesla.”

“Carmel Sepuloni demonstrated the fundamental flaw in the policy this morning when she told Mike Hosking that the policy is about reducing emissions and climate change.  This is demonstrably false.  While the clean car discount does encourage low emissions vehicles,  therefore reducing transport emissions, because of our ‘cap and trade’ emissions trading scheme, those emissions simply become available for cheaper emitters elsewhere.  This ‘waterbed effect’ means that the Ute Tax and Clean Car Discount Scheme does nothing to reduce overall emissions, or climate change. The emperor has no clothes.”

Taxpayers’ Union Annual Review Released

The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union has today released its annual review, covering the last 12 months of operations.

The report is available online here. Hard copies are also available on request.

Taxpayers’ Union Chairman, Laurence Kubiak, says:

“Between the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union and our sister group, the Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance, our campaigns in the last 12 months have attracted more than 200,000 subscribed members and supporters. While we are proud of the work standing up for taxpayers, there is still a lot more to be done.”

The Union’s Executive Director, Jordan Williams, says:

“There are hundreds of organisations that campaign for more government spending and a higher tax burden. The Taxpayers’ Union helps balance that debate by exposing government waste, fighting for more effective government spending, promoting the benefits of lower taxes, and championing more transparent government.”

“This Annual Review reflects our change in mission late last year – from Lower Taxes, Less Waste, More Transparency to Lower Taxes, Less Waste, More Accountability.  Without democratic accountably efforts of pressure groups to change the hearts and minds of New Zealanders – not just for the Taxpayers’ Union but our equivalents on the Left of politics – are useless.  For the Taxpayers’ Union, like many who rely on persuasion and leading public debate, proposals to decouple public policy and public services from democratic accountability represent an existential threat.  We are proud of the work we have done in Three Waters, for example, to defend democracy.”

Are the National Party serious about good fiscal management or not?

The Taxpayers’ Union is slamming the National Party’s commitment to continuing government contributions to the NZ Super Fund, despite growing public debt and economic headwinds.

Taxpayers' Union Executive Director Jordan Williams says:

“Let’s be very clear what this policy involves: the National Party are saying they will continue to borrow in order to stuff money into a risky sharemarket scheme.”

“Government debt is forecast to be nearly 42% of GDP by next year. The National Party should be solely focused on getting the books back into the black, not signing up for a policy that only made sense when Michael Cullen was running record surpluses.”

“Borrowing money to put money on the stock market makes no sense. John Key and Bill English acknowledged this when they paused payments following the 2008 global financial crisis. The National Party was right then, and its change in stance risks people questioning their reputation as prudent fiscal managers.”

Taxpayers’ Union welcomes ‘no new taxes’ budget pledge but devil will be in the detail

Taxpayers’ Union welcomes ‘no new taxes’ budget pledge but devil will be in the detail

Commenting on the Prime Minister’s pre-budget speech, Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Callum Purves, said:

“While the cyclone recovery will be costly, hiking taxes on hardworking New Zealanders during a cost of living crisis would have been the wrong approach. We also welcome the ruling out of a capital gains tax or wealth tax for this year's budget, which would have stifled investment and driven high-net worth individuals abroad who make a large contribution to the funding of our public services.

“But the Prime Minister’s ‘no new taxes’ pledge must not ring hollow. After all the talk yesterday of the wealthy not paying their ‘fair share’ in tax, it is disappointing that the Government has not yet dropped its plans for a regressive fuel tax hike in June that will disproportionately hit poor and rural communities.

“Moreover, with inflation continuing to run high, the problem of bracket creep means that many Kiwis are paying an ever higher share of their income to the Government. This particularly hurts those on middle incomes.

“No new taxes might be a good election slogan, but for it to be true, the Government must refrain from hiking fuel taxes and address the inflation tax.”

What a waste of time and money to tell Kiwis what we already know

What a waste of time and money to tell Kiwis what we already know

The Government has wasted $5 million dollars, abused the information gathering powers of the IRD, and politicised officials, for the sake of a report that tells us nothing we don’t already know, says the Taxpayers’ Union.

Responding to the High Wealth Individuals Research Project report just released by IRD, Taxpayers’ Union spokesman Jordan Williams said:

“There’s nothing new in here. The report confirms that we have a highly progressive income tax system, compliance is good, and those who can afford to pay a lot more do so.  Thanks for the newsflash, Captain Obvious”

“It also confirms that the wealthy obtain most of their economic income from capital gains that are not taxed. A fifth-form economics student could have told David Parker that.”

“Fundamentally, the report concludes that high net wealth families are only paying 9% of their economic income in tax.  But the report shows that most of that economic income is unrealised capital gains.  No one in the world taxes that, and it is disinformation to encourage comparisons to those primarily earning PAYE income.”

“The report totally ignores the risky nature of capital gains.  The short point is that investing in a business is more risky than turning up to a job and demands appropriate returns to encourage much needed investment.  Tax rates need to reflect that, as well as the fact that New Zealand, like all countries, compete for capital.”

“Everyone supports evidence-based public policy. This report is policy looking for evidence and its timing is clearly designed to stoke resentment and justify an envy tax that will make New Zealand poorer.”

Taxpayer Update: The $153,000 wallaby 🦘 | Co-governance, a Northern Ireland perspective 🇬🇧🇮🇪 | Welfare for airlines 🛫

Hopping mad: COVID-19 funding to ‘destroy’ wallabies for $153,000 a pop 🦘🔫 

After almost six months’ worth of excuses, transfers and extensions on an Official Information Act request sent back in November, your humble Taxpayers' Union has revealed that taxpayers and Otago ratepayers have forked out more than $2.76 million and employed over 26,000 hours of work to 'destroy' (that’s the term the bureaucrats use) just… 18 wallabies! That's a kill cost of $153,000 per wallaby. 

This was just one of the ‘Jobs for Nature’ projects funded by the COVID slush fund. Jobs for Nature was allocated $1.2 billion – that's $614 for every kiwi household –  as a ‘make work’ scheme when the Government feared we would see mass job losses as a result of the pandemic.

Despite record-low unemployment and an economy overcooked by Government spending, the fund has continued to dish out taxpayer money to ineffective ‘conservation’ projects at an average cost of around $200,000 per 'nature job'. 

There is still $167 million yet to be spent: We say this should stop. 

Jordan spoke about this wasteful spending with Newstalk ZB’s Heather Du Plessis-Allan.

The story was also covered in the Otago Daily Times and Stuff’s Dominion Post. 

Wallaby Tear Strip

Hopping to it: officials defend spending with misleading spin 😵‍💫

John Walsh of Biosecurity New Zealand (the government agency responsible for this project) defended the spending arguing “it’s not wasted money”. Walsh was quoted in Stuff newspapers as saying the kill count no way represented “all the wallabies killed by the programme” and due to wallabies’ nocturnal nature and the remote landscapes, aerial drops were often the best method of killing. 

We called out these misleading comments pointing to the official information response provided by his agency that showed that no aerial drops were actually used in Otago...

It is clear that this project, alongside many others supported through the Jobs for Nature fund, have no ambition in delivering meaningful outcomes for New Zealand's environment on a restrained budget.

A lot more to come... 🤫

This is just our second investigation into this enormous fund. This is just the tip of the iceberg for a much greater raft of unnecessary waste...

A lesson from Northern Ireland: Where co-government often means no government at all 🇬🇧🇮🇪

Writing in the New Zealand Herald, I looked at the system of "co-government" in Northern Ireland and considered the parallels with some of the recent proposals here in New Zealand. Three Waters, the proposed Resource Management Act replacement, and the Government's so-called 'Review into the Future for Local Government' all reserve places on governance bodies for unelected mana whenua representatives.

There are two major problems with co-government models. First, is the creation of veto power. Where one community can block a proposal – even if it has majority support – simply because it disagrees with it. This veto power means that Northern Ireland is currently without a government and it is almost impossible to get anything done. 

Secondly, there is the problem of disconnecting decision making from democratic accountability. By reserving spaces on governing bodies for certain groups, it means that, however they might vote in elections, people are not always able to effect meaningful change as the people making the decisions remain the same no matter how much voters disagree with their policies.

The lesson from Northern Ireland is, however well-intentioned, co-government rarely works in practice. It can bring government to a standstill, undermines democratic accountability, and often exacerbates the divisions it is designed to heal. If New Zealand wants to avoid similar paralysis, it should think twice before embarking on this path.

You can read my full piece over on the NZ Herald's website here.

Councils funnelling millions into failing regional flight services 🛫💰

Kāpiti Coast Airport

Taxpayers’ Union investigation revealed that several councils are forking out millions of ratepayer dollars to subsidise a private airline and the wealthy individuals using it.

Across Kapiti Coast, Whakatane and Whanganui, ratepayers have been forced to foot the bill for more than $2 million in corporate welfare – benefiting only a tiny number of ratepayers who use the services. Since 2018, Air Chathams has been given almost $1 million dollars by Kāpiti Coast District Council along with a $500,000 interest-free loan. Whanganui and Whakatane district councils also coughed up hundreds of thousands of dollars in loans bringing the total value of welfare to more than $2 million.

Kāpiti Coast airport would need to see a 1,500 per cent increase in passengers in order for it to be financially viable, something even its own Chief Executive recognised.

In a blog post this week, one of our young interns, Alex Murphy, criticised the Council's decision to fund these unsustainable routes. You can read the full post here.

The war in Gore: Mayor and CEO face-off ⚔️

Gore

Like many, we've been following the events in Gore where the country's youngest Mayor has had a 'relationship breakdown' with the Council's CEO.

While it is difficult to know exactly what is going on at the Council, we've been astonished by the willingness of the CEO – an unelected bureaucrat – to air his dirty laundry in public by speaking to multiple media organizations. The role of public servants is to serve the public by implementing the policies of their democratically elected representatives – not obstruct them and then bad mouth them in public.

Newsroom have just published a good summary of events and picked up my comments:

More power to the people

Taxpayers’ Union Campaign Manager Callum Purves says the Taxpayers’ Union wants to see an option of recall elections introduced so that, if people are unhappy with the performance of a mayor or councillors that there is a mechanism by which they can resolve it without having to look at something like commissioners or some external influence.

And if conflict between a council chief executive or local body politician is unable to be resolved the Taxpayers’ Union is quite clear who should resign.

“Ultimately in a democracy if there is also a conflict between elected representative and officials, so in this case we have a conflict between the mayor and the chief executive, that we are strongly of the view that the elected representative is the one that stays if there is a choice,” says Purves.

Taxpayer Talk: ACT MP Simon Court on Three Waters and the proposed RMA reforms🎙️

Taxpayer Talk: Simon Court

This week on Taxpayer Talk, I sit down with ACT Party MP, Simon Court, to discuss the recent Three Waters rebrand, the proposed resource management reforms and what ACT is proposing to solve New Zealand's significant infrastructure and planning problems.

Simon Court is ACT's spokesperson for infrastructure, the environment and local government and has been leading their response to the contentious Three Waters and RMA reforms. Prior to becoming an MP, Simon was a civil and environmental engineer working both in the private sector and for local government. Simon believes that local control, strong private property rights and the right incentives for councils to make good decisions will be what leads to solving some of our biggest problems going forward. 

Later in the podcast, for our War on Waste segment, Taxpayers’ Union Deputy Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, reveals a 19-month long investigation into the Government’s decision to give millions of taxpayer dollars to a gang-affiliated meth rehabilitation program and the bureaucratic process of simply getting straight answers from officials.

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

One more thing 🙏

We’re proud to be a truly people-powered organisation, and it will only be through the generosity of thousands of supporters like you chipping in what you can that we’ll be able to keep up our work promoting our mission of Lower Taxes, Less Waste, and More Accountability.

If you can, please click the button below to make a donation today so we can keep growing our movement, and fighting for a better deal from Wellington (and town halls!).

Donate

Thank you for your support.

Yours aye,

Callum

Callum Signature
Callum Purves
Campaigns Manager

New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union

Media coverage:

Newstalk ZB 
Midday Edition: 04 April 2023 – Lobbying Review (02:05)

NZ Herald 
Bryce Ewards: Victory for transparency in lobbying reforms

The Northern Advocate 
Future of Kerikeri’s Turner Centre up in air as council mulls ownership

Stuff Air Chathams received more than $1 million from Kāpiti Coast council

NZ Herald Māori holds balance of power in new poll

The Time Online NEW POLL: Māori Party holds the balance of power

NZ City Another poll points to Te Pati Maori holding the keys to Parliament at this year's election

Te Ao Māori News Te Pāti Māori 'kingmakers' in latest political poll

Newstalk ZB Morning Edition: 09 April 2023 – New Poll (00:38)

Newstalk ZB "We're very clear on our priorities": Deputy PM on Labour's plan for re-election

Newstalk ZB "We've got a fantastic future ahead of us": National's Chris Luxon shares six-month plan for election

Newstalk ZB Politics Central: Will staff misconduct derail Chris Hipkins' chances for re-election? (15:40)

Waatea News Te Pāti Māori Kingmakers must have immediate bottom lines for every New Zealander

Newstalk ZB Auckland Transport's new CEO plans to increase public transport use by 20 percent

The Spinoff The edge of a knife, six months to voting day

The Working Group with Shane Te Pou, Matthew Hooton & Damien Grant

NZ Herald A lesson in co-governance from Northern Ireland – Callum Purves

Kapiti Observer Revamped Three Waters to create 10 water management entities in an effort to give local governments more influence over massive infrastructure upgrades

NZ Herald Frontline police told to ‘consider necessity’ of bail arrests as NZ’s largest prison nears capacity

Q+A “Nobody died because of lack of empathy”: Auckland mayor Wayne Brown (18:44)

Newstalk ZB Taxpayers' Union Executive Director 'astounded' by $2.7 million cost to eradicate 18 wallabies

Stuff Govt officials stand by $2.76m wallaby spend in Otago for 18 kills - 'It's not wasted money'

Otago Daily Times MPI defends $2.76m cost of Otago wallaby control

Stuff Ruth Richardson: The taxation problem I should have fixed 33 years ago

Wairarapa Times-Age Carterton’s rates are on the rise

Newsroom Gore council war could outlast inquiry

Newsroom Kawerau leads small councils’ fight against new amalgamations

A lesson from Northern Ireland: Where co-government often means no government at all

This month marks the 25th anniversary of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement that brought peace to Northern Ireland. It ended a decades-long conflict between Irish Republicans and British Unionists.

As a relative newcomer to New Zealand and someone who spent time working in Northern Irish politics, I have noticed political parallels between the two. Both are dealing with issues such as addressing the wrongs of the past, the politicisation of language, upholding minority rights and the best form of governance to do this.

Like the Treaty of Waitangi, Northern Ireland’s peace agreement took steps to acknowledge the different aspirations of its communities – in their case, British Unionists and Irish Nationalists – under a common framework.

The agreement is, however, much more prescriptive than the Treaty. One of its key components was the re-establishment of a devolved assembly and executive. The Northern Ireland Executive requires mandatory power-sharing with the First and deputy First Ministers appointed by the two largest blocs and all major parties are entitled to seats around the table.

The problem is that Northern Ireland does not have a government.

Since the agreement was signed, it has been without one for more than nine of 25 years. This is because, to form an Executive, both First and deputy First Minister roles must be filled and either bloc can collapse the government by withdrawing their nominee.

Unionists and Nationalists have done so multiple times, most recently Unionists over post-Brexit trading arrangements. Each time this happens, unelected civil servants take charge but without the ability to progress essential reforms. In some cases, the UK Parliament must step in.

Either community can also invoke a “petition of concern” to block policies even when they command majority support in the Assembly. While this was designed to protect the interests of each group, it is open to abuse and often enacted simply to stop legislation with which they disagree.

The ability to collapse the government and the petition of concern are examples of veto power – an inherent flaw in systems of co-government.

This veto power has fostered resentment and led to a growing rejection of the traditional dividing lines between Unionist and Nationalist. Assembly seats held by those designated as neither have grown from 7 per cent in 1998 to 20 per cent today. Co-government is, however, binary and struggles to accommodate this shift.

Mandatory coalition also leads to an undesirable situation where – when it was last functioning – 85 of 90 Assembly members were in government. There is effectively no opposition, and this lack of scrutiny has been a big factor behind local political scandals.

More concerning, however, are the implications for democratic accountability. Even if there are big shifts in how people vote in an election, the result is the same: a perpetual coalition. There is little prospect of a major party not being in government.

Given these many problems, four of the five main parties – including Nationalists, Unionists and Others – now want the system reformed although they struggle to agree on what that might look like.

While the agreement and the Treaty are different documents, recent proposals for co-governance of New Zealand public services bear striking similarities with the system in Northern Ireland.

Take the example of Three Waters. While we await the announcement of the promised refocus, the model as proposed would face similar problems to the Northern Ireland Assembly. The Regional Representative Groups would have 50 per cent representation from each of mana whenua and local councils with the requirement for 75 per cent majorities where consensus cannot be reached. This would give veto power to both groups and all the problems that come with that.

Similar proposals to require the introduction of unelected mana whenua representatives on Regional Planning Committees and local councils undermine democratic accountability. It would mean that New Zealanders would not be able to effect meaningful change through elections. Like in Northern Ireland, however people vote would make little difference as the result would always be the same: a perpetual coalition with seats reserved but no ability to hold the representatives filling them to account. Over time, this would simply serve to foster resentment and rejection of the system.

The Northern Irish Agreement and its protection of the rights of all communities in law were undoubtedly necessary to bring an end to the bloodshed, but the system of government it delivered is neither democratic nor effective and is losing public and political support.

The lesson from Northern Ireland is, however well-intentioned, co-government rarely works in practice. It can bring government to a standstill, undermines democratic accountability, and often exacerbates the divisions it is designed to heal.

If New Zealand wants to avoid similar paralysis, it should think twice before embarking on this path.

Callum Purves is the Taxpayers’ Union national campaign manager who has run campaigns for the Conservative Party in Scotland and Northern Ireland and served as a unitary authority councillor in Scotland.

This column first appeared in the New Zealand Herald on Thursday, 13 April 2023.

ACT MP Simon Court on Three Waters and the Proposed RMA Reforms

This week on Taxpayer Talk, Taxpayers' Union Campaigns Manager, Callum Purves, sits down with ACT Party MP, Simon Court, to discuss the recent Three Waters rebrand, the proposed resource management reforms and what ACT is proposing to solve New Zealand's significant infrastructure and planning problems.

Simon Court is ACT's spokesperson for infrastructure, the environment and local government and has been leading their response to the contentious Three Waters and RMA reforms. Prior to becoming an MP, Simon was a civil and environmental engineer working both in the private sector and for local government. Simon believes that local control, strong private property rights and the right incentives for councils to make good decisions will be what leads to solving some of our biggest problems going forward. 

Later in the podcast, for our War on Waste segment, Taxpayers’ Union Deputy Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, reveals a 19-month long investigation into the Government’s decision to give millions of taxpayer dollars to a gang-affiliated meth rehabilitation program and the bureaucratic process of simply getting straight answers from officials.

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. 

Affluent Airline Assistance – Councils funnel millions into failing regional flight services

The Taxpayers’ Union has revealed that several councils have forked out millions of ratepayer dollars to subsidise a private airline and the wealthy individuals using it.

Across Kāpiti Coast, Whakatāne, and Whanganui, ratepayers have footed the bill for over $2 million in corporate (and middle-class) welfare to maintain regular flight services to Auckland. From 2018 to date, KCDC have gifted almost $1.5 million dollars in grants and interest-free loans to Air Chathams. Accompanied with hundreds of thousands in loans splurged by Whanganui and Whakatāne district councils on their routes, the total value of welfare is brought to more than $2 million.

If these routes were financially viable, and demand was plentiful, airlines would pick them up without the need for council subsidies. Unfortunately, there clearly is not enough demand to justify continuing with these services. Documents obtained by the Taxpayers’ Union under the LGOIMA indicate that Kāpiti Coast District Council believed the service would become profitable after a few years, but would run at a loss initially. If this really was the case, established airlines should be able to access their loans privately, rather than exposing ratepayers to the risk of default.

Prior to the Air Chathams takeover, Air New Zealand operated all three of these services. Due to financial unviability, however, one by one the routes were cancelled. That same despair was shared by Air Chathams themselves, who recognised the numbers didn’t stack up. However, when presented with the option of a million dollars in free money by seemingly economically illiterate councillors, the decision to continue the service was an offer too attractive to refuse.

With alternative airports nearby, flyers were ‘voting with their feet’ and opting to travel to other airports instead. Whanganui residents, for example, were pivoting towards Palmerston North as the more attractive alternative. There’s good reason for the change in preference too. Rotorua, Tauranga, Palmerston North and Wellington airports are all under an hour away from at least one of the three airports in question. In general, they have a greater range of flight times available and, for the most part, far cheaper prices. Wellington’s fares to Auckland are, at times, only a third of Kāpiti's.

*Air Chathams takes over Kāpiti Coast's Auckland Service*

The Kāpiti Coast Council has claimed there is strong public support for the subsidies. This, however, is based on a series of out of date analyses with flawed methodology. In 2018, they commissioned a survey to gauge public support for the airport, but nowhere did the survey mention ratepayer funding. Despite respondents agreeing with the statement, “Kāpiti Coast Airport should work to ensure frequent passenger services to popular destinations around New Zealand are provided to and from the airport”, the question neglected to ask respondents' positions on ratepayer funding of such a service and therefore does not provide a true refection of what the community actually feels. What’s more, the methodology states that any individual who had not flown out of any of the airports in the area did not qualify for the survey. That is like claiming the whole community wants a new racecourse when you only surveyed the jockeys.

Even the airport’s CEO recognised that the airport was simply not viable. He points out that the airport needs 400,000 people flying a year to be worthwhile — currently there are 25000.

What is more is that, regardless of how cost-ineffective the provision of these services is, there remains a striking contradiction at play with the Councils’ climate change initiatives. Kāpiti Coast for example, crows about their climate change approach, acknowledging the importance of reducing their carbon footprint wherever possible. Whakātane and Whanganui are also strong advocates. Yet, they are all more than happy to subsidise gas guzzling aircrafts which, consistently, have been running on reduced passenger numbers.

Of course, due to the waterbed effect, emissions in any one sector (agriculture excluded) have no impact on New Zealand's net emissions, given total net carbon emissions are capped by the Emissions Trading Scheme. However, the fact that the Councils' endorsement of a carbon-emitting travel option contradicts their own (albiet ill-informed) values suggests they are incapable of holding a coherent position on their environmental impacts.

This is, simply, a regressive allocation of ratepayer funds. One where the exorbitant cost on lower-income ratepayers is used to benefit a small selection of wealthy businesspeople. These subsidies fail the litmus test of good spending decisions. They are regressive, inefficient and ultimately will just prolong the inevitable closure of this failing airport.

 

Misleading statements used to justify another $16 million in corporate welfare for big business

Misleading statements used to justify another $16 million in corporate welfare for big business

The Taxpayers’ Union is calling out Minister of Energy and Resources, Megan Woods, for her claim that the Government Investment in Industry Decarbonisation Fund (GIDI) will reduce New Zealand’s emissions.

Announcing the Round Four recipients of the GIDI fund, including the likes of Fonterra, AFFCO and Ovation, Minister Woods claimed that the $16 million taxpayer subsidy “will reduce carbon emissions by 38,354 tonnes each year.”

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Callum Purves, says:

“This is a blatantly misleading statement and will not reduce New Zealand’s net emissions by a single gram.

As we have previously noted, New Zealand’s emissions are already governed by the capped Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) meaning that any emissions reduction from these businesses will simply free up carbon credits for other businesses to emit instead.

“Taking into account the co-funding from these businesses, the cost per tonne of gross emissions reduction is $52. That is less than the current carbon price so these businesses should already have the financial incentives to invest.

“The taxpayer is not a piggy bank. These are large, profitable businesses, if they need money, they can go to a real bank like any other business.

“The Minister needs to front up to the taxpayers who, during a cost of living crisis, are being forced to fork out millions to subsidise some of our largest businesses. With another $570 million in corporate welfare yet to come, this fund should be immediately scrapped rather than further fueling inflation.

Waka Kotahi’s fee changes a blatant tax grab and additional barrier to upskilling

Waka Kotahi’s fee changes a blatant tax grab and additional barrier to upskilling

Changes to motor vehicle licensing and registration fees will whack productive New Zealanders with higher costs while Waka Kotahi (New Zealand Transport Agency) continues to grow its backroom bureaucracy warns the New Zealand Taxpayers' Union.

When the proposed changes were announced for consultation last year, the Taxpayers Union warned against the changes. Waka Kotahi is expected to collect an additional $66 million in annual revenue as a result of the changes plus any additional money taken from the National Land Transport Fund — $35 million was the figure proposed last year.

Winners from the changes:

  • Convicted drink drivers: (84% decrease alcohol interlock license cost)
  • Collectors of exotic vehicles (87% reduction in fees for Category A special interest left hand drive light vehicles)
  • Drivers who fail their license tests (removal of resit fees)
  • Waka Kotahi ($66 million increase in annual revenue).

Losers from the changes:

  • Uber and taxi drivers (193% increase in the cost for a 1-year P endorsement)
  • Tow truck drivers (172% increase in 1-Year Vehicle Recovery endorsement)
  • Forklift drivers (41% increase in endorsement fees)
  • All motorists (Increase of between 71% and 374% for everyone renewing their vehicle rego)
  • Older siblings (268% increase in the exemption fee for restricted drivers carrying passengers)
  • Night-shift workers (268% increase in the exemption fee for restricted drivers driving to work between 10pm and 5am)

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Callum Purves says:

“We warned against these changes last year when the consultation was announced. Jacking up fees for hard-working New Zealanders while reducing costs on convicted drink drivers and collectors of exotic vehicles is neither fair nor necessary.

“The real winner from these changes is Waka Kotahi’s bureaucracy which, based on the consultation document, plans to employ an additional 265 full-time equivalent staff – a 55.6% increase on 2018 numbers.

“Particularly concerning is the increased license endorsement costs for Uber, taxi, forklift and tow-truck drivers. These endorsement fees act as a barrier to low-income New Zealanders considering upskilling and will simply exacerbate the cost of living crisis for these individuals."

Give us a break: Inflation figures demonstrate need for tax relief and public spending restraint

Commenting on today’s inflation figures announcement, Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Callum Purves, said:

“The overall rate of inflation remains stubbornly high despite an aggressive tightening of monetary policy by the Reserve Bank. The fact that non-tradable inflation is at its highest level since the series began demonstrates that the problem is primarily being driven domestically.

“The double whammy of rising interest rates and high inflation is compounding the hardship already facing Kiwis. The Government says that the cost of living is its top priority but it needs to take its share of the blame for getting New Zealand into this mess with its profligate spending.

“Grant Robertson has an opportunity for a proper reset in next month’s budget. He should give Kiwis a reprieve by compensating them for the effects of income tax bracket creep at least since Labour came to power while dramatically slashing wasteful spending, including the ballooning budget for consultants, Three Waters and Auckland Light Rail.”

Misleading comments by Biosecurity New Zealand on Otago wallaby cull called out

The Taxpayers’ Union is calling out Biosecurity NZ for what appear to be misleading statements suggesting that the Otago wallaby cull cost ($2.76 million for 18 animals or $153,000 per wallaby destroyed) is justified on the basis that the number “in no way represented the number killed”.

John Walsh of Biosecurity NZ is reported in today’s Stuff newspapers as saying the kill count no way represented “all the wallabies killed by the programme” and due to wallabies’ nocturnal nature and the remote landscapes, aerial drops were often the best method of killing.

Responding to the comments, Jordan Williams, a spokesman for the Taxpayers’ Union said:

“This is a bait and switch argument from Biosecurity New Zealand. Their own OIA response shows that aerial drops were not used in Otago. While the argument may apply to other regions, this straw man argument is completely misleading when it comes to Otago's $153,000 price tag per wallaby killed.

“John Walsh should correct his statement and apologise. If he feels he was misreported, he should be asking for a correction.

“Instead of trying to justify the unjustifiable, Biosecurity New Zealand should stop wasting taxpayer money with the ‘make work’ scheme that is Jobs for Nature. There are far higher priorities in conservation and biosecurity – let alone health and education – than creating jobs for jobs sake at a time of low unemployment.

"The Jobs for Nature scheme was announced during the early days of COVID-19 when mass unemployment was expected. To date $1.052b has been contracted, leaving a further $167m left to allocate for a false economy ‘creating jobs’ by taxing Kiwis who can then spend less to support other jobs."

Taxpayers should be hopping mad at $153,000 kill cost per wallaby in Otago

The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union can reveal that taxpayers and Otago Regional Council ratepayers have forked out $2.76 million and more than 26,000 hours of work for a wallaby control programme that killed just 18 wallabies.

The Otago component of the National Wallaby Eradication Programme administered by Biosecurity New Zealand cost an average of $153,422.72 per wallaby “destroyed” (terminology used by officials) and averaged 1,459 hours of human labour per kill. $341,894 was spent on aerial shooting, $34,089 on ground shooting, $71,028 on ground toxin and a staggering $2.3 million on surveillance.

By comparison, in Canterbury the cost per wallaby destroyed was $763.57 and just under 5 hours of human labour.

Taxpayers’ Union Executive Director, Jordan Williams, says:

“This is a shocking waste of taxpayer money. It would have been cheaper to charter a private jet for each of these wallabies to send them back to Australia.

“We warned that the $1.2 billion Jobs for Nature fund would be another slush fund with unmonitored, high cost, low-value spending. Unfortunately we have been vindicated.

“The Jobs for Nature scheme should have been scrapped as soon as it became clear that country was not going to head into a period of widespread unemployment.

“Taxpayers are not getting bang for buck with the programme and we once again are calling for the Jobs for Nature programme to be scrapped before a further $200 million is wasted."

The full Official Information Act response is available here.

Local Government Minister yet to meet with Three Waters Critics

The Taxpayer’s Union is still waiting for Local Government Minister, Kieran McAnulty, to respond to the invitation to meet and discuss improvements to the Government’s controversial Three Waters programme.

The Minister agreed to meet with concerned mayors last month but has not responded to the Union’s request for ratepayers to be a part of the conversation.

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Callum Purves, says: 

“We reached out to the Minister last month in the hope that he would be more willing than his predecessor to engage with those most concerned about the reforms, yet all we have heard is radio silence.

“If the Minister is serious about building broad support for water reform, he needs to meet with New Zealand’s largest taxpayer and ratepayer organisation to discuss how we can achieve affordable, high-quality, locally-controlled, and democratically-accountable infrastructure.

“The Minister needs to look at the incentives facing local councils and the financing mechanisms available to them rather than impose overly-bureaucratic governance solutions from the top down that are more about being seen to be doing something than actually addressing the underlying issues." 

To read our letter to Minister McAnulty, click here.

Taxpayer Update: NEW POLL Māori Party holds balance of power 📊 | Henry VIII power grab ⚖️💥 | Time to end Beehive's lobbying revolving door 💼💰

NEW POLL: Māori Party holds the balance of power 📊

Available exclusively to supporters like you, we can reveal the results of our April Taxpayers' Union – Curia poll. 

Party vote

Labour is up one point to 37% and National is up two points to 37%. ACT is up one point to 10% while the Greens are also up one point to 7%.  

The smaller parties were Māori Party 2.9% (+1.5 points), NZ First on 2.6% (-1.6 points), New Conservatives on 1.7% (-0.8 points), Democracy NZ 1.6% (+1.1 points), and TOP on 0.8% (-0.9 points).

Here is how these results would translate to seats in Parliament, assuming all electorate seats are held:

Seats

Both Labour and National are down one seat each to 48 and 47, respectively. ACT is also down one seat to 12 while the Greens are up one on nine seats. The Māori Party is up two seats to four.

The combined projected seats for the Centre-Right of 59 seats is down two on last month but remains marginally ahead of the combined total for the Centre-Left of 57 seats (no change).

For the first time since August 2022, the Centre-Right cannot form government on its own and neither bloc has a majority. This means that the Māori Party holds the balance of power. 

Favourability by party

Chris Hipkins has a net favourability of +28% (-5 points). Both Christopher Luxon (-4 points) and David Seymour are on -6% (-7 points).

Finance Minister, Grant Robertson, has a net favourability of -8% while Environment Minister, David Parker, has a net favourability of -21%.

Chris Hipkins also now has a negative net favourability rating with National voters of -5% down 18 points from +13% last month.

Visit our website for more information and details of how to get access to the full polling report.

Labour/National supermajority rams through Henry VIII power grab with farce of a Parliamentary process ⚖️💥 

You may not have heard about the Government’s latest power-grab: It has hardly been covered in the media, but it poses a significant threat to the rule of law and democracy. The Government has seized the opportunity of the recent cyclone devastation to grant its Ministers extensive powers, many of which are unrelated to cyclone response or recovery and could remain in place until 2028.

The Severe Weather Emergency Recovery Act allows Ministers to sweep aside and rewrite a whole laundry list of laws if they can point to even tentative links to the recent weather events, economic development, or disaster recovery. The 'emergency legislation' allows individual ministers to ignore or change the Local Government Act, Resource Management Act, Immigration Act, Land Transport Act (and others) without having to even ask Parliament. What's worse is this 'emergency' regime applies until 2028!

This kind of law is often referred to as Henry VIII powers because it is similar to the autocratic lawmaking style of Henry VIII who preferred to make laws by Royal Proclamation rather than through Parliament.

"Shambles of a process" – just 20 hours for public submissions

Submitters on this new legislation were given less than a day to write their submissions. Not even the most experienced constitutional law experts were able to apply proper scrutiny in this short timeframe and many important aspects will be overlooked.

Our friends at the New Zealand Initiative think tank have rightly criticised MPs for a "shamblolic" process despite the extraordinary scope of the bill. You can listen to the NZ Initiative's Executive Director Oliver Hartwich talking to Mike Hosking here.

As Oliver puts it, “This is the kind of Bill that requires great scrutiny because the power it confers to the Government are enormous.”  To give submitters a matter of hours to consider the Bill is, frankly, a disgrace. It is not an exaggeration to say that both this law and the process used to pass it are totally inconsistent with liberal democracy.

Despite following Parliament closely, the first we heard about the Bill was just two hours before written submissions closed! We hastily put together a submission – which you can read here – but it was difficult to make substantive recommendations on this far reaching bill in such a short space of time.

Jordan Severe Weather Bill

Jordan made our views clear to the Select Committee in an oral submission, but less than a week later Labour has rushed this legislation through all its stages in Parliament with the extremely disappointing support of the National Party. To their credit, ACT, the Greens and the Māori Party all opposed this blatant power grab.

While we all want to see the areas affected given by the floods given the support they need – and quickly – it is not acceptable to use this crisis to undermine parliamentary democracy and give ministers unprecedented levels of executive power. We only need to look at the COVID-19 slush fund where ministers spent taxpayer dollars on projects totally unrelated to the pandemic to see how such powers can be abused.

The Taxpayers' Union will be monitoring decisions taken under this legislation very closely and urge the Government – and the National Party – to allow an immediate post-legislative review of this new law with proper public consultation. 

Lobbying review must put an end to the Beehive's revolving door 💼💰

Revolving Door

Following the sacking of Stuart Nash from his remaining ministerial portfolios after it was revealed he had given confidential cabinet information to Labour Party donors, the Prime Minister announced a review into the lobbying sector.

In a democracy, it is important that different groups can make representations to politicians to help shape policy, but these activities also need to be carried out in an open and transparent manner. The Taxpayers' Union will engage with any consultation on how best to strike this balance.

One of the biggest problems is the revolving door between the Beehive and the lobbying sector. Kris Faafoi, for example, was able to lobby his former ministerial colleagues just months after leaving Cabinet. We urgently need to see a cooling-off period introduced to put an end to these murky practices. 

But Chris Hipkins's announcement of money for a voluntary code of conduct is not the answer. In fact, it's a complete waste of taxpayer money (he is offering up officials to "help" the lobbying sector) and simply a way for the government to look like it is doing something. Taxpayers should not be footing the bill for an unenforceable attempt to get commercial lobbyists to play by rules they set themselves. 

Time to open the books for MPs' expenses 📒💸

The Stuart Nash saga has also renewed calls for a review into the Official Information Act (OIA). As New Zealand's largest user of the OIA, the Taxpayers' Union agrees. A review is long overdue, but the focus should not just be on the Beehive: The Parliamentary Service is explicitly excluded from the from the OIA.

This means that the public has no way of knowing what its elected representatives are claiming taxpayer funds to cover. We know that some are MPs are already spending taxpayer money in ways that are potentially inappropriate but have no real way to get more information because of this exclusion.

For a country that considers itself to have one of the most open governments in the world, MPs’ taxpayer-funded expenses are surprisingly opaque compared to countries we traditionally compare ourselves to.

The Taxpayers’ Union wants to see an end to this transparency carve out. We would also support the introduction of a searchable database of every MP expense claim similar to that published by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority in the United Kingdom.

Taxpayer Talk: Councillor Ray Chung 🎙️

Taxpayer Talk: Ray Chung

This week on Taxpayer Talk, I sit down with Wellington City Councillor, Ray Chung, to discuss Wellington’s shocking 12.3% rates rise and why this is being driven by inefficient, wasteful spending at the Council.

Councillor Chung was elected just last year as the representative for Wharangi / Onslow-Western Ward. He's one of the few fiscal conservatives on the Council and is able to provide some interesting insight into its inner workings and explains why it is so hard – and expensive – to get anything done. We also get to hear why Councillor Chung is a vocal opponent of Three Waters and co-governance along with discussing potential solutions for the Council's severe infrastructure deficit.

Later in the podcast, for our War on Waste segment, Taxpayers’ Union Deputy Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, analyses the growth of managers in the public service and investigates whether the growth in the public service is driven by the core frontline workforce or simply a ballooning of the backroom bureaucracy of managers and consultants.

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

Thank you for your support.

Yours aye,

Callum

Callum Signature
Callum Purves
Campaigns Manager

New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union

Donate

Media coverage:

RNZ 
The Pre-Panel with Julie Woods and David Farrar

Newstalk ZB 
The Huddle: Is the Chris Hipkins honeymoon already over?

NZ Herald 
Political Roundup: Victory for transparency in lobbying reforms

Newstalk ZB Midday Edition: 04 April 2023 – Lobbying Review (02:05)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taxpayer Talk: Ray Chung on Wellington City Council's 12.3% Rate Hike

This week on Taxpayer Talk, Taxpayers' Union Campaigns Manager, Callum Purves, sits down with Wellington City Councillor, Ray Chung, to discuss Wellington’s shocking 12.3% rates rise and why this is being driven by inefficient, wasteful spending at the Council.

Councillor Chung was elected just last year as the representative for Wharangi / Onslow-Western Ward. He's one of the few fiscal conservatives on the Council and is able to provide some interesting insight into its inner workings and explains why it is so hard – and expensive – to get anything done. We also get to hear why Councillor Chung is a vocal opponent of Three Waters and co-governance along with discussing potential solutions for the Council's severe infrastructure deficit.

Later in the podcast, for our War on Waste segment, Taxpayers’ Union Deputy Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, analyses the growth of managers in the public service and investigates whether the growth in the public service is driven by the core frontline workforce or simply a ballooning of the backroom bureaucracy of managers and consultants.

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. 

MPs must not be excluded from Official Information Act reform

The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union is calling on the Government to reform the Official Information Act (OIA) to include the Parliamentary Service as an organisation covered by the Act.

While the focus in recent days has rightly been on the disclosure of Government business under the OIA and lobbying rules, there is a similarly glaring problem with the current OIA: The explicit exclusion of the Parliamentary Service. This means that there is no accountability for how individual MPs are spending taxpayer money.

In 2020, the then Justice Minister, Andrew Little, announced that the OIA would be rewritten in association with Chris Hipkins who was Minister for State Services (Open Government) at the time. But almost three years later, New Zealanders are no closer to having fit-for-purpose information laws and the process continues to be abused.

The Taxpayers’ Union believes the scope of OIA should be expanded to include all MP expenses alongside the introduction of a searchable database similar to that published by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority in the United Kingdom.

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Callum Purves, says:

“For a country that claims to have one of the most open governments in the world, MPs’ taxpayer-funded expenses through the Parliamentary Service are surprisingly opaque and completely unaccountable.

“We often hear and see examples of MPs spending taxpayer money in ways that are potentially inappropriate but have no real way to follow it up because the Parliamentary Service is protected by the Act. There is no valid justification for this.

“In the UK, for example, there is a fully accessible and searchable online database that publishes every expense claimed for every MP. Why can’t we do the same?

“Comprehensive reform of the OIA is long overdue and this change would help restore some of the public’s trust that has been eroded in recent times. In the meantime, we are calling on individual MPs to lead the way and voluntarily publish their own expenses before a more comprehensive system is in place.”

 

The UK Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority MP expenses register can be found at https://www.theipsa.org.uk/mp-staffing-business-costs/your-mp

Taxpayers' Union welcomes lobbying review

Commenting on the Prime Minister’s lobbying announcements, Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Callum Purves, said:

“We welcome the commitment to explore policy options for the regulation of the lobbying sector. While the ability for different groups to make their case to our elected representatives is important in any democracy, it is also essential that such activities are carried out in an open and transparent manner. We look forward to engaging with any consultation on how best to strike this balance.

“New Zealand lags behind other Westminster-style political systems with its lax approach to lobbying. There are many issues to consider, but the lack of a cooling-off period for former ministers before being able to lobby their former cabinet colleagues is of particular concern.

“The announcement of funding for a voluntary code of conduct does, however, seem to us to be a waste of taxpayer money and simply a way for the government to look like it is doing something quickly. Taxpayers should not be footing the bill for an unenforceable attempt to get lobbyists behave. Any rules for lobbying should be determined following consultation and should apply equally across the sector.”

Access to information fundamental for accountability

The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union is calling on Te Whatu Ora to immediately prioritise republishing key health reporting data after it was revealed that it was taken down nearly three weeks ago.

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Callum Purves Says:

“Easy access to key data and performance metrics are fundamental for ensuring accountability and value for money from our public service.

“It is disappointing that the data had to be taken down in the first place due to accuracy concerns but reinstating it should be a top-priority for the agency.

“Without knowing the data, it is impossible for politicians, experts, organisations such as the Taxpayers’ Union, and members of the public to hold key decision makers to account and ensure that our money is being spent wisely.

“For too long, politicians have been able to get away with simply throwing more money at problems and hoping it will work.

“It’s time to start looking at the other side of the equation to see what results this money is actually delivering. If we aren’t seeing improvements, we need to look at how this money could be better spent to ensure better, more efficient delivery of core public services."

Taxpayer Update: Manager numbers explode 👩🏻‍💼👨🏻‍💼🔺 | Virtue signalling over cutting net emissions 🌡️😔 | City Rail Link throws good money after bad 🚆🤑

🔍 Taxpayer Investigation: Public sector managers growing at double rate of frontline workers 👩🏻‍💼👨🏻‍💼🔺

While the Government has denied for years that Wellington's 'head offices' are getting bloated, your humble Taxpayers' Union has exposed that public sector managers have been growing at nearly twice the rate of frontline workers since the current Government came to power. 

Since 2017, the frontline workforce for social services, health, and education has increased by 24.6% with nurse numbers up only 18.3% while doctors are up only 19.2%. In the same period, however, the number of managers rocketed up by a staggering 43.4%. Who exactly are these people managing?

Hosking Managers

In case you missed it, Mike Hosking highlighted this huge discrepancy and also grilled Minister Michael Wood about what is going on

The Government crows about its significant 'investment' in social services, health, and education. In reality, the Government is taxing households more and more to spend on bureaucratic jobs for Wellington’s managerial class that provide little value for the taxpayer.

They can't blame the growth in the public sector during COVID for this one: The trend has been clear since 2017. While the focus on the exorbitant consultant bill in the past few weeks is welcome, politicians also need to take a closer look at our bloated public sector and significantly cut back on unnecessary managerial positions.

Government puts virtue signalling ahead of reducing net emissions 🌡️😔

James Shaw

This week the Ministry for the Environment announced a review into New Zealand's Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). The review will consider how the ETS should be changed to reflect the Government's priority of reducing gross carbon emissions over net emissions.

You will recall that the ETS works by setting a cap on the total amount of net carbon emissions across New Zealand each year. Emitters, such as fuel companies, or electricity suppliers, buy 'units' in an auction that allows them to emit a unit of carbon (or equivalent) and the amount they pay is reflected in the price you pay for goods and services. The cap then reduces over time, the market price changes, and overall emissions are brought down.

We prefer this system over politicians trying to 'pick winners' and inject subsidies into 'emissions reduction', as the market tends to find the most efficient and cost effective way for New Zealand to achieve its international obligations. Those sectors that can reduce emissions more quickly and cheaply can sell units to those sectors who might find it more difficult. The system also allows companies to offset their emissions through activities that take carbon out of the atmosphere.

Sadly though, politicians cannot help tinkering with the system because it does not fit with the Government's ideology of how climate change should be addressed. For example, it wants to see a rapid shift away from cars to public transport, walking, cycling and electric cars.  

But this approach is illogical and ill-informed. While it might make the Government look like it's doing something, it doesn't actually tackle climate change as it doesn't reduce net emissions – less transport emissions simply means more units are available under the ETS to make it cheaper for other sectors to emit. This is called the 'waterbed effect'.

If the Government is really serious about protecting the planet, it should let the ETS get on and do its job.

NEW REPORT: City Rail Link project throws good money after bad 🚆🤑

Last week, we published a new report by our Research Fellow and Wellington economist, Jim Rose, on Auckland’s City Rail Link. The City Rail Link: A Great Big Sucking Sound for Taxpayer and Auckland Ratepayer Dollars is the first in-depth analysis of the bad decision-making that led to a 61% cost blowout.

The report argues that key decisions made by the Government and Auckland Council were based on a flawed business case. A combination of factors such as the increase in costs, the failure to include $6.7 billion in required upgrades to the existing rail network, and the 30-40% drop off in rail passengers post-COVID means that the costs of this project now significantly outweigh its benefits.

Just a few weeks ago, it was revealed that the project's cost had gone up by a further $1 billion. We sent a short briefing paper of the report's key findings to the Auckland mayor and councillors ahead of their meeting to discuss the increase in costs. Despite the public interest, and alarming numbers, the Council decided to hold the meeting behind closed doors so ratepayers are none the wiser as to what was discussed or decided.

With the announcement this week of plans to "bring forward" a second Auckland Harbour crossing, the Government and Auckland Council need to learn serious lessons from this project's failings – we cannot afford the same mistakes to be made. The planners at Auckland Transport who dreamt up the City Rail Link shouldn’t be let anywhere near the public purse again. 

Parker charges ahead as even Greens raise RMA reform concerns 🏘️💰

RMA News

This week, Green MP Eugenie Sage who chairs the Environment Select Committee raised concerns about the Government's plans to railroad through radical changes to the Resource Management Act before October's election. She rightly said that the bill will require lots of changes and that there is too much work to do before the election. 

Despite now losing the support of the Greens, David Parker is still planning to plough on. He even went as far to say "I trust my own political instincts here." That's a rather bold statement for the man who proposed changes to taxation on KiwiSaver fees only to U-turn within the space of 24 hours.

But Labour still has a majority in Parliament and can ram things through Parliament if it wants to. That's why it's important that opposition parties pledge to repeal these bills should they become law. While ACT has set out a comprehensive alternative to the RMA, National has hinted that if Labour manages to get the reforms through before the election, it may seek to amend rather than repeal the legislation. We say this isn't good enough.

Stay tuned for the launch of our campaign against these reforms...

Thank you for your support.

Yours aye,

Callum

Callum Signature
Callum Purves
Campaigns Manager

New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union

Donate

Media coverage:

NZ Herald 
Cost-of-living moves poorly targeted, says report

Newstalk ZB 
Jordan Williams: Taxpayer's Union Executive Director says Auckland Transport is focusing on the wrong things

InfraNews 
Call for independent review into Auckland supercity amalgamation

Newstalk ZB THE RE-WRAP: Just the Facts, Ma'am (09:04)

Newstalk ZB Pollies: MPs Mark Mitchell and Michael Wood on National polling, crime and Police (08:26)

Newstalk ZB 
RMA war heading towards final battle

Democracy Project Bryce Edwards: The Beehive’s revolving door and corporate mateship

Interest.co.nz Government review of the Emissions Trading Scheme will look for ways to incentivise more reductions and less carbon offsets

Newstalk ZB Heather du Plessis-Allan: Auckland Council booting Local Government NZ is a warning to Kieran McAnulty

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Access to information fundamental for accountability

The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union is calling on Te Whatu Ora to immediately prioritise republishing key health reporting data after it was revealed that it was taken down nearly three weeks ago.

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Callum Purves Says:

“Easy access to key data and performance metrics are fundamental for ensuring accountability and value for money from our public service.

“It is disappointing that the data had to be taken down in the first place due to accuracy concerns but reinstating it should be a top-priority for the agency.

“Without knowing the data, it is impossible for politicians, experts, organisations such as the Taxpayers’ Union, and members of the public to hold key decision makers to account and ensure that our money is being spent wisely.

“For too long, politicians have been able to get away with simply throwing more money at problems and hoping it will work.

“It’s time to start looking at the other side of the equation to see what results this money is actually delivering. If we aren’t seeing improvements, we need to look at how this money could be better spent to ensure better, more efficient delivery of core public services."

Ministerial power grab must be stopped

The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union condemns the Government’s decision to allow only one day for written submissions on the Severe Weather Emergency Recovery Legislation Bill.

The proposed legislation would allow a minister to exempt, modify, or extend provisions of almost any piece of legislation without any form of democratic scrutiny.

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Callum Purves says:

“This bill would give ministers extensive powers, some lasting until 2028, that would allow them to take action in a range of areas with no democratic parliamentary scrutiny.

“Not only is this ministerial power grab an extremely disproportionate response to the situation, but the government is trying to rush the legislation through with submitters only having a single day to make their views known.

“This truncated process, and the attitude towards democracy shown by some of our lawmakers, is dangerous. Lawmaking at this pace inevitably means mistakes will be made with potentially serious consequences. 

“We have already seen emergency powers being abused by ministers wasting billions of taxpayer dollars with the COVID-19 slush fund, this time they are reaching for even more power.

“This legislation would set a dangerous precedent for future governments to seize the opportunity of an emergency to make a ministerial power grab.

“This bill and its token consultation make a mockery of the parliamentary process.”

ETS must be allowed to do its job of reducing net carbon emissions

Responding to the Ministry for the Environment’s announcement of a review into New Zealand's Emissions Trading Scheme, Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Callum Purves, says:

“While a review of New Zealand’s Emissions Trading Scheme is long overdue, the Government’s prioritisation of reducing gross carbon emissions over net emissions is illogical and ill-informed. Such an approach will not help tackle climate change, will disincentivise investment in carbon sequestration technologies, and will come at an exorbitant and unnecessary cost to the taxpayer.

“The Emissions Trading Scheme is the most effective way to reduce net carbon emissions. It ensures that net emissions reduce over time while doing so in the most efficient way possible and at least cost to taxpayers. But it must be allowed to do its job.

“If the Government is serious about meeting our international climate commitments, it should work towards expanding the Emissions Trading Scheme to cover all sectors of New Zealand’s economy – including agriculture – with appropriate mitigations.

"If the Minister is worried about afforestation in New Zealand, he should open the ETS market up to the world and allow emitters to purchase credits from approved overseas sequestration programmes."

NEW REPORT: City Rail Link project throws good money after bad

A new report published by the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union exposes the bad decision-making that led to a 61% cost blowout in Auckland’s City Rail Link and shows that the costs of the project now significantly outweigh any benefits.

‘The City Rail Link: A Great Big Sucking Sound for Taxpayer and Auckland Ratepayer Dollars’ provides the first in-depth analysis of cost overruns and benefit shortfalls in the Auckland City Rail Link (CRL). The report’s author, economist Jim Rose, argues that key decisions made first by the Government and Auckland Council were premised on a flawed business case.

As of December 2022, total costs for the CRL project were estimated to be $5.5 billion, 61% higher than the original cost estimate. While project managers blame COVID-19 for this big cost over-run, the evidence suggests that the project should never have gone ahead.

Key findings of the report are:

  1. Auckland Transport originally estimated a cost-benefit ratio of between 0.4 and 0.9 in 2011
  2. The business case presented to Cabinet in 2019 assumed $1 billion in wider network improvements not included in the project cost
  3. In 2022, a review by the Auditor-General found that KiwiRail and Auckland Transport would have to spend a further $6.7 billion between 2022 and 2036 before the full benefits of the CRL could be realised
  4. With rail patronage down 30-40% on pre-COVID levels, it is unlikely that the supposed travel time savings will ever be realised
  5. As of December 2022, the cost of the project exceeded the $5.1 billion of benefits estimated by PricewaterhouseCoopers in 2019
  6. It is therefore more likely than not that the cost-benefit ratio has dropped below 1, meaning the costs of the projects now outweigh the benefits
  7. A briefing summarising the key points of the report and the full report have been sent to the Auckland mayor and councillors ahead of a meeting tomorrow (Thursday 23 March) to discuss the $1 billion increase in projected costs.

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Callum Purves, said:

“The City Rail Link will go down in history as a monument to the sunken costs fallacy as we continue to throw good money after bad. It is clear that the benefits of this project are now more likely than not to be outweighed by the costs of the project that have been allowed to spiral out of control. 

“The planners at Auckland Transport who dreamt up this project shouldn’t be let anywhere near the public purse again. If there is a silver-lining from this, it’s that Cabinet ministers and Auckland councillors might think twice before trusting the advice they get from Auckland Transport in the future.”

Public sector managers growing at twice the rate of frontline workers

Public sector managers growing at twice the rate of frontline workers

Figures unearthed by the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union reveal that the growth in public sector managers is almost twice that of frontline social, health and education workers.

Since 2017, the frontline workforce for social services, health and education has increased by 24.6% compared with a staggering 43.4% increase in managers. The number of nurses has only increased by 18.3% in the same period while the number of doctors went up 19.2%.

Over the past year, the situation has been even worse with managers increasing by 7.1% while frontline workers fell 3.5%

Taxpayers Union Campaigns Manager, Callum Purves, said:

“With the number of managers growing at almost twice the rate of frontline workers, we have to question whom exactly these people are managing.

“The Government crows about its significant investment in social services, health and education, but it is instead taxing billions of dollars from hardworking New Zealanders to spend on bureaucratic jobs for Wellington’s managerial class that provide little value for the taxpayer.

“While the focus on the exorbitant consultant bill by the major parties in recent weeks has been welcome, politicians also need to take a closer look at the bloated public sector and pledge to significantly cut back on managerial positions.”

Government should not be spending taxpayer money to lobby itself

The Taxpayers’ Union has slammed the revelation that government agencies and State Owned Enterprises are spending hundreds of thousands of taxpayers’ dollars on lobbying firms as revealed by Radio NZ this morning.

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Callum Purves, said:

“Taxpayers’ money should not be used to pay for sock puppets to lobby the government on behalf of government agencies.

“SOEs, and Government agencies already have special access to decision makers. Paying the well connected, insiders and lobby firms doesn’t offer value for the public – nearly always they are serving the interests of the agencies and their bosses.

“While media commentary is often on the apparent need for a register of lobbyists, that doesn’t fully address the problem. It is very clear that former MPs, Ministers, and Parliamentary staffers are profiting from their connections. New Zealand is unusual in that there are no controls on regulators, government staffers or MPs from leaving their jobs and going straight into lobbying. That is where New Zealand’s law needs to catch up.”

Local Government Minister should meet Taxpayers’ Union on Three Waters

The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union is pleased to hear that the Minister of Local Government, Kieran McAnulty, has invited concerned mayors to the Beehive to discuss the Three Waters reforms but believe he should meet with the country’s largest taxpayer and ratepayer organization too.

The Taxpayers’ Union Executive Director, Jordan Williams, has written to the Minister requesting a meeting to share the views of taxpayers and ratepayers on the problems with the Government’s Three Waters reforms and to set out alternatives that maintain local control and democratic accountability while keeping costs to ratepayers down.

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Callum Purves, said:

We met with more than 10,000 people on our Stop Three Waters roadshow last year including elected local representatives and those directly involved with the delivery of water services.

“Our concerns that these reforms will lead to higher water costs, unnecessary bureaucracy, no local control and an undermining of democratic accountability were echoed those we met.

“The entire process for these reforms has been flawed and lacked proper engagement with those directly impacted, including when more than 60,000 of our supporters made a submission against the reforms but the Select Committee refused to hear them.

“We strongly urge the new Minister to engage with concerned mayors in good faith and meet with us so that we can put forward the concerns of all those who were not given the opportunity to present to the Select Committee.”

Taxpayer Update: Planning Power Grab 🏠🛑 | Wellington must stop hoarding taxes 💰⚠️ | Avatar producers should pay back subsidies 🎥💸

Time to stop Parker's planning power grab 🏠🛑

Last week, we blew the whistle on the Government's planning reforms, which seek to replace the awful Resource Management Act with something even worse. It takes all the worst elements of Three Waters – like seizing powers from councils and introducing unelected decision makers – and applies them to your house, your business or your farm, but on a much bigger scale. 

Like many, when the 891 pages of legislation were published, we were scratching our heads thinking 'this can't possibly be right'. What David Parker has proposed is so complicated and so convoluted, it could only have been designed by bureaucrats in Wellington. 

Below, we sketch out what the new Regional Planning Committee might look like using Canterbury as an example.

RMA Diagram

But because the bill leaves so much to negotiation between councils, iwi and the minister, it is difficult to know exactly where things will end up. The likely answer is in the courts.

But the courts aren't too happy either. In a very unusual move, the Chief Justice made a submission on the Natural and Built Environment Bill. She warned that many of the provisions contained within the proposed legislation were things that were likely to be challenged in the courts. This means that the true implications of David Parker's bills are very uncertain and these court battles will be expensive.

In an even more staggering intervention, however, the Chief Justice raised concerns about the role of the proposed new National Māori Entity. She said that the bill as currently drafted includes the Environment Court as an entity whose decisions would be independently monitored by the National Māori Entity and would be required to respond to their reports. 

The Chief Justice said that such a set up "would be inconsistent with New Zealand’s constitutional arrangements" and that "Court decisions are appropriately challenged by way of appeal, not by way of review by a statutory entity". She was so surprised by this that she said that the Supreme Court "assume[d] this is an error in drafting or an oversight."

This is bigger than Three Waters but so many people still don't know about it. In the coming weeks, we will be launching our campaign to put a stop to these radical reforms. 

Kiwis want Wellington to stop hoarding taxes 💰⚠️

Tax Sharing Poll

Councils often struggle to pay for essential infrastructure in our local communities such as roads and water pipes. While many don't help by funding vanity projects and white elephants, one of the biggest drivers of this problem is that when new developments are built, almost all of the tax revenue generated goes straight to central government in Wellington.

This means local councils are often reluctant to support development, such as new housing or suburbs. But the solution is simple: Let some of the taxes collected from new houses and businesses stay in the communities where they are generated. This would ensure that the money would be directed exactly to where new infrastructure is needed and would empower councils to make sensible decisions about local development.  

This is not a new idea and has been promoted by our friends at the New Zealand Initiative (a Wellington-based think tank) for many years. Now it seems the idea has widespread public support. In this month's Taxpayers' Union – Curia Poll, our pollsters asked a representative sample of Kiwi voters if they supported such a proposal and an overwhelming 70% were in favour while just 15% were opposed and 15% were unsure. 

ACT deputy lead and housing spokesperson, Brooke van Velden has been championing this idea in Parliament for some time and has tabled the Housing Infrastructure (GST-sharing) Bill that would give councils half of the GST raised on new houses in their area. National and the Greens have already pledged to support it at first reading, but it will need Labour votes to progress any further.

We say it's time for Wellington to stop their development money grab and urge the Government to support this bill that is desperately needed to improve local infrastructure. 

Central District Field Days 🚜🐄

Feilding

We always enjoy getting outside the Wellington bubble and meeting our supporters. Speaking to people across New Zealand just highlights how detached the public service machine is from the concerns and priorities of hard working Kiwis. 

For the past couple of days we have been at the Central District Field Days in Feilding and it has been great to meet with so many of you and hear your thoughts on Three Waters and the Resource Management Act reforms. The event continues until 4 p.m. today so if you are in the area, do pop by and say hello.

Later this month, we will be at the South Island Agricultural Field Days in Kirwee from Wednesday 29th to Friday, 31st March. If you are in Canterbury, we would love to see you there. 

Avatar producers rake in massive profits as Kiwis pick up the tab 🎥💸

This week, Wētā FX won an Oscar at the Academy Awards for their work on Avatar: The Way of WaterIt is great to see a Kiwi firm having such great success on the international stage, but that achievement is somewhat tainted by the millions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies that the Avatar franchise has received.

Taxpayers like you have been made to fork out over $140 million in subsidies for the Avatar sequels, but the first sequel has grossed over $3.7 billion. Between 2021 and 2026, New Zealanders will have given more than $1 billion to wealthy film production companies, including one owned by Jeff Bezos – the world’s third richest man.

Why should taxpayers be made to subsidize these extremely profitable films? Every dollar taxed to fund these subsidies is a dollar that could have been spent improving public services or reducing the tax burden on families.

This week, we called on the producers of Avatar to express their gratitude to New Zealanders by paying back the generous subsidies that have been provided by taxpayers over the years. We aren't holding our breath. 

Hon. John Boscawen joins Taxpayers' Union Board

Paul Boscawen

Last week saw a new addition to the Taxpayers' Union Board in the form of businessman and former ACT MP, the Hon. John Boscawen. John served as Minister of Consumer Affairs and Associate Minister of Commerce in the John Key Government.

John has been a long-time supporter of the Taxpayers’ Union. With his experience in business and politics, John brings with him great knowledge and insights to the organisation. We are delighted to be able to work with him to champion lower taxes, less waste and more accountability.

All of our board members are not just volunteers, but financially support the work of the Taxpayers' Union. As we get stuck into the important work this election year, we are grateful to all of them for their commitment to making New Zealand a more prosperous society with an efficient, transparent and democratically accountable government.

Thank you for your support.

Yours aye,

Callum

Callum Signature
Callum Purves
Campaigns Manager

New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union

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Media coverage:

Stuff 
Damien Grant: Things get done because of agitators and advocates

RNZ 
Ashley Bloomfield, the public service and political neutrality

NZ Herald 
Labour overtakes National in new political poll - Greens hover just above threshold

Interest.co.nz Chris Hipkins helps Labour take the lead in Taxpayer Union political poll for the first time in 12 months

Stuff 
Labour and National neck-and-neck, with just one seat in it, in latest poll

RNZ The Panel with Nicky Pellegrino and Allan Blackman (Part One)

NewstalkZB Afternoon Edition: 09 March 2023 – New Poll

NewstalkZB  Barry Soper: ZB senior political correspondent on Labour taking the lead in new Taxpayers’ Union-Curia poll

The Daily Blog BOOM: New Taxpayers’ Union Poll puts Labour on Top but Greens in danger of falling below 5%

RNZ Labour rises in new Curia poll, Greens dangerously close to threshold

Te Ao Māori News Hipkins hoists Labour’s election chances but not quite enough to rule

NewstalkZB The Huddle: Te Whatu Ora apologises for reporting inaccurate information and Labour leads in new poll

TodayFM Full Show: 10 March 2023 – New Poll (02:12:22)

RNZ First Up - The Podcast, Friday 10 March (00:36:19)

NewstalkZB Morning Edition: 10 March 2023 – New Poll

RNZ Political editors panel: Public service posturing

Otago Daily Times Hipkins doesn't see kids 'anywhere near enough'

NZ Herald Prime Minister Chris Hipkins tells Newstalk ZB he doesn’t see kids ‘anywhere near enough’ in top job

NewstalkZB Jordan Williams and Fleur Fitzsimons face-off over Government consultant spending

NZ Herald Chris v Chris: Poll, battle, mistakes - did Luxon or Hipkins deliver the goods to win the week?

The Gisborne Herald National has to change tack

Stuff National snaps politics right back to December

NewstalkZB Jason Walls: Newstalk ZB political editor on multiple public servants breaking impartiality requirements

RNZ Political commentators Lamia Imam & Brigitte Morten

NewstalkZB Callum Purves speaks to Kerry Woodham on the RMA reforms

The Platform Is the Government sneaking through legislation with their latest RMA reforms?

NZ Herald Voters want councils to have a share of GST, poll shows

Politik Speed limits hit potholes

Newsroom Auckland’s light rail stage fright

NZ Initiative Localism: The initiative that has won the nation over

 

 

 

GDP Figures Highlight The Need For Tax Relief

Reacting to the Q4 2022 GDP figures released by Stats NZ  Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Callum Purves, says:

“Today’s figures demonstrate why the Government needs to double its efforts to deliver better value for money and stop piling cash onto the inflation bonfire.”

“In general, higher government spending results in more inflation than allowing taxpayers to keep more of their own money.  With the economy now running backwards, now is the time for tax relief - funded by pruning wasteful government spending in Wellington. It’s affordable, not inflationary, and would improve the economy more than a ‘top down’ government-led approach.”

Bigger doesn’t mean better – Canterbury and Waikato Supercities are a bad idea

Bigger doesn’t mean better – Canterbury and Waikato Supercities are a bad idea

The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union says that proposals from Hamilton and Christchurch City Councils to create new supercities are a bad idea that would increase costs for ratepayers, undermine local control and reduce democratic accountability.

The Union is also calling on the Government to commission an independent review of the Auckland supercity that amalgamated the former Auckland Regional Council and seven district and city councils.

The proponents of amalgamation claim that that it will reduce overheads and lead to efficiency gains, but this is not borne out in the evidence. A report by the Infrastructure Commission last year, for example, found no evidence that larger councils are more efficient.

Taxpayers’ Union Local Government spokesman, Josh Van Veen, says:

“Aucklanders know from bitter experience that the roads are worse, rates are higher, and our public transport system is even less co-ordinated than it was under the old regional and district council model.

“At the same time, decision-making is further and further removed from local communities. Large Council-Controlled Organisations spend billions of dollars in ratepayer money but are kept at arms-length from democratic accountability.

“Recent centralisations of polytechnics and health have also been a complete mess. Rather than generate economies of scale, they have simple created additional layers of bureaucracy on top of what was there before. Creating more supercities is completely the wrong approach.

“It is time for the Department of Internal Affairs to do what it promised 12 years ago and give the public an honest appraisal of Auckland Council.”

Avatar producers should pay back taxpayer subsidies

The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union congratulates Wētā FX on their success at the Oscars with Avatar: The Way of Water but is disappointed that it is tainted by the millions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies that franchise has received.

Taxpayers have forked out over $140 million in subsidies for the Avatar sequels, the first of which grossed almost $3.7 billion. In the five years to 2026, taxpayers will have paid more than $1 billion to wealthy film production companies, including one owned by Jeff Bezos – the world’s third richest man.

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Callum Purves, said:

“The Government needs to explain why the film industry is special enough to receive favourable treatment over other industries. Every dollar taxed to fund these subsidies is a dollar that could have been spent improving public services or reducing the tax burden on Kiwis.

“James Cameron has publicly stated that the film is generating a profit so it is time for taxpayers to see a return on their investment.

“We urge the producers of Avatar to express their gratitude to New Zealanders by paying back the generous subsidies that have been provided by taxpayers over the years."

Hard-working Kiwi taxpayers deserve indexation too

Today’s announcement that the Government is adjusting superannuation and main benefits for inflation highlights the need for a principled approach to income taxes.

“While those receiving taxpayer support get an adjustment, hard-working New Zealanders are going backwards each and every day,” says Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Callum Purves.

“Indexing tax brackets for inflation is a principled policy that would ensure that people only pay more tax if they are actually earning more in real terms.

“Those lucky enough to receive a pay rise in line with inflation still end up worse off as they pay a higher proportion of their income in tax or are rocketed into higher tax brackets.

"After taxes, wages are not keeping up with inflation but the Government continues to ignore the obvious solution of income tax bracket indexation.

“Indexation would mean that, at whatever level income taxes are set, they remain at the same rate in real terms and are not increased by stealth.

"The Taxpayers’ Union is calling on the Government to index tax brackets to make our tax system more honest and shield New Zealanders from the ever-increasing cost of living."

$1 billion savings welcome – but policy campfire doesn't go far enough

The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union has welcomed the Prime Minister's announcement of $1 billion of savings from dropping unpopular policies, including that ‘cash for clunkers’ scheme, but has said that this does not go far enough.

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Callum Purves, said:

"This $568 million 'cash for clunkers' scheme was simply classic middle class welfare dressed up as climate action. The policy would have benefited those wealthier New Zealanders in the market for electric vehicles but wouldn’t have reduced net emissions by a single gram because transport emissions are already covered by the 'cap and trade' Emissions Trading Scheme.

“The Government has wasted billions of dollars on ineffective climate policy putting pressure on inflation and the cost of living. It is time for the remaining pointless climate policies to join this one on the scrap heap so that the Emissions Trading Scheme can do its job.

“Scrapping $1 billion of wasteful spending is, of course, welcome, but if the government is really serious about getting the focus back onto bread and butter issues, scrapping Auckland Light Rail, Three Waters and trimming the bloated public service would be good places to start. 

“Our research team can identify far more instances of wasteful spending. We will be writing to the Prime Minister offering to meet and help him trim it back. Ensuring Kiwi taxpayers get better value for money from Wellington should the priority for all politicians.”

Wellington City Council must slash waste to prepare for climate change

Wellington City Council must slash waste to prepare for climate change

On Monday, The Dominion Post reported that Wellington City Council’s Environment and Infrastructure Committee has been advised to spend an additional $15.4 million on retaining walls to prevent floods and land slippage caused by extreme weather.

Taxpayers’ Union Local Government spokesperson, Josh Van Veen, says:

“Wellingtonian households are about to be hit by a massive 12.8% rates increase. We agree that climate adaptation must be prioritised. However, the money for retaining walls should come from the reallocation of existing budgets.

“The Council is spending millions on climate change mitigation in areas already covered by the ETS such as the $20 million Environmental and Accessibility Performance Fund and the Climate and Sustainability Fund, which saw thousands of ratepayer dollars paid to a church.

“This spending should be slashed and reallocated toward future proofing the city’s infrastructure.

“With the new Tākina Convention Centre opening in June, there is also an opportunity to rationalise Council property assets to free up capital necessary for investment while also reducing ratepayers’ exposure to risk from climate or seismic events.”

Stop Central Planning Committees

Over the weekend, David Farrar sent an email to our supporter lists about what the Government is currently sneaking through Parliament to replace the Resource Management Act.  Here at the Taxpayers’ Union, we are no fans of the RMA.  But what is proposes is far, far worse.  As a result of enquiries today, we are copying the email for all to see.

Right now the team are working on planning for the campaign to defeat the Central Planning explained below.  The catch 22 is that it is difficult to plan when we don’t know what financial resources are available, and we don’t know that because so few Kiwis are even aware of these Bills.  Watch this space through – a campaign will be launching very soon.

I apologise that this is so long – but it is important. While Three Waters was about community/council assets, this post is about a new series of bills going through Parliament right now that will dictate what you can can do with your house, your farm, and your business. And unlike Three Waters, it is getting nearly no media attention.

David Parker's new planning bills are even worse than Three Waters – and apply to your land/house/business

Right now, the Government is sneaking through legislation that is almost identical to Nanaia Mahuta's original plans with Three Waters, but relates to our homes, town planning, consenting, and natural environment.

The short point is, if you thought Three Waters was bad, the Government's proposed replacement to the Resource Management Act is much, much worse. 

While most New Zealanders looked at the Three Waters shambles with horror, Environment Minister, David Parker, was taking notes. He’s decided to replicate the worst elements of the water reforms in his proposed replacement to the Resource Management Act. 

But you won't have read much about this issue in the media. Unlike Three Waters, there's no taxpayer-funded Government ad campaign or even much of a public discussion.

Make no mistake: The Government is trying to sneak this one through. The bills – 891 pages in total – were dumped just before Christmas and the Government closed submissions on Waitangi weekend. That – plus the fact Ministers have deliberately not promoted the bills – has meant that the media is only just starting to wake up to the possible implications of these reforms.

Under this proposed law, powers over planning and when a resource consent is required will be stripped from local councils and handed to 15 new co-governed ‘Regional Planning Committees’. That means the decisions about the building consent for your deck, new home, factory, your farm's water take, and how your city or town is planned will be made by people you cannot vote out. 'Regional Planning Committees' will be tasked with enforcing a litany of costly new rules from Wellington to restrict the way you use your property. 

I need to be clear: The Resource Management Act is broken. Its planning rules have fuelled a housing and infrastructure crisis. But we need to get RMA reform right, and David Parker’s new Soviet-style planning regime is not the answer. Instead of cutting red tape, he's come up with a cure worse than the disease.

Local control will be lost: Instead of elected decision makers, town, city and environmental planning will handed to co-governed Regional Planning Committees before the end of this year

If you thought dealing with silly rules from your local council was bad, wait until it's a co-governed Regional Planning Committee that voters cannot sack making the rules. David Parker wants to take responsibility for planning rules away from our 67 democratically elected local councils and hand it to 15 new co-governed ‘Regional Planning Committees’.

That’s right: First your council lost its responsibility for water asset management, and now it’s losing responsibility for planning. At this rate your Mayor will be responsible for little more than the library collection and the annual Christmas parade! 

Unless we act right now, the law will be passed before this year's election. And with the election result looking so close, the only way to ensure we defeat this is to blow the whistle now, so these proposals become as unpopular as Three Waters.

Think of all the conversations in your local community about zoning rules, intensification, and planning priorities. I'm no fan of my local council, but at least under the current system, voters can hold the decision makers to account. Under this new system, the decision makers will be out of town, beholden to Wellington, and insulated from accountability by layers of bureaucracy.

Each local council – even large metropolitan ones – will have just one representative on the new regional committees. That also means that local voices in, say, Waitaki will be drowned out by other committee members. Decisions over say a proposed geothermal energy plant in Taupo would be made in Hamilton by a co-governed, unaccountable, committee.

The rules even allow the Minister (currently David Parker) to make his own appointments to the Regional Planning Committees so that Wellington has people to ensure that these committees dance to the Government's tune.

And the new committees will be bound by ‘National Planning Frameworks’ issued by the Minister every nine years, dictating comprehensive environmental targets and limits, and rules governing resource allocation from Kaitaia to the Bluff. That means environmental decisions and regional 'quotas' on things like CO2 emissions will be made by Wellington.

We need your support to stop this unaccountable co-governed centralisation by Wellington.

Even more co-governance will make public input meaningless 

Under the proposed regime, all persons exercising planning power must “give effect” to principles of the Treaty of Waitangi. David Parker wants to strictly enforce this rule with three new layers of co-governance: 

  1. Unelected appointees from local iwi/hapū will sit on the new Regional Planning Committees with full voting rights. 
     
    • David Parker is trying to say this isn't co-governance as the proposed legislation only requires a minimum of two iwi/hapū representatives and the exact number is up to local communities. But it's not as simple as that. The committees deciding on appointee numbers for local councils and those from iwi will be bound by the principles of the Treaty. A recent Waitangi Tribunal decision makes it explicit that, "nothing less" than a 50/50 split will do in order to satisfy the so-called "partnership" principle.

  2. A new, unelected ‘National Māori Entity’ will put pressure on the new planning committees to ensure that they abide by Treaty principles, and will have priority over public consultation on the new National Planning Frameworks.

  3. At any time, iwi or hapū can produce a Te Oranga o te Taiao (environmental wellbeing) statement, dictating how the Minister of Environment must uphold the “intrinsic relationship” between iwi/hapū and the environment in National Planning Frameworks for which there is no appeal process outlined in the bill.

David Parker is trying to say that these reforms don't involve co-governance, but, as you can see, that is blatantly untrue.

We need your help to make sure New Zealanders know about these Bills, and step up to protect democratic accountability before it is too late.

Higher costs for ratepayers due to bureaucracy and legal minefields

These reforms mean everything from building a new deck to constructing a new hospital or supermarket will be even harder.

The legislation's first reading was snuck through just before the Christmas break. The Government wants to have it passed before this year’s election and only gave the summer holiday period for formal submissions.

Of course, our team worked over summer to get their heads around the 891 pages of legislation and made a submission. But the real fight is the political one: We need to raise public awareness.

If New Zealanders were fully aware about the true implications of David Parker’s power grab, it could turn into a real political headache for the Government just like Three Waters. 

18 months ago, the Taxpayers' Union decided that we had no option but to take on Nanaia Mahuta's Three Waters. Back then the vast majority of Kiwis were backing the Government, as very few understood the downsides of what the Government was doing. It was only after a mammoth campaign, hundreds of events, and thousands of banners, signs, and an advertising blitz across TV, radio and online did the National Party (and the media) catch on to the costs of Three Waters. Three Waters would not be the thorn in the Government's side, had the Taxpayers' Union not led the fight (and supporters like you making the campaign possible with substantial financial support).

Just like we did not let Nanaia Mahuta get away with Three Waters, we cannot let David Parker get away with these even more radical proposals.

We need to put so much political pressure on the Government that David Parker's plans become a liability for Labour’s re-election prospects and are therefore scrapped by Chris Hipkins.

Thank you for your support.

David circle

David Farrar
Co-founder
New Zealand Taxpayers' Union

 

 

 


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