Lower Taxes, Less Waste,
More Accountability

Championing Value For Money From Every Tax Dollar

RNZ Chief Executive should be taking a pay cut, not a massive bonus

According to RNZ’s latest annual report, Chief Executive, Paul Thompson, received a $65,538 bonus and a $13,628 pay rise for the 2022/23 financial year despite RNZ failing to meet its key performance targets and running an operating deficit of $739,000.

Responding to this news, Campaigns Manager Connor Molloy said:

“By all accounts, the last year at RNZ has been a shambolic disaster. Viewership is down, satisfaction rates are below target, and the organization is still recovering from an editing scandal earlier in the year. Under any profitable private company, Thompson would have been hauled over coals for such a shoddy performance. Instead, taxpayers are having to fork out thousands of dollars to reward his failings.

“At a time when Kiwis up and down the country are struggling with the cost-of-living crisis, there is no reason why any taxpayer-funded executive should be receiving a massive hand out, let alone one that has failed to deliver on almost every metric.

“This is yet another embarrassing example of a state-funded entity refusing to engage in fiscal discipline and keep its costs down. It is plain to see that RNZ has failed to satisfy its audience. Paul Thompson should take responsibility for these inadequacies, pay back the bonus, and offer to take a pay cut not a pay rise."

Wellington Council Officials Must Face Consequences for Concealing Information

 

Responding to revelations that Wellington City Council officials withheld an in-depth KPMG report into Wellington’s financial positions for months, giving councillors just 2 days to review the document before the Long-Term Plan meeting, Taxpayers’ Union Policy Adviser, James Ross, said:
 
“Yet again we have Wellington City officials getting too big for their boots and unduly influencing the decision-making process at the council. Councillors are elected to make decisions, and officials are just there to facilitate them; that’s the extent of their legitimate role.
 
“In almost exactly the same way as happened with the town hall project, officials have taken it upon themselves to stuff critical information down the back of the sofa to try and force councillors into voting for their preferred outcome.
 
“The evidence of the complete and utter failure of leadership at WCC just keeps mounting. Councillors need to reclaim authority for the residents of Wellington and sack Chief Executive Barbara McKerrow.”

All Flake and No Filling – Taxpayers’ Union Finds Mt. Messenger ‘Pieday Friday’ Scheme Half-Baked

 

Responding to reports that Waka Kotahi is estimated to be spending up to $500,000 on a ‘Pieday Friday’ scheme for workers on the Mount Messenger Bypass, Connor Molloy, Campaigns Manager at the Taxpayers’ Union, says:

“Waka Kotahi is yet again splashing taxpayers’ hard-earned cash as much as it pleases at a time when the government needs to be practicing fiscal responsibility. Local residents and businesses across the Taranaki region rely on State Highway 3 as a lifeline, but spend half their lives dodging scores of potholes. And yet rather than spending money fixing the roads, Waka Kotahi is clearing out bakery shelves buying pies on an industrial scale.

“With the cost of this bypass reaching $280 million over six years, and potentially more with an ongoing court case required to unlock the required land to build on, Waka Kotahi would be wise to target this scheme when it comes to trimming the fat – figuratively and literally. Government workers do not need a weekly pie party at the taxpayers’ expense, and it’s high time they looked to tighten their belts. Rather than the crust on these pies, it seems that Waka Kotahi’s books are the ones that are blind baked.”

Rau Paenga Needs to be Upfront with Documents, Not Play Cloak-and-Dagger with Christchurch Residents

 

Responding to news that crown infrastructure delivery agency, Rau Paenga, is yet again opposing the release of documents concerning their legal battles over the money pit Metro sports centre project in Christchurch, Connor Molloy, Campaigns Manager at the Taxpayers’ Union, says:

“It’s bad enough that the Government is pursuing this white elephant that has seen hundreds of millions of dollars poured into it and continual cost overruns but the fact that it isn’t willing to be upfront with public projects and justify itself to taxpayers is utterly ridiculous.

“The Metro sports centre in Christchurch, the last remnant of infrastructure investment after the 2011 earthquakes, has run over budget and over deadline, reminding Christchurch residents of the lunacy of depending on the public sector for efficient, timely construction. Christchurch deserves to know why they should still support this increasingly burdensome pet project, but Rau Paenga has run roughshod over the public’s right to information and the truth, also denying access to documents concerning a request for an extra $212 million to finish the project earlier this year.

"Too often, projects of this magnitude surpass both timelines and budgets, leading politicians to succumb to the sunk-cost fallacy and pour additional funds into seemingly doomed endeavours. The new Government must prioritise transparency to ensure that major projects are not veiled in secrecy. Taxpayers deserve to know whether they are receiving value for money."

Taxpayer Update: MPs' big pay rise 💰📈 | Health system failures 👩🏼‍⚕️🤢 | Proposed land grab 🏝️🤏

With both Callum and Jordan away today, the mantle of leading the fight on behalf of taxpayers has been left to me. 

As we play the waiting game for coalition negotiations, the Taxpayers' Union is still hard at work exposing extravagant waste and demanding accountability. 

In this week's edition, we highlight more failures in the health system following its centralisation, call out an attempted land grab from a local council, and provide an update on the Three Waters legal challenge. 

But first:

MPs preparing to line their pockets with a hefty pay rise 💰📈

While you and I struggle with the costs of living, MPs look set to share the pain get a massive pay increase. 

Back in 2018, the Government made a decision to freeze MPs' pay which was continued by the Remuneration Authority in 2020 due to the economic uncertainty arising from Covid-19. 

But now, MPs are expected to get a hefty pay hike that will pay a premium to make up for all those years – at the very time when our economy is slowing and government debt is reaching eye-watering levels.

Our MPs are already among the most highly paid in the world, and when you add in their additional perks and spending allowances such as free travel (all of which are not subject to the Official Information Act 😠), taxpayers aren't getting a fair deal.

We say Christopher Luxon and his new government should follow Jacinda Ardern's lead and continue the pay freeze until the economy is in better shape and Kiwi familes aren't going without. Add your name to the petition here.

MP pay rise petition

So what else are we doing about it?

We have also written to the Remuneration Authority (the agency responsible for deciding MP pay) urging them to consider their legal requirement to be fair to taxpayers and also to take into account the wider economic mess we are currently in. Next week, we will meet with the Authority to argue that now is simply not the right time for taxpayer-funded pay hikes. 

Sadly, for too many in our Parliament, being an MP will be their best paid job in their lifetime. So much for service... 

You may have seen our social media adverts campaigning against the pay hike. If you would like to help us get the ads in front of even more people, you can support the campaign here.

You can also help by signing the petition and sharing with your friends on Facebook.

Chaos, confusion, and delays following health centralisation 👩🏼‍⚕️🤢

Health Ministers

As many predicted when the last Government decided to centralise the health system (in the middle of a pandemic...), we are now seeing the result of more bureaucracy and worse health outcomes for people seeking medical treatment.

Two different reports published in the last week lambasted the new Public Health Authority and National Public Health Service (Te Whatu Ora) for the omnishambles that is the current health system.

It is damning, but not unsurprising. The reviews show a culture of chaos, confusion, and delays. Some of the things revealed in the report seem more like something from a political satire than about one of our key public services, but the sad reality is that this is the state of our health system.

The report provided examples of the bureaucratic mess that was created including an instance when 10 different groups were doing risk assessments on the same issue, and another where health agencies were arguing with each other over who was in charge during the recent measles outbreak.

Taking health matters out of residents' hands has proven to be a massive mistake. The previous government’s obsession with centralisation has only sapped vital resources from our health system, generated more bureaucracy, and resulted in higher costs over improved health outcomes.

The new Government must focus on delivering improved health outcomes rather than continuing down the same path of pouring money into the backroom bureaucracies and making life harder for doctors and nurses.

Proposed land grab in Western Bay of Plenty – is your property next? 🏝️🤏

Mayor James Denyer

The Taxpayers' Union found itself having to stand up against a ludicrous suggestion from the Western Bay of Plenty District Council that would see its residents' private property confiscated without any compensation. If you live near the coast, your property could be next.

The proposed scheme would see the Government legislate away your rights to ownership of your own property and then rent it back to you on a long-term lease. Even though the lease cost would be almost nothing, it would tank your property value and could potentially lead to further restrictions around what you can do on your own property. 

The justification for the proposal was that climate change would soon make some areas unsuitable to live. We pointed out that these risks should be up to the property owners to decide, not for the Government to take control of the land by force. Land owners can take out insurance, sell the land, or move away – all of these decisions deal with the problem without any council or government involvement.

Some councillors slammed the idea, but unfortunately it was too late to change the submission given it had already been sent off to the Government. The Mayor appeared to justify this decision by saying that it had been raised with councillors in a workshop – you know, the secret meetings where decisions 'definitely are not made'.

Taxpayer Talk: Stephen Franks Provides an Update on the Three Waters Legal Challenge 🎙️🔊

Taxpayer Talk - Stephen Franks

This week on Taxpayer Talk, Jordan sat down with lawyer Stephen Franks to provide an update on the Three Waters legal challenge. Stephen is a founding director of the commercial and public law firm Franks Ogilvie, a former member of Parliament, and spokesperson for the Water Users' Group

Stephen's law firm has been leading the legal challenge against Three Waters, attempting to force Nanaia Mahuta to release the legal advice backing up her claim that co-governance was required under the Treaty of Waitangi. Unfortunately, this challenge was unsuccessful and was appealed to the Court of Appeal where it was again dismissed. We have decided to drop the case in order to focus our resources and efforts on developing a repeal and replacement bill for Three Waters now that we have a new Government committed to its repeal. 

The Local Water Infrastructure Bill that we have been developing addresses the infrastructure issues that were used as the justification for Three Waters but without the co-governance, seizure of local assets, and other numerous problems in the Three Waters legislation. You can read about our Local Water Infrastructure Bill here.

The Court of Appeal judgment can be read here.

Listen to the podcast by clicking here. You can also listen to Taxpayer Talk on Apple PodcastsSpotifyGoogle PodcastsiHeart Radio and all good podcast apps. Donate

Thank you for your support.

Connor

Connor_signature
Connor Molloy
Campaigns Manager
New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union.

Media coverage:

whatsoninvers NEW POLL: Kiwis Overwhelmingly Support Inflation-adjustment Of Income Tax Brackets

RNZ: The Panel with Boopsie Maran and Peter Dunne (Part 1) [8:10]

Waikato Times 
Two day Ministry of Justice event cost taxpayers $150k

The Platform Jordan Williams on polling, Reserve Bank and vaping legislation

NZ Herald Election 2023: The cost of Parliament’s three seat overhang MPs - and how only 29% is salary

The Platform Should government departments be giving contracts to lobbying firms?


Media Releases:

Taxpayers' Union – Curia Poll: November 2023

Taxpayers’ Union willing to work with Greens on member’s bill to end Beehive to Lobbyist revolving door

NEW POLL: National/ACT/NZ First Hold Governing Position, Luxon Shoots Ahead To Become Easily The Preferred PM

Chlöe Swarbrick’s Pork Barrel Politics Deserves Criticism

Wellington City Council Wants Its Pound Of Flesh From Ratepayers

Further Headaches For Floundering Public Health System Demonstrate The Failures Of Centralisation

Western Bay Of Plenty Land Grab Proposal An Affront To The Right To Property

Taxpayers’ Union Calls For Prosecution Of Person Who Played Campaign Song At Polling Booth

Transparency Test Failed: Key Ministries Yet To Embrace Ombudsman's Tool

All Revved Up With No Trucks To Show: Hydrogen Project Gaslights Taxpayers

Kāpiti Coast Councillors Need Reminding What Democracy Looks Like

Brand Over Budget: Hastings Council's $70,000 Logo Splurge

 

The Taxpayers' Union can reveal that the Hastings District Council has spent over $70,000 on its recent rebranding initiative. A staggering $46,512 was allocated to "Strategy & Creative" for the logo's design and development, with an additional $19,850 for signage guidelines development.

"It's both startling and disheartening to witness such a significant portion of ratepayer money—equivalent to 24 years’ worth of the average residential ratepayer's rates in Hastings —being used on mere branding," said Oliver Bryan, Investigations Coordinator at the Taxpayers' Union. "This comes as the average residential ratepayers' rates have gone up by 7% in the past year."

"Councils are not corporations competing for market share. They are service providers funded by ratepayers. This kind of extravagant spending on branding starkly deviates from their primary responsibilities. It's high time councils prioritize tangible community benefits over transient branding exercises, particularly during times when pressing challenges, like cyclone recovery, loom large.”

“In an era where every dollar counts and communities confront genuine challenges, it's crucial for local councils to demonstrate fiscal responsibility.”

Kāpiti Coast Councillors Need Reminding What Democracy Looks Like

 

Responding to Kāpiti Coast District Council’s plans to ignore the results of a local consultation and push through the creation of a Māori ward regardless, Taxpayers’ Union Policy Adviser, James Ross, said:

“Democracy is a fragile thing, and it is not for councillors to decide how they are elected. It belongs to all residents, and no change to the electoral system should take place without a binding referendum first being held. Labour’s shamefully anti-democratic ban on binding referendums needs overturning immediately by the incoming Government.
 
“Public consultation showed that almost 70% of Kāpiti Coast residents are opposed to the watering down of their local democracy, and until that is no longer the case that should be the end of the matter. Councillors need to remember that they serve and represent local residents, not their own ideologies.
 
“Mayor Holborow’s twisted assertion that although the public opposed these plans, they’re fine to move forward anyway because younger voters support them is laughable. Picking and choosing who to listen to based on nothing more than which group happens to agree with them has revealed the disgusting lack of respect for democracy at this council."

All Revved Up with No Trucks to Show: Hydrogen Project Gaslights Taxpayers

 

The Taxpayers' Union can reveal that a $6 million taxpayer-funded hydrogen truck initiative has failed to deliver a single truck, despite promises that they would be on the road by 2022.

Oliver Bryan, Investigations Coordinator at the Taxpayers’ Union, expressed dismay, stating, "It's an affront to taxpayers that a project heavily funded by the outdated COVID Response and Recovery Fund has yielded nothing but empty promises. The corporate welfare for a project that wouldn’t even reduce emissions, due to transport emissions already being governed by the Emissions Trading Scheme, is bad enough. However, the fact that the government has nothing to show for it at all is even worse."

"This is not merely a case of unfortunate delays – it's a glaring example of misused public funds on a project that appears ill-prepared and poorly executed. This initiative should never have been funded in the first place, but after its clear failings, this money should be returned to taxpayers."

"The new government needs to intervene immediately. Every day that this project continues without results is another day taxpayers are left footing the bill for a scheme that was never going to be effective."

Transparency Test Failed: Key Ministries Yet to Embrace Ombudsman's Tool

 

Taxpayers’ Union OIA's reveal that despite the Chief Ombudsman's introduction of a self-assessment tool in July, aimed at enhancing public sector transparency and adherence to official information protocols, prominent ministries and agencies including Waka Kotahi, the Ministry of Health, and the Ministry of Justice have yet to utilize it as of September.
 
Oliver Bryan, Investigations Coordinator at the Taxpayers' Union, said, "It's a glaring irony: departments and Ministries hesitant to use a tool explicitly designed to enhance their transparency and reputation, especially concerning the OIA. It's truly baffling that ministries, which frequently find themselves under the public microscope, are dragging their feet on a tool that promotes better governance. Is it simply a case of old habits dying hard? Or is there an underlying apprehension about transparency?"
 
"While these ministries play catch-up with good governance tools, one wonders how many other departments and ministries are also stuck in the bureaucratic doldrums. This isn't a game of hide and seek; it's about ensuring transparency and building trust with the taxpayers who fund these agencies."
 
"We urge the incoming government to show leadership on this issue. It is imperative to ensure all departments, irrespective of their size, employ the Chief Ombudsman's tool. Beyond the immediate operational advantages, this is a clear way to signal commitment to openness and build faith with the New Zealand public."

Taxpayers’ Union calls for prosecution of person who played campaign song at polling booth

 

The Taxpayers’ Union is calling on the Electoral Commission to prosecute and fine the individual or organisation responsible for playing Te Pāti Māori’s campaign song at a polling booth on Election Day under s 197 of the Electoral Act 1993.

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

“The Electoral Commission must come down hard on this to send a message that breaches of electoral rules are a serious offence and any attempt, no matter how small, to interfere with the democratic process will be met with the full force of the law. Democracy is a sacred institution and critical for ensuring accountability for decision makers, we must not let public trust in it be eroded by what appear to be tacit political endorsements at state-run polling stations.

“What is particularly concerning is that this occurred at a polling station in an electorate that was won by a margin of just four votes. If even just a few people were influenced by this, we would have had a different election result. If strong action is not taken, future political parties or candidates may determine it is worth breaking the rules in a marginal electorate if the only punishment is a slap on the wrist.

“A swift and public investigation and prosecution must take place to send a clear message: New Zealand will not tolerate behaviour that breaches electoral rules.”

Western Bay of Plenty Land Grab proposal an affront to the right to property

 

The Taxpayers' Union is slamming the Western Bay of Plenty District Council's suggestion that the Government forcefully take ownership of private property from its residents without compensation and lease it back to them as part of a climate change managed retreat framework.

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

"While coastal erosion and other climate-related risks to properties are serious issues, it is an affront to the fundamental human right to private property – especially when managed retreat can occur without the need for confiscating private property.

"The council could simply state that they will not bail out owners of land or property in at-risk areas and leave it up to private citizens to decide whether to continue living there, get insurance, or build resilience infrastructure such as sea walls.

"Under the Council's proposal, families would be stripped of their ownership of their properties, and although they would be able to lease them back, the property value would significantly deteriorate over time. This ludicrous suggestion by the Council belongs in dystopian fiction, not in modern-day New Zealand."

Further headaches for floundering public health system demonstrate the failures of centralisation

 

Responding to two different reports published in the last week lambasting the struggles that the new Public Health Authority and National Public Health Service (Te Whatu Ora) are experiencing daily, Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, says:

“Taking health matters out of resident’s hands has proven to be a massive mistake, with the previous government’s obsession with centralisation sapping vital resources from our health system and has generated more bureaucracy and cost rather than improved health outcomes.

"It is damning, but not unsurprising, that reviews of these new entities show a culture of chaos, confusion and constraints – a true bureaucratic mess, exactly as predicted when the decision to centralise control and decision making away from local communities.

“Having a publicly funded health system does not necessitate having the government providing every service. Where a service can be provided sooner, cheaper or to a higher standard than the public health system, patients should have the choice to take their funding elsewhere to bring much needed competition to our healthcare."

Wellington City Council Wants its Pound of Flesh from Ratepayers

Responding to leaked sources claiming Wellington residents could face an annual rates rise of up to 20%, Taxpayers’ Union Policy Adviser, James Ross, said:

“Wellington City Council rates have already risen by almost 40% in just three short years, and we’re now in a position where proposals for a 65% rise over just four years are reportedly being considered. If that doesn’t scream poor management, then I don’t know what does.

“With an estimated $1 billion a year needed to get the water pipes that the council has allowed to crumble back up to snuff, Wellington is facing a financial crisis. Now is not the time to be wasting hundreds of millions of dollars on vanity projects like Let’s Get Wellington Moving and the town hall restoration.

“The fact that discussions around rates rises reportedly took place in backroom ‘workshops’ closed to the public is a disgrace. There is no legitimate justification for any council to shirk their responsibilities to be open and transparent with the hardworking ratepayers who pay their wages.”

Chlöe Swarbrick’s pork barrel politics deserves criticism

The Taxpayers’ Union is calling out the Green Party MP for Auckland Central, Chlöe Swarbrick, for engaging in pork-barrel politics in relation to her calls for regulation and subsidies for the Waiheke Island’s ferry services.

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

“Waiheke Island is home to some of the wealthiest communities in the country, and taxpayers and local ratepayers should not be forced so subsidise those who choose to live on an island away from the central city. This looks and smells like pork-barrel politics from a local MP reaching for handouts for her most well-off constituents.

“If the local MP is concerned about affordability of ferry services, she should focus on advocating for the removal of barriers to entry that make it difficult for new competitors begin to operations. Another, more cost-effective option would be to instead target the support at those on lower incomes such as community services card holders rather than a blanket subsidy that applies just as equally to luxury home owners.

“This isn’t the first time we’ve seen pork-barrel politics from Swarbrick. Her members bill to ban alcohol advertising in sport included a carve-out that would exclude the America’s Cup from having to abide by the new rules – an event that is conveniently held in her electorate.”

NEW POLL: National/ACT/NZ First hold Governing position, Luxon shoots ahead to become easily the preferred PM

National is down 1 point to 37% and Labour is up 1 point to 28% when compared with the election result. ACT is down 1 point to 8%, the Greens are up 2 points to 14% and NZ First remains unchanged on 6%.

The smaller parties are the Māori Party on 3.4% (+0.3 points since the election), TOP on 2.9% (+0.7 points), New Conservatives on 0.7% (+0.5 points) and Vision NZ on 0.3% (+0.3 points).

National is down 2 seats on the election result to 46 seats and Labour gain 1 seat to 35. ACT is down 1 to 10 seats while the Greens are up 2 to 17. New Zealand First and the Māori Party remain steady on 8 and 6 seats respectively.

The combined projected seats for the Centre-Right (now including NZ First) of 64 seats is down 3 from the election result while the the combined seats for the Centre-Left bloc of 58 is up 3. On these numbers, a National/ACT/NZ First Government would still be able to form.

Christopher Luxon has risen in this month’s preferred Prime Minister poll to 33% (+4 points). Chris Hipkins has dropped substantially to 18% (-9 points). David Seymour remains unchanged at 4% while 5.6% of people would still prefer Jacinda Ardern.

Chloë Swarbrick is up 0.2 points to 6.3%, Winston Peters is up 0.7 points to 5.0%, Nicola Willis drops 1.2 points to 1.3%, James Shaw is up 0.2 points to 1.4%, and Matt King has dropped 0.3 points to 0.4%. Marama Davidson has dropped 0.8 points to 0.4% while Chris Bishop has increased 0.5 points to 0.6%.

The net country direction is up 10 points to -20%. 29% (+1 point) of New Zealanders think the country is heading in the right direction while 49% (-10 points) say the wrong direction.

More detailed results are available on our website.

Taxpayers' Union – Curia Poll: November 2023

Here are the headline results for November's Taxpayers’ Union – Curia Poll:

Decided Party Vote over time

Party

Support

Change compared to election result

National

37.0%

↓1.1

Labour

28.3%

↑1.4

ACT

8.1%

↓0.5

Green

13.8%

↑2.2

NZ First

6.0%

↓0.1

Māori

3.4%

↑0.3

Other

3.7%

↓1.8

National is down 1 point to 37% and Labour is up 1 point to 28% when compared with the election result. ACT is down 1 point to 8%, the Greens are up 2 points to 14% and NZ First remains unchanged on 6%.

The smaller parties are the Māori Party on 3.4% (+0.3 points since the election), TOP on 2.9% (+0.7 points), New Conservatives on 0.7% (+0.5 points) and Vision NZ on 0.3% (+0.3 points).

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

Seats

Party

Seats

Change compared to election result

National

46

↓2

Labour

35

↑1

Green

17

↑2

ACT

10

↓1

NZ First

8

nc

Māori

6

nc

National is down 2 seats on the election result to 46 seats and Labour gain 1 seat to 35. ACT is down 1 to 10 seats while the Greens are up 2 to 17. New Zealand First and the Māori Party remain steady on 8 and 6 seats respectively.  

Projected Seats

The combined projected seats for the Centre-Right (now including NZ First) of 64 seats is down 3 from the election result while the the combined seats for the Centre-Left bloc of 58 is up 3.

We now have a larger Parliament due to the two overhang seats created from the Māori electorates, but this result would still allow National/ACT/NZ First to form a government. 

Note: From June 2023, the Māori Party has been included in the Centre-Left bloc given National’s decision to rule out forming a government with them. New Zealand First is now included in the Centre-Right Bloc.

Preferred PM

Christopher Luxon has risen in this month’s preferred Prime Minister poll to 33% (+4 points). Chris Hipkins has dropped substantially to 18% (-9 points). David Seymour remains unchanged at 4% while 5.6% of people would still prefer Jacinda Ardern.

Chloë Swarbrick is up 0.2 points to 6.3%, Winston Peters is up 0.7 points to 5.0%, Nicola Willis drops 1.2 points to 1.3%, James Shaw is up 0.2 points to 1.4%, and Matt King has dropped 0.3 points to 0.4%. Marama Davidson has dropped 0.8 points to 0.4% while Chris Bishop has increased 0.5 points to 0.6%.

Country Direction Over Time

The net country direction is up 10 points to -20%. 29% (+1 point) of New Zealanders think the country is heading in the right direction while 49% (-10 points) say the wrong direction. 

For the full polling report, covering the detailed insights the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition are used to receiving, join our Taxpayer Caucus – our club of most generous financial supporters who make our work possible.


The scientific poll was conducted by Curia Market Research and commissioned by the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union. The full polling report is being released exclusively to members of our Taxpayer Caucus. As is well known, but for full disclosure, David Farrar co-founded the Taxpayers' Union and previously served on its board. He is also a Director of Curia Market Research Ltd.

The Taxpayers’ Union – Curia Poll was conducted from Wednesday 01 November to Monday 06 November 2023. The median response was collected on Thursday 02 November 2023. The sample size was 1,000 eligible New Zealand voters: 800 by phone and 200 by online panel. 903 respondents were decided on the party vote.The sample selection for the phone panel is from those who are contactable on a landline or mobile phone selected at random from 15,000 nationwide phone numbers plus a random selection from an online panel (that complies with ESOMAR guidelines for online research). The results are weighted to reflect the overall voting adult population in terms of gender, age, and area. Based on this sample of 1,000 respondents, the maximum sampling error (for a result of 50%) is +/- 3.1%, at the 95% confidence level. Results for sub-groups such as age and area will have a much higher margin of error and not seen as precise.

The polling questions and the order in which they were asked can be found here.

This poll should be formally referred to as the “Taxpayers’ Union – Curia Poll”.

Taxpayer Update: NEW POLL 📊💥 | $200k Golden Goodbye for CEO 💸 | Adrian Orr's Bonus 💰 | The change that is needed

Callum is taking a post election break this week (and he surely deserves it!), so I've taken the helm to fight for taxpayers as we wait and see what the new government will look like (and, more importantly, what pre-election promises are actually followed through on!).

In this week's edition, we have the first post-election poll (it seems New Zealanders are warming to the idea of "Prime Minister Christopher Luxon"), continue to tackle outright waste and lack of accountability in local government, and tackle the very thorny issue of vaping regulation vs the government's financial incentive to keep people addicted to smoking.

A $200k "golden goodbye" for CEO who got the job with a false CV

Last week the Taxpayers’ Union was contacted by The Press newspaper following up an old story about a former CEO of Christchurch City Holdings, Tim Boyd, having allegedly lied about his work history to get the job heading Christchurch City Council's investment arm.

It turns out that the former CEO received a $200,000 payout after just six months on the job, two months of which he was on leave! It is also alleged that he is wanted in the USA over unresolved drink driving charges.

The $200,000 payout, equivalent to the rates bill of 66 Christchurch ratepayers, appears more reminiscent of a lottery win than a disciplinary action for alleged dishonesty towards an employer.

Mr Boyd's short-lived tenure, earning a lofty annual salary of $430,000 despite the apparent circumstances raises serious questions about the CCO’s recruitment practices – especially with the string of resignations at the organisation last year it is clear that Councillors should be demanding answers.

Former CCHL CEO, Tim Boyd

We say that no public employee being paid more than a Cabinet Minister should be receiving a payout for what looks, on the face of it, a justified dismissal!

After the story was published, we were contacted by Tim Boyd who disputes the Stuff account in full (including that he’s been fraudulent or otherwise acted unethically). But he also says he is covered by a gag clause – despite the Council clearly briefing the media that Mr Boyd was shown the exit because of the honesty matter.

So which is it? A Council covering-up a wider agenda to get rid of a CEO? Or a CEO that should never have been hired in the first place? Either way, this is a terrible look for Christchurch City Council – and your humble Taxpayers' Union will keep digging...

Where is the accountability for failure? Inflation remains sky high, but Adrian Orr gets his bonus anyway! 📈 💥

If you or I missed our targets at work for more than two years, we’d be out the door quicker than a rat up a drainpipe, but we've discovered that the normal rules don’t apply at the Reserve Bank.

For 29 months, Reserve Bank Governor Adrian Orr, has failed to get inflation within the target rate set for him. The whole idea of the independent reserve bank is to avoid politicians manipulating the setting of the Official Cash Rate (which is the cost of borrowing for the banks, and therefore affect interest rates) so as not to 'overheat' the economy and run economic booms and busts around the electoral cycle.

But it doesn't take an expert in monetary policy to tell you that the current governor is the worst (and most outrageously political) governor of the Bank, in 40+ years.

Independence is one thing, but we face a situation where the governor is unwilling (or unable?) to do his job - we say it's time for Adrian Orr to move on.

You had one job, Adrian!  🤦

Not only has Adrian Orr ballooned out inflation, he's keen for the Bank to work on everything else, but, well, their job.

Instead of speeches on monetary policy, Adrian Orr has been flying around the world to give speeches about climate change and comparing the financial sector to a forest with himself as Tāne Mahuta – the god of the forest (yes, seriously, you couldn't make this up).

And Grant Robertson's ol' mate Adrian shows no sign of changing tack: Last week, Orr gave a speech on inflation and how the Bank plans to get on top of New Zealand's cost of living crisis climate change at the 'Chapter Zero NZ' breakfast.

Despite disastrously failing to control prices and continuing to stray outside of his responsibility, Adrian Orr still managed to bag himself a $20,000 pay rise this year putting his salary now at a very nice $853,810 – almost 13 times the average New Zealand wage and nearly double that of the Prime Minister.

We say the next Minister of Finance needs to make clear: do your job Adrian or get a new one. New Zealand needs a boring, old school, inflation-busting central banker. A Don Brash, or Roderick Deane, not a Greta Thunberg.

NEW POLL: National/ACT/NZ First hold Governing position, Luxon shoots ahead to become easily the preferred PM

The first political poll since the election, is good news for Prime Minister-elect Christopher Luxon. Here are the headline results:

Decided Party Vote

National is down slightly to 37% (-1.1 points) and Labour is up to 28.3% (+1.4 points) when compared with the election result. This is the fifth month in a row that Labour remains below 30%. ACT is down to 8.1% (-0.5 points), the the Greens are up to 13.8% (+2.2 points) while NZ First drops slightly to 6% (-0.1 points). The results for the smaller parties are over on our website.

On these results, National, ACT and NZ First are ahead by a slightly smaller margin than the election.

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

Seats

National is down 2 seats on the election result to 46 seats and Labour gain 1 to 35. ACT is down 1 to 10 seats while the Greens are up 2 to 17. New Zealand First and the Māori Party remain steady on 8 and 6 seats respectively.  

The combined projected seats for the Centre-Right (now including NZ First) of 64 seats is down 3 from the election result while the the combined seats for the Centre-Left bloc of 58 is up 3.

We now have a larger Parliament due to the two overhang seats created from the Māori electorates, but this result would still allow National/ACT/NZ First to form a government. 

Good news for Luxon: shoots ahead as 'Preferred PM'

Preferred PM

Christopher Luxon has risen in this month’s preferred PM measure to 33% (+4 points). Chris Hipkins dropped substantially to 18% (-9 points). David Seymour remains unchanged at 4% while 5.6% of people would still prefer Jacinda Ardern! (the preferred prime minister question is unprompted, so the pollsters note whatever name the participant says, rather than giving them options).

Chloë Swarbrick is up 0.2 points to 6.3%, Winston Peters is up 0.7 points to 5.0%, Nicola Willis drops 1.2 points to 1.3%, James Shaw is up 0.2 points to 1.4%, and Matt King has dropped 0.3 points to 0.4%. Marama Davidson has dropped 0.8 points to 0.4% while Chris Bishop has increased 0.5 points to 0.6%.

More information, including 'country direction' data, and details of how to get access to the full polling report with demographic breakdowns is here.

Congratulations Casey! 🎉

Casey Costello

With special votes counted, we now officially know who the new entrants to Parliament will be (subject to the few recounts).

Included in the class of 2023 is our very own Casey Costello (pictured) who is a former chair of the Taxpayers' Union Board – we congratulate Casey on her success.

Parliament's "new kids on the block" 🏫👶

We have written to the latest intake of MPs offering our support in helping them advocate for Lower Taxes, Less Waste and More Accountability – no matter which political party they belong to. We will work with and support any MP on policy or members bills that furthers this mission.

We also reminded them (including Casey!) that we are here to hold them to account for the decisions they make about taxpayer money. So welcome to Wellington! 😉

"Fiddling won't cut it – Fundamental Reform is Required"

Ruth Richardson Newshub Nation

"Fiddling won't cut it – Fundamental Reform is Required"

Those were the words of advice from Taxpayers' Union board member (and former Finance Minister) Ruth Richardson for the next Minister of Finance. 

Now that a new Government is merely a matter of paperwork, we need real and comprehensive reform that sets New Zealand on a new path towards prosperity and growth. Under Helen Clark, John Key, and Jacinda Ardern the gap between New Zealand and Australia continued to widen.

We shouldn't settle for being the poor cousin to Australia – looking over the ditch at what they can (and we can't) afford. We say Mr Luxon needs to get us on a new path, and get to work and deliver on his mandate from voters to slash wasteful spending, cut red tape, and unwind the damage of big, dumb, high-cost government. 

Along with scrapping Labour's expensive and undemocratic policies of the past three years, we also need comprehensive reform. That means slashing the size of the public service and reshaping it to be focused on delivery rather than serve the interests of the bureaucracy in Wellington.

With a 68% increase in Government spending since 2017 and nothing to show for it, it’s time to live within our means and force Wellington to embrace private enterprise, localism, and lean, efficient, accountable government. Only then can Nicola Willis balance the books, stop the Debt Clock, and get New Zealand 'back on track'.

Two minutes of Ruth should be compulsory viewing for every new MP and Minister!

Fighting back against World Health Organisation's campaign for Australian-style vape ban 💨

Later this month, thousands of bureaucrats from around the world (and a handful from New Zealand) will be meeting in Panama to discuss World Health Organisation proposals to all but outlaw vaping. Sounds noble, but it's another case of prioritising good intentions over real solutions.

New Zealand is one of the most successful counties in recent years at getting smokers to quit. How did we do it? Vaping.

But now the WHO and governments from around the world are trying to gang up and force Australian-style vaping bans regulations on all members.

We're beating Australia! But WHO wants us to copy them anyway! 😒🇺🇳

Compared to New Zealand, Australia has failed to slash smoking rates. Australia is one of the only countries with higher tobacco taxes than New Zealand, but unlike New Zealand their smoking rates remain high. That's because they, in effect, ban vaping – the companies that sell nicotine patches successfully lobbied for this, and the Australian Government is just as addicted to the huge revenue stream smokers generate.

An Australian-style ban on vaping would mean even more power and money to illegal criminal gangs, worse health outcomes for those trying to quit smoking and even more costs imposed on all taxpayers through increased crime as the black market for tobacco continues to grow. Already, one in eight cigarettes smoked in New Zealand is from the criminal market, imagine how many more smokers will be going to the gangs when the WHO slash the nicotine content of legal/regulated cigarettes while simultaneously making it harder to switch to the safer and cheaper alternative – vaping. 

So taxpayer groups around the world are joining forces with independent smokefree groups to resist what the WHO is trying to do.

Vaping has already helped tens of thousands of New Zealanders successfully quit cigarettes and our smoking rate is now one of the lowest in the world putting us well on the pathway to our smoke-free goals: we should be selling the success story, not selling out to big tobacco! 

In New Zealand, credit where credit is due. Helen Clark's anti-smoking group "ASH" has long pointed out that vaping is the most successful smoking cessation tool yet.

No vape ban

The WHO – despite the sea of evidence, and anti-smoking groups lining up with unlikely friends from the taxpayer movement – have failed to justify their claims when challenged. They have instead opted to cloak the conference in secrecy by limiting who can even see the conference agenda!

If you're a vaper (or smoker hoping to quit), we've created a simple email tool that allows you to email New Zealand’s WHO delegates and urge them to take an evidenced-based approach to tobacco harm-reduction rather than giving in to the pressure from WHO bureaucrats and countries who export tobacco plants. Use our fully-customisable email tool at www.NoVapeBan.nz

One more thing: although I am a huge fan of vaping for the reasons above, as a parent I worry too about kids taking up vaping. But the two aren't mutually exclusive. The short point is, do we want to force vaping underground as it is in Australia, or actually ensure the age restrictions are in place and enforced? (the government is clearly currently doing a terrible job at that!).

Taxpayer Talk: Dr Oliver Hartwich On How The Incoming Government Should Reform The Public Service

Oliver Hartwich - Taxpayer Talk

This week on Taxpayer Talk, I sat down with the Executive Director of The New Zealand Initiative, Dr Oliver Hartwich, to discuss how the incoming Government should reform the public service. Despite a mandate for change and a desire to unwind many of the policies of the previous Government, the new National-led government may face challenges with navigating the complex and bloated bureaucracy of the public service – something that may prove to be a roadblock to much-needed reform. 

In the podcast, Dr Hartwich discusses a range of potential ways to make the public service function better under the new Government ranging from bringing forward the retirement of the Public Service Commissioner, to bringing the Commissioner under direct ministerial oversight as part of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, to establishing ministers' offices in the relevant government departments rather than in the Beehive. 

Listen to the podcast by clicking here. You can also listen to Taxpayer Talk on Apple PodcastsSpotifyGoogle PodcastsiHeart Radio and all good podcast apps. 

Thank you for your support.

Jordan

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

Media coverage:

RNZ  What stands in the way of the ACT Party plan for a referendum on the Treaty of Waitangi

Otago Daily Times Uni travel budget blows out
The Press Disgraced former CEO got a $200,000 ‘golden kiss goodbye’

The Conversation  National drops 2 seats on NZ final results, and will need NZ First to form government

Stuff Inside the National caucus, MPs are frustrated and want a radical change

The Platform Wakey, wakey, mainstream media!

Newsroom On water reform National and Act are sailing on same course

Politik Why Labour Lost

Democracy Project Should government departments be giving contracts to lobbying firms?

Media Releases:

Bureaucracy bloat continues – managers growing three times as fast as frontline staff

New Parliament must deliver comprehensive reform for a more prosperous future

Taxpayers’ Union congratulates former Chair on election into Parliament

Pipes Not the Only Thing Failing at Wellington City Council

Taxpayers' Union Calls for Probe into Commission's Favouritism for 'SenateSHJ'

Taxpayers’ Union celebrates Taxpayer Appreciation Day

Taxpayers’ Union calls on opposition to focus on good policy, not politics

Taxpayers’ Union willing to work with Greens on member’s bill to end Beehive to Lobbyist revolving door

 

Following revelations that Ministry of Justice officials are concerned that “[m]ovement between roles in government and lobbying agencies can result in misuse of privileged information and unfair access”, the Taxpayers’ Union is reaffirming its commitment to work with any MP, regardless of their party, to end the business of Ministers becoming lobbyists to sell access to and information about the beehive.

Taxpayers’ Union Executive Director, Jordan Williams, said:

“New Zealand is out of step with countries we compare ourselves to. Allowing Ministers to resign from Parliament on one day and begin for-profit lobbying of their colleagues the next is a recipe for corruption and special treatment.

“In recent years, we have seen former Ministers Faafoi, Nash, and now Allan all moving into lobbying roles while their literal Beehive security passes still let them into the building. While no one would suggest they have acted in a corrupt way, the short point is that the revolving door should not be allowed.

“Being a representative in Parliament is a privilege, not a leg-up for politicians to get into the lucrative industry of selling access and information for personal profit. This political revolving door undermines our democratic institutions and must stop.

“If putting a door stop into place means that higher salaries are justified for MPs and Ministers, then so be it. The costs to our democracy, and reduced risk of corruption - whether real or perceived - are so much greater.

“Australia and the UK both require a cooldown period before Government Ministers can move into lobbying roles. We will work with and support any MP to sponsor a member’s bill that implements a cooldown period for Ministers. We’ll even fundraise to commission expert lawyers to do the drafting. This is too important an issue to leave hanging.”

Taxpayers’ Union calls on opposition to focus on good policy, not politics

 

Responding to news that a range of new taxes, including wealth and capital gains tax, are back on the table as potential Labour Party policies, the Taxpayers’ Union is calling on them to focus on good policy, not politics.

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

“Taxes on wealth and capital are terrible policies that never achieve their intended goals and have disastrous unintended consequences for jurisdictions that do implement them.

“Instead, the focus for the new opposition should be on offering a principled critique of government policies and on offering practical solutions to the country’s problems.

“The Taxpayers’ Union will work with any opposition MP on issues of transparency, accountability or reducing wasteful spending such as corporate welfare. Rather than playing politics, we encourage the opposition to fight for good lawmaking processes, improved accountability for decision-makers and more transparency for those holding the purse strings and levers of power.”

Stephen Franks provides an update on the Three Waters legal challenge

This week on Taxpayer Talk, Taxpayers' Union Executive Director, Jordan Williams, sits down with lawyer Stephen Franks to provide an update on the Three Waters legal challenge. Stephen is a founding director of the commercial and public law firm Franks Ogilvie, a former member of Parliament and spokesperson for the Water Users' Group. 

Franks Ogilvie has been leading the legal challenge against Three Waters that, among other things, aimed to force the Minister of Local Government, Nanaia Mahuta, to release her legal advice that co-governance of Three Waters infrastructure was required under the Treaty of Waitangi. Unfortunately, this challenge was unsuccessful and was appealed to the Court of Appeal where the challenge was again dismissed. We have decided to drop the case in order to focus our resources and efforts on developing a repeal and replacement bill for Three Waters. 

The Local Water Infrastructure Bill that we have been developing addresses the infrastructure issues that were used as the justification for Three Waters but without the co-governance, seizure of local assets and other numerous problems in the Three Waters legislation. You can read about our Local Water Infrastructure Bill here. 

The Court of Appeal judgment can be read here. 

To support Taxpayer Talk, click here

If you have any comments, questions or suggestions, feel free to email [email protected] 

You can also listen to Taxpayer Talk on Apple PodcastsSpotifyGoogle PodcastsiHeart Radio and all good podcast apps. 

Taxpayers’ Union celebrates Taxpayer Appreciation Day

 

The Taxpayers’ Union is today celebrating Taxpayer Appreciation Day to recognise the hard work of taxpayers who pay the bills of politicians and bureaucrats each and every day.

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

“This year’s Taxpayer Appreciation Day is bittersweet for the team at the Taxpayers’ Union. We admire and celebrate the resilience of taxpayers who show up to work each day despite an ever-growing tax burden but is saddening to see that over the years more and more of their hard-earned money has been wasted away on fuelling an ever-growing bureaucracy that fails to deliver better public services.

“We are calling on those parties who are currently in negotiations to spare a thought for the humble taxpayer on this day and advocate for the side of lower taxes, less waste and more accountability. For far too long, those in the bureaucracy have had an easy ride with salaries well above the average Kiwi, extended holidays and hiding behind a veil of secrecy rather than openness, accountability and neutrality as the spirit of the public service intends.

“We hope that today all politicians and bureaucrats extend their gratitude to taxpayers, for after all without them they would not get paid.”

Taxpayers' Union Calls for Probe into Commission's Favouritism for 'SenateSHJ'

The Taxpayers’ Union’s Investigations Coordinator, Oliver Bryan, strongly condemns the recent revelations regarding the Commerce Commission’s engagement with SenateSHJ, a public relations and lobbying firm. “The Taxpayers’ Union finds it utterly unacceptable that the Commerce Commission, a regulatory body entrusted with ensuring fair play in the market, has seemingly allowed a lobbying firm to gain advantageous access. This firm, SenateSHJ, according to its own website, represents clients in the oil, gas and energy sectors – the very industries the Commission is supposed to regulate impartially.”

“When a regulatory body allows a lobbying firm - representing the very interests it is supposed to regulate - privileged access, it undermines public trust and questions the integrity of the regulatory processes."

"By embedding SenateSHJ directly inside the Commerce Commission and providing them with official resources, the Commission has effectively allowed a lobbying firm to infiltrate and potentially manipulate regulatory processes. This is a blatant conflict of interest, undermining the Commission’s role as an unbiased regulator and betraying public trust.”

“This situation is not just a matter of poor judgment but highlights a concerning breach in the ethical standards expected of such a regulatory body. It gives the impression that certain companies, through their lobbying representatives, might wield undue influence over the regulatory framework that should, in principle, treat all entities equally and fairly.”

“Adding insult to injury, despite the Commerce Commission’s $1.7 million expenditure on communications staff, they still felt the need to consult external companies like SenateSHJ. This decision not only questions the capabilities of the Commission’s internal team but also highlights a wasteful overlap in resource allocation.”

“We call for a thorough investigation into the nature of the relationship between the Commerce Commission and SenateSHJ. It is imperative to ensure that no undue influence has been exerted on the Commission’s decision-making processes. The public deserves transparency and reassurance that regulatory bodies like the Commerce Commission operate without bias or preferential treatment.”

Pipes Not the Only Thing Failing at Wellington City Council

 

Commenting on the news that upgrading Wellington’s ageing and leaking pipe network could cost a billion dollars a year, Taxpayers’ Union Policy Adviser, James Ross, said:

“After years of financial mismanagement, Wellington City Council claims that it cannot afford to maintain core services such as water infrastructure. Why then if WCC can’t afford to do the basics it is still very happy to burn hundreds of millions on vanity projects like Let’s Get Wellington Moving?

“Mayor Whanau claimed that fixing the pipes was her top priority. Up to $329 million being wasted on the town hall restoration, let alone any Central Library and Michael Fowler Centre projects, shows the reality at WCC to be very different. The five councillors facing disciplinary proceedings shortly after opposing $32 million being wasted subsidising the multinational owners of the Reading Cinema can attest to that.

“The message from struggling ratepayers is clear; stop wasting hard-earned money on nice-to-haves whilst you let the need-to-haves fall apart.”

New Parliament must deliver comprehensive reform for a more prosperous future

The Taxpayers’ Union congratulates the members of the new Parliament and is calling on them to immediately begin delivering on the mandate from voters by slashing spending, cutting red tape, and unwinding the damage of big, inefficient, and high-cost government.

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

“Scrapping Three Waters, restarting resource management reforms and rolling back unaccountable ‘co-governance’ initiatives is not enough. The key focus should be to slash government spending, which has driven inflation and lead to New Zealand’s cost-of-living crisis.

“The cost-of-living crisis has been driven by a cost-of-government crisis. Only Parliament can fix it, and must do so if we are to avoid cripplingly high interest rates or continued high inflation.

“Along with reforming the Public Service to increase transparency and accountability, MPs need to tackle slashing the size of Wellington’s maze of back offices within the first 100 days.

“Mr Luxon was elected on the back of the outgoing government hiring 16,000 extra bureaucrats, and lowering the proportion of front line public sector workers. Those 16,000 should be served their notice – right now – that there is a new sheriff in town, and their time is up.

“Big government has yet again failed. With a 68% increase in Government spending since 2017 and nothing to show for it, it’s time to live within our means and force Wellington to embrace private enterprise, localism, and lean, efficient, accountable government so that the books are balanced and New Zealand can start to catch up with Australia.

“Incoming MPs can consider themselves put on notice by the Taxpayers’ Union – we will continue to staunchly advocate against, and expose, any policies or spending that are counter to taxpayers’ interests or conflict with the mission of Lower Taxes, Less Waste and More Accountability.”

Taxpayers’ Union congratulates former Chair on election into Parliament

The Taxpayers’ Union congratulates former Chair, and businesswoman, Casey Costello on her election to Parliament as a NZ First MP today.

Taxpayers’ Union Executive Director, Jordan Williams, said:

“Those who have worked with Casey will know that she is an extraordinary woman. Hardworking, ethical, and principled, we are are delighted to see her in Parliament.”

“As is detailed in our 10-year anniversary book out later this month, Casey helped me and the organisation at a difficult time and set us up for the success that was the Three Waters campaign. While losing her from our Board was a blow, it is wonderful that Parliament will now have her skillset.

“I’m proud that the Taxpayers’ Union doesn’t fit the mould of any particular political party.  We know from our supporter surveys that our 200,000 subscribers vary as much as our staff, and board members, in supporting parties on the left, right, and centre. While reasonable minds may differ on the size and precise role of the state, all of us agree that New Zealanders are better off with effective, efficient, transparent and accountable public services.

“We will of course hold Casey’s feet to the fire just like we do for every decision maker who spends taxpayers’ money.  But I can say that in ten years of the Taxpayers’ Union, Casey is one of the most energetic but wise people we’ve come across.  We wish her every success as a new MP.”

Bureaucracy bloat continues – managers growing three times as fast as frontline staff

The Taxpayers' Union is reiterating it's earlier calls for the need to slash the size of the Public Service following newly released workforce data from the Public Service Commission showing the number of public servants at its highest ever number and managers growing at three times the rate of frontline staff.

In the past year, the number of managers grew by 5.4%, while the number of social, health and education workers grew only marginally by 1.9%.

Responding to the release of this data, Taxpayers' Union Head of Campaigns, Callum Purves, said:

"These figures demonstrate that pouring more money into failing public services simply will not work when there is no accountability for how that money is spent or what outcomes are delivered for it.

"The eye-watering levels of growth in the public service, almost 16,000 since 2017, are a disgrace and an insult to the millions of taxpayers who work tirelessly each day only to see their money wasted away on backroom managers while core services crumble.

"While the blame for this growth sits squarely with the outgoing Government, if the incoming one does not take immediate action to reverse this growth and improve delivery then things will only continue to get worse. For the sake of our future, it is vital that National ensures its promises to cut wasteful spending were not hollow words and they must go even further. We simply can't afford another three years of the failed experiment of big, wasteful government." 

Taxpayer Update: We need to talk about Wellington 😕 | Bureaucracy blowout 🤓 | Grant Robertson's new job 🤫

Things might have been a bit quiet in the world of politics as we await tomorrow's release of the final election results, but like rust, the waste and rot at town halls and in Wellington unfortunately never sleeps! In this week's Taxpayer Update, we tackle some town halls, and reveal the new job Grant Robertson's been lining himself up for...

Wellington City Council's town hall debacle 🏦

Town Hall

Too often, town halls are known for wasting money, but Wellington seems to be taking this as a challenge. 

Wellington's Town Hall seismic upgrade that was supposed to cost $42 million back 2014 is now set to have a bill of an eye-watering $329 million after councillors voted to approve, yet again, another cost blowout.

To put $329 million in perspective, that's $4,383 per ratepayer! 

This decision was taken in haste after councillors were given just days to consider plans. But according to Wellington's Dominion Post newspaper, it seems the Council's Chief Executive, Barbara McKerrow, had known for months about the spiralling costs yet decided to hide this info from elected representatives.

What's incredible about these cost blowouts is that they were preventable. Before work started to replace the Town Hall's foundations, no one thought to look properly at the state of the land it sits on!

Our policy guru James was interviewed by Waatea News on the debacle here.

But Cloak-and-Dagger Council still evading scrutiny 🤐

And it isn't just McKerrow who has been keeping secrets. It's now public that Mayor Tory Whanau had a clandestine meeting with the US owners of Reading Cinema where it is alleged she pledged $32 million to buying the land under the cinema.

Even after this year’s 12.3% rates surge, an independent report by financial experts Castalia predicts Wellington City Council will blow its budget by [double checks notes] $1 billion.

Per household, that's $13,323.

Rather than committing to using ratepayers’ money to patch up the city’s crumbling pipes and roads, Whanau’s backroom dealings saw her promising tens of millions to prop up a foreign company which, at worst, would sell a cinema. It's not the historic Embassy Theatre, it's literally a commercial cinema whose owner saw their global revenue increase 14% last year.

And (you really coundn't make this up!), our old friend Barbara McKerrow has worked with the Mayor to launch disciplinary proceedings against councillors who had the gall – the sheer brazenness – to think that the public had a right to know how their money is being wasted!

Demanding Accountability: McKerrow’s got to go 👋🚪

It's never nice calling for someone to be sacked. But if public sector accountability is to mean anything, McKerrow has to go.

Sack Barbara McKerrow

McKerrow's approach to undermining democratic accountability is not even new. Last year, she took it upon herself to deny councillors access to legal advice that the Council had commissioned (and ratepayers paid for) and earlier this year suggested a councillor might not be able to vote on the Annual Plan because he had had the temerity to help his constituents submit on the public consultation.

It’s elected officials that are in charge – not bureaucrats – or at least, it should be. It's high time Wellington City’s elected representatives took their authority back and that starts with getting rid of the Chief Executive. 

>>> Sign the petition calling for the Council to sack Barbara McKerrow here <<

Better late than never: Chief Ombudsman slaps down councils for secret workshops 🤫🗳️

If only it was just Wellington City Council having meetings behind closed doors. After concerns about so-called 'workshops' at Rotorua Lakes Council where discussions between councillors and officials about all manner of policies take place behind closed doors, the Chief Ombudsman undertook an investigation.

This is something we've been on about for years. Back in 2016 Jordan was quoted in Stuff on the same behaviour at Hamilton City Council

NZ Taxpayers' Union executive director Jordan Williams was very concerned with the number of secret meetings at councils nationally.

"This sort of secrecy is damaging local democracy. We have found that these gatherings are often where the more questionable spending is approved. The secrecy is used as a tool to implicitly approve controversial spending measures which can be blamed on officials if and when the public find out.

"It appears that 'CEO briefings', 'workshops' and other synonyms are being used to get around the definition of 'meeting' under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act. That act requires a presumption of meetings being open to the public, with minutes and agendas being publicly available."

Time and time again councils argue that no decisions are taken in the meetings, but it's where officials deliver bad news and stitch up deals and agreements before formal votes are taken at the meetings the public are allowed to attend. The whole basis of local democracy is that – except in exceptional circumstances – the information provided to councillors is made available in public forum.

After years of our highlighting the issue, the Chief Ombudsman has finally taken action with both a strong rebuke of the practice and a directive that these type of workshops should be 'open by default'. As reported by Radio NZ:

The chief ombudsman is "deeply concerned" about Rotorua Lakes Council's commitment to transparency, after investigating closed-door workshops.

The council had a history of opposition to openness that appeared to continue, chief ombudsman Peter Boshier said.

He quoted a former mayor saying "absolutely no way", in response to a suggestion the public be allowed to attend council sessions.

Boshier is now calling for all councils to open workshops by default.

This is right in law, and in principle. We say the public has a right to know how decisions to spend their ratepayer money are made. Your humble Taxpayers' Union will be keeping a very close eye on how councils respond, and adhere to the new directive. After all, sunlight is the best disinfectant.

Latest Public Service figures: Christopher Luxon needs to confront the scale of the problem: 👨‍💼👩‍💼

The just released workforce data from the Public Service Commission is not pretty reading for taxpayers. The number of public servants at its highest ever with managers growing at three times the rate of frontline staff!

In the past year, the number of managers grew by 5.4%, while the number of social, health and education workers grew only marginally by 1.9%.

The figures are case in point that just pouring more money into failing public services does not work when there is no accountability for how that money is spent or what outcomes are delivered for it.

The eye-watering levels of growth in the Wellington bureaucracy, nearly 16,000 since 2017, are an insult to the millions of taxpayers who work tirelessly each day only to see their money wasted away on the managerial class while core services crumble.

While the blame for this growth sits squarely with the outgoing Government, if the incoming one does not take immediate action to reverse this growth and improve delivery, then things will only continue to get worse. For the sake of our future, it is vital that National ensures its promises to cut wasteful spending were not hollow words. In fact, they must go even further.

New Zealand simply cannot afford another three years of the failed experiment of big, inefficient, wasteful government.

Did Grant’s Parisian Adventure jinx the World Cup Final? 🇫🇷👻

After Sunday morning’s disappointing result, taxpayers have been hit by a second blow with the decision (supported by old Chris and new Chris) to send outgoing Sports Minister, Grant Robertson, to attend the Rugby World Cup final, to "represent" the NZ Government. 

At a time when every extra cent of spending is being borrowed, and Kiwis are feeling the cost-of-living crunch, we say this kind of extravagance isn't justified.

But rather than complain, here at the Taxpayers' Union we believe that if Grant Robertson gets to see the All Blacks, so should you!

So, {{recipient.first_name_or_friend}}, I'm delighted to announce the official Grant Robertson 'Guess and Go' Competition

Win free tickets to see the All Blacks next year! 🏉🎁

Rugby World Cup

To bring attention to how much the trip is likely to cost taxpayers, a generous supporter has agreed to sponsor two tickets to see the All Blacks in New Zealand next year for the person who gives the closest guess to the total cost of Grant’s outrageous overseas jaunt.

Enter the competition here to be in to win – and feel free to forward to friends and family to enter too! The competition is open to any New Zealand taxpayer who is a fan of the ABs, lower taxes, less waste, and more accountability – so pretty much, everyone!

Speaking of Grant Robertson 👀 (Please keep this to yourself!) 🤫

Our usually reliable sources in Wellington tell us that Grant Robertson hasn’t let travel get in the way of his hunt for a new job. We understand the soon-to-be-former Minister of Finance is short-listed to be the new Vice Chancellor of Otago University.

While we’ve had our differences of opinion with Mr Robertson, here at the Taxpayers’ Union we wish him the very best of luck. After all, Grant Robertson knows a thing or two about borrowing money to keep a massive bureaucracy afloat that is running unsustainable deficits. He’ll fit right in…

Grant Robertson's new job

Taxpayer Talk: Michael Reddell on the declining standards in New Zealand public life 🎙️🎧

Michael Reddell

This week on Taxpayer Talk, Jordan sits down with economist Michael Reddell, a former Head of Financial Markets at the Reserve Bank of New Zealand who has worked for central banks of a number of other countries. 

Michael raised concerns around the decline of standards in New Zealand public life. Whether it be Ministers lying to the public, government contracts going to Ministers’ family members or undisclosed shareholdings, Michael is concerned that these instances of inappropriate behaviour are becoming increasingly excused, justified or ignored by politicians and the media. 

Michael also worries about the ease with which politicians have been able to quickly move into highly-paid private sector positions, particularly those in sectors where the Government has a significant influence on their success such as banking. For the sake of public trust, we need systems in place that let the public have confidence that former politicians are behaving appropriately.

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

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Callum Purves
COO and Head of Campaigns

New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union

 

Media coverage:


The Conversation NZ Election 2023: polls understated the right, but National-ACT may struggle for a final majority

NZ Herald Did the pollsters get it right in the 2023 election?

Kiwiblog How the polls look vs provisional results

The Platform David Farrar shares his thoughts on the 2023 general election results

NZ Herald Election 2023 result: Anatomy of Labour’s collapse, from unprecedented support to devastating loss in three years

The Daily Blog Best & Worst of Election 2023

RNZ Week in Politics: The 'multiple reasons' why Labour lost so badly

Newsroom On water reform National and Act are sailing on same course

Newsroom Chiding in plain sight

Waatea News James Ross / Taxpayers Union

NZ Local Government Magazine Giving kids the vote

Offsetting Behaviour Charting a course

Newsroom Three Waters assets to move to new council-owned companies

The Spinoff David Seymour’s media silence is a relief. It’s also deafening

Newstalk ZB The Huddle: How much influence do pre-election polls have?

The Kaka Wednesday's Chorus: An impossible trinity

RNZ What stands in the way of the ACT Party plan for a referendum on the Treaty of Waitangi

Newsroom Chiding in plain sight, Part II

Dr Oliver Hartwich on how the incoming Government should reform the public service

This week on Taxpayer TalkTaxpayers' Union Executive Director, Jordan Williams, sits down with the Executive Director of The New Zealand Initiative, Dr Oliver Hartwich, to discuss how the incoming Government should reform the public service. Despite a mandate for change and a desire to unwind many of the policies of the previous Government, the new National-led government may face challenges with navigating the complex and bloated bureaucracy of the public service – something that may prove to be a roadblock to much-needed reform. 

In the podcast, Dr Hartwich discusses a range of potential ways to make the public service function better under the new Government ranging from bringing forward the retirement of the Public Service Commissioner, to bringing the Commissioner under direct ministerial oversight as part of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, to establishing ministers' offices in the relevant government departments rather than in the Beehive. 

Before joining the New Zealand Initiative, Dr Hartwich was a Research Fellow at the Centre for Independent Studies in Sydney, the Chief Economist at Policy Exchange in London, and an advisor in the UK House of Lords. Dr Hartwich holds a Master’s degree in Economics and Business administration and a PhD in Law from Bochum University in Germany.

The New Zealand Initiative is a think tank with a mission to help create a competitive, open and dynamic economy and a free, prosperous, fair, and cohesive society. You can find more about them and their work on their website here.

To support Taxpayer Talk, click here

If you have any comments, questions or suggestions, feel free to email [email protected] 

You can also listen to Taxpayer Talk on Apple PodcastsSpotifyGoogle PodcastsiHeart Radio and all good podcast apps. 

 

 

Cloak-and-Dagger Council Still Evading Public Scrutiny

Commenting on Tory Whanau’s secret meetings with the US owners of Reading cinema which resulted in $32 million of ratepayers’ money being pledged to buying the land on which the building sits, Taxpayers’ Union Policy Adviser, James Ross, said:

“Wellington City Council’s culture of back-room dealings and secret agendas isn’t unique, but that certainly doesn’t mean it’s acceptable.

“With the Council predicted to blow its budget by $1 billion, the public quite rightly expect that every cent of their rates will be spent on getting core services working again. Rather than dealing with public scrutiny when their vanity projects empty the council coffers, Wellington City Council is now in the habit of simply closing the curtains and covering their ears.

“Worse still, Tory Whanau, Barbara McKerrow and their lackeys are threatening councillors with disciplinary action over the fact that the public were made aware of this fiasco. It’s one thing running scared from accountability themselves, but trying to bully into submission those councillors who still believe in transparency is beyond the pale.

“A much-needed culture change at Wellington City Council can only take place when the Chief Executive, Barbara McKerrow, is finally shown the door.”

Competition to win All Blacks Tickets launched: Guess the cost of sending Grant Robertson to Rugby World Cup Final

The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union is launching a competition to win tickets to a 2024 All Blacks game with the winner being the person who makes the closest correct guess to the total cost to taxpayers of sending outgoing Sports Minister, Grant Robertson, to the Rugby World Cup final in Paris.

A generous supporter of the Taxpayers’ Union has kindly agreed to cover the cost of the tickets in order to highlight the extravagance of such spending and emphasise the need to cut down on government waste.

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

“At a time when Government debt and spending has been spiralling out of control and Kiwis are struggling with the cost-of-living crisis, it was simply irresponsible to spend potentially tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars on a jaunt for an outgoing minister to enjoy the Rugby World Cup in Paris.

“Having the national team making the final is already a significant promotion of New Zealand. With respect to Mr Robertson, it is unlikely that his attendance at the final will be the catalyst in encouraging large swathes of international tourists to New Zealand, nor will it help secure more free trade agreements given his outgoing status from his role as Minister.

“It is time to have a sense check on what international travel is really necessary, especially when there are pressing domestic issues in New Zealand that need to be addressed. Of course, free trade is important but these relationships and negotiations should be conducted by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade along with diplomats, not a Minister in the final days of his role."

Adrian Orr’s priorities demonstrate he is no longer fit for the job

The Taxpayers’ Union is calling on Reserve Bank of New Zealand (RBNZ) Governor, Adrian Orr, to resign or be sacked following revelations of yet another engagement focused on issues completely outside of his responsibility of price stability.

Orr’s speech on Friday at the Chapter Zero NZ breakfast will focus on ‘the Reserve Bank’s climate change strategy and outline how they are working to help to identify, understand and manage climate-related risks to New Zealand's financial system.’

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

“Adrian Orr has consistently failed to keep inflation within the target 1-3% range, apparently instead choosing to spend his entire time as head of our central bank focusing on climate change and comparing himself to Tāne Mahuta, yet despite this has received a pay rise in the last year of almost $20,000. This constant and repeated failure to get his priorities right warrants resignation and, if he refuses to do so, the next Minister of Finance must sack him.

“Rather than spending his time doing a speech on climate change titled ‘No Longer Tomorrow’s Problem’, something well outside the RBNZ’s remit, he should instead rewrite his speech as a resignation titled ‘No Longer Taxpayers’ Problem’."

Councils Living Beyond Their Means Need to Stop Punishing the Ratepayer

Commenting on news that Hutt City Council rates could jump by as much as 19.9%, Taxpayers’ Union Policy Adviser, James Ross, said:

“When councils present the choice of either massive rates rises or swingeing cuts to frontline services, they are presenting a false dichotomy. Over the last decade, council spending across the country on comms staff, middle-managers and consultants has blown out beyond all reason.

“With at last count 107 FTE staff on over $100,000, clearly there is plenty of fat that can be trimmed at Hutt City Council. Rather than stripping almost 20% more money from cash-strapped ratepayers year on year, the council needs to take a hard look at whether these high-earners are providing enough bang for buck."

Government Overregulation Sees Latest Attempt to Lower Food Prices Crash and Burn

Commenting on the collapse of grocery delivery start-up Supie, Taxpayers’ Union Policy Adviser, James Ross, said:

“In a surprise to absolutely no-one, a company attempting to break the grocery duopoly’s iron grip over New Zealand has collapsed. As it stands, there is just no way for competitors to succeed, and the result is food prices which are spiralling beyond control.

“Monopoly Watch estimate that it would take $1.1 billion to successfully take on the big two, which is simply not a realistic figure to expect firms to pump into the New Zealand market given its limited size. The outgoing Government passed legislation that will raise the costs of doing business even further, making affordable food a distant pipe dream for far too many Kiwi families struggling under this cost-of-living crisis.

“Rather than making it more difficult for Kiwis to fill their carts every passing week, the incoming Government needs to reduce the cost of entry for would-be competitors such as Aldi. Overly restrictive planning regulation and bans on foreign investment makes investment nigh-on impossible, and even where companies might be interested a new ruling which would require them to supply produce to competitors at wholesale prices in a few years is of course sending investors packing.

“Worse than just ignoring the problem, the Government has actively caused food price inflation and has doubled down at every opportunity.”

Taxpayers' Union Calls for Genuine Public Participation in Māori Wards Debate

 

The Taxpayers' Union is pressing the Greater Wellington, Hauraki, and Whanganui Councils, and all other councils considering Māori Wards, to uphold the spirit of democracy by initiating referenda. Even if such polls cannot be legally binding under the outgoing government’s legislation, they provide an invaluable opportunity for local communities to voice their stance on the matter.

Oliver Bryan, Investigations Coordinator for the Taxpayers' Union, said, “While the legislation may have changed, the fundamental tenets of democracy remain. Councils have the opportunity, and the responsibility, to gauge the sentiment of their constituents through non-binding referenda on Māori Wards. Even if these polls can't have legal weight, their outcomes should be respected and considered in the final decision-making process.

"The incoming Government has a duty to rectify the shortcomings of the 2021 legislation. We urge the new administration to make it a priority to restore genuine public participation in decisions that shape local governance. The heart of democracy beats with the will of the people, and it’s time our legislation reflected that.

“Democracy thrives when elected officials value and heed the collective voice of their constituents. It's not just about legal frameworks, but the very ethos of representation and accountability.”

Taxpayers' Union Welcomes Chief Ombudsman's Report on Council Workshops

 

The Taxpayers' Union endorses the recommendations made within the Chief Ombudsman’s report on council workshops. This investigation underscores serious issues, notably the confusion arising from varied terminology and the trend of workshops seemingly shrouded in secrecy.

Oliver Bryan, Investigations Coordinator at the Taxpayers’ Union, said, "The findings of this reports are a watershed moment. Councils have, for far too long, operated what can appear as 'shadowy' meetings, circumventing the very tenets of transparency. The public has a right to know how their hard-earned money is used and how pivotal decisions are shaped."

"The 'open by default' directive is paramount. Workshops should be accessible to the public barring compelling reason to the contrary."

“Many councils don’t maintain records of workshops as they argue that no decisions are made, but often a direction of travel is set that can be difficult to unwind by the time the public is allowed in the room.”

Taxpayers the real losers from Grant Robertson’s Rugby World Cup final attendance

 

The Taxpayers’ Union is slamming the decision of outgoing Prime Minister Chris Hipkins to send Grant Robertson gallivanting across the world to attend the Rugby World Cup Final in Paris, a decision that was also endorsed by incoming Prime Minister Christopher Luxon.

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

“While taxpayers are struggling to get over the line each week with finding money for their grocery bills, the two major party leaders have decided to penalise them even further by forcing them to fork out for a big score for outgoing Sports Minister, Grant Robertson – tickets to the Rugby World Cup Final in Paris this weekend.

“Despite campaigning on a promise to cut wasteful spending, it appears National may already be getting too excited about the prospect of the baubles of office and is unwilling to put a stop to what is expenditure that is frankly worthy of a red card. If Ministers want to go on a lavish jaunt across the world to attend expensive sporting events, that’s their right but it should be paid for out of their own $300,000 salaries, not by taxpayers.

“It’s time to kick extravagant and wasteful spending to touch rather than leaving taxpayers feeling like they’ve been stuck at the bottom of a ruck with front-rowers Robertson, Hipkins and Luxon rubbing dirt in their face just for the fun of it.”

Tail Wagging the Dog Again in Wellington City Council, Chief Executive Must Resign or Be Sacked

Responding to news that Wellington City Council Chief Executive Barbara McKerrow had known for months that the town hall restoration project was $147 million over budget but decided to forego passing this information on the elected Councillors, Taxpayers’ Union Policy Adviser, James Ross, said:
 
“For over 6 months, Wellington council officials kept elected representatives in the dark about their own failures to keep the town hall restoration project anything close to on budget.
 
“When councillors voted on the annual plan in June, this information was being kept hidden from them. Council Chief Executive Barbara McKerrow was reportedly fully aware at this point, and in stifling this information manipulated democratic processes to achieve her desired outcome.
 
“When it came time to vote on the latest increase in funding on Wednesday, Councillors were given only a matter of days to scrutinise officials’ plans and told that it was essentially now or never – despite this information being available for over half a year.
 
“What we have seen here once again is council officials – including the Chief Executive – being the tail that wags the dog. These officials have decided that they know better than the people of Wellington and should be making autocratic decisions on their behalf, democracy be damned.
 
“Officials said that wasting up to $329 million on the town hall was the only viable option. Well there’s only one viable option now; Barbara McKerrow has disgraced her office, and if she lacks the good grace to resign, then for residents’ sake Councillors must reclaim their authority, sack Barbara McKerrow and replace her with someone who understands the role of a council official is to serve and not be served.”

Failure to Meet Key Targets Must See RBNZ Get Back to Basics

Commenting on ACT leader David Seymour’s call for a return to the Reserve Bank’s single mandate and the disestablishment of the Monetary Policy Committee, Taxpayers’ Union Policy Adviser, James Ross, said:

“For 28 long months in a row, Adrian Orr and the Reserve Bank have failed to keep inflation within the target range, with inflation even now still at almost twice the upper limit of acceptable levels. RBNZ’s experiment with a dual mandate focussing on both inflation and unemployment has failed, and any incoming government must take New Zealand back to the tried-and-tested basics.

“New Zealand led the world when it introduced the single mandate in 1989. Nations such as the UK quickly followed suit when it became clear this was a system that worked, and Labour’s massive leap backwards has allowed inflation to spiral out of control. For far too long hardworking Kiwis have had to battle with runaway prices for essentials such as food and fuel, and a return to the single mandate would be a first step towards finally getting inflation under control.

“There should be no doubt that a Governor of the Reserve Bank who fails to do their job must fall on their sword. Adrian Orr continues to hide behind the Monetary Policy Committee to shirk responsibility for his failures. If RBNZ is to regain any credibility then we need to see a return to accountability at the top, and so the Monetary Policy Committee must be scrapped."

Wellington Council’s Heritage Hang-ups Leave Finances Crumbling

Responding to Wellington City Council’s approval of plans to spend up to $147 million more of ratepayers’ money on the city’s town hall, Taxpayers’ Union Policy Adviser, James Ross, said:

“Whilst pipes are leaking, roads are crumbling and costs of living are climbing out of control, Wellington City Council have voted to raise the potential cost of the town hall restoration project to over $1,500 per resident. As a Castalia report reveals Wellington City Council is set to blow its budget by $1 billion, quite how the council could justify considering burning hundreds of millions propping up numerous crumbling heritage sites whilst basic services fail beggars belief.

“Council officials have railroaded this decision, providing one-sided information to elected representatives and demanding a decision be taken before proper scrutiny of their advice can take place. Credit must be given to Councillor McNulty for recognising the enormous opportunity costs of this project and calling for time to investigate more cost-effective options, while also encouraging the council to explore a local bill to ensure they don’t end up in the exact same position again in the near future with other buildings.

“A huge chunk of the costs and delays associated with demolishing the buildings stem from heritage-status red tape, but despite what officials would have you believe this is completely avoidable.

“A local bill must be sought to allow Wellington Council to de-list buildings by simple majority. A local bill was progressed by Tasman District Council in relation to a water augmentation scheme in 2018, taking only four months to pass through Parliament. Years of legal battles and spiralling costs can easily be avoided so that Wellington can start focusing on getting the basics right again."

Wellington Tenants Sinking in Government-Caused Rent Crisis

Responding to news that the median weekly rent has risen yet another 6.7% this year in Wellington, Taxpayers’ Union Policy Adviser, James Ross, said:

“Rents are spiralling because there aren’t enough rental properties to go around, it really is as simple as that. More tenants are competing for less spaces, and so rent continues to rise uncontrollably.

“This crisis has only been worsened by the previous Government's war on landlords that has simply made it too expensive and bureaucratic to build or rent out housing. The only way to ease the city’s rental crisis is to increase supply, and that cannot happen under our cripplingly restrictive resource management regime. National’s commitment to scrap the Natural and Built Environment Act is a small start, but it’s a drop in the ocean compared to the major RMA reform needed to get New Zealand building again.

"Advocates of even more regulation miss the point as further red tape will only reduce supply and make rent more expensive. Making it cheaper and easier to build more houses will force landlords to compete for tenants, driving down weekly rents and encouraging a higher standard of accommodation for all."

Auditor General report highlights need for tough action from new Government on public service

 

Responding to the Auditor General's comments in his 2022/23 annual report that “It is still too hard to to tell what New Zealanders are receiving for about $160 billion of central government expenditure each year, and whether or not this is value for money", Taxpayers' Union Head of Campaigns, Callum Purves, said:

"This report is a strong challenge to an outgoing government where spending was clearly out of control. The Auditor General's comments will echo the sentiments of many Kiwis who see the Government spending more money, feel the pain of higher inflation and taxes, but see little in the way of improvement to public services.

"Parliament's Standing Orders Committee has recommended an inquiry into performance reporting, but this simply does not go far enough. In the election, National promised to reintroduce targets across the public sector while ACT pledged to hold chief executives accountable for the performance of their departments. This report simply reiterates the importance of making good on these promises."

Christchurch City Council should look to trim the fat first before cutting key public services

 

Responding to reports that Christchurch City ratepayers are staring down an 18% rate rise or significant cuts to key services so the Council can pay down $2 billion in debt, Taxpayers’ Union Head of Campaigns, Callum Purves, said:

“As with many other councils across the country, Christchurch City Council’s excessive spending on nice-to-haves and poor budget management has led to the enormous hole they now find themselves in.

Our 2023 Ratepayers’ Report revealed that the Council had nearly three times as many staff on its books as similarly sized Wellington City Council and paid more than 30% of them salaries over $100,000.

“Councils often like to fear monger by presenting the false choice of exorbitant rates hikes or cuts to essential services. Instead, Christchurch City Council should be looking to cut the waste, including back office personnel, management, communications and consultancy, or selling off assets."

RBNZ Must be Held Accountable for Repeated Failures

Commenting on today’s news that the CPI has still dropped only marginally to 5.6%, Taxpayers’ Union Policy Adviser, James Ross, said:

“For the 28th month in a row, the Reserve Bank has failed to hold inflation to within the target range. With inflation still sitting at an unsustainably high 5.6%, hardworking Kiwis struggling to make ends meet will be hurting most from this news and the only question that will matter today is for how long they will keep being punished for flagrant and wasteful Government spending?

“Whilst other nations are nearing a return to the 3% target range, Kiwis are still seeing food and fuel prices spiral out of control. Any incoming Government must hold the Reserve Bank and its leadership accountable for their failure to meet their targets. Moreso, this is simply proof that Labour’s introduction of a dual mandate for RBNZ has not worked and the Reserve Bank must return to its single focus on inflation.

“The IMF’s pleas for the Government to put the needs of working people first are still falling on deaf ears. With the price of food, petrol and other necessities still spiralling out of control, the only solution is a return to credible economic management and an end to reckless and inflationary overspending. Unfortunately, the deadly combination of high inflation and high interest rates looks set to stick around for a while yet. With National promising to maintain 98% of Labour’s spending, any incoming Government must go further and faster to cut the waste.”

Michael Reddell on the declining standards in New Zealand public life

This week on Taxpayer TalkTaxpayers' Union Executive Director, Jordan Williams, sits down with economist Michael Reddell. Michael is a former Head of Financial Markets at the Reserve Bank of New Zealand, has worked for central banks of a number of other countries and has been an Alternate Executive Director on the Board of the International Monetary Fund.

Michael has recently been raising concerns around the seemingly declining standards in New Zealand public life. Whether it be Ministers (or their appointees) lying to the public, government contracts going to Ministers’ family members or undisclosed shareholdings, Michael is concerned that these instances of inappropriate (or at least perceived as being inappropriate) behaviour are becoming increasingly excused, justified or ignored by politicians and the media. 

Also discussed in the podcast is Michael’s concerns around the ease with which politicians have been able to quickly move into highly-paid private sector positions, particularly those in sectors where the Government has a significant influence on their success such as banking. Michael points to the recent example of Sir John Key, the Chairman of New Zealand’s largest bank, who was also involved in the National Party election campaign. While he does not say that anyone has acted dishonourably, Mr Reddell says that, for the sake of public trust and integrity, we need systems and processes in place that let the public have confidence that people are behaving appropriately, especially when politicians may be potentially making significant decisions around regulation, or taxpayer-funded bailouts if things go wrong.

Michael's blog, Croaking Cassandra, can be read here.

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If you have any comments, questions or suggestions, feel free to email [email protected] 

You can also listen to Taxpayer Talk on Apple PodcastsSpotifyGoogle PodcastsiHeart Radio and all good podcast apps. 

Taxpayer Update: Taxpayer-funded, anti-National 'sock-puppet' campaign | Cost of living poll | Winston Peters' right of reply

With the final week of the election campaign nearly over, the race seems to be tightening. Two of this week's three major polls have the Centre Left bloc ahead of the Centre Right. So get your popcorn out; Saturday night could be a bumpy ride!

Exposing sock-puppet electric car industry campaigners spreading misinformation about the benefits of Tesla subsidies 🤫

This week, we blew the whistle on a taxpayer-funded 'charity' group that is actively campaigning against the National and ACT  parties and lobbying for expensive and ineffective electric vehicle (EV) subsidies.

We called out the Better NZ Trust for their deceptive six-figure campaign across social media and billboards claiming – falsely – that the removal of EV subsidies will ‘increase’ New Zealand’s emissions and harm the climate, despite knowing full well that vehicle emissions are covered by the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). Contrary to their misleading advertising, any reduced transport emissions from subsidies for Teslas, just makes emissions credits available (and cheaper) for other polluters. See explainer here.

Here are some of the misleading ads – which you may have seen online, or on billboards across the country.

Clean Car Discount Ad

Looking into the group further, we discovered that their founder is none other than Steve West who is also the founder, director and shareholder of ChargeNet NZ – the largest network of electric charge stations. In addition, the private company has received more than $7 million in corporate welfare from Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) to subsidise their commercially operated charging stations.

We say it is time for the Charities Commission to step in and stop what is clearly a front group for industry misleading Kiwis for political (and financial gain).

By all means the likes of Steve West (and other members of the electric car/charging industry) can lobby and campaign – but using a taxpayer-funded 'charity' (meaning it's tax deductible) to mislead voters on an issue as important as climate change is plain wrong.

Oh, and one more thing. Not only has EECA funded the charging company, EECA is also listed as the primary sponsor of the Trust running the election ads! 

How are the EECA allowing an organisation which lists them as its primary sponsor to play politics and mislead New Zealanders in the very area the EECA are supposed to be experts on?

It's almost as if the climate officials want you to vote Labour to protect their jobs – surely not...

If you watch just one video about climate change policy, make it this! 🙌

The Better NZ Trust would do well to watch this video we released this week from our young Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy.

Connor tackles the poppycock politicians spout about spending billions of taxpayer dollars on so-called measures to tackle climate change. He explains why most of our climate change policies – including the Clean Car Discount – are a complete waste of money and don't reduce a single gram of New Zealand’s overall emissions.

If you care about climate change, make sure you watch Connor's video!

or

If you care about politicians not wasting money on climate change, make sure you watch Connor's video!

Connor ETS Video

We have been calling this nonsense out for years yet almost all politicians and media simply refuse to engage the inconvenient truth. The fact of the matter is that our Emissions Trading Scheme creates a limit on the maximum amount of net emissions (from things such as car exhausts minus removals from things like trees). Throwing taxpayer money at reducing emissions in one industry simply frees up carbon credits to be emitted in others. You'll never look at a clear car discount, or taxpayer funded 'climate' handout again.

Kiwis doing it tough under Government's cost of living crisis 🛒🏚️💸

As reported in Monday's edition of The Post, a new Taxpayers’ Union – Curia poll on the cost of living has revealed the true harm this Government’s policies are causing New Zealanders. 

The poll confirmed that the large majority of New Zealanders are struggling to make ends meet and this ought to be the real issue of this week's election. Whether it is struggling to afford essential groceries, petrol or other utilities, the poll demonstrates that Kiwis are tightening their belts to afford basic necessities while the Government continues to make the problem worse by spending recklessly.

An incredible 98% of those polled said that their food bills have increased in the past year, 90% said the same for petrol, 68% for utilities and 53% for rents and mortgage.

Cost of Living Poll

Out-of-control spending, profligate money printing, and eye-watering debt are not abstract economic ideas – this poll highlights the very real effects that the poor decisions made in Wellington have on those struggling to make ends meet.

79% of respondents believed that Government spending has contributed to the rise in the cost of living in some capacity and 94% want the Government to do more to address this problem. 

Kiwis are feeling the financial and emotional strain of this Government’s policies. It is now more important than ever that wasteful spending is cut right back, and tax relief is delivered to New Zealanders so that they can keep more of what they earn.

As Ruth Richardson put so well on Newshub Nation last weekend, the cost of living crisis has been driven by a cost of government crisis.

You can read the full results of the poll here.

Kiwi Performance Indicators: How is NZ performing? 🧐

Kiwi Performance Indicators

It isn't just the amount of public spending that is the problem, it is the poor quality of it too. Despite spending being up by 68% in just six years, delivery on key essential services has been dropping like a stone. Taxpayers deserve value for money, but how do you know what you’re actually getting?

Our friends at thefacts.nz have the answer and have just launched a new website called 'Kiwi Performance Indicators'. This new website meticulously compiles official government statistics alongside polling from IPSOS, Essential, and our very own Taxpayers’ Union – Curia polls. 

For the first time in a New Zealand election, voters have access to an objective dashboard of government performance before heading to the polls. Over time, the team hopes to expand the number of categories available, so make sure you keep checking back so that you have all the stats you need to hold government of all political hues to account. 

Head over to www.kpi.nz to check it out.

Mind the Gap: Public sector pay growth out of control 🚀

Public Sector HeadcountLast week, we also published our 2023 Public Sector Wage Gap Report by our researcher, Alex Murphy.  While the difference in average wages between the public and private sector has come down significantly over recent years, Alex's report shows the true extent of the massive staffing increases in our ballooning public sector.

The report reveals how managerial and other back office roles have been prioritised over frontline jobs. Just over the last 5 years, the number of managers and information professionals in the Public Service grew at nearly twice the rate of the uptick in frontline staff in social, education or health work.

Alex's paper also reveals the problem of additional sick leave in the public sector being taken compared to the private sector. If public sector employees took the same number of sick days as those in the private sector, the taxpayer would save $174 million every year.

You can read the full report here.

Public back ACT's proposed Treaty Principles Act 🗳️

ACT's Treaty Principles Act

As reported in yesterday's NZ Herald, New Zealanders overwhelmingly support ACT's proposal to clarify the definition of the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi in a new piece of legislation. Of those who expressed a view on the question, more than 3 to 1 supported the proposed principle definitions:

1. The New Zealand Government has the right to govern New Zealand.

2. The New Zealand Government will protect all New Zealanders’ authority over their land and other property.

3. All New Zealanders are equal under the law, with the same rights and duties.

This results suggest that a majority of New Zealanders share our concerns about the erosion of democratic accountability that has arisen from interpretations of the Treaty Principles being decided by the Courts and Public Service rather than by democratically elected representatives.

A fundamental principle of democracy is that of accountability: The ability to remove bad or ineffective decision makers from office. Some interpretations of the Treaty Principles – which have not been voted on by Parliament – erode this principle. This poll shows voters do not agree with the path these interpretations have taken.

What are the parties saying on tax? 🧾

ACT Party: ACT has by far the most taxpayer-friendly tax plan of all of the parties; however, it is still a long way off our ideal tax system. We would like to see a further simplification and lowering of taxes as fiscal conditions allow. The party plans to simplify the tax system down to 3 rates from the current 6 over the next couple of years (a watering down of their earlier policy due to worse than forecast government debt), return ETS revenue to households, abolish the bright-line test and reverse the Government's rental interest deductibility changes and get rid of the ute tax. 

National Party: National is offering a minor inflation adjustment to income tax brackets but this only adjusts for two years’ inflation and kicks in on July 1 2024. Ongoing adjustments will only occur every three years, and at the discretion of the minister. Other notable tax changes include the removal of the Auckland Regional Fuel Tax and the ute tax.  The ability to depreciate commercial buildings will be scrapped, but residential rental properties will have full deductibility of interest expenses phased in by 1 April 2026. Foreign buyers of residential property will be allowed to purchase properties of $2 million or more upon paying a 15% tax on the purchase price. Legitimate concerns have been raised by economists over whether National’s foreign buyers tax figures add up, but National has not effectively addressed these concerns.

New Zealand First: The party pledges to introduce a tax-free threshold by 2027, and inflation adjust income tax brackets with the first adjustment occurring in 2027 and every 3 years after that. They want to look at taking GST off basic foods through a select committee inquiry, introduce subsidies for gaming and movie sectors, and a lower tax rate for select businesses. It is encouraging that NZ First wants to set a limit on government spending; however, the level that they have decided to set the cap at is higher than what we are currently spending now. 

Labour Party: The party's flagship policy is taking GST off unprocessed fruit and vegetables – you can read our report here about why this is a very bad idea. They also want regular increases of fuel excise duty over 3 years, totalling 14 c/L including GST, with an equivalent increase to road-user charges. And the party plans to remove tax-deductible depreciation expenses for non-residential buildings.

Green Party: They want a complete change to the income tax brackets and tax rates with a new tax-free rate up to $10,000 and a top tax rate of 45% for incomes over $180,000. The Greens also want to see a lift in the corporate tax rate from 28% to 33%, and new wealth taxes of 1.5% p.a. on the value of assets held in a private trust and 2.5% p.a. of net assets over $2 million for an individual.

Te Pāti Māori: This is the most radical proposal and not in a good way. The party wants to see GST removed from all food, an increase in the corporate tax rate from 28% to 33%, a $30,000 income tax free threshold, and a range of new tax rates on income as high as 48%. They are also campaigning on introducing wealth taxes as high as 8% per year, a tax on foreign companies, a 33% vacant land, and vacant house tax.

But tax relief funded by borrowing is illusionary 👻 

Of course, the only real tax cut is a spending cut – everything else is just timing.

So for all of these parties, the focus must be on cutting back wasteful spending in order for tax relief to be delivered, slowing down inflation, getting us back to meaningful growth and slaying the looming debt monster. 

Winston's right of reply 📺

We've been copping it from all sides by those who are pro and those anti-Winston Peters – and whether concerns that he could unexpectedly return the current government assuming the polls are right and NZ First holds the balance of power. 

It's not for us to tell you who to vote for – our role is to highlight and critique policies and hold the politicians to account.

Ruth Richardson made her concerns pretty clear earlier in the week, but we've had assurances from both Winston Peters and Casey Costello (a former Taxpayers' Union board chair, who is now #3 on the NZ First party list) that going with Labour for another term is out of the question.

Reasonable minds may differ on whether to trust Mr Peters. Recall he went with National's Jim Bolger in 1996 despite campaigning to "change the government" the same year. But on the other hand, (and as a right of reply to our earlier emails), Peters and his team couldn't be much clearer in a recently published campaign video:

Judge for yourself

Having fielded emails and calls from those annoyed with our emails questioning whether Peters can be trusted, we'll no doubt receive grumblings from our National and ACT party supporters now as a result of this email. 😳  So thank goodness for the privacy of the voting booth!

But, one this is for sure, {{recipient.first_name_or_friend}}: the Taxpayers' Union will hold all parties to account for their promises, regardless of what the next Parliament looks like.

Have a great weekend. 

Jordan

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

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Media coverage:

NZ Herald
 Election 2023: Audrey Young - Labour MPs need basic lessons in campaign discipline

Stuff Tova – Left Turn (01:00:47)

NZ Herald Election 2023: NZ First shoots up in new poll, Luxon preferred PM over Hipkins

RNZ Winston Peters remains kingmaker in latest Taxpayers' Union-Curia poll

NewstalkZB Election Fix: 6 October 2023 – Poll

The Post 
Giant escape key destroyed after one day in New York

NewstalkZB Afternoon Edition: 06 October 2023 (00:22)

NewstalkZB Jason Walls: Newstalk ZB political editor on two new polls showing Chris Luxon will need Winston

Newsroom Luxon impresses in Taranaki, still doesn’t know Winston

NZ Herald On The Campaign: The minor parties make their case - can TOP join them in Parliament? (02:35, 18:42)

NewstalkZB Heather du Plessis-Allan: What has happened to David Seymour?

Newshub Election 2023: Winston Peters guards path to power as Hipkins resumes attacks on National's tax plan

NZ Herald Election 2023: New poll shows whether Kiwis believe Winston Peters’ Labour promise

The Post National, Labour turn up the sledging as polls show NZ First in decisive position

NZ City One week out from the election, and Winston Peters is eyeing up the kingmaker position again

Newshub 
Election 2023: Infamous 'Mother of all Budgets' curator, former Finance Minister Ruth Richardson accuses National and Labour of 'heroic assumptions'

Otago Daily Times Luxon remains focused on National-Act govt

Newshub 
Election 2023 poll: More than half of voters don't trust Winston Peters on ruling out Labour

The Post The last week: Cost of living still the main game

RNZ Election 2023: Labour, National renew attacks on each other's costings

Newstalk ZB 
Kerre Woodham: Misinformation and attack ads (2:53)

Newsroom Chlöe can’t count on cannabis this time

RNZ AK's Tamaki electorate coming down to ACT or National

Newstalk ZB John MacDonald: Attacks ads - Entertaining? Yes. Influential? No

Newstalk ZB 
The Huddle: Could National really lose the unlosable election?

NZ Herald Election 2023: Majority would support Act’s Treaty referendum, although voters unsure if they want to vote on it

NZ Herald Election 2023: Coalition options - can Winston Peters be trusted not to work with Labour?

The Daily Blog What would a National-ACT-NZ First Govt do for cannabis?

NZ Herald Election 2023: Haven’t voted? Undecided? Two divergent paths explained, and what you need to know to make a decision

Newsroom One vote for the media

1News Tāmaki - what the data shows about National-ACT battleground

Gisborne Herald Expect Peters to maximise leverage

Stuff Election 2023: The electorates that may decide the shape of the next government

New report reveals how much of your lifetime earnings is taken away in tax

The new 2023 Lifetime Tax Report from the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union investigates the total lifetime tax burden paid by Kiwis in all income deciles. In doing so, we hope to start debate around the real cost of government crisis being faced by working families up and down the country.
 
Through higher rates and bracket creep, we all know that the amount of income tax we pay year-on-year is spiralling out of control. But far too few people know the real cost of other taxes, particularly consumption taxes such as GST and fuel duties.
 
Utilising sources such as Statistics NZ, the Household Economic Survey and Treasury’s APITRE tool, this study analyses the spending habits of New Zealanders to approximate the total amount of tax which would be paid at current rates and prices across a lifetime.
 
Key findings of the report:

> At current prices and rates, the average New Zealander will pay a total of $1,096,777.97 (± 4.52%) in tax across his or her lifetime.

> At this income, the average New Zealand taxpayer will spend the equivalent of 22.65 years (± 4.52%) of their life working just to pay their tax burden.

> This is equivalent to 33.43% of their life between the ages of 15 and 82.75 (weighted average life expectancy).

> The average New Zealander will earn $3,155,713.44 in their lifetime and pay $1,096,777.97 in tax. This means that of everything the average New Zealander earns between the ages of 15 and 82.75, they will pay 34.76% to the Government in tax.

> As expected, income tax makes up a larger proportion of the tax burden of high-income individuals.

> However, sin taxes such as those on alcohol and cigarettes disproportionately punish those on lower incomes.


Commenting on the release of the 2023 Lifetime Tax Report, Taxpayers’ Union Policy Adviser and author of the report, James Ross, said:
 
“We now live in a country where nobody actually knows how much they’re paying in tax every year. They can see that government spending on bloated bureaucracies and vanity projects is spiralling out of control, but there is little clarity on how much of that bloat they’ve paid for.
 
“By shining a light on just how much of their lives New Zealanders spend funding the Government, hopefully New Zealand can start an informed debate about the unsustainability of our current levels of government waste. Wasted taxes are hard-earned by New Zealanders, and they have every right to know exactly how far they’re being taken for a ride.
 
“This report also displays the ways in which the burdens of various taxes are distributed across income levels. For instance, as we have long argued, sin taxes such as those on cigarettes and alcohol disproportionately punish poorer New Zealanders. Hopefully the impact these have will give some food for thought as to the effects moralising tax policies have on those with least to give.”

Over-centralised Health Service In Need of Urgent Care

Commenting on a series of information releases under the OIA which reveal that Te Whatu Ora is failing to address the Planned Care Taskforce's recommendations for improvement made last October, Taxpayers’ Union Policy Adviser, James Ross, said:

“Since the District Health Boards were disbanded by this Labour Government, New Zealand has had one of the most centralised health systems in the world. It’s no coincidence that at the same time as local control over healthcare has been stripped away, outcomes have worsened and plans to improve healthcare in regional areas have fallen by the wayside.

“The Ministerial Advisory Committee was established last year with just one job – drag the behemoths that are our two health systems up to standard. The Committee’s inability to break through Te Whatu Ora’s closed-shop bureaucracy demonstrates that this Government has created a beast that even they can’t control.

“Much like with Te Pūkenga’s inability to provide quality education, the results of this government’s love affair with central control are clear. Over-centralisation does not work, and key services are plummeting across the board as a result. Before wrenching control of water infrastructure and resource management away from local bodies, Labour need to stop and look at the evidence in front of their eyes.

“Serious reform across the public sector is needed to bring services back up to snuff, but removing local accountability is empirically making things worse, not better.”

Wellington’s water crisis highlights the need for councils' wasteful spending to be reeled in

Responding to news from Wellington Water that the Wellington region is losing the equivalent of 30 Olympic-sized pools in water every day due to decaying pipes, Taxpayers’ Union Head of Campaigns, Callum Purves said:

“Historical failure to invest in key infrastructure may have led to this current water catastrophe, but unfortunately, it’s still clear that Wellington councils collectively are more concerned with vanity projects than they are with providing essential services to their communities.

“Whether it be Hutt City Council’s $34.2m events centre, Wellington City Council’s Golden Mile fantasy, or Porirua City Council’s $98,000 ‘smiley face’ logo, it’s clear that councils across the region have been happy to put wants over needs in recent years at the cost of the ratepayer.

“While these councils may continue to proclaim that a lack of funds has resulted in this chronic underinvestment to their water infrastructure, it’s obvious that in other areas of their budgets, the money is not being well spent.

“If councils want to ensure that infrastructure failures like this don’t emerge in the future, then councillors need to take accountability for the current situation and look to ensure that the provision of essential services going forward is stabilised before embarking on any new pet projects."

NEW POLL: Kiwis oppose Government’s plans to strip planning powers from councils

A new Taxpayers Union – Curia poll has found that 47% of Kiwis want planning powers to remain with local councils rather than be transferred to new regional planning committees made up of council, Government, and iwi and hapū appointees. With only 24% in favour of the Government’s RMA reforms and 28% undecided, the Natural and Built Environment and Spatial Planning Acts, which replace the former Resource Management Act, has a net support of negative 23 points amongst New Zealanders.

There is more support than opposition for planning and resource allocation decisions remaining with local councils across every age, area, gender and preferred party demographic with the exception of Green voters who favour the centralization.

The full polling report can be found here.

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

“New Zealanders clearly do not support the current Government’s Wellington-knows-best attitude of taking more and more powers away from our local councils into the centre. While the Resource Management Act is a dog and has led to a housing and infrastructure crisis, David Parker’s replacement will lead to even higher building costs, more red tape, no local control, and more co-governance.

“Rather than strip powers away from councils, the Government should instead look to improve the incentives for them to grow by ensuring they are properly compensated for infrastructure upgrades through arrangements like GST sharing. Whichever parties are in a position to form a Government after the election should go back to the drawing board and reform the planning system so that it promotes local control, certainty, simplicity and private property rights.”

Charities Commission should deregister sock puppet group lying about benefits of EV subsidies

The Taxpayers’ Union is raising the alarm about greenwashing by the Better NZ Trust – a taxpayer-funded charity – to promote the interests of the EV industry. The Trust is running a deceptive six-figure campaign across social media and billboards claiming – falsely – that the removal of EV subsidies will ‘increase’ New Zealand’s emissions and harm the climate, despite knowing full well that vehicle emissions are covered by the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).

Taxpayers’ Union spokesman, Jordan Williams, said:

“We first became aware of this group by coming across the deceptive advertising. But looking into the Trust further, we see that the founder is none other than the Steve West who is also the founder, director and shareholder of ChargeNet NZ – a private company that has received more than $7 million in corporate welfare from Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) to subsidise their commercially operated charging stations.”

“Far from being a ‘charity’ in the philanthropic sense, this trust looks to play a sock puppet role for corporate interests cloaked in greenwashing and taxpayer funding. Their campaign is trading on the public’s lack of understanding of the ETS to smear political parties whose policies affect their commercial interests.”

“The Trust’s ads claim that the Clean Car Discount ‘helps fight climate change’, when (at best) electric cars simply shift emissions from transport and allow for cheaper emissions elsewhere under the fixed cap ETS. ETS denial is worse than climate denial – it makes it harder for New Zealand to reach its emission targets.”

“EECA’s funding has been to cover costs of roadshows and list building, used by the Trust to lobby for subsidies for industry and more money for EECA! According to the Meta Ad Library, the misleading campaign has reached more than two million New Zealanders on Facebook alone. They have publicly stated that they intend to spend $100,000 during this election campaign.”

“The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is clear that ‘if a cap-and-trade system has a sufficiently stringent cap then other policies such as renewable subsidies have no further impact on total GHG emissions’. National and ACT are following this advice when committing to scrap the clean car discount and allowing the ETS to function. This self-described ‘Better NZ’ trust is trying to undermine this with disinformation which actually serves to make climate change mitigation more expensive.”

“It’s time for the Charities Commission to step in. Charities law requires charities to educate and advocate in a 'relatively objective and balanced way'. Here a charity is spending up large on a political campaign that is dishonest and harms the climate change effort in a commercially beneficial way to its funders. They can dress it in as much greenwashing language as they like, but the Charities Commission cannot let it stand.

“EECA also has some explaining to do. How are they allowing an organisation which lists EECA as its primary sponsor to not only play politics with taxpayer money but do so in the most disreputable way? This EECA-funded trust is misleading New Zealanders in the very area EECA are supposed to be experts on.”

An example of the deceptive political advertisements can be seen here. 

NEW POLL: Kiwis overwhelmingly support inflation-adjustment of income tax brackets

A new Taxpayers’ Union – Curia poll has revealed that 63% of New Zealanders support inflation adjustment of income tax brackets compared to just 14% who are opposed.

There was majority support across every demographic (gender, age, area, economic status, and preferred political party).

The Taxpayers’ Union has launched a new website to Axe the Inflation Tax which includes a tax calculator, explainer and FAQ addressing some of the common misconceptions about tax bracket indexation.

The full polling report can be found here.

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

“New Zealanders are really feeling the heat of bracket creep with inflation forcing them to pay more and more tax, even when their real income is not increasing. The inflation tax hits workers with a second blow on top of rising prices caused by inflation and unnecessarily drives up the cost of living even further.“

"With majority support from every demographic, it is clear that it is now only the politicians standing in the way of this common-sense tax reform. With benefits, student loan living costs and superannuation already adjusted for inflation, along with excise taxes on fuel, alcohol and tobacco, it is high time that those who pay the bills stop getting slapped with annual stealth tax hikes.

“Politicians are more than happy to make these changes when it gets them more money to spend, less so when it means they lose out on additional tax revenue each year. We are calling on all New Zealanders and politicians to join us in our calls for ‘No Taxation Without Indexation’.”

NEW POLL: Cost of Living Bites Taxpayers as They Head to the Polls

Cost of Living Bites Taxpayers as They Head to the Polls 

A new Taxpayers’ Union – Curia poll, focused on the cost-of-living crisis, has revealed the wide-ranging impacts of inflation on households across New Zealand, and who they are blaming for the crisis. 

According to the poll, 99% of respondents believe that the cost of living has significantly or moderately increased. In particular, households have noticed an increase in the cost of food (98%), petrol (90%) and utilities (68%) during the last year. 

Voters are also dissatisfied with how the Government has responded to the cost-of-living crisis. 79% of respondents have said that the Government’s spending has contributed to a rise in the cost of living in some capacity.  

94% of respondents believe that the government should be doing more to address the cost-of-living crisis, with 69% responding that the government should do much more.  

58% of voters think they are paying too much tax while just 6% think they are not paying enough. 

The full polling report can be found here

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

“What is clear from this poll is that the vast majority of New Zealanders are really struggling with the cost of living due to the Government’s out-of-control spending that has been driving up inflation. It is saddening to see that while so many Kiwis are making tough spending choices so that they have enough money to pay the bills, the Government continues to spend at record levels. 

“This poll highlights the very real effects that the poor decisions made in Wellington have on those struggling to make ends meet. Debates around the appropriate level of Government spending are no longer academic arguments, but rather the real financial and emotional strain facing everyone. It is now more important than ever that wasteful Government spending is cut right back, and tax relief is delivered to New Zealanders so that they can keep more of what they earn.” 

Taxpayers’ Union welcomes National’s commitment not to hike fuel taxes

Commenting on National’s fuel tax commitment, Taxpayers’ Union Head of Campaigns, Callum Purves, said:

“In the middle of a cost of living crisis, hiking fuel taxes – as Labour is still proposing – is morally wrong. Fuel taxes disproportionately hit rural and the poorest communities – such as shift workers – the hardest.

"Ruling out further hikes is the right thing to do. Unless fuel taxes are frozen, very soon tax will be half the cost at the pump again.

“The whole point of fuel taxes is to fund roads maintenance and investment, but the National Land Transport Fund is being used to fund all manner of projects such as public transport, cycleways and loss-making rail services. Wellington could easily increase road investment without hiking fuel taxes by reverting the Fund back to what is was designed for – road maintenance and upgrades.”

NEW POLL: Kiwis don’t believe Winston when he says he would not work with the Labour Party again

A new Taxpayers' Union – Curia poll has found that most New Zealanders don't believe Winston Peters when he says that New Zealand First would not be willing to put the Labour Party back into Government. 

The poll asked: Do you believe Winston Peters when he says he would not work with the Labour Party again?

Yes 27%
No 55%
Unsure 17%

A plurality of respondents across all demographic breakdowns and across supporters of all parties do not believe his pledge not to work with the Labour Party again.

The full results are available here.

Performance Management Plans for Public Service Chief Execs Long Overdue

Responding to ACT’s plans to allow ministers to be able to publicly issue key performance indicators for public service chief executives, Taxpayers’ Union Policy Adviser, James Ross, said:
 
“For far too long, too many public servants have been taking the taxpayer for an easy ride. If any one of us had spent years patently failing to do our jobs effectively, we would quite rightly expect to be sacked; it’s well past time that high-flying mandarins in cushy Wellington corner offices were held to at least the same standards as the rest of us.”
 
“In just six short years, Government spending has rocketed by nearly 70%. In that time, delivery on vital public services such as health and education has bottomed out. It’s clear that chucking billions at these departments hasn’t worked, and a major public sector cultural change is needed to start getting some bang for the taxpayer's buck again.
 
“Unlike ministers and MPs, the public lack any meaningful way of holding our public servants to account. ACT’s plan to introduce publicly-available key performance indicators for public service chief executives will hopefully be the first step of many towards dragging key public services back up to snuff.”

Pharmac Chief Executive Lacks Respect for Public Scrutiny, Unsuitable for Public Office

Responding to news that Pharmac Chief Executive Sarah Fitt took part in a series of personal attacks against journalist Rachel Smalley, Taxpayers’ Union Policy Adviser, James Ross, said:
 
“The strength of our democracy depends on the media being able to hold the government to account, and no public employee is too high-and-mighty to be above proper scrutiny. Unfortunately, far too many public servants act as though government transparency and accountability are nothing more than obstacles to be evaded by any means.
 
“Given Sarah Fitt’s senior role, her responsibility to lead by example should have been clear. The series of messages uncovered by Rachel Smalley show that instead, Fitt not only enabled a culture of disdain for public scrutiny but actively participated in it.
 
“Sarah Fitt has revealed how little respect she has for the public that she is employed to serve, and as such her position as Chief Executive of Pharmac is now completely untenable. She has lost the confidence of the Public Service Commissioner, the Health Minister, the media and the public. The Taxpayers’ Union is therefore joining the calls for Fitt to resign before she damages trust in the integrity of the public service any further.”

Taxpayers' Union – Curia Poll: October 2023

Here are the headline results for October's Taxpayers’ Union – Curia Poll:

Party

Support

Change from last month

National

35.9%

↑0.9

Labour

27.9%

↑1.4

ACT

9.1%

↓5.2

Green

10.6%

↓2.1

NZ First

6.9%

↑3.0

Māori

3.7%

↑0.8

Other

5.8%

↑1.1

National increases 0.9 points on last month to 35.9% while Labour are also up, gaining 1.4 points to take them to 27.9%. ACT have dropped by 5.2 points to 9.1% while the Greens are down 2.1 points to 10.6%.

The smaller parties are NZ First on 6.9% (+3 points), the Māori Party on 3.7% (+0.8 points), TOP on 2.9% (+0.2 points), New Conservatives on 0.7% (-0.1 points), Vision NZ on 0.3% (-0.2 points), and DemocracyNZ on 0.3% (+0.3 points).

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

Party

Seats

Change from last month

National

46

↑1

Labour

35

nc

Green

13

↓4

ACT

12

↓7

NZ First

9

↑9

Māori

5

↑1

National are up one seat on last month to 46 while Labour remain on 35. ACT have dropped 7 seats to 12 while the Greens have dropped 4 to 13. NZ First will re-enter Parliament on these figures, gaining 9 seats from last month for a total of 9 while the Māori Party are up one to 5 seats.

The combined projected seats for the Centre-Right of 58 is down 6 seats on last month, while the Centre-Left bloc’s total is down 3 to 53. Neither bloc would be able to form a government alone, but both could do so in coalition with NZ First.

Note: From June 2023, the Māori Party has been included in the Centre-Left bloc given National’s decision to rule out forming a government with them. New Zealand First is not included in either bloc. 

Both Christopher Luxon and Chris Hipkins have risen in this month’s preferred Prime Minister polls. Luxon has risen by 4 points to 29%, while Hipkins has gained 2 points to 27%.

David Seymour has dropped 4 points to 4% while 4.5% of people would still prefer Jacinda Ardern (down 2.5%). Chloë Swarbrick is up 1.4 points to 6.1%, Winston Peters is down 0.2 points to 4.3%, Nicola Willis remains unchanged at 2.5%, James Shaw has dropped 0.9 points to 1.2%, and Matt King has dropped 0.6 points to 0.7%. Marama Davidson has gained 0.9 points to 1.2% while Chris Bishop has dropped 0.2 points to 0.1%

 

47% (+3 points) of voters have a favourable view of Chris Hipkins while 28% (+2 points) have an unfavourable view for a net favourability of +19% (+3 points).

38% (+1 points) of voters have a favourable view of Christopher Luxon while 40% (-1 points) have an unfavourable view for a net favourability of -2% (+2 points).

David Seymour has a net favourability of -22% (-9 points). James Shaw has a net favourability of -19% (-3 points) while Rawiri Waititi scores -30% (-7 points) and Winston Peters is on -34% (+4 points).

For the full polling report, covering the detailed insights the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition are used to receiving, join our Taxpayer Caucus – our club of most generous financial supporters who make our work possible.


The scientific poll was conducted by Curia Market Research and commissioned by the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union. The full polling report is being released exclusively to members of our Taxpayer Caucus. As is well known, but for full disclosure, David Farrar co-founded the Taxpayers' Union and previously served on its board. He is also a Director of Curia Market Research Ltd.

The Taxpayers’ Union – Curia Poll was conducted from Sunday 1 October to Wednesday 04 October 2023. The median response was collected on Tuesday 3 October 2023. The sample size was 1,000 eligible New Zealand voters: 800 by phone and 200 by online panel. 909 respondents were decided on the party vote.The sample selection for the phone panel is from those who are contactable on a landline or mobile phone selected at random from 15,000 nationwide phone numbers plus a random selection from an online panel (that complies with ESOMAR guidelines for online research). The results are weighted to reflect the overall voting adult population in terms of gender, age, and area. Based on this sample of 1,000 respondents, the maximum sampling error (for a result of 50%) is +/- 3.1%, at the 95% confidence level. Results for sub-groups such as age and area will have a much higher margin of error and not seen as precise.

The polling questions and the order in which they were asked can be found here.

This poll should be formally referred to as the “Taxpayers’ Union – Curia Poll”.

Taxpayer Update: NEW POLL 📊⚫️ | Hipkins: Our no. 1 fan ❤️🏆 | 'ESC' WellingtonNZ's NYC IT/PR bungle ⌨️🛫🍎

There are eight days left until polls close, and we have a chockablock update for you this week.

Your humble Taxpayers' Union has been travelling the length of the country towing the Debt Clock to highlight the high levels of Government debt. Right now Grant Robertson's borrowing amounts to more than $82,131 for every kiwi household. That debt our kids (and grandkids) will be paying back! Watch the online version of the debt clock at www.debtclock.nz

Mahesh Muralidhar The National Party's Auckland Central candidate Mahesh Muralidhar's reaction to Grant Robertson's borrowing... 

And with the debt and big spending, Grant Robertson is waving goodbye to our best and brightest leaving for better economic climbs. Robbo and Chippy's new business, Robbo's Removals, is doing a roaring trade – already having helped 218,000 since 2017 flee! So call Grant Roberston right now on 0800 Tax Flee (0800 829 3533)

Robbo's Removals

So how are things looking with just over a week to go until election day...

NEW POLL – Big movers: ACT down, NZ First up 🚀

Available exclusively to supporters like you, the results of our October Taxpayers' Union – Curia poll are out. 

Decided Party Vote over time

National is up 0.9 points on last month's poll to 35.9% while Labour is also up by 1.4 points to 27.9%. While the Greens are down 2.1 points at 10.6%, they are now in third place ahead of the ACT Party, which has dropped sharply by 5.2 points to 9.1%.

NZ First holds balance of power – both blocs would require him to govern 👑

New Zealand First sees a big boost of 3 points to 6.9% putting Winston Peters once again in the kingmaker position and giving him the power to determine the composition of the next Government. The Māori Party is also up 0.8 points on last month to 3.7%. 

Here is how these results would translate to seats in Parliament, assuming the Māori Party retains an electorate seat:

Seats

National is up 1 seat to 46 while Labour is constant on 35 seats. The Greens have dropped 4 seats to 13 while ACT has dropped 7 seats to 12 . New Zealand First is back in Parliament on these numbers with 9 seats while the Māori Party is up 1 seat on last month to 5. 

This means that neither the Centre-Right bloc who are projected to have 58 seats (down 6 on last month) or the Centre-Left bloc who would have 53 seats (down 3) could form a Government on their own and would require the support of New Zealand First. 

Preferred Prime Minister

After tying with Chris Hipkins in the Preferred Prime Minister stakes last month, Christopher Luxon pulls ahead on 29% (up 4 points on last month) compared to Hipkins' 27% (up 2 points). David Seymour has dropped 4 points to 4%.

Visit our website for more information – including favourability scores for the party leaders – and details of how to get access to the full polling report.

Chris Hipkins: Taxpayers' Union's number one fan ❤️🏆

Chris Hipkins

While we value all of our supporters equally, it has been particularly gratifying to discover we have fans right at the top of the Beehive! We must be doing something right, as our good friend Chippy hasn't been able to stop talking about your humble Taxpayers' Union and our campaigns.

We have put together a 30-second compilation of some of the shout outs he has given us in the last few weeks. 

👉Watch the video here.

EXPOSED: How much is the Inflation Tax costing you? 🪓💸

Axe the Inflation Tax

After years of campaigning on the issue of inflation tax (or 'bracket creep'), we are delighted to see the issue getting attention from politicians and the media. 

Every year, inflation sees more and more New Zealanders tip into higher tax brackets, even thought their 'real' (inflation-adjusted) income stays the same. It means that we all pay higher and higher average tax rates over time without a single law being passed, or vote in parliament to hike taxes.

They say it takes a crisis to get the support required for necessary reform and, as painful as the current levels of inflation are, it is a perfect opportunity to lock in annual inflation adjustments of income tax brackets. 

While a number of political parties are campaigning on adjusting tax brackets for inflation, none of them is committing to a robust proposal that would actually stop politicians’ from stealthily sticking their fingers into your wallets for more and more tax every year.

No Taxation Without Indexation! 🪧📣 🥁

ACT and the National were both once committed to automatically adjusting tax brackets for inflation.  Now only National has the policy – but the party has watered it down to every three years (just before elections...) and only at Cabinet's discretion 'if fiscal conditions allow'... 😒

We say that's not good enough and have just launched a new website at www.AxeTheInflationTax.nz to make it easy for taxpayers to add their name to the fight against inflation tax and call for income tax bracket indexation.

Use the online calculator to find out how much the inflation tax since 2010 is costing you.

Please also take a moment to sign the petition and let the politicians know where you stand.

WellingtonNZ hits the wrong key ⌨️💥

Wellington Key

This week, our Investigation Co-ordinator, Oliver Bryan, exposed WellingtonNZ's pricey hot button issue. WellingtonNZ is Wellington City Council's so-called economic development agency – but they certainly weren't developing Wellington much in forking out a whopping $470,000 on a frivolous marketing charade in New York.

After flying staff to New York they created a huge 'ESC' key, meant to symbolise an 'escape' from the Big Apple to Wellington. But the $130,000 stunt was binned just seven hours after its launch! A ‘delete’ key would have been more appropriate.

With just 100 real-life attendees (passers by) the New York show was a flop at $1,300 per attendee.

We were then told it was about the "online traction".  But we got the figures for that too: a costly $14 per view (for comparison, your humble Taxpayers' Union pays just cents for our online and social media paid campaigns).

Adding insult to injury, a delegate from WellingtonNZ took a six-night keyboard journey to New York for this fleeting seven-hour debacle.

We say that rather than an 'ESC' key, WellingtonNZ needs a factory reset...

The Battle for Tāmaki: Did you catch the fiery debate? 💙🩷

Tāmaki Debate

It was great to see a packed house on Tuesday for our final electorate debate ahead of the election in Tāmaki. Our exclusive Taxpayers' Union – Curia electorate poll showed what was once a National stronghold can no longer be considered a safe blue seat. Incumbent National MP, Simon O'Connor, and his main challenger ACT Party Deputy Leader, Brooke van Velden, are locked in a statistical tie.

The debate was fiery and funny with two strong candidates showcasing their alternative visions for the Tāmaki electorate. Simon and Brooke battled it out over law and order, the cost of living, the economy and climate change.

You can watch the replay here.

New Report: The ineffectiveness of a tax-free threshold 🤑🗑️

Tax-Free Threshold

Both the Greens and Te Pāti Māori have proposed tax-free thresholds as part of their tax plans for this election. Like Labour's GST pledge, it is another policy that might look good at first glance, but as soon as you dig a little deeper, you'll hit fishhooks.

The key problem with tax free thresholds is that they're expensive but result in very little 'bang for buck' in terms of increasing economic output or incentives to work. The economic literature is pretty clear: it's the marginal tax rate that matters. Tax-free thresholds mean than more tax must be collected at the higher ends - meaning less incentives for workers to up skill, increase working hours, or otherwise get ahead.

Our Research Fellow, Jim Rose has written a new report looking at the impacts of implementing a tax-free threshold and concludes that the policy would be an expensive and poorly targeted way of reducing the tax burden and increasing after-tax incomes of New Zealand families.The report demonstrates that – like the GST policy – a tax-free threshold fails to effectively target those people its advocates intends to support with this initiative.

Have a read Jim's full report here.

😬 One more thing – apology to Winston incoming! 🚨

Yesterday we sent an email to many of our supporters asking the question that most people are: Will Winston Peters go with National, or Labour if NZ First are kingmaker?

After the email was sent, Jordan received a very terse (not to be repeated here!) email from Winston himself. Among his complaints was that he did not say in 2017 that he would go with the largest party, rather that he would speak to first the largest party. We apologize for the error.

Winston wants you to know: He won't be calling Hipkins 📵

Mr Peters insists that 'this time it's different', and we note that his Party has released a video stating New Zealand First will not return Labour to power.

Thank you for your support.

Yours aye,

Callum

Callum Signature
Callum Purves
COO and Head of Campaigns

New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union

Donate

Media coverage:


The Post Winston Peters and the great coalition jockeying game

The Post School lunches, Covid-19 and pseudoephedrine on the campaign trail

Stuff 'My heart couldn’t take it any more': How Northland has become a hotbed of frustration, anger and distrust

Interest.co.nz Those whose salary depends upon them coming to terms with the fact that the beliefs of the paymasters have changed tend to get with the programme pretty smartly, writes Chris Trotter

Asia Pacific Report NZ election 2023: Bryce Edwards: The most hollow campaign in living memory

The Platform Will the racists please stand up?

NZ Herald Election 2023: The Front Bench - Heather du Plessis-Allan, Jordan Williams, Phil O’Reilly, Richard Hills on big political issues

Newstalk ZB The Front Bench: Luxon confirmed he'll work with Peters- could National lose support?

Kiwiblog Grant's new job

Newstalk ZB Taxpayers Union: Tory Whanau being arrogant for taking economic well-being manager on 10-day trip

NZ Herald Election 2023: Chlöe Swarbrick, Mahesh Muralidhar, Oscar Sims and Felix Poole go head to head in Auckland Central debate

Newstalk ZB Poll shows Chlöe Swarbrick in fight to hold Auckland Central

NZ Herald Election 2023 live updates: Green’s Chlöe Swarbrick in fight with National’s Mahesh Muralidhar for Auckland Central

Politik The kindest cuts

Newstalk ZB Live: 'Scaring old ladies' Ginny Andersen hits out at National's Mark Mitchell

The Spinoff Labour’s fiscal plan doubles down on its ‘trust us with your money’ aesthetic

Interest.co.nz Labour says there is enough room on the balance sheet to respond to another economic shock if needed

Newsroom Fiscal plans fly as overseas voting opens

Newsroom Hipkins Angered by Race 'one-liners'

foodticker Grocery code will drive up prices - Taxpayers' Union

Otago Daily Times Benefits of reducing work hours disputed

NZ Herald Election 2023: Child poverty at issue as National, Labour vie over fiscal holes, welfare changes

The Press When two tribes go to war: Who watches leaders' debates?

Waikato Times If that's the solution, was there ever a crisis?

Interest.co.nz National says it doesn’t plan to provide financial support to local councils for water infrastructure under its alternative to Three Waters

NZ Herald Election 2023: Act Party’s Brooke van Velden hot on Nat’s Simon O’Connor’s heels in Tāmaki electorate - poll

Stuff Gore council CEO Stephen Parry says the bullying card is played too often in the workplace environment

NZ Herald Election 2023: Audrey Young - Labour MPs need basic lessons in campaign discipline

NZ Herald Election 2023: National and Act candidates face-off in Auckland

Offsetting Behaviour The problems of a tax-free threshold 

The Daily Blog Tamaki Debate – Winners + Losers (with zero funding from NZ on Air)

NEW POLL: NZ First Kingmaker, Luxon surges ahead of Hipkins as preferred Prime Minister

National increases 0.9 points on last month to 35.9% while Labour are also up, gaining 1.4 points to take them to 27.9%. ACT have dropped by 5.2 points to 9.1% while the Greens are down 2.1 points to 10.6%.

The smaller parties are NZ First on 6.9% (+3 points), the Māori Party on 3.7% (+0.8 points), TOP on 2.9% (+0.2 points), New Conservatives on 0.7% (-0.1 points), Vision NZ on 0.3% (-0.2 points), and DemocracyNZ on 0.3% (+0.3 points).

National are up one seat on last month to 46 while Labour remain on 35. ACT have dropped 7 seats to 12 while the Greens have dropped 4 to 13. NZ First will re-enter Parliament on these figures, gaining 9 seats from last month for a total of 9 while the Māori Party are up one to 5 seats.

The combined projected seats for the Centre-Right of 58 is down 6 seats on last month, while the Centre-Left bloc’s total is down 3 to 53. Neither bloc would be able to form a government alone, but both could do so in coalition with NZ First.

Both Christopher Luxon and Chris Hipkins have risen in this month’s preferred Prime Minister polls. Luxon has risen by 4 points to 29%, while Hipkins has gained 2 points to 27%.

David Seymour has dropped 4 points to 4% while 4.5% of people would still prefer Jacinda Ardern (down 2.5%). Chloë Swarbrick is up 1.4 points to 6.1%, Winston Peters is down 0.2 points to 4.3%, Nicola Willis remains unchanged at 2.5%, James Shaw has dropped 0.9 points to 1.2%, and Matt King has dropped 0.6 points to 0.7%. Marama Davidson has gained 0.9 points to 1.2% while Chris Bishop has dropped 0.2 points to 0.1%

More detailed results including polling on favourability ratings of different politicians are available on our website.

WellingtonNZ Hits the Wrong Key in New York

The spotlight is firmly on WellingtonNZ, the region's economic development agency, after The Taxpayers' Union has revealed $470,000 spent on an ephemeral overseas marketing event. The centrepiece of this campaign was a $130,000 'ESC' key, as a symbol of 'escaping' to Wellington, only to be destroyed shortly after its brief debut, according to information obtained under the LGOIMA. 

Oliver Bryan, Investigations Coordinator for the Taxpayers' Union, remarked, "WellingtonNZ, bearing the mantle of the region's Economic Development Agency to champion prosperity and improve liveability, has gone seriously astray. Dispatching a staffer to New York to frivolously burn through half a million dollars on a seven-hour 'ESC' key stunt isn't just a display of fiscal irresponsibility; it’s madness.”
 
"And let's not forget that after its mere seven-hour outing on New York’s streets, the $130,000 'ESC' key was destroyed. It's a pity the same level of ruthless expediency wasn’t applied to the plan as a whole before it got off the ground. But hey, at least they encouraged recycling. Kudos for such eco-conscious extravagance."
 
“When you break down the numbers, it's even more egregious: Only 100 people engaged with the stunt on the ground. That’s $1,300 spent for each person who engaged with this ploy and about $14 per online view. Without a concrete method to gauge its impact or any evident influence on immigration trends, this campaign is glaringly emblematic of vanity over value."
 
“The lucky member of staff also spent six nights in New York for this seven-hour stunt. It seems WellingtonNZ doesn't just waste money, but time too."
 
"Rather than advancing prosperity or enhancing Wellington's liveability, this escapade showcases an organisation dishing out heaps for embarrassingly minimal returns. It's a clarion call for a reset, to ensure alignment with goals that genuinely serve Wellingtonians."

New Taxpayers’ Union report shows the public sector is living far beyond its means

The new 2023 Public Sector Wage Gap Report from the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union investigating workforce differences between the public and private sector demonstrates that, while average public sector wages have stagnated recently, the growth in the number of government employees continues to burden the taxpayer, particularly across ministries and Core Crown departments, where back-office appointments have been prioritized over the front line.

With analysis on wage differentials, staffing levels, sick leave habits and annual leave entitlements, this report showcases the true extent of the benefits currently enjoyed by public sector employees. Using a combination of data assorted from a variety of sources including Statistics New Zealand, the Public Service Commission, and from individual departments, the report concludes the following key findings:

Key findings of the report:

  • As a percentage of private sector average hourly earnings, the current wage premium for the public sector is 21.3% as of June 2023.
  • The wage premium has narrowed significantly over the last decade, fuelled largely by a combination of strong wage growth in the private sector and pay freeze initiatives across high-wage personnel in the public sector.
  • Over the last five years, the increase in the total headcount at the public sector has significantly outpaced the headcount increase for the private sector – 15.3% to 9.8%. Over the same period, the combined headcount across ministries and Core Crown departments in the Public Service grew by even more at 27.0%
  • Recent appointments at almost all ministries and core departments have shown to prioritize back-office over the front-line. This has caused some departments now to carry a disproportionate share of managerial staff on their payroll. The Ministry of Defence, for example, now has nearly as many managers as it does other staff.
  • In 2022, public sector employees took an average of 1.1 days more in sick leave than workers in the private sector – 6.5 to 5.4. If public sector workers took the same amount of sick leave as those in the private sector, taxpayers would have saved over $173 million in 2022. 

Key recommendations:

  • With immense pressure expected to mount over next few years regarding public sector wages, it is paramount that the Government commits to restraining wage growth, ensuring that it does not outpace comparable growth in the private sector.
  • Current staffing growth across both the wider public sector and the Public Service specifically is far too high. At a bare minimum, public sector staffing growth should not exceed population growth, but should be cut back in areas where possible.
  • The provision of frontline services is important, especially in the context of New Zealand’s cost-of-living crisis. This means cutting back on managerial appointments and ensuring that the employment and maintaining of health, education, and social workers should be prioritized.
  • The Government should investigate why sick leave entitlement is being taken at a much higher rate in the public sector than in the private sector. If this analysis determines that public sector departments are providing extra sick leave unnecessarily, then arrangements should be made to ensure that this benefit reduced.

Commenting on the release of the 2023 Public Sector Wage Gap Report, Taxpayers’ Union Head of Campaigns, Callum Purves said:

“While the gap in average earnings between the public and private sector may have reduced significantly over the past several years, the Government is still spending more and more on its personnel thanks to the sheer growth in staff numbers across departments.

“Not only do more and more managers each now oversee fewer and fewer staff, but the number of frontline employees in social, health and education work hasn’t increased nearly as quickly. What should have been necessary investment into essential services over the last few years has instead been rampant bureaucracy through the back-office.

“Even the finance minister knows the current state of the public sector’s workforce is untenable. His last-ditch attempt to cut Public Service expenditure right before PREFU only highlighted the little faith he had in his own fiscal management.

“If the Government really wants to reduce the enormous deficit facing the country, it must look to optimize its payroll and hold people to account. It is clear that the current staffing arrangement is shockingly unsustainable."

Taxpayers robbed by more than $1.2 billion in the past year, Taxpayers’ Union launches new campaign

Following today’s release of the Government’s audited Financial Statements revealing that fiscal drag has seen New Zealanders taxed an additional $1.2 billion by stealth, the Taxpayers’ Union is launching a new website and petition as part of a campaign to Axe the Inflation Tax.

Axe the Inflation Tax asks all political parties to commit to automatic annual inflation adjustments of tax brackets so that Kiwis struggling in the middle of a cost of living crisis aren’t pushed into paying higher and higher average tax rates when their income hasn’t increased in real terms.

Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:

“While a number of political parties are campaigning on adjusting tax brackets for inflation, none of them have committed to the Taxpayers’ Union’s robust proposal that would actually stop politicians’ from stealthily sticking their fingers into workers’ pay-checks for more and more tax every year. The key differences between our proposal and those of political parties is that we want inflation adjustments to income tax brackets to be both automatic and annual.

“Parties campaigning on discretionary adjustments simply give themselves an easy out to continue stealth tax hikes without the consent of Parliament. If the Minister of Finance feels that they need the additional revenue, they should be able to justify it to the public and parliament as they are currently forced to do with every other tax grab.

“Equally, three-yearly inflation adjustments are particularly punishing during high-inflation periods such as right now where many struggling families cannot withstand three years of tax hikes before being bribed with an adjustment disguised as tax relief. What’s worse is that, as we have seen with the failure to regularly adjust tax brackets since they were introduced in 2010, many parties claim that it would be simply too expensive to reset tax brackets to the same real level as when they were first set.

“Our inflation tax calculator shows the impact inflation has had on income taxes and how much less tax workers would be paying if regular inflation adjustments had been occurring. A worker on the median income of $66,196, for example, is paying $2,285 more in tax per year than someone on the same real income in 2010 despite politicians not legislating any changes to income tax rates in the lower and middle brackets during this time.”

Taxpayers’ Union Baffled by Wellington City Council’s Corporate Bailout

 

Responding to news that Wellington City Council is planning to buy the land under the currently earthquake-prone Reading cinema complex and re-strengthen the building, Taxpayers’ Union Head of Campaigns Callum Purves said:

“The Reading Cinema may be a dead spot in the heart of the City Centre, but that doesn’t mean the Council needs to step in.“Just earlier this week we saw with Wellington’s Town Hall just how costly these earthquake-strengthening projects turn out to be. It’s just as likely that another massive budget blowout is on the cards with this proposal.

“If Reading International won’t take on the restrengthening itself, then the Council needs to accept that. Should a private buyer choose to purchase and redevelop the land in the future, the Council should ensure that the consenting process – including the demolition option – is as smooth as possible, but that’s all it needs to do.

“This is just another example corporate favouritism at the expense of the ratepayer. Wellington residents are already facing a double-digit rate increase this year. A project of this magnitude will only guarantee further rate hikes and continue to burden Wellingtonians."

NEW REPORT: The Pitfalls of a Tax-Free Threshold for Income Tax

A new report by Taxpayers’ Union Research Fellow, Jim Rose,analysing the impacts of implementing a tax-free threshold concludes that the policy would be an expensive and poorly targeted way of reducing the tax burden and increasing after-tax incomes of New Zealand families.

Key findings of the report include:

> The introduction of a tax-free threshold is poorly targeted with many of the intended beneficiaries of the policy already receiving other Government support such as benefits, superannuation and tax credits, which could be increased without spillovers to other higher income groups.


> The more important tax threshold that needs to be adjusted is the $48,000 income tax threshold that when crossed sees individuals paying a 30% marginal tax rate. Given that a full-time minimum wage worker earns $47,216 annually, they only need to work one additional hour a week or get a 40 cent per hour pay rise in order to be pushed into the higher tax rate. This, combined with the 27% abatement of Working for Families tax credits, can create punishing effective tax rates well above 50%, which has significant impacts on incentives to work.


> Most of those in incomes low enough to substantially benefit from a tax-free threshold are either in groups where more targeted support can be provided (such as those listed above), are students working part time, or are second earners, again working part-time.


> The tax-free thresholds proposed by the Greens and Te Pāti Māori, along with the one considered earlier in the year by Labour, would cost more than what is currently spent on Working for Families but spills over to many taxpayers who do not need it, rather than just those the policy intends to help.

Commenting on the reportTaxpayers’ Union Head of Campaigns, Callum Purves, said:

“While it might be seen as appealing at first, the introduction of a tax-free threshold is arguably one of the least effective tax cuts. It is poorly targeted and doesn’t address the real issue, which is high marginal tax rates for primary earners in a household. Marginal tax rates matter because the impact on incentives to work, invest and up-skill along with being key determinants for whether people come to New Zealand or if our best and brightest decide to head overseas for a better return for hard work.

“The Taxpayers’ Union would of course prefer a tax-free threshold be introduced to the current high-tax status quo if it was funded by reductions in wasteful spending. However, there are far more effective options which should be explored instead, such as reducing the tax burden at the point where it hits the hardest by increasing the income threshold at which the 30% tax bracket kicks in.

“Hiking taxes even further to fund a tax-free threshold is simply untenable. The taxes proposed by the Greens and Te Pāti Māori (and previously by Labour) would economically ruin New Zealand by punishing innovation, investment, and success, draining New Zealand of the income needed to sustainably fund such a threshold.” 

The Full Report can be read below or by clicking here:

Kiwis Still Paying the Price for Years of Government Mismanagement

 

Responding to news that the OCR has remained at 5.5%, Taxpayers’ Union Policy Adviser, James Ross, said:
 
“Kiwis struggling under the cost-of-living crisis will be hurting today after hearing that the Official Cash Rate (OCR) is still frozen at 5.5%. Worse still, with inflation still well outside the target range, pundits such as ANZ are seriously questioning whether interest rates may have to jump again later in the year.
 
“The IMF have been clear that this Government’s lack of fiscal responsibility is the cause of our economic woes and have repeatedly called on the Government to rein in their flagrant overspending. With the Government continuing to drive inflation through billions of wasted dollars on bloated bureaucracies and vanity projects, RBNZ are having to desperately play catch-up by tightening the economy with high interest rates.
 
“This combination of high interest rates and high inflation is making life impossible for far too many people up and down the country, but with both major parties just promising more of the same unfortunately life is only going to get harder. Whatever happens after this month’s election, any incoming government must commit to cutting back on wasteful overspending and finally start to show some economic credibility.”

NEW POLL: Statistical tie between National and ACT in race for Tāmaki

A new Taxpayers Union – Curia poll in the Tāmaki electorate shows ACT’s Brooke van Velden mounting a strong challenge to incumbent National MP, Simon O’Connor.

The two major candidates for the seat are locked in a statistical tie with 35% of respondents indicating they will vote for Simon O’Conner and 33% opting for Brooke van Velden. 12% said they would vote for Labour’s Fesaitu Solomone while others pledged their support for parties without local electorate candidates: 4% for the Greens, 2% for Te Pāti Māori, and 1% for NZ First. 1% refused to answer while 13% were unsure – much lower than in other electorates polled. 

Removing undecideds and refusals, gives a decided vote of 40% for Simon O’Connor – down 13 points on the last election – and 38% for Brooke van Velden – up 33 points on 2020. Labour is on 14%, the Greens on 4%, Te Pāti Māori on 2%, and NZ First on 1%. 

The full results – including candidate name recognition, MP approval rating, and most important local issues – are available here.

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

 “Tāmaki has been a National stronghold for decades since former Prime Minister Robert Muldoon won the seat back at the 1960 general election, but it can no longer be considered a safe blue seat. Simon O’Connor outpolled the National party vote by 15 points in 2020, but today’s poll suggests there has been a massive turnaround. 

“O’Connor and Brooke van Velden are in a statistical tie for the electorate with a massive increase in support for the ACT Party. With the difference between the two top candidates being within the margin of error for this poll, either candidate could be ahead in this contest that is likely to go right down to the wire.”

Taxpayers’ Union happy to correct PM’s “outlandish claims”

The Taxpayers’ Union is surprised to be, yet again, in the mind of the Labour Party leader when fielding questions from journalists.

Responding to Mr Hipkins’ slight today accusing the Taxpayers’ Union of spreading “outlandish claims” about him and the Labour Party, the Taxpayers’ Union invites him to put up or shut up as it pertains to any factual errors in the Union’s advertising.

Taxpayers’ Union resident disinformation sniffer Jordan Williams, said:

“Unlike Labour’s affiliate organisations, we don’t make stuff up in critiquing parties’ policies. I am proud that unlike the CTU’s three-yearly smear campaigns, the Taxpayers’ Union leads with its mission, policy critiques, and facts.

“The PM’s comments today appear just to be meaningless political straw-clutching but if Mr Hipkins, or any of the hundreds of staff that work at the Beehive, can point to any factual errors in our recent or current campaigns we will happily apologise and correct them.

“Mr Hipkins would be better focused at selling his own party than continuing to take swipes at New Zealand’s most popular union.”

Corporate welfare for wood processing leaves Taxpayers’ Union stumped

 

The Taxpayers’ Union is questioning the Government’s decision to provide corporate welfare to the wood processing sector, both in the form of direct hand-outs and the Government playing bank manager by providing loans when this could easily be left to private sector banks.

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

“Too often we see the Government branching out into areas that are not core government functions and where Ministers and bureaucrats have little to no expertise. What does the Government know that banks don’t when it comes to making sensible investment decisions? This is simply more corporate welfare providing handouts to business at a time when Kiwis are struggling with the cost of living.

“Not only are these spending decisions distortionary by arbitrarily encouraging more investment in some sectors to the detriment of others but they also unnecessarily place private risk on taxpayers who are left out of pocket if things go wrong.

“If the Government is concerned about the lack of investment in growing industries, perhaps they should look at the root causes of the problem – high interest rates made necessary by out-of-control government spending and overly-restrictive overseas investment rules that make it so difficult to get foreign capital into the country.

“The only tree that the Government should be focused on is the self-proclaimed ‘Tāne Mahuta’, Adrian Orr, who has consistently failed to keep inflation in the target range and whose Large Scale Asset Purchase programme has seen taxpayers foot the bill for billions of dollars in losses." 

Taxpayers’ Union Slams Te Pūkenga Wasteful Ad Campaign

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Zealanders still waiting on NZ First to demonstrate economic credibility

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Taxpayers’ Union Executive Director, Jordan Williams, says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Taxpayers’ Union slams National’s alternative fiscal plan

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

Taxpayers’ Union spokesperson Jordan Williams said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

NOTES:

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

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

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

Ministry of Education Still Failing to Deliver for Kiwi Kids

 

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

Grocery Supply Code Will Drive Food Prices Even Higher

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Hipkins completely misunderstands his own party’s GST costings

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NEW POLL: Voters torn in Auckland Central electorate

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

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

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

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

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

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

Handing Climate Policy to Appointed Bureaucrats is Undemocratic and Ineffective

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Labour’s Climate Announcement is Economically and Scientifically Illiterate

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

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

Establishing a Minister of Just Transitions:

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

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

More Corporate Welfare:

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

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

Removing Diesel Generators from all Schools:

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

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

Prioritising Gross Emissions Reductions over Net Emissions Reductions:

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

There is a better way:

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

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

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

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

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

Blanket Speed Reductions Increase Prices and Stifle Wages


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

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

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

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

But first, we tackle the big numbers.

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

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

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

Debt Clock Launch

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

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

David Seymour

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Backbencher Panel

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

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

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

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

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

Hipkins wants to hike fuel taxes 🤯⛽️

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

Solomone_wants_to_hike_fuel_taxes.png

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

Creative NZ Logo

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

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

Email to Creative NZ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Taxpayer Talk: Phil Barry

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

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

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

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

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

One more thing... 😕

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

Thank you for your support.

Jordan

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

Media coverage:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Newstalk ZB Afternoon Edition: 08 September 2023 – September Poll

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

The Post 
Extra spending doesn't always mean wasteful spending

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

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

RNZ 
Advocacy angst as campaign begins

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Newstalk ZB Midday Edition: 12 September 2023 – Debt Clock

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

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

RNZ Party leaders ride the highs and lows of new poll

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

BusinessDesk Poll gives Jones little chance of winning Northland seat

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

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

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

Newsroom Once safe blue seat of Ilam now more politically fluid

Politik To cut or not to cut

RNZ National not impressed by PREFU (05:49)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Politik Willis under pressure in Queenstown

The Daily Blog Northland Debate: Winners and Losers

Newsroom When four politicians walk into a room

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

Newsroom Electorates to Watch: the Battle for Northland

DemocracyProject Bryce Edwards: A Very hollow election

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

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

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

RNZ Red wave may be breaking in battle for Ilam

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

New Zealand Needs to Boost Productivity

 

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

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

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

Wayne Brown Right to Call for Devolution of Powers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The paper looked at the best available evidence and concluded: 

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

Taxpayers’ Union Executive Director Jordan Williams said:

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

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

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

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

Tax cuts are the moral thing to do

 

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

Responding to the Labour Party leaders comments Jordan Williams said:

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

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

Breakfast Blowout: Ministry For Pacific Peoples Does It Again

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

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

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

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

Don Brash GST

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

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

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

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

To support Taxpayer Talk, click here


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