Statue controversy is pathetic
We are currently facing the economic fallout of a literal pandemic. But our country's media and politicians have decided the biggest issue affecting New Zealanders is whether or not our statues are racist.
On Thursday, Hamilton City Council removed a statue of the city's namesake, John Hamilton, after a local kaumatua threatened to tear it down himself.
What a pathetic capitulation. Why are councillors focused on a statue? Don’t they realise that by so swiftly agreeing to pull it down, they’re inviting wasteful new debates over other statues, and even Hamilton’s name?
Councillors need to refocus their time and attention away from petty controversies and onto issues that matter: namely, their annual budget. Tear down wasteful spending, not statues.
Statues of Edward Gibbon Wakefield, Captain Cook, and Richard Seddon are also under siege, as are street names and museum exhibitions deemed 'colonial'. The Māori Party wants to make it an election issue.
God help us.
Here's a real problem
New data from the OECD confirms hard economic times ahead for New Zealand: we are looking at a forecast decline in productivity of 8.9%, or 10% if there’s a second wave of COVID-19. That’s worse than the average forecast decline for the OECD countries.
Because of New Zealand's lackluster contact tracing capabilities, the Government pursued an extremely strict lockdown in response to COVID-19. This hammered our output.
The lockdown also necessitated massive amounts of spending. Already, Government debt has risen from below 20% of GDP to above 25% – and it’s expected to peak much higher, at $109,000 household. And once the wage subsidy ends in September, we can expect an unemployment spike too.
In short: why are we talking about statues?
COVID-19 ads looking more like propaganda
You might think that the taxpayer-funded ad campaign to 'Unite against COVID-19' is now over. Instead, it's been replaced with a new one: 'Unite for the recovery'.
This double-page ad is being promoted in the Herald and the Dominion Post:
The message is being promoted by the Government in other platforms, along with the 'Be kind' slogan that is closely associated with Jacinda Ardern.
These advertisements are not primarily informative or educational, unlike earlier Government COVID-19 advertisements. We have now moved into the realm of thinly veiled political propaganda at the taxpayers’ expense.
‘Unite for the recovery’ is expected to be the central theme of the Labour Party’s 2020 election campaign. With Government debt going through the roof, we say borrowed funds should be used on vital services, not propaganda.
Before previous elections, Auditors General have slapped down incumbent Governments for using taxpayer money for political messages. We've laid a formal complaint with the Auditor General – we'll let you know what he comes back with.
Napier City Council's morning tea is only the tip of the iceberg
RNZ reports that Napier City Council's CEO has thrown himself a $4,251 farewell morning tea.
Incredibly, the Mayor's only complaint about the spending was that she wasn't invited!
The RNZ report seems to skim the real waste in this story: CEO Wayne Jack has been given a $1 million golden handshake to leave. Ratepayers are forced to reward poor performance.
Mr Jack assumed 660 council staff would want to attend his farewell. On that note: does Napier City Council really need 660 staff on payroll??
Cutting council payrolls is key to rates relief
We've been advising councils to respond to COVID-19 by freezing rates. While some councils have taken our advice, many more are complaining that a rates freeze would involve major cuts to spending.
That's true. Why not review payroll spending?
A new report from local government analyst Larry Mitchell reveals that council employees earn, on average, 37.9% more than those in the private sector.
The average council spends 23.8% of its budget on payroll, but there is significant variation: Kapiti Coast District Council spends 34.7% on payroll, whereas Rangitikei spends just 10.3%. This suggests councils could cut down on staff or salaries if they were serious about relief for ratepayers.
You bought a free internet modem for Mike Hosking
This might be my favourite waste story of the year. Buried among the Government's countless "COVID-19 response" spending projects was $87 million worth of IT equipment for kids studying from home. The idea was to get the kit to kids in poor households without access to the internet.
The result: hundreds of unwanted internet modems are piling up in school offices, or being sent to families that don't need them. Even Mike Hosking's son got one!
Is the discriminatory elective surgery policy really a response to COVID-19?
The Taxpayers’ Union has filed a complaint with the Race Relations Commissioner over Capital and Coast DHB's policy of prioritising Māori and Pacific patients on elective surgery waiting lists.
Taxpayer-funded health resources should be allocated solely on clinical need in all instances, not racial preference. We hoped this was just a rogue DHB making policy on the hoof. We were wrong.
Eight other DHBs have introduced or are looking to introduce this clearly discriminatory policy. Three more refused to rule it out.
Supposedly, this policy is a response to COVID-19. There was a backlog of surgeries created when hospitals effectively shut down bracing for a tsunami of virus patients that never arrived.
Those days are past. There are no patients still in hospital with COVID-19. When the elective surgery backlog is cleared, and in many instances that has already happened, this policy should be immediately dropped if it really is just related to COVID-19.
The Union doubts that DHBs will do that. There is an agenda here and Official Information Act requests will be lodged to discover the truth.