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New Three Waters recommendations are an unholy mess

When the Government announced last year it would delay the Three Waters legislation, they appointed an “independent” Working Group to provide recommendations on ways to make the legislation more palatable for local councils. At the time, we called it out as anything but independent. The Working Group itself was 50/50 co-governed, and of the Mayors appointed to represent the interests of local government it was stacked in favour of the very few who were supporting the Government’s proposals.

Today the Working Group has released its recommendations.

Under the recommendations, councils would still not have anything close to proportionate representation on the four “Regional Representation Groups” that appoint the selection panel that appoints the board members for the new entities. For example, Auckland Council would have just four of 14 seats for the northern group, despite having 90 percent of the region’s population and contributing the lion's share of the assets.

As we predicted, the Working Group has backed Nanaia Mahuta’s co-governance model that will see half the seats for each region held by iwi/hapū members, giving iwi an effective veto right over every major decision.

Here are some of the key recommendations:

⚠️ Fresh off the back of the infamous $4 million “Better Water” television ad campaign, the Working Group wants another new public communications campaign to explain “need for change” to New Zealanders.

⚠️ Councils would now hold shares in the new water entities. This is clearly an attempt to ward off accusations that Three Waters is an asset grab. But it’s yet another deceit: regardless of their shareholdings, councils (and therefore ratepayers) will still be stripped of all the crucial rights of control that define ownership. Councils won’t be allowed to receive a return from the water entities, yet that is specifically allowed for Mana Whenua groups. In short, the “ownership” of shares will be meaningless.

⚠️ Further, the Working Group has suggested adding yet another layer of bureaucracy to the scheme, in the form of new “sub-regional” groups representing smaller councils and iwi. This would mean five layers of bureaucracy in total separate ratepayers from water services: councillors, the co-governed sub-regional representative group, the co-governed Regional Representative Group, the Selection Panel, and the water entity board.

⚠️ The Working Group also wants to establish a new Water Services Ombudsman, with a “tikanga-based dispute resolution process”. And they have demanded a new policy consultation process between the Crown and its Treaty partners, separate from public consultation.

The full set of 47 recommendations from the Working Group can be found at the bottom this article.

Together, these ideas intensify the absurd complexity of the scheme. The whole thing stinks of “jobs for the boys” that will ultimately cost ratepayers.

Nanaia Mahuta and her Cabinet colleagues will now “consider” the recommendations before unveiling the legislation that will be put before Parliament. From our perspective, there is nothing to consider: Three Waters cannot be salvaged.

Thank you for your support,


Jordan Williams
Executive Director
New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union.


Sport NZ spends $4.7 million conducting surveys

The Taxpayers' Union is challenging Sport NZ's $4.7 million dollar spend on surveys since 2018.

In the space of four years, Sport NZ has spent $4.7 million conducting monthly 'Active NZ' surveys interrogating New Zealanders on what kind of physical activity they do, how often, and for how long. The spending figures were provided to the Taxpayers' Union under the Official Information Act.


The surveys' annual sample size includes about 20,000 New Zealanders from the electoral roll and an additional 5,000 children.

The surveys appear to be growing more expensive each year, with 2021's surveys costing taxpayers $1.25 million, including $12,000 on voucher giveaways to incentivise participants. 

Union spokesman Louis Houlbrooke says, "This mammoth ongoing data-mining exercise proves that when you give an obscure agency generous taxpayer funding, they'll find a way to spend it."

"Running a survey with a sample size of 20,000 could occasionally be justified. But when it costs over a million dollars, we have to question why it's being done every year." 

"Even if we accept that Sport NZ has to survey 20,000 people every year, the cost of $50 per participant is eyebrow-raising. At the Taxpayers' Union we manage to run surveys far more cheaply, even when we commission scientific market research companies like Curia."

"Obsessively tracking New Zealanders' participation in yoga, gardening, and tramping may be a fun statistical exercise, but it hardly seems like a priority during a cost of living crisis. We're left wondering if Sport NZ is simply overfunded." 

Data reports from the surveys can be found here.

According to Sport NZ's 2020/21 financial report, the agency received $299 million in funding for the financial year. The agency has 241 employees, of whom 132 are paid salaries greater than $100,000.

Exclusive polling analysis with David Farrar


The Taxpayers' Union Curia Poll conducted in February shows National surging. Is the writing on the wall for Labour next election? or should National not get their hopes up just yet? Levi is joined by pollster and media commentator David Farrar for analysis of the results. 


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


Taxpayer Talk: Behind the court challenge against Three Waters



The Government has justified its Three Waters scheme based on an interpretation of the Treaty of Waitangi. But does the logic stand up to scrutiny? Jordan sits down with Stephen Franks, a lawyer working on the High Court case against Nanaia Mahuta's water regime.



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


Taxpayer Update: Fuel tax refunds | Three Waters slowdown | Ponzi schemes

Dear Supporter,

Refunding Aucklanders for their fuel tax ⛽️💸

Last week we headed to a petrol station in Takapuna with a mission: expose high fuel taxes by refunding motorists the tax on their bill. In Auckland, tax now accounts for 52% of the price at the pump.

To prevent a stampede, we announced the location publicly just an hour beforehand of the half hour event.

Word got around and a queue quickly formed down the street, with Newshub, 1News, and even Radio NZ turning up to see what the fuss was about. 

Newshub clipClick here to see Newshub's coverage.

Click here to see 1News's coverage.

The Taxpayers' Union wouldn't usually give handouts, but in this case it was a small price to pay to get fuel taxes into the six o'clock news.

Half what you pay at the pump is tax 💸

As I pointed out to Chris Lynch on Magic Talk this morning, looming war in Ukraine is likely to lead to disruption and sanctions that will drive fuel prices even higher.

Jacinda Ardern might not be able to control Vladimir Putin, but she can shield taxpayers from the cost of conflict by pulling back the petrol tax lever.

>> Sign the petition to cut fuel taxes <<

The petition now has more than 11,000 signatures.

Please don't do this 🙈

Someone bought this sticker from the Taxpayers' Union store and put it on a petrol pump:


Putting stickers on petrol pumps is naughty behaviour that we cannot possibly endorse.

If Taxpayers' Union supporters started pasting hundreds of these stickers on fuel pumps up and down the country we would be so upset that we would ask you to send us photos so we can expose this bad behaviour on social media.

Click here to order your sticker.

Starting to taste victory? Three Waters legislation delayedThree Waters signs

Late last year it was widely reported that the Government had delayed its Three Waters legislation until at least March, after facing overwhelming public opposition.

A new update from the Department of Internal Affairs confirms that the delay is even longer: the Government will now introduce the legislation "mid-year".

This is fantastic news for the campaign to Stop Three Waters. Firstly, it shows just how spooked the Government is by our efforts. They're on the back foot and are working desperately to massage the reforms into something more palatable to New Zealanders.

Secondly, the delay means that the legislation is likely to face public consultation in the same period as local body elections. We'll be working with council candidates to expose the nasty details of Nanaia Mahuta's asset grab in town halls and on election billboards across the country.

We can win this!

We know another why the Government has had to delay Three Waters. It relates to a court challenge that was filed last year but that we'll be announcing tomorrow... Keep an eye on your email.

🎤 Our members grill Christopher Luxon

Luxon event

On Thursday, we hosted an event for Taxpayers' Union supporters to meet National Party Leader Christopher Luxon, questioning him on any topic, free from the prying eyes of the media.

The BBQ was exclusive to Auckland-based members and financial supporters of the Taxpayers' Union. With COVID rules limited attendance to 100, but in future we hope to host much larger face-to-face events. If you're not already a member, join the Taxpayers' Union to get onto the invite list.

(Thank you to everyone who came along and gave such positive and helpful feedback to me, Jordan, Sara, Levi, Annabel, and the team. It was great to meet so many of you and put faces to names!)

You know things have got bad for the Government when...

It's not often that we're on the same page as the Public Service Association – the main public sector union which tends to campaign for the Labour Party.

PSA tweet

Tax bracket creep has now got so bad that even this left-wing union is now running our talking points: that minimum wage workers are now at risk of falling into the 30 percent income tax bracket.

There is a growing consensus that it's time to address bracket creep, but Grant Robertson says he has no plans to change the brackets. The obvious reason is tax creep has benefited him by stealthily increasing his income tax take, allowing him to make massive spending commitments of dubious quality. We need to keep the pressure on.

Are taxpayers set to bailout Ponzi schemes?

Charles Ponzi

The Reserve Bank is currently putting together legislation that would see deposits with banks insured by taxpayers.

However, the scheme would extend to high-risk finance companies. Where similar schemes have been put in place overseas, they have resulted in taxpayers being forced to bail out dodgy failed investments and even collapsed Ponzi schemes.

Our Research Fellow Jim Rose (a long-time economist) has produced a submission on the proposed Deposit Takers Act. You can find the executive summary and full document here.

Taxpayer Talk: What does the new TOP Leader stand for?

Raf Manji

The Opportunities Party (or simply "TOP") has a new Leader – Raf Manji. I sat down with Raf for a long-form podcast interview to ask why he's so keen for a universal basic income, how he thinks a land tax will pay for it, and whether TOP is a "left-wing" or "right-wing" party.

Click here to listen, or find all of our Taxpayer Talk episodes on Apple PodcastsSpotifyGoogle Podcasts, or iHeart Radio.

Thanks for your support, and all the best,

Louis circle

Louis Houlbrooke
Campaigns Manager
New Zealand Taxpayers' Union


Media coverage:

NBR  Once teddy bears, now protests: Cracks of division

Can’t buy me love

Decision made on TVNZ, RNZ merger by the Cabinet, sources suggest

NZ Herald  National's Christopher Luxon says NZ 'society divided', Jacinda Ardern 'missing in action'

  Parliament protest: The podium of truth has shifted and may never return

NBR  Wellington protests, vaccine mandates, and MIQ late bills

RNZ  The Week in Politics: The protesters and the politicians

NZ Herald  One last chance left to deliver

Newshub  New Zealand Taxpayers' Union gives about 50 Aucklanders their petrol tax back in pointed exercise directed at Government

RNZ  Lobby group pays drivers' fuel tax at North Shore petrol station

TVNZ  Taxpayers' Union stunt sees motorists handed back petrol bill tax

Kiwiblog  Taxpayers’ Union staff are literally handing out free cash in Takapuna

Kiwiblog  Taxpayers’ Union Curia February 2022 poll

Magic Talk  Taxpayers' Union Curia Poll

NZ Herald  'Pouring petrol on inflation fire': Bay of Plenty business leaders opposed to minimum wage hike

NZ Herald  National closes gap, as minor parties lose ground

The Spinoff  Parliament protest continues as omicron numbers top 2,500

Newstalk ZB  Taxpayers' Union Curia Poll

Newstalk ZB  Heather du Plessis-Allan: More of us think we're headed in the wrong direction

The Daily Blog  New Poll: Support for Luxon hardens – Left plus vs Right plus plus plus in 2023 showdown

RNZ  Labour holds strong in latest political poll, while National creeps up and minor parties suffer

The Country  The Country Full Show: Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Stuff  New poll: National surge up closer to Labour; Greens and ACT down

NZ Herald  TPU/Curia political poll: National closes gap to Labour, with minor parties losing ground

Submission: Reject deposit insurance for finance companies

The New Zealand Taxpayers' Union has submitted on the proposed Deposit Takers Act, warning against the proposed insurance scheme that will see Ponzi schemes bailed out by taxpayers.

Click here to read the full submission.

Executive summary:

This submission contends that implementing deposit insurance for finance companies would be a
short-sighted policy and must be considered a policy option distinct from deposit insurance only for

Finance companies operate within a different set of moral hazard concerns than banks do, which
deposit insurance schemes interact with to drive the sort of risk-seeking behaviour that makes the
guarantee more likely to be activated.

Economic stability is, however, not protected by deposit insurance for finance companies, in the same
way it may be for banks.

In New Zealand, finance companies now make an even smaller proportion of capital markets than they
did prior to the Global Financial Crisis (GFC). The deposit guarantee scheme put in place for finance
companies then was of dubious value, even with their larger share of the market in 2008.

The Reserve Bank Governor would be placed in an unenviable position as regulator for finance
company deposit insurance, as that portion of the market is regularly plagued by scandal and Serious
Fraud Office investigations.

While there is valid debate as to the correct policy balance for insuring deposits in banks, the case is
settled that finance companies should not be included in a scheme such as the one proposed. It is
recommended that finance companies be removed from the Draft Bill.

Taxpayer Update: Luxon gets competitive | Cut fuel tax | 30% tax on low wages

Dear Supporter,

Our latest poll shows National rise under Luxon

The latest monthly scientific Taxpayers' Union Curia Poll is now available for members and supporters here.

Party vote

The headline result: National is returning to a competitive position under the leadership of Christopher Luxon. While much of National's gains appear to have come at ACT's expense, overall the centre-right parties are closing the gap with Labour and the Greens.

It's time to cut fuel tax ⛽️ >> Sign the petition ✍️

About half the price of petrol is made up of Government taxes.

Fuel tax graph

The Prime Minister can blame rising living costs on ‘global conditions’ all she likes, but the cost of fuel is one thing she can control.

Fuel costs filter through to the price of every single household good – and half the price of petrol is made up of government taxes and levies.

We're calling on the Government to rein in the cost of living by urgently cutting the excise tax on petrol.

>> Sign the petition at <<

Taxes on a litre of petrol include:

  • 70.024 cents in excise

  • 6 cents in ACC levy

  • 0.66 cents in Local Authorities Tax

  • 0.6 cents in Engine Fuels Monitoring Levy

  • 18.2 cents in ETS levy

  • 0.076 cents in other levies

And in Auckland:

  • 10 cents in Regional Fuel Tax

And charged on top of all taxes, plus the before-tax price:

  • 15% in GST

This means the total tax on a $2.77 litre of petrol is $1.43 in Auckland and $1.31 in the rest of the country – about 52% and 48% of the average price, respectively.

Fuel tax image

Minimum wage and paying 30% in marginal tax 😱

High income taxes used to only affect high earners. But thanks to inflation, even minimum wage workers are now threatened with punishingly high tax rates

After the Government's decision to hike the minimum wage by 6%, someone working 44 hours a week on the minimum wage will now pay tax in the 30% bracket.

In fact, in real terms workers on the minimum wage may be worse off than they were last year, because inflation wipes away 98% of the value of their pay hike. The higher average tax rate wipes away the rest (and then some). 

While for now they'll only have a small portion of their income in the 30% tax bracket, the real killer is how the high tax rate destroys the incentive to do better. Minimum wage workers will now have a third of the reward for upskilling, working overtime, or achieving a promotion nixed by the taxman.

Bracket creep has been stealthily taking more and more from workers unchecked since tax brackets were set in 2011. If brackets had been adjusted for inflation since then, the 30% tax bracket wouldn't kick in until $56,822.

The ironic part is that while the minimum wage hike was meant to counter inflation, it will in fact feed the beast. Higher costs on employers will filter down to higher prices for consumers – which in turn means more inflation. The only winner from this dangerous spiral is Grant Robertson, who gets even more tax revenue...

Speaking of Government revenues, here's a little known fact for you: a Kiwi on the average income is now paying $2,138 more tax per year since the current Labour Government came to office. That’s after adjusting for inflation – and doesn't account for the unfunded spending/borrowing money printing.

"Man of great integrity" – PM's comments on Goff unbelievable given SFO probe 🤮

Ardern and Goff

This week Jacinda Ardern spoke to the media about Phil Goff's decision not to re-stand as Auckland Mayor, saying: “I can personally attest to the fact Phil Goff is a man of great integrity.”

She's welcome to her personal view, but she seems to have forgotten that Phil Goff is currently the subject of an ongoing probe by the Serious Fraud Office over his 2017 election expenses.

As Jordan put it to media:

It's difficult to believe the Prime Minister would go out on a limb for Goff like this unless she was trying to prod on the investigation.

Of course the Government is in a difficult position. It would be difficult for the Government to appoint Mr Goff to Washington, or any diplomatic post for that matter, while he is still subject to the corruption investigation.

The Taxpayers’ Union reached out to the SFO who confirmed that their investigation is ongoing. Once upon a time, that was the media's job!

Bizarre spending at the Department of Internal Affairs 🛋

DIA building

The Department of Internal Affairs spent $1.36 million  on furniture in a year where few of its staff were even in the office!

That astonishing figure was revealed by National MP Melissa Lee, who grilled the DIA last week in a Select Committee meeting.

$1.36 million is $700 for every staff member. Are we expected to believe that every chair, desk, futon, and beanbag in the department spontaneously combusted at once?

Meanwhile, Melissa Lee also revealed that the DIA's new departmental agency, the Ministry of Ethnic Communities, granted a charitable foundation $60,000 for business training among ethnic communities – which saw $40,000 of the amount spent on a single guest speaker. 

What sort of guest speaker costs that much? Did they pipe in Oprah? It's a terrible start for a new agency that was of questionable value to begin with.

Independent report slams taxpayer funding for media 📰

After the Government unveiled its infamous $55 million "Public Interest Journalism" slush fund, the Ministry for Culture and Heritage commissioned an independent report into competition and diversity in the media sector.

This month, the completed report was quietly uploaded to the Ministry's website. Its findings are remarkable.

Here are some of the money quotes from Sapere Research Group, who produced the report:

…given the current state of plurality and the risks associated with public funding of journalism content, we do not see a strong case for any ongoing public funding of commercial news content.

…several stakeholders expressed concern that funding decisions had crossed into editorial decision-making, with New Zealand On Air effectively holding a ‘beauty contest’ to choose which proposed stories/investigations merited support.

Others observed that due to the relatively limited pool of journalists in New Zealand, the PIJF was creating a ‘giant game of musical chairs’ and was leading to salary inflation rather than building new capacity.

Some stakeholders also expressed reservations that public funding of media firms may make those firms beholden to the government of the day and public officials might be reluctant to fund proposals that will be critical of government policies – which would undermine a key plurality objective of the media being able to hold public institutions and elected officials accountable.

Any large-scale permanent funding at a national level risks reducing the commercial opportunities available to firms to create content, risks propping up inefficient business models, and may unwittingly tilt the prospects of success/failure for businesses.

(We have to give credit to BusinessDesk, the first media outlet to cover this report – despite having received Government funding themselves!)

What's wrong with this job ad? 👀

The New Zealand Treasury has the specific responsibility of providing sound economic advice to the Government. It was once the bastion of intellectual rigour in Wellington. 

They're currently hiring for a new senior economic analyst:

Treasury ad

You read that correctly: "an economics background is not essential".

For a senior analyst. Of economic strategy. At the agency responsible for official advice to the Government on policy.

Heavens weep.

All the best,

Louis circle

Louis Houlbrooke
Campaigns Manager
New Zealand Taxpayers' Union


Media coverage:

Homepaddock  Late, lax and lying?

Newstalk ZB  The Huddle: The anti-mandate protest and immigration reset

 Finance Minister Grant Robertson is acting as the Pied Piper

Democracy Project  Graham Adams: Three Waters: A sorry tale of government deception and media inertia

NZ Herald  Latest political poll: Large drop for Act sees bump in support for Labour, National and Green Party

The Spinoff  
Polls set stage for a box-office year in New Zealand politics

NewstalkZB  Heather du Plessis-Allan: People love Luxon because he's not Ardern

Meeting the new TOP Leader




The Opportunities Party (or simply TOP) has a new Leader - Raf Manji. Louis sits down with Raf to learn why he's so keen for a universal basic income, how he thinks a land tax will pay for it, and whether TOP is a "left-wing" or "right-wing" party.

Raf's music recommendation is "Cash (Cash Money)" by Prince Charles & The City Beat Band.


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

Petition launched: Ease living costs by cutting fuel tax

The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union has launched a petition to urgently reduce the excise tax paid on petrol at

Click here to sign the petition.

Jacinda Ardern says she can’t control rising living costs – but that’s not quite true.

Petrol is a household and business staple. Petrol costs filter through to the price of every single household good – and half the price of petrol is made up of government taxes and levies.

The Prime Minister can blame inflation on ‘global conditions’ all she likes, but the cost of petrol is one thing she actually can control. Reductions in excise tax could reduce the cost of petrol by up to 80 cents a litre, or 92 cents in Auckland.

The Government has benefited from rising petrol prices, with more GST flowing back to Grant Robertson. We say it’s time to give households a break.


The tax on petrol includes:

  • 70.024 cents in excise
  • 6 cents in ACC levy
  • 0.66 cents in Local Authorities Tax
  • 0.6 cents in Engine Fuels Monitoring Levy
  • 18.2 cents in ETS levy
  • 0.076 cents in other levies

And in Auckland:

  • 10 cents in Regional Fuel Tax

And charged on top of all taxes, plus the before-tax price:

  • 15% in GST

This means the total tax on a $2.77 litre of petrol is $1.43 in Auckland and $1.31 in the rest of the country – about 52% and 48% of the average price, respectively.

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