In this episode of Taxpayer Talk, Taxpayers' Union Research Officer Islay Aitchison interviews economist Michael Reddell on monetary and fiscal policy. Michael Reddell's blog, Croaking Cassandra, can be found here.
A few months back I gave the government a seven out of ten for its handling of COVID. That assessment has plummeted in over the last week, as revelations about its management of at risk border workers has shown astonishing gaps. There has been a breakdown in the MoH-Ministerial relationship in respect of expectations and communication, and now the panicked dictate to the port sector.
It is clear that a majority of staff working to protect us all from high-risk arrivals to New Zealand have not been given the tests that Minister Hipkins had assured the public were happening. Rather than being grumpy about this failure of the Ministry/DHBs to perform as expected he, and the public, should be outraged. We are all entitled to know exactly how the Minister’s expectations were communicated to officials and see their explanation for what actually happened.
It is quite likely this failure to meet Ministerial and public expectations will result in thousands of people losing their jobs and businesses failing, as Auckland endures at least two weeks at level three. This is not a simple oversight – it's a major public policy failure. It fits a pattern of sloppiness, which started when then-Police head Mike Bush told Simon Bridges’ Select Committee that the Police were not following up on all people in self-isolation, as had been stated to be Government policy.
It reinforces the importance of a quality, efficient inquiry into how we have handled COVID from the beginning.
Having failed in the last 100 plus days to protect at risk workers, the public and the economy from the arrivals, last Friday the MoH issues an order to seaports: “We now require everyone who works at the maritime border to get a test for COVID-19 over the next three days.”
This was presumably driven by the remote possibility that the Aucklander, who worked at a cool store, may have picked up COVID-19 from an imported product, that could have come via a seaport.
We have 13 ports that handle international vessels but it is very unlikely that any port, other than POAL or Port of Tauranga (POT), could have sent product to that cool store. So why did such a blanket order go to all ports and why was the requirement the tests be done within three days when such a sloppy attitude was taken for months to the at risk workers, mostly at the airports and quarantine facilities?
Its understood after some pushback from the port sector the order was limited to the two major import ports. It covers anyone who visited the port between July 21 and August 17. Clearly those making the policy don’t understand how ports work. Many businesses operate at the ports and when you cover everyone who has visited the two ports we could be looking at around 12,000 people altogether, who are widely dispersed in Auckland and Tauranga.
Did MoH check the local DHBs could actually do this testing within the timetable, or did they think this would happen within three days from the Friday decree by simply waving a wand?
In addition to the two above failures, it's apparent MoH has done zip since the first round to refine policy settings. We still have the absurd nonsense of butchers, greengrocers and bakeries being banned from opening at the higher COVID levels thereby channelling all food business to the supermarket duopoly. It's about safe practices not the product range. Surely MBIE, which must have some understanding of business, could educate MoH and Ministers.
I sincerely hope we get on top of this latest outbreak very soon and we don’t end up like the state of Victoria. However, as a matter of urgency whoever is in Government after the election will need to overhaul both the policies and operation of our pandemic system, because it has been found wanting far too many times.
There are two ways I think the pandemic could be better managed. First equip pharmacies to do the testing. Second have a mobile unit in at least Auckland to go to likely sites where people have COVID instead of sending them off to join some long queue. We will get more outbreaks and pandemics and need an enduring system.
Barrie Saunders is the Chairman of the New Zealand Taxpayers' Union and a former Chair of the NZ Port CEOs Group. This piece was originally published on his personal blog at https://barriesaunders.wordpress.com.
A new briefing paper released by the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union makes the case for a temporary cut in the rate of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) from 15 percent to 10 percent, mimicking what the United Kingdom Government did with VAT immediately following the Global Financial Crisis.
Policymakers are currently grappling with the question of how to spur spending in the economy as we face a recession. This question will become urgent as the wage subsidy scheme ends in September and we see the real effects of COVID-19 on our economy.
With the official cash rate already close to zero, monetary policy has become increasingly ineffective as a stimulus tool. This has seen politicians propose fiscal interventions, such as the Government’s interest-free business loan scheme, but these interventions are often poorly targeted and create perverse incentives.
Fortunately, our tax system already provides a sound, indiscriminate mechanism to encourage spending. A temporary cut to GST during the height of recession would encourage New Zealanders to bring forward consumption – similar to a cut in the official cash rate.
This spending would breathe life into revenue-starved businesses, ensuring they can continue to employ New Zealanders and keep supply chains unbroken.
We suggest a sunset clause kicking in after a year to avoid long-term deficit effects or politicians replacing the lost revenue with increases to more economically damaging taxes.
On a yearly basis, the fiscal impact of this cut would be a $7.36 billion reduction in reduction in revenue for the Government. However, this impact could be reduced implementing the policy for a shorter period of time.
Damning report on Provincial Growth Fund confirms pork barrelling, conflicts, and worse
A damning new report from the Auditor-General has confirmed what your humble Taxpayers' Union has been saying about the Provincial Growth Fund all along. He found failing processes with regards to the approval of grants, managing conflicts of interests, and tracking of performance.
The Auditor-General said:
It was not always clear from the documentation why certain projects were considered for funding from this part of the Fund. . . it was difficult to find evidence of how projects had fully met the normal criteria for the Fund.
When the Auditor-General with all his expertise does a deep dive into the application documents and still can’t figure out why recipients were granted funding, we have a serious problem.
The Auditor-General goes on:
In my view, in the interests of the transparency of the overall process, it is important for the public and Parliament to have better visibility of how all the parts of the Fund operate
We couldn’t agree more. Post COVID-19, every dollar handed out from the fund is borrowed from future generations of taxpayers. New Zealanders deserve more information to shed light on whether Shane Jones’s slush fund justifies a mortgage on our future.
The report’s breakdown of spending by region shows the real motivation behind the Provincial Growth Fund. The region to receive the most funding – half a billion dollars and counting – is Northland. That’s a $3,671 election bribe for every man, woman, and child in the region that New Zealand First is targeting for votes. It is banana republic stuff and is a blot on New Zealand’s reputation for having incorruptible institutions.
Labour candidate does the right thing. But what about National in Port Hills?
The Labour Party’s new Palmerston North candidate, Tangi Utikere (pictured left), is the City's deputy mayor.
Last week we called on Mr Utikere to give up his ratepayer-funded salary – and now he’s agreed.
Good on him. The amount of money saved might be small in the scheme of things, but it's an important principle: ratepayers should not be forced to pay a councillor to campaign full time for a political party they may not support. It also sends the right message about the attitude Tangi Utikere will bring to Parliament when it comes to the use of public funds.
Meanwhile, National’s candidate in Port Hills – Catherine Chu, a Christchurch City Councillor – continues to take a $114,000 salary from ratepayers while she campaigns, on top of a taxpayer-funded salary as a DHB member! As we told The Press, ratepayers deserve more focus from their local representatives.
Taxpayer Briefing: The Green Party Manifesto
Our Analyst, Neil Miller, was tasked with trawling through the Green Party's 52-page manifesto so you don't have to. Highlights/lowlights include:
A "wealth" tax – i.e. a tax on retirement, housing, entrepreneurship, and death for the average Auckland homeowner.
Not one, but two more income tax brackets above 33%.
"Investigating" a sugar tax.
A "water only" policy for sports clubs.
Taxpayer-funded snorkeling lessons (yes, seriously).
AJ Hackett Bungy process could set chilling precedent
Crux reports that MBIE handed over taxpayer money to AJ Hackett Bungy without even confirming that private funding wasn't available.
As one of New Zealand's most successful tourism operators, AJ Hackett Bungy would have survived without corporate welfare. It is completely unacceptable that it received a taxpayer-funded handout of $5,100,000 (and access to a further loan of the same amount) while smaller, less well-known and less politically connected businesses continue to struggle and fail.
The least taxpayers expect is a thorough process to make sure alternatives are unavailable before public funding is provided. In this case, AJ Hackett Bungy simply stated that it had not received a response from its bank – incredibly, that single line was enough to be given a cool $5 million.
We say Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis must signal to the wider corporate community that this is not the standard process. Otherwise, businesses may pursue a strategy of making merely token attempts to secure private funding (or making no such attempts at all) before asking for a handout.
AJ Hackett’s reputation should not be tainted by handout
In our annual Jonesie Waste Awards, we nominated the handout given to AJ Hackett Bungy as an example of unfair corporate welfare, joking that AJ Hackett is the only tourism operator in Queenstown who doesn’t want to throw Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis off a bridge.
An associate of Mr Hackett's family has since contacted us to clarify that AJ Hackett separated from his company’s New Zealand operations several years ago. He had no involvement with the lobbying for taxpayer funding.
It’s a shame that an iconic New Zealand innovator should have his reputation tarnished, through no fault of his own, as a result of a politically-motivated handout. The Taxpayers’ Union apologises to Mr Hackett, having now learned he is not liable for payments given to the company that bears his name.
If only AJ Hackett Bungy the company valued their reputation as much as Mr Hackett's family, they wouldn't have attempted this cosy special deal.
No Marama, tax is not "love"
We've laughed before about commentators claiming that "tax is love". But now our politicians are saying it too.
Here's our response to Green Party co-Leader Marama Davidson, who made the claim on Q&A:
Marama Davidson is asking New Zealanders struggling to pay higher income taxes, fuel taxes, rubbish taxes, and tobacco taxes, to accept all this with a warm feeling of affection. That’s not just delusional, it’s offensive.
Frankly this is a grotesque, masochistic, Orwellian distortion of language. The Green Party should be ashamed.
Tax punishes productive New Zealanders and takes food off the table. For those who have recently lost their jobs, tax paid is the difference between meeting mortgage payments and losing the house. And then, come election time, politicians fritter away our hard-earned taxes on political bribes to serve their own re-election chances.
Debt Monster gets a selfie with the Prime Minister
It's been a busy couple of weeks for the Debt Monster. Here he is posing with the Prime Minister at a campaign event in Naenae:
The Debt Monster is a big fan of Jacinda. He even woke up early to meet her and Grant Robertson for a breakfast event at Te Papa! Click here to watch the short clip on Facebook.
The Debt Monster is our malevolent symbol of the cost of politicians' borrowing – set to reach $109,000 per Kiwi household in 2024.
He's not party political – he loves to stalk any politician who vies for votes with taxpayer money. Look at this photo from Judith Collins's recent event in Petone:
Judith seemed to see the funny side. She even posted on Facebook about the encounter.
The Debt monster also visited New Zealand First's campaign launch in Auckland:
Who's that in the background? Another Debt Monster??
He was hoping to hear Winston Peters' big speech, but New Zealand First staff members wouldn't let him in.
The Debt Monster will be an inescapable presence on the campaign trail. We won't let politicians forget that their promises are paid for by future generations of taxpayers.
Have a great week,
Timaru Herald Another SCDHB surplus 'sets an example' for others
Hawke's Bay Today Tukituki MP Lawrence Yule told taxpayer-funded signs breached rules
Democracy Action Infrastructure costs now include an 8 percent Taniwha Tax
Bay of Plenty Times Tax write-off: IRD waives hundreds of millions of dollars in debt
Newsroom Ardern hypes up housing in the Hutt
Hawke's Bay Today Resident claims Wairoa rates restructure could 'kill' town
The Green Party of Aotearoa (they do not use the term New Zealand) has launched a 52-page manifesto. We at the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union read the modestly titled “Think Ahead. Act Now. Our Green vision for Aotearoa” so you do not have to.
Crunching the numbers did not take long. There are literally no costings – none. However, reading through page after page after page of expensive policies confirm that any number would be very large indeed.
Here are the key terrifying points for taxpayers in the Green Party Manifesto for the 2020 general election.
[My comments in brackets.]
• Establish a Minister for Animals and a Parliamentary Commissioner for Animal Welfare.
[More bureaucracy and another Commissioner job for ex-Green MPs. Is this really a priority in a COVID-19 environment with soaring debt? This is literally the third policy listed in their document.]
• Uphold the kaitiaki, proprietary, and customary rights of iwi and hapū over water.
[This would dramatically expand the rights of iwi and hapū over all water.]
• Create a fairer system for water allocation by introducing fees for commercial users like bottling plants. Iwi and hapū would be involved in designing the framework.
[Why would iwi and hapū have input into a commercial framework?]
• Increase funding support for iwi and hapū, landholders, and community organisations to restore the health of forests and waterways.
• $1.3 billion to create thousands of jobs for nature over the next four years, including 6,000 jobs in conservation.
[The NZTU has never seen a robust definition of what a job for nature is. Does it count jobs that would have already been created?]
• The Green Party is not in the pocket of big fishing companies.
[Gee… I wonder who that is a dig at?]
• Phase out low-grade plastic products that can be easily replaced with reusable alternatives, especially plastic water bottles, cotton buds, and fruit stickers.
[While people are losing their jobs, the Greens are focused on banning cotton buds and fruit stickers.]
• Review the New Zealand-Aotearoa Tourism Strategy in light of COVID-19.
[A five-agency review of the Tourism Strategy in light of COVID-19 was already announced last week. Just a shame we will not be getting any tourists any time soon.]
• Develop a Kids in Nature programme where schools get operational funding to enable students to learn in outdoor classrooms, build their outdoor recreation skills, and go kayaking, bush walking, and snorkelling.
[Taxpayer funded snorkelling for rich city kids.]
• Roll out Te Reo Māori as a core school subject through to Year 10.
[Can students snorkel and learn Te Reo Māori at the same time for double NCEA credits?]
• Embed ecological sustainability and civics education in the curriculum.
• Fund arts, culture, and creativity in schools, including supporting the Creatives in Schools programme.
[Is there going to be any time left in school for maths?]
• Secretive donations and unequal access by lobbyists creates an uneven playing field.
[Probably talking about that miscreant Jordan Williams at that terrible Taxpayers’ Union.]
• Uphold human rights by lowering the voting age to 16 and extending voting rights to all people in prison.
[All people in prison. Clayton Weatherston’s vote will be worth the same as yours!]
• Entrench Māori seats in Parliament.
[This would effectively make it impossible for future Parliaments to remove Māori seats as Labour and the Greens will always support them.]
• Make local elections fairer and more accessible by… removing barriers to the establishment of Māori electoral wards.
[The main barrier is that most people do not want Maori wards.]
• Strengthen accountability by reforming the Official Information Act and providing greater transparency of political lobbying.
[Presumably a reference to Greenpeace or Forest and Bird, noted lobbyists with Parliamentary passes.]
• Significantly reduce alcohol advertising and sponsorship of sporting and cultural events.
[Have they checked whether there are companies or charities ready and willing to step up to fill the massive funding gap this would create?]
• Remove the ability of big alcohol and supermarket corporates to challenge Local Alcohol Policies.
• Require health warning labels on all legal drugs, including alcohol.
• Guarantee equal gender representation in Government appointments, while addressing other gaps including ethnicity and disability.
[Quotas! Where are we going to find all those male nurses?]
• Increase funding to Family Planning clinics to ensure contraception and abortion care is available everywhere.
• Ensure Aotearoa’s defence forces promote peace, justice, and environmental protection (such as fisheries enforcement) throughout the Pacific and the world.
• [Defence Force] Establish a Conflict Prevention Unit.
[Even groovier man!]
• Oppose Aotearoa’s participation in the Five Eyes spy network.
[Some pretty serious geo-political consequences in that short sentence.]
• Work with global partners to support the forgiveness of unjust Global South debt, and fair debt relief measures, especially in the aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis.
[A trillion-dollar sentence right there.]
• Incorporate matauranga Māori into the health system, and fund provision of primary healthcare through Māori organisations, overseen by a new Māori health agency.
• Investigate a levy on sugary drinks to fund affordable dental care.
• Support water-only policies in schools, hospitals, and sports clubs.
[No more beers after the match for you, peasants!]
• Facilitate finance for development of papakāinga [housing] on Māori land.
[We’re halfway through with no reference to tax. The only references to economic growth are negative.]
• Review the use of algorithms and risk profiling in immigration decisions.
[We suspect most people would support risk profiling.]
• Reform sentencing, bail and parole laws to enable the gradual replacement of most prisons with community-based rehabilitation.
[Abolish most prisons!]
• Oppose the use of the Public Works Act to acquire Māori land.
• [Page 31] Introduce a new tax of 1 per cent on an individual’s net wealth above $1 million and 2 per cent on net wealth over $2 million. This tax would only affect the wealthiest 6 per cent of New Zealanders.
• Create two new top income tax brackets for a more progressive tax system that redistributes wealth.
[Oprah voice: You get more taxes! You get more taxes! You get more taxes!]
• Support green roofs and other “soft” infrastructure.
[Whisky Tango Foxtrot is “soft” infrastructure?]
• Phase-out the most environmentally degrading agricultural inputs, such as synthetic fertilisers and harmful pesticides, and ban Palm Kernel Expeller (PKE) imports.
• Support farmers to transition to organic agriculture.
• Make donations to non-profit art and creative organisations tax-deductible, like charities are.
• Ensure funding of arts and culture organisations does not solely rely on gambling revenue, and work with venues to secure revenue that doesn’t rely solely on alcohol consumption.
[Again, who is going to step up to fill up this funding gap? Probably the taxpayer.]
[Arts and culture is listed under economic policy but there is no section on tax…]
• Embed creativity in future Wellbeing Budgets and the Treasury’s Living Standards Framework, so it influences policy-making right across government.
[Hopefully we can pay off our huge national debt with creativity. What’s the exchange rate on that?]
• Establish a Public Interest Journalism Fund, making grants available for projects and journalists, with criteria to ensure diversity of voice in media is considered as part of the grants process.
[Formalise Government funding for selected journalists. Yet somehow the influence of lobbyists is the bigger problem.]
• Implement a ‘digital services tax’ on digital advertising revenue, to disincentive sending revenue offshore and provide a new stream of funding for local media.
[Basically, try to force government agencies and businesses to use New Zealand advertising even though Facebook or Google are more effective and cheaper. This goes even further than the media companies’ desperate pleas to the Epidemic Response Committee.]
• Increase RNZ’s funding, including RNZ Concert, which could then employ journalists losing jobs in the private media sector.
[“Funding” = taxpayer money for what is considered by New Zealanders to be the most left-leaning media outlet.]
• Make electric cars more affordable and invest in better cycle lanes, buses, and trains.
[Taxing tradies to subsidise Teslas.]
• Commit government departments to buying more goods and services from Aotearoa businesses.
[This would breach multiple trade agreements.]
• Use government procurement to support local suppliers and open-source software, including hosting government data onshore, to deliver broader value to Aotearoa.
[NZ Made even if there are cheaper and better alternatives from overseas.]
• Review regulatory frameworks that distinguish between commercial businesses and non-profit organisations, to support social enterprises to thrive.
• Commit to open data so people can innovate, while protecting individual privacy and data sovereignty, including Māori data sovereignty.
[Second reference to Maori data sovereignty in the document.]
• Design people-friendly streets that are safer for walking and cycling, particularly around schools.
• Expand electric vehicle charging stations across Aotearoa.
[Current usage – 1%-3% of the time they are active.]
• Move to default union membership so people automatically join a union when they start a new job, but can opt out.
[Will this include the Taxpayers’ Union?]
• Restore the right to solidarity strikes and political strikes.
[The 70s called – they want their strikes back!]
• Progressively shift to five weeks annual leave.
[Another burden on employers.]
• Improve redundancy processes and provide a minimum of one-month full pay for people made redundant.
• Extend the living wage beyond the core public sector, including to contractors.
[Costly implications for many government agencies and businesses.]
• Develop specific employment and equity standards to be used when selecting contracts for government procurement.
[Again, no focus on value for money, just virtue signalling.]
Taxpayer-funded billboards promoting National MP Lawrence Yule have now been deemed candidate advertisements by the Electoral Commission.
The Commission's decision was made in response to a complaint by the Taxpayers' Union, which understood the large billboards were recently erected and therefore could not be considered part of Mr Yule's standard display of contact details.
As a result of the Commission's decision, the money spent on these billboard will be apportioned into the election period, and will count towards Mr Yule's election spending limit.
Union spokesman Louis Houlbrooke says, "Mr Yule claimed he had written approval to erect these billboards with taxpayer money, but now we see the Electoral Commission find against him. Either the Commission has made a remarkable u-turn, or Lawrence was telling porkies."
"The question now is whether taxpayers will get their money back. That's a matter for Parliamentary Services, who, according to Yule, approved the billboard. However, now that the Electoral Commission has determined these billboards are candidate ads, Parliamentary Services needs to demand Yule repay costs for the portion of time the billboards have stood during the election period."
The Taxpayers' Union has written to the Speaker of the House to ensure this action is taken.
The New Zealand Taxpayers' Union can reveal that councils are allocating up to eight percent of total build costs for iwi engagement for COVID-19 response projects.
Taxpayers' Union Executive Director Jordan Williams says, "While trawling through council applications for 'shovel-ready' funding, we came across a proposal from the Waipa District Council that allocates eight percent of the total build costs for iwi engagement. When compared to project management costs of just six percent of the budget, eight percent — or $2,000,000 — for iwi engagement is outrageous."
"Ratepayers would be disturbed to know that eight cents on the dollar of these projects are going toward iwi engagement. Particularly since they're already on the hook for an expensive Resource Management Act process: $609,000 for the full $25,000,000 proposal."
"The Council has framed this consultation as 'mana whenua will be invited to be involved through co-design of some aspects in the proposal and the sharing of iwi narratives of the region.' But there's a difference between inviting mana whenua to participate and making ratepayers hand over millions for iwi engagement."
"Greasing up local iwi so they agree to shoo away taniwha really isn't necessary, especially for minor cases like the Council's proposal. The proposal is a package of projects such as toilet facilities and playground upgrades. These projects aren't major builds, they're community facilities. Ratepayers are especially feeling the pinch right now and a taniwha tax cannot be justified."
The Taxpayers' Union is conducting an audit of council 'shovel-ready' proposals to determine how widespread these practices are.
Auckland’s water crisis has been in the media over recent weeks, and the 2020 drought reminds us a lot of the water restrictions in 1994. Auckland’s population is now 50% larger than 1994, has water infrastructure kept up? Just how vulnerable are we to dry years? Is the Waikato river the solution? Taxpayers’ Union Executive Director, and Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance Founder Jordan Williams sits down with the CEO of Water Care Raveen Jaduram for a deep dive into Water Care - its business model, how it’s funded, and how it trades the risk of drought with affordability.
To subscribe to the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union visit www.taxpayers.org.nz/sign_up
To subscribe to the Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance visit www.ratepayers.nz/join
*** If you are struggling to pay your Water Care bill and need some assistance, including details on the Water Utility Consumer Assistance Trust is available at https://www.watercare.co.nz/Help-and-advice/Help-with-your-account/Need-help-paying-a-bill and http://www.waterassistance.org.nz ***
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The third annual Jonesie Awards were hosted at Parliament today, celebrating the best of the worst of Government waste.
Every year, we host a glamourous Oscars-style award ceremony to highlight and lament the most absurd examples of wasted taxpayer money to emerge in the last 12 months.
Behind the tuxedos and gilded statuettes is a serious message: politicians and bureaucrats in both local and central government happily fritter away your hard-earned money on bizarre pet projects and ill-planned schemes without fear of consequence.
The Jonesies serve as a shot across the bow for anyone in charge of a government chequebook: rein in the waste, or see your name up in lights at the next Jonesie Awards.
Local government nominees
Dunedin City Council: Responding to COVID-19 with dots
Dunedin City Council responded to COVID-19 by spending $40,000 on red and blue dots for its main street. The dots were variously justified as a tool to assist social distancing, a way to attract people to the city, and as a “traffic calming” device. The Council also spent $145,000 on a new tourism slogan: “Dunedin, a pretty good plan D”.
Napier City Council: Golden handshake for a failed CEO
After a series of headline-grabbing failures, Napier City Council gave its CEO Wayne Jack a reported $1 million payout to leave before his contract expired. Mr Jack’s final official act was to throw himself a $4,000 farewell tea party. The Mayor complained that she was not invited.
Wellington Mayor Andy Foster for Extraordinary Leadership
When nine-term councillor Andy Foster was unexpectedly elected Mayor last year, he promptly enrolled himself in a $30,000 leadership course at Arrowtown’s Millbrook estate. However, he has refused to say what, if anything, he learned – and has since spent more money on a team facilitator to smooth over problems on his Council.
Auckland Council: Temporary cycleways for COVID-19
Auckland Council installed 17 kilometres of temporary cycleway in response to COVID-19. Like Dunedin’s dots, the initiative was intended to assist social distancing. All works had to be reversed in a matter of weeks. The total cost is estimated to be more than a million dollars.
Rotorua Lakes District Council: $743,000 for the Hemo Gorge sculpture
Rotorua’s 12-metre, 3D printed Hemo Gorge sculpture was initially planned to open in 2017 at a cost of $500,000. Three years later, it is still under construction, and costs have blown out to at least $743,000.
WINNER: Wellington Mayor Andy Foster for Extraordinary Leadership
Central government nominees
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Responding to COVID-19 with horse tracks
The Deputy Prime Minister and New Zealand First Party Leader led the Government’s COVID-19 response by announcing a $72 million funding package for the racing industry. This package included two synthetic horse tracks. No-one has been able to establish how horse tracks relate to coronavirus.
Rt Hon Trevor Mallard: $572,000 for a Parliamentary slide
As part of his initiative to make Parliament more “family-friendly”, the Speaker of the House commissioned the construction of a playground on Parliament’s lawn. The playground, which essentially consists of a slide and some stepping stones, was budgeted at $400,000, but ultimately cost $572,000.
Hon Chris Hipkins: $87 million for unwanted internet modems
An $87 million package to give students the means to study remotely during COVID-19 lockdown resulted in thousands of unwanted modems being sent to wealthy schools. Epsom’s Auckland Grammar alone received 137 unwanted modems, and even Mike Hosking’s child was a beneficiary of the policy.
Hon Shane Jones: Three train trips for $6.2 million
The Regional Economic Development Minister re-opened the Wairoa-Napier rail line last year, predicting that up to six train services would run per week. As of last month, only three services had run in total: a cost of more than $2 million per train trip.
Hon Kelvin Davis: $10 million for AJ Hackett Bungy
In response to a tourism downturn due to COVID-19, Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis singled out one of Queenstown’s most successful businesses – AJ Hackett Bungy – for a taxpayer handout. AJ Hackett received a $5.1 million grant, plus a potential $5.1 million loan, all on top of its substantial payout received under the COVID-19 wage subsidy scheme.
WINNER: Rt Hon Winston Peters for responding to COVID-19 with horse tracks
Lifetime Achievement Award
Hon Phil Twyford is this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award Winner for excellence in government waste.
First elected as a list MP in 2008, Phillip Stoner Twyford was thrust into power as Minister of Housing, Urban Development, and Transport in 2017.
His most high-profile election promise was to build 100,000 KiwiBuild homes in 10 years, with an initial investment of $2 billion. Two years into that period, KiwiBuild has delivered just 395 houses – fewer than the number of houses blocked by protestors at Ihumātao. At the current rate, Phil Twyford’s promise will be fulfilled in 436 years.
Even with the taxpayer subsidy, these homes are too expensive or located in places people don’t want to buy. As a result, many finished homes have sat on the market for six months or more, and the Government has promised to buy back homes that do not sell.
Last year, the Prime Minister finally removed Phil Twyford from the Housing portfolio.
However, his record of waste now extends far further than KiwiBuild. As Transport Minister, Twyford blew out the cost of SkyPath – a cycleway across Auckland’s Harbour Bridge – from $67 million to $360 million, with more cost increases expected once construction actually begins.
Twyford has also increased fuel taxes by 12 cents per litre – and even more in Auckland – across three years.
This tax hike was justified on the basis of paying for light rail from Auckland Central, down Dominion Road to the airport. Last month, after two and a half years and $5 million was spent investigating the project, the light rail proposal was shelved.
Despite the main justification for fuel tax hikes being void, Twyford has no plans to reverse his increases to the tax on commuters.
In his maiden speech in Parliament, he remarked: “At the end of our times here, some of us will be remembered, but most of us will not.”
He need not worry. We are confident that taxpayers will never forget Phillip Stoner Twyford.
The Taxpayers’ Union’s Jordan Williams and Neil Miller, sit down with political commentator and Stuff columnist Damian Grant discuss the runners and riders of the sudden National Party leadership race.