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Taxpayer Update: What on earth happened to the COVID-19 response fund?

Dear Supporter,

None of us can know what the coming weeks will bring, but like the first time around, the Taxpayers' Union team is working from home laser-focused on demanding more efficient spending in Wellington.

Lockdowns – and their inevitable economic consequences – make every dollar of taxpayer money even more precious. 

Grant Robertson is again dipping into his $50 billion COVID-19 response fund to keep businesses afloat with wage subsidies. But there's a big problem: most of the fund has already been allocated to projects announced last year. Remember horse tracks for COVID? "Jobs for Nature" – which cost $200,000 per low-paying job created?

We hate to say "told you so", but all that dipping into the rainy-day-fund now looks very silly. Today's newsletter has some more examples.

Remember: this is all borrowed money, set to be repaid by future generations of taxpayers with interest.

Government spends $17 million fighting COVID with art therapy

Art image

I wish we were joking. Minister Carmel Sepuloni is spending $17 million on "creative spaces" for "marginalised" New Zealanders to "build up their confidence and self-esteem" and gain "a sense of fulfilment".

You can browse the full list of grants here.

The money comes from Creative NZ's $374 million ‘Arts and Culture COVID Recovery Programme’, part of the overall COVID response fund.

We've previously highlighted dodgy COVID-19 arts grants, but at least they had a vague link to the pandemic (i.e. projects that could be progressed during lockdown). Now, Creative NZ is just grifting us.

Sorry to say it, but art therapy is not an established inoculant for COVID-19. Nor does art therapy work as an economic response to the pandemic when there are so many more vital projects in health and infrastructure.

If the Government really wants to throw hundreds of millions of dollars at art projects, so be it – but at least drop the pretense that this has anything to do with COVID-19.

Taxpayers fund a nasty diatribe accusing National MP of racism

Newsroom poem

Here's another howler from Creative NZ.

You might remember how they're funding a series of poorly-written political poems for Newsroom. The latest taxpayer-funded effort from Victor Billot characterises National MP Simeon Brown as a far-right colonialist lamenting “natives refusing to die off”.

It's a nasty, slanderous diatribe. And like the grants above, this poem is technically part of the Government's COVID-19 response!

We say Creative NZ shouldn't be funding any political material. But the arts agency has grown out of control, frenzied on an injection of taxpayer funding post-COVID. They’ve hijacked a crisis in order to commission reactionary woke propaganda.

Revealed: Health Research Council throwing millions at woke nonsense

HRC grant image

Health Minister Andrew Little is crowing about the latest round of taxpayer-funded research grants handed out by the Health Research Council.

He probably wasn't expecting anyone to look at the grants too closely but your humble Taxpayers' Union did.

Here are some highlights:

  • $1.2 million examining the lived experiences of intersectional ethnic minority youth

  • $5 million on iwi-led research explaining how partnership models can improve the health system

  • $1.1 million using the lunar calendar to help Māori connect with their environment

  • $387,000 providing gay teenagers with “decolonising and mātauranga Māori-informed bodies of knowledge”

  • $258,000 to “decolonise the western construct of pharmacist services”

  • $150,000 to design a virtual reality video game about foetal alcohol syndrome

This spending is an insult to New Zealand's COVID-19 response. In fact, only a tiny fraction of the projects have anything to do with the pandemic or vaccinations.

Frankly, it's disgraceful that research in the hard medical sciences is forced to compete for the same pool of funding as vague and uber-PC academic papers about decolonisation, intersectionality, and traditional Māori knowledge.

Click here to find a list of 2021's dodgiest health research grants.

(Trigger warning: the official project summaries contain serious academic gobbledygook).

Amazon ditches New Zealand: taxpayers got played

Jeff Bezos

Remember how the Government offered $162 million to Amazon so they'd film their Lord of the Rings TV series here?

That decision was justified on the basis that Amazon could bring another four TV seasons and even a spinoff series to New Zealand. But now, after just one season in New Zealand, Amazon is shifting production to the UK.

The Government has now learned firsthand why Jeff Bezos is the richest man on Earth. Amazon successfully played the New Zealand and UK governments off each other to secure one massive handout after another.

As we’ve warned time and time again, the only way to win the film subsidy game is to not play. Both National and Labour-led Governments have naively been drawn into taxpayer-funded bidding wars to woo film productions. The truth is that we cannot outbid richer countries forever.

We're sending a wreath to our friends at the UK TaxPayers’ Alliance in commiserations for the massive sum that Britain's taxpayers will be forking out to appease Amazon.

It's Tim to say goodbye

Sir Tim Shadbolt is New Zealand’s longest serving Mayor, certainly one of the best known, and definitely one of the most beloved, both in his home of Invercargill and around the country.

But a recent video of an extraordinary council meeting reveals the sad truth: Sir Tim is no longer capable of doing his job.

Meeting video

Repeatedly, faced with basic procedural motions, councillors are forced to explain: “Your Worship, we have already voted on that”.

This is not a one-off bad day. Six months ago, the Thomson Report, commissioned after the Department of Internal Affairs raised concerns about troubles at the Invercargill City Council described "obvious concerns including short term memory deficits, confusion, and the need to be closely managed ... increasing incidents of embarrassment during meetings which a, generally, compassionate Council has done their best to hide from the general public."

In the past we've given Sir Tim stick for his odd spending habits, but this is sadder and more serious. His ratepayers deserve capable representation. We like Sir Tim, and it's not easy to say this, but you only need watch the video above to appreciate that he needs to stand down.

Meanwhile in Christchurch...

Chch bridge

Here's a great example from Christchurch of how art, engineering, and other people’s money are a dangerous mix.

In 2017, Crown agency Otakaro spent $90,000 on a competition to design a pedestrian bridge, only to scrap all the submissions due concerns over maintenance costs.

Then, facing backlash from local artists, they engaged Ngāi Tahu to design flax-inspired ‘decorative elements’ for the bridge. Now, before the bridge has even opened, the decorative balustrades are *rusting* and require remedial work. The agency’s excuse: it rained last month!

This should have been a small project. But it’s now cost taxpayers $3.1 million, and we still don’t have an opening date for the bridge. What a shambles.

MPs, Councillors appear on our podcast

Our Researcher, Max, continues to crank out episodes of Taxpayer Talk. Here are some our recent guests:

Make sure you don't miss fresh episodes by subscribing to Taxpayer Talk via Apple PodcastsSpotifyGoogle PodcastsiHeart Radio and wherever good podcasts are sold.

All the best,

Louis circle

Louis Houlbrooke
Campaigns Manager
New Zealand Taxpayers' Union


Media coverage:

Guest Post: It’s Tim to say goodbye

Lord of the Rings TV show: Minister under fire for not securing second season pledge

Offsetting Behaviour  Afternoon roundup

Rotorua Daily Post  Rotorua Lakes Council owed $4.6 million in unpaid rates for past financial year

Sunday Star-Times  The scourge of the celebrity CEO

Rural News
  How Much?


Op-ed: Minister's righteous frustration at enormous spending for mediocre results

Andrew Little

The following is an opinion piece by Taxpayers' Union analyst Neil Miller. It is free for publication.

Andrew Little is frustrated at the health system – again, that’s hardly news these days – but this time he has a very good point. Facing an incredibly hostile crowd of GPs at their conference, the Minister of Health said he was struggling to get his head around the fact the government pumped billions of extra dollars into the health system, and “the same pressures that were evident three years ago are evident now”.

How do you spend billions of taxpayer dollars on health and not see any practical outcomes for New Zealanders? It is a question that Little should be asking of his predecessors Dr David Clark and Chris Hipkins, and, frankly, of himself.

Labour has controlled the health portfolio for four years, controlled the budget for four years. This is not a problem inherited from the fabled “nine long years of neglect” under National. In fact, Labour just stole one of National’s central health policies – measuring results – after having abolished it immediately upon becoming Government. 

The answer to Little’s conundrum is unfortunately simple. Labour Health Ministers have been almost exclusively focused on money. That money provides slogans, billboards, election adverts, infographics, talking points for interviews, and nice-looking graphs for the media. What successive Health Ministers should have been asking was: “What improvements are actual patients seeing from all this expenditure?” That bit fell off the radar.

The attitude of “make a policy announcement, give lots of money, then presume everything else goes well” is not good enough for such a large and important portfolio. For every taxpayer dollar taken, 20 cents goes to Health. It is not pocket change and Ministers need to follow up on results.

The Government’s announcement of 12 health indicators is a step in the right direction, even if they are largely restoring measurements that they previously dumped. Let us hope this reflects a shift in focus to outputs and outcomes, not raw spending.

Unfortunately, in this modern media environment, perhaps the enduring quote from the announcement was Minister Little telling reporters that he's "not here to be licked up and down". The Taxpayers’ Union office is deeply divided on what this actually meant. His office has been contacted for official clarification.

Health Research Council throwing millions at woke nonsense

HRC grant image

The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union is challenging the value of the latest round of research grants funded by the Health Research Council.

Comparing to last year’s grants, we’ve noticed a big shift towards ‘wellbeing’-centred research that is often, frankly, woke nonsense. Research in the hard medical sciences is forced to compete for the same pool of funding as vague and uber-PC academic papers about decolonisation, intersectionality, and traditional Māori knowledge.

Examples of grants approved in 2021 include:

•  $1.2 million examining the lived experiences of intersectional ethnic minority youth

•  $5 million on iwi-led research explaining how partnership models can improve the health system

•  $1.1 million using the lunar calendar to help Māori connect with their environment

•  $387,000 providing gay teenagers with “decolonising and mātauranga Māori-informed bodies of knowledge”

•  $258,000 to “decolonise the western construct of pharmacist services”

•  $150,000 to design a virtual reality video game about foetal alcohol syndrome

This spending is an insult to New Zealanders stuck in surgery wait lists or seeking access to life-saving drugs. Deep down, Andrew Little must know this is an embarrassing use of taxpayer funds. It’s telling that he opened his statement about the grants by praising the research on cancer, diabetes, and heart disease, conspicuously skipping over the millions handed out to projects that would be received with derision by New Zealanders navigating our bureaucratic health system.

Inevitably, the vested interests profiting from this funding will accuse us of unfairly targeting ‘diversity’ focused grants. But it’s simply the case that intersectionality and ‘mātauranga Māori’ dominates the list of projects. If we ignored the woke grants, there wouldn’t be many left!

The most incredible part of this spending is that’s it’s happening during a global pandemic. You’d think the Health Research Council would be focused on that, but of the 173 grants awarded this year, only seven mention COVID-19.

The Health Research Council gives out around $126 million in funding per year. Below is a list of questionable grants from this year.

Intersectional ethnic minority youth: harnessing creativity for health gains
Approved budget: $1,199,984
our study engages with Asian, Middle Eastern, Latin American and African youth to explore how their varying social identities, including gender diversity, sexuality, migration, and interactions with health, education and social sectors, intersect with their lived experiences of being from non-dominant ethnic groups.

Kia puawai ake ngā uri whakatupu: flourishing future generations
Approved budget: $4,999,949.60
This collaborative programme of research, hosted by an iwi-owned research centre, comprises an integrated suite of Māori-led studies that seek to contribute to the achievement of equitable health outcomes. The programme will explore the positive change that can occur when Māori have the opportunity to drive solutions and work in authentic partnership models.

Te Maramataka - restoring 'health' by reconnecting with Te Taiao
Approved budget: $1,125,097.05
The maramataka [lunar calendar] is a system our tūpuna used to connect environmental tohu to certain activities – some days were better for intense work, while others were considered ideal for rest and ‘giving back’. … This study aims to … co-design a maramataka-based ‘intervention’ that will support Māori to connect with te taiao [the environment] in uniquely Māori ways

Kia taiohi te tū
Approved budget: $386,985.00
Little is known about the needs and experiences of taiohi [teenagers] growing up in te reo Māori-speaking whānau and with regard to intimate relationships, gender and sexualities. … This kaupapa Māori research is a mana whānau project which aims to build whānau-centred bodies of knowledge that incorporate the successes and challenges whānau are experiencing in using mātauranga Māori [Māori knowledge] to support taiohi on their journeys. … providing access to decolonising and mātauranga Māori-informed bodies of knowledge.

He tono whakapiki ora: Whānau and pharmacists’ knowledge exchange
Approved budget: $258,471.00
Informed by a kaupapa Māori paradigm, the research will examine the intersect between pharmacists and mātauranga Māori [Māori knowledge] in a contemporary context to attempt to decolonise the western construct of pharmacist services.

Walk a mile in their shoes - Developing a virtual reality experience of FASD
Approved budget: $150,000.00
We propose to 1) use novel data collection methods to capture everyday lived experiences of FASD [Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder] individuals, and 2) using the data gathered, develop and test if the VR game can raise awareness and foster positive attitudes toward individuals with FASD.

Exploring the role of Tongan faith leaders in influencing wellbeing
Approved budget: $84,033.00
The proposed doctoral study will investigate the role of faith leaders in influencing the wellbeing of Tongan people living in Aotearoa.

Te Kura Mai i Tawhiti - kaupapa Māori early years provision and health outcomes
Approved budget: $1,199,860.64
Our proposed research is led by Māori and draws on mātauranga Māori and Western science. … Findings will help address the need for proven interventions for tamariki Māori that strengthen culturally relevant positive behaviours and can be rolled out nationally.

Aho Tapairu: Developing a mana wahine wellbeing toolkit
Approved budget: $394,035
I am a kaupapa Māori mana wahine researcher committed to projects motivated by decolonial and transformatory agendas. My background is in revitalising customary Māori knowledge as healing interventions for Māori women and their whānau today. … I am also committed to overturning derogatory colonial redefinitions of Māori femininity that leads to poor sexual and reproductive health outcomes for Māori women and girls. … I will also create a framework for Māori women to recover their own tikanga and ceremony as healing interventions.

Pacific Islands Families: Thriving Pacific Young Adults
Approved budget: $1,199,365.95
The Pacific Islands Families: Thriving Pacific Young Adults (PIF: TPYA) study seeks to explore how cultural identity, family functioning, and employment impact the mental wellbeing of a cohort of 850 Pacific young adults (aged 22 years).

A kaupapa Māori analysis of Māori cannabis and methamphetamine use
Approved budget: $554,400
I have a deep commitment to improving Māori health outcomes through kaupapa Māori health research. This is reflected in my career development to date, with 15 years' experience in Māori and indigenous health research, including the completion of a PhD in public health exploring the potential of rongoā Māori [traditional healing]. The proposed postdoctoral fellowship includes a kaupapa Māori analysis of the multiple dimensions of Māori cannabis and methamphetamine use.

Kia taiohi te tū
Approved budget: $386,985.00
Little is known about the needs and experiences of taiohi [teenagers] growing up in te reo Māori-speaking whānau and with regard to intimate relationships, gender and sexualities. … This kaupapa Māori research is a mana whānau project which aims to build whānau-centred bodies of knowledge that incorporate the successes and challenges whānau are experiencing in using mātauranga Māori [Māori knowledge] to support taiohi on their journeys. … providing access to decolonising and mātauranga Māori-informed bodies of knowledge.

Collaboration for child wellbeing
Approved budget: $890,709.00
This grant supports collaboration for child wellbeing. … With the Manaiakalani Kahui ako, we will adapt and test a play-based intervention to improve self-regulation so it is culturally-grounded, engaging, and developmentally scaffolded.

Experiences of children and their families during the COVID-19 pandemic
Approved budget: $242,645.00
This project aims to explore the experiences of children, young people and their families during the COVID-19 pandemic in the UK with a health equity lens.

A smart toothpaste for the twenty-first century
Approved budget: $150,000.00
A novel bioactive smart toothpaste will be prepared using bioceramics and a natural anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial agent will provide an inexpensive clinical-grade formulation to mitigate oral infections and ensure implant longevity while also offering the traditional benefits of plaque removal and whiter teeth. The affordable and easily accessible smart toothpaste will significantly improve the oral health of all communities in New Zealand and across the world.


Simeon Brown on Gangs

Max is joined by Simeon Brown to address exactly why the donation of 2.75 million to the gang-run Kahukura program was a poor decision by this government, and to rebut some of the points that have been brought up in support of it.

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

Taxpayer Update: SkyPath u-turn? | Bureaucracy booming | Dodgy media funding

Dear Supporter,

The Government's feeling the pressure on its cycle bridge

SkyPath petition

The proposed $685 million cycle bridge has perhaps been the Government’s worst political misfire. 

In June we commissioned a Curia poll which showed that 63 percent of New Zealanders oppose the cycle bridge. Now, a new Newshub poll corroborates our findings, showing its even more unpopular! Eighty-one percent of New Zealanders are now opposed.

And it seems the Finance Minister is feeling the heat: he's now just describing SkyPath 2.0 as the "current" proposal, and is talking up the changes of building an alternative tunnel crossing.

This progress is the result of people power. Our petition against the bridge has been signed by an incredible 58,000 New Zealanders, and our online ads and billboards have been seen by millions of New Zealanders.

With one last push, let's put the final nail in the coffin and force the Government to bin this wasteful project. Click here to chip in to the campaign fund to stop SkyPath and keep the heat on the Beehive.

Revealed: Andrew Little's "former gang member" claim was wrong

Little and Tam

Remember how Andrew Little defended giving a $2.75 million contract to a Mongrel Mob-affiliated organisation by claiming its leader was just a "former" gang member?

We can now confirm what many of you suspected: Hard2Reach director Harry Tam is in fact a patched lifetime member of the Mongrel Mob Notorious chapter. Our research team have uncovered a new interview with a small Māori media outlet where Mr Tam couldn't be clearer.

Andrew Little now has some explaining to do. Was he misled by Mr Tam, or officials, or was he being economical with the truth? Either way Kiwis deserve a retraction, an apology, and a review of the funding.

We're keeping the heat on the Government's gang funding

In case you missed it, here's a photo of the ad we ran on page two of Wednesday's NZ Herald:

Herald ad 1Click here to view a larger picture of the ad.

The ad was rejected by two separate billboard companies, so we were relieved to get it over the line with the NZ Herald. Thanks to everyone who chipped in to make it possible!

Bureaucracy is booming

The Public Service Commission collects a wealth of statistics on the public sector, including the total headcount of public service employees.

It turns out growth in taxpayer-funded staff has boomed under this Government:

Staffing graphClick here to view a large version of this image.
Click here to share it on Facebook.

And that's based on figures from 2020. The Public Service Commission will update its figures in December, and based on recent reports from Radio NZ, we're expecting another big jump for 2021.

We asked the Public Service Commissioner for his thoughts. In an email to us, he said he's comfortable with such rapid growth, pointing to "an increase in investment to implement government priorities", and challenges like COVID-19 and two Royal Commissions of Inquiry.

But that doesn't explain why staff growth has been so consistent *across* the public sector.

For example, Stats NZ grew its staff numbers by 41% in just two years. Even the Beehive has become crowded with political advisors. A battalion of 332 staff now serve the Government's 20 Cabinet members:


To us, that suggests a culture change towards bureaucratic growth, starting at the very top of the New Zealand Government.

NZ on Air throwing taxpayer money at dubious "journalism"

NZ on Air grantTaxpayers are paying for Stuff journalists to learn how to be more woke.

Media outlets have enjoyed a bonanza of taxpayer funding under this Government – especially with the introduction of NZ on Air's new "public interest journalism" fund.

But as you'll see, many of the funded programmes are at best strange, and at worst, stray into political propaganda.

Judge for yourself:

  • Recipient: Stuff
    Amount: $301,000
    Project: A "cultural competency course" for Stuff journalists "to fundamentally shift representation in NZ media"

  • Recipient: Stuff
    Amount: $143,000
    Project: A documentary on the production of an opera about the “unruly British tourists”

  • Recipient: Stuff
    Amount: $97,000
    Project: A podcast series named “Crying At Work” that shows “what the real-life consequences are for the women who find themselves in the brutal news cycle”

  • Recipient: Stuff
    Amount: $120,000
    Project: Four podcast episodes about “the anarchic radical feminists who put their feet on the accelerator of social change”

  • Recipient: Stuff
    Amount: $591,000
    Project: “an animated fact-checking project designed to protect public health”

  • Recipient: Newsroom
    Amount: $51,000
    Project: “Training to upskill Newsroom’s two recently employed graduate journalists”

  • Recipient: Radio Bay Of Plenty
    Amount: $97,000
    Project: “report on the $200m worth of Provincial Growth Fund projects in the Eastern Bay of Plenty”

We've also looked into the funding of one particular media outlet: our "friends" at The Spinoff, an online lifestyle magazine for left-wing millennials.

The Spinoff has had its funding spike in the last year, and is now engaged in a hiring spree.

Spinoff graph

Click here to see the full list of NZ on Air grants received by The Spinoff.

All of this raises the question: can a government-dependent media outlet truly be considered ‘independent’?

Report reveals how the RMA drives up grocery prices


Plenty of media attention has been paid to the Commerce Commission’s draft report on New Zealand’s grocery market. But most commentators seem to have missed the most interesting part of the report.

The report absolutely skewers the Resource Management Act for the way it restricts access to suitable retail sites, drives up site prices, and helps existing shops lock out competition. All of this results in higher grocery costs for households.

If there’s one sentence in the entire report that epitomises the destructive power of regulation, it’s this: We note that the major grocery retailers have historically opposed each other’s resource consent applications under the RMA.

Madness! We should have scrapped this regulatory tax long ago.

A message for ute owners

Dear legitimate and illegitimate ute owners,

First, the Government came after your wallets with the virtue signaling but carbon-useless ute tax. Now, taxpayer-funded academics are coming after your ute’s name too.

You probably do not know Kirsty Wild and Alistair Woodward at the University of Auckland, but you do pay their salaries.

Their research into utes apparently revealed that themes of dominance and violence are strong: vehicles have names like “Raptor” and “Gladiator”.

If they had their way, you'd presumably be working your farm in your Ford Kindness, driving to the construction site in your Toyota Unicorn, or taking the kids to school in your Nissan Neve.

Stand up for your ute by signing the petition at

A cause that deserves your support: Have your say on proposed "hate speech" laws

We seldom back causes outside our wheelhouse of Lower Taxes, Less Waste, More Transparency, but we're making an exception for the Government's proposed hate speech law changes, and the threat they present to the Taxpayer's Union's ability to do our job. 

In 2018, several Taxpayers' Union staff were involved in forming the Free Speech Coalition, which has now transformed into a registered trade union fighting for free speech in workplaces across New Zealand. It operates independently, but we keep abreast of their work.

The Free Speech Union is leading the charge against the Government's hate speech law changes which could criminalise our criticism of wasteful spending and exorbitant taxation.

In fact one of the potential categories of 'hate speech' is insulting on the basis of political belief. That is chilling.

Already, the Taxpayers' Union is regularly accused by the Twitter mob of "divisive" and even "hateful" speech when we take controversial positions on sensitive spending. Under the proposed law change, insult and offence will be given the upper hand and could jeopardise our ability to hold government to account. 

Would you be willing to have your say on the Government's hate speech reforms? Our friends at the Free Speech Union have created a tool to make filing a submission a two minute job.

Submissions close end of tomorrow so please act now before it's too late.

Consultation closes at 5pm tomorrow. Click here to make a brief submission.

All the best,

Louis circle

Louis Houlbrooke
Campaigns Manager
New Zealand Taxpayers' Union


Media coverage:

Farmers Weekly  
Opinion divided on climate change advice

Homepaddock  But the $billion bridge

Stuff  Air NZ wanted Climate Commission to go faster, dairy and meat groups said slow down

Bay of Plenty Times  Green light for 15pc rates rise as Tauranga City approves controversial Long-term Plan

SunLive  Commissioner reacts to ratepayer protests

Kiwiblog  Govt may backtrack on billion dollar bike bridge

Kiwiblog  $6.1 million to The Spinoff from Taxpayers

RNZ  The ethics and costs of saving wild animals


Reserve Bank spends almost $400,000 on Tāne Mahuta art

The Reserve Bank spent $373,739 on artwork in its lobby promoting its new 'Tāne Mahuta' narrative, reveals an official information response released to the New Zealand Taxpayers' Union.

The centerpiece of the artwork is a massive swamp kauri sculpture of Tāne Mahuta, the Māori god of the forest.


The artwork also includes (in the Bank's words):

•  three pou (pillars) representing Te Ngahere (the Forest Tāne)
•  mosaic floor tiles running the length of the lobby representing Ngā Pūtake (the roots of Tāne Mahuta), and
•  a resdesigned reception desk area representing a waka hourua (a double-hulled canoe)

The Bank justifies the spending by saying, "As the lobby had not been refurbished in more than 13 years, we took the opportunity to redesign it to reflect our strategic direction and incorporate out Tāne Mahuta narrative as its framework. This enabled the Reserve Bank to further communicate its commitment to our Te Ao Māori strategy and visually reinforce this narrative to our staff and visitors to the building."

Clearly, the Reserve Bank has let its money-printing powers go to its head.

We entrust the Reserve Bank to maintain the stability and security of our money supply. This requires hard-headed, rational leadership. But under the leadership of Adrian Orr, the Bank has become distracted with its own fluffy, feel-good marketing and internal "narrative". This is bureaucratic navel-gazing at its most absurd.

This was part of a wider refurbishment of the lobby, the total cost of which was $1.2 million, reports the Herald.

Revealed: $2.75m funding for Mongrel Mob was signed off by PM


The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union can reveal that the fund that gave a $2.75 million drug rehab contract to Mongrel Mob leaders is managed by just three Ministers, meaning the grant was signed off by the Prime Minister, the Minister of Finance, and Minister of Justice.

The Ministry of Justice’s website confirms that for Proceeds of Crime Fund proposals:

If an agency is successful in getting its proposal shortlisted, it will be invited to submit a more detailed funding proposal for the [evaluation] Panel to consider.

The Panel will then provide recommendations to the Prime Minister, Minister of Finance and Minister of Justice, who determine which proposals should be approved and funded.

At first, this sounded like the kind of lapse of judgment typically made by unelected, out-of-touch bureaucrats. But now we learn that this funding was approved by our highest elected officials. There is no running from your own decision.

Jacinda Ardern needs to front up and explain exactly how this disgraceful spending made it past her desk. We can only hope it was some kind of horrible mistake – in which case she needs to apologise, pick up the phone, and cut off the funding.

The Union today launched a petition to end all taxpayer-funded contracts given to gangs and gang-run organisations at

Taxpayer Update: Your money given to the Mongrel Mob | Even more tax on ute owners | Debt Monster is coming

Dear Supporter,

Louis took a much-deserved break this week, but the Government's attacks on taxpayers have continued. Thankfully the whole team is back on Monday!

Wondering where the Mongrel Mob gets its money? You!

Defence Force

Chief Human Rights Commissioner Paul Hunt made an appalling decision to give a taxpayer-funded koha to the Mongrel Mob when he spoke at one of their events earlier this year. When details came out on Monday, we told the media:

“The only koha Paul Hunt should be paying in relation to the Mongrel Mob is to Victim Support and Women’s Refuge.”

“The Commissioner's initial display of poor judgment, when he legitimised the ‘conference’ of this criminal organisation, was bad enough. To actually gift the gang taxpayer money is disgraceful.”

It's taken until today for Mr Hunt to front media. He's now saying "protocol" required him to make the koha.

Here's our message to Mr Hunt: the 'protocol' is you make a koha from your own pocket, not taxpayers...

Our friendly mascot, Porky the Waste Hater, is standing by too. He might just make an appearance at Mr Hunt's next speaking event to demand a koha back for taxpayers...

So much for 'revenue neutral' – Car Tax revealed as a money grab 💸🚗

PCC graphic

The sheer scale and cost of Labour’s ‘clean car rebate’ Car Tax has been revealed with official advice to Ministers suggesting that some 100,000 car owners are likely to be affected next year alone.

In addition, the Government is projected to rake in hundreds of millions of dollars more from the Car Tax than it will pay back in rebates. There are simply not enough electric vehicles available – now and in the foreseeable future – to make this a revenue-neutral policy as Ministers have claimed.

Of course, the elephant in the room is that this policy does nothing for the environment because transport is already covered by our Emissions Trading Scheme. That means any emissions saved by the move to electric cars are simply made available for cheaper emissions elsewhere under the ETS 'cap and trade' framework. As we've said all along: what is really promoting this is the boost to the Government coffers.

And now Ministers want IRD to chase farm and tradie utes! 🛻

Ute tax crack down

Documents released under the Official Information Act show Revenue Minister David Parker is talking to IRD officials about cracking down on how utes are taxed due to what they say is a “proliferation” of double-cab utes.

This is yet another tax grab on kiwi farmers and tradies.

The reason the FBT is so complex is that it’s hard to distinguish between professional and personal use when it comes to work on the farm – something the 9 to 5 governmental bureaucracy doesn’t seem to understand. Even IRD acknowledges that chasing down those who are abusing the exemption is futile because of the little funding it would bring in.

The message couldn’t be clearer: if you own a double-cab ute, this Government is coming for your wallet. Be damned that these measures hit hardest those who are the working backbone of our economy.

If you've not already {{recipient.first_name_or_friend}}, stand up for the humble Kiwi ute, and add your name to the petition at 👈

Speaking of the Ute Tax - our bumper stickers for 'legitimate ute owners' are flying out the door.

Legitimate Ute owner bumper sticker
>> Click here to get yours <<

Tax these bumper sticker>> Click here to get yours <<

IRD wonky tax calculator a shambles 🖥️

Masterton CCTV

The IRD had a red face this week when a public-spirited accountant in Nelson blew the whistle on a flaw in an IRD online calculator that has lead people with overseas shares to pay too much tax. The calculator was pulled offline on Monday – just 48 hours before personal income tax returns were due. The calculator relates to tax calculations for Kiwis having invested in foreign shares to work out their taxable profits under IR Fair Dividend Rate (FIF) tax regime.

The one thing IRD is supposed to know about is tax. If the system is so complex that IRD's boffins and IT people can't get it right, what hope is there for Joe-taxpayer?

To add salt to the wound, it's just come out that IRD had in fact been told about the fault 15 months earlier!

Let's put the shoe on the other foot: if IRD had a faulty calculator that saw too little tax being paid, Wellington will have moved heaven and earth to fix it.

Your humble Taxpayers' Union has been lobbying the IRD to confirm that any taxpayers with late or amended returns caused by the error will not face overdue fees or interest. Thankfully, IRD saw sense and agreed to this (but please get in touch if they try to do otherwise).

Science funding should focus on performance, not ancestry 🔬


New Zealand's focus on improving the research quality (and therefore international rankings) of our universities is under threat after the Government quietly changed the rules so that the $315-million-a-year Performance-Based Research Fund (PBRF) will now pay Māori researchers 2.5 times the rate of non-Māori, while Pasifika academics will be paid two times the non-Pasifika rate.

Politicising science research on racial grounds is not the pathway to improving our international standings. The PBRF, in the Government’s own words, was established "to encourage and reward excellent research based on performance". It was never meant to be dependent on the ancestry of academics.

Treasury warns government debt is on 'unsustainable trajectory' 💣

This week the Government’s main economic adviser, Treasury, published a draft report warning the Government that its debt is on an “unsustainable trajectory” thanks to an ageing population driving up superannuation and health costs.

Treasury is right to blow the whistle on the impact of Government debt on New Zealanders’ living standards, but it's not just the long term challenges that are a concern. Right now New Zealand has close to full employment but the Government is running a Budget deficit of nearly 5% of GDP. That means that debt has already clocked up more than $66,000 for every Kiwi household.

Debt Clock

The Government is mortgaging our kids' futures when it is not needed. Poor quality spending like the ridiculous Auckland harbour bike bridge isn't free or without consequence.

Track the Debt Monster in real-time at – how much does your household owe thanks to the Government?

MPs in Depth Podcast: ACT MP Karen Chhour 🎙️

MPs in depth podcast

This week our Researcher Max sat down with newbie ACT Party MP Karen Chhour to discuss the switch to working in Parliament, why the Government isn't walking its talk in regards to child poverty reduction, and the role of ACT in opposition.

Click here to listen to the episode online or subscribe to Taxpayer Talk via Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio and wherever good podcasts are sold.

Have a great weekend,


Jordan Williams
Executive Director
New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union



Media coverage:

Whanganui Chronicle  Are They Paid Enough? What our councillors earn and why some say it should be more

NZ Local Government Magazine  Water reform savings ‘laughable’

RNZ  The Panel, with Taxpayers' Union Analysis Neil Miller

Stuff South Cantabrians to join 'A Howl of a Protest' against Government regulations

Homepaddock  Really is a tax grab

Northland Age  Taxpayers’ Union says that trickle up theory works

Northland Age  Water plan a ‘recipe for gold plating’

Newstalk ZB  The Huddle with Taxpayers' Union Analysis Neil Miller

Kiwiblog  Clarke Gayford – “genius”, “top bloke”, “first man” – or just engaged to the Prime Minister?

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