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Simon Bridges on the making of man, his faith and economic views

Has the National Party got its mojo back under its new leadership? And will the Party keep promises made to taxpayers under Judith Collins? With Simon Bridges back in the mix as the shadow Minister of Finance, Jordan interviews Simon about his new role, along with topics traversed in his book: faith, economics, and what it means to be a man. 

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

Taxpayer Update: Today's new poll | Bureaucrat blowout | EECA hypocrisy

Dear Supporter,

Taxpayers’ Union Curia poll: The first post-Luxon leadership poll

The results of December's Taxpayers’ Union Curia Poll, exclusive to our members and supporters like you, are available here.

This has been highly anticipated because it is the first scientific poll since Chris Luxon took over as National Party Leader.

It's good news for him. National has risen 6.4 points to 32.6%. But ACT has taken a hit and Labour is holding steady.

Party vote trend

Perhaps more interesting is the public's view of the party leaders: on the key metric of 'net favourability', Chris Luxon is better liked than Jacinda Ardern.

Head over to our website to see the results.

Incredible blowout in public service staff numbers under Labour

While private businesses struggled to survive during lockdown, Government bureaucracies have been booming.

Last week the Public Service Commission issued an annual update of its workforce data, revealing that the number of staff in the core public service has leapt up by 29 percent since Labour was elected in 2017.

Click here for larger image.

The Public Service Commission’s data excludes key workforces such as Defence, Police, and DHBs – so the growth can't be pinned on COVID-19.

The graph above shows how the previous National Government failed to roll back a similar explosion in bureaucracy we saw under Helen Clark. So here is a challenge for National's new leader Chris Luxon: he needs to commit to not just a pause, but a total reversal of public service bloat. That means eliminating taxpayer-funded jobs and even entire departments.

Three Waters: Government hid its plan from local councils

Nanaia Mahuta

At the beginning of this year, Nanaia Mahuta was saying it could be optional for councils to be included in her Three Waters reforms. But in October she announced Three Waters would now be a compulsory "all in" reform, whether councils like it or not.

RNZ has now revealed Mahuta made the "all in" decision back in June, but kept it quiet for four months so that anti-Three Waters councils wouldn't hit the roof during her official feedback period. It's an incredible example of dishonest, manipulative lawmaking.

Three Waters has become a real problem for this Government. Nanaia Mahuta's Cabinet colleagues are spooked by the intensity of public opposition to her plans and last week she announced she's delaying legislation until March next year.

We're fighting Three Waters because it is an undemocratic asset grab that would create four massive new co-governed bureaucracies to manage water assets with little to no input from ratepayers. The new water entities will send New Zealanders new water rates bills, with no guarantee of commensurate rates relief from local councils.

We're keeping our supporters of this campaign updated, so if you'd like to receive Three Waters updates, make sure you sign the petition at www.StopThreeWaters.nz.

Ihumātao update: all hui, no housing

Empty land

It's now been a year since the Government announced its $30 million purchase of illegally-occupied land at Ihumātao.

The decision to purchase the land was justified on the basis that it would result in the provision of housing on the site, with funding coming from the Land for Housing Programme.

However, we can reveal that talks between the Government and Kīngitanga with regards to housing on the land have gone nowhere. In fact, there hasn't even been any agreement over who will form the Steering Committee that is meant to make decisions on the use of the land.

You can read our blog post here, and Newsroom's coverage of our information request here.

Questionable value from feel-good spending

Orange Sky graphicBack in 2018, Phil Twyford announced that the Government was partnering with an Australian charity to deliver laundry services, showering, and "conversations" for the homeless.

It sounded great, until someone pointed our researcher to their annual review, which details the services they actually delivered for the $437,500 in funding. It turns out taxpayers forked out $103 for every load of laundry or shower delivered by Orange Sky in 2019/20.

Obviously, not all of that money was spent on laundry and showers: Orange Sky paid a whopping $159,485 on management fees that year to its Australian parent organisation.

Click here to read more.

Orange Sky weren't too happy about our exposé. Their Brisbane-based Senior Marketing Manager emailed me with a long response, insisting that the "genuine, non-judgemental conversation" they provide is worth the taxpayer spend. When I didn't reply within 24 hours, I got a call from their PR firm! You can find our exchange at the end of our blog post.

Here's an idea: how about we strip down the Australian management fees, the 'conversations', and the marketing/PR spend and pay campgrounds to provide these services? It would be a fraction of the cost.

Smokefree plan is a bonanza for organised crime

Smuggled tobacco

Organised crime groups will be salivating at news of the Government’s new Smokefree 2025 plan. The plan will slash nicotine content in legal cigarettes to “very low” levels and ban all sales to New Zealanders born after 2008 if legislation passes next year.

Already, one in ten cigarettes smoked in New Zealand are sourced from the untaxed black market (smuggled or homegrown). Now the Government wants to deliver that black market a monopoly on full-strength smokes and exclusive access to younger smokers. It’s madness and will see more taxpayer resources diverted to dealing with organised crime.

This plan ignores the evidence of what’s already working: smokers are switching to vaping, a far less harmful alternative. There is no need for nasty, experimental policies that will make smokers miserable and criminals rich.

Is this the most hypocritical and pointless government agency of the lot?

EECA travel costs

The Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) has been running a serious of big-budget ad campaigns telling New Zealanders to cut carbon emissions by driving and flying less. They've spent $4 million and counting on their "Gen Less" campaign.

EECA's last advert shut down major streets in Wellington as they staged and filmed a fake climate march.

And their most recent ad is one of the most self-righteously condescending taxpayer-funded adverts we've ever seen, telling New Zealanders to join the "right side" of history in the fight against climate change. The ad for some reason features images of Rosa Parks, Black Lives Matter protestors, and gay newly-weds.

So we decided to check the personal expenses of EECA CEO Andrew Caseley: in the last financial year he alone spent more than $8,000 on taxpayer-funded travel, including 31 domestic flights.

Is this what EECA thinks energy efficiency looks like?

All the best,

Louis circle


Louis Houlbrooke
Campaigns Manager
New Zealand Taxpayers' Union

Donate

Media coverage:

Stuff  Unvaccinated Māori have a right to privacy  

RNZ  The Week in Politics: Christopher Luxon's first test

NZ Herald  Luxon may have timing right on Covid Response

Newsroom  Ihumātao housing waiting on Kīngitanga appointments

Stuff  Auckland needs a new mayor - and you may know just the person

The Shout  Call to scrap alcohol tax as hospitality reopens

Homepaddock  Rural round-up

Homepaddock  Sneering at success 

Kiwiblog  A great summary

RNZ  The Pre-Panel with Emily Loughan and Louis Houlbrooke

RNZ
  The Panel with Emily Loughan and Louis Houlbrooke (Part 1)

RNZ  The Panel with Emily Loughan and Louis Houlbrooke (Part 2)

Homepaddock  Rural round-up

Stuff  Pillorising academics over their views is mob rule triumphing over reason

Stuff  What the new National leader will have to deal with

Ihumātao update: One year on, we still don't have a Steering Group, let alone housing

This month marks a year since the Government announced its $30 million purchase of land at Ihumātao. The decision to purchase the land was justified on the basis that it would result in the provision of housing on the site, with funding coming from the Land for Housing Programme.

However, the Taxpayers' Union can reveal that talks between the Government and Kīngitanga with regards to the use of the land have gone nowhere. In fact, there hasn't even been any agreement over who will form the Steering Committee that is meant to make decisions on the provision of housing.

The Memorandum of Understanding between the Government and Kīngitanga outlined that a new Steering Committee overseeing the management of Ihumātao should include six members: three iwi representatives supported by Kīngitanga, one on behalf of Kīngitanga, two representing the Crown and one observer from Auckland Council. Only once appointments are made can the Committee determine what happens next. 

In an official information request, the Taxpayers' Union asked for an update on the appointment status of the Steering Committee. Māori Development Minister Willie Jackson's response confirms the Committee remains unappointed, saying "The process for determining the representatives requires a considerable period of facilitation by the Kiingtanga, given the complex relationships and associations between the parties...The Kiingitanga appointment process creates pressure on the relationships between these groups, and it is important the Crown allows the process to take the time it needs to."

In other words, for all Grant Robertson's bluster about his 'unique and innovative' solution at Ihumātao, the Government has still failed to achieve consensus. Any agreement on the number, ownership, or management of homes, is being delayed indefinitely. Actual construction at this point remains a pipe dream.

The Government's intervention at Ihumātao has not facilitated new housing – it has done the opposite. Fletcher Building literally had earthworks machinery at Ihumātao's gates before the Government spent $30 million of taxpayer money to paralyse construction. Willie Jackson has blamed COVID-19 on stopping whānau from meeting to discuss Ihumātao. That's laughable when the Government is currently hosting APEC using video calls, and it raises the question of whether iwi even intend to follow through on their side of the deal and get homes built.

The Government opted not to put any clear timeframe for action in the Memorandum of Understanding, and has since clearly failed to impress any sense of urgency on iwi. In fact, Minister Jackson has not communicated with Kiingitanga on this matter since July."

Taxpayers deserve better. We forked out $30 million with the expectation of housing. Instead, all we've got is hui.

Exclusive: Taxpayers are forking out $103 per laundry service or shower provided by a Government-funded charity

Taxpayers are forking out $103 per laundry service or shower provided by a Government-funded charity, reveals the New Zealand Taxpayers' Union.

According to its 2020 annual review, taxpayer-funded charity Orange Sky received $437,500 from the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development for the 2020 financial year and in that time provided 4,248 free mobile laundry and shower services for the homeless.

Union spokesman Louis Houlbrooke says, "Orange Sky claims that for its 2020 funding it produced $557,000 of "social impact", but by its own admission only a quarter of that impact came from shower and laundry services, the rest of the touted benefits supposedly coming from quality of life gained by 'friends' (the homeless) and by volunteers delivering the services."

"In other words, the supposed benefit to taxpayers from our investment is based on completely vague notions of wellbeing that cannot be measured in any objective way."

"The big winners here aren't the homeless, but the charity's Australian management. In 2020 Orange Sky paid a whopping $159,485 on management fees to its Australian parent organisation more than the claimed value of its shower and laundry services."

Shower/laundry services:

Orange Sky says that in 2020 it provided 2,378 loads of laundry and 1,870 showers, with a claimed 'social impact' worth $144,000. In other words, Orange Sky claims that each shower or laundry service it provides is worth around $34. Of course, in the real world a shower or laundry service from a public pool or laundromat costs just $5 or so.*

*A washing cycle at Newtown Laundromat, in an area in which Orange Sky operates, costs $4 for a 4kg load. Entry to Wellington Regional Aquatic Centre's facilities at the full adult price costs $6.60.

Benefit of conversations:

Orange Sky says that in 2020 it provided 3,086 hours of conversation to the homeless, with a claimed "quality of life" benefit of $274,000 – or $89 per hour of conversation. Of course, it is difficult to imagine a social service provider paying unqualified workers $89 per hour – but that is how much Orange Sky claims its conversations are worth.

Benefit for volunteers:

Orange Sky claims the benefits are even greater once the benefits to the volunteers are taken into account. Orange Sky says its 112 volunteers in 2020 enjoyed $122,000 in "quality of life" benefits $1,089 per volunteer. It is unclear how the charity calculates the quality of life benefits for their volunteers.

Background:

Orange Sky originated in Queensland, Australia and arrived in New Zealand in May of 2018, with the Government announcing funding that same year.

In its mission statement, Orange Sky markets itself as a provider of practical services for the homeless: 'We want to make sure that everyone has access to free laundry and shower services – but most importantly – the opportunity to connect and feel welcome.'

Funding for Orange Sky was first announced by Housing and Urban Development Minister Phil Twyford in 2018.

...

UPDATE: Orange Sky's Brisbane-based senior marketing manager has emailed the Taxpayers' Union with a response to this blog post. You can read their response here, and our reply here.

Call to scrap booze tax as hospitality reopens

The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union is calling on the Government to support the hospitality sector with a temporary suspension of alcohol excise tax paid by bars and restaurants. A petition has been launched at www.taxpayers.org.nz/happy

Union spokesman Louis Houlbrooke says, “The hospitality sector has been hammered by COVID-19 lockdowns and deserves support to bounce back. Now that Auckland bars and restaurants are back in business, the Government should kick off the summer with an immediate commitment to refund or eliminate all alcohol excise paid by hospitality operators for the next few months.”

“Aucklanders have been stuck getting drinks delivered from off-licences for 100 days now. Discounted drinks at bars and restaurants would get New Zealanders out to support the establishments we’ve been cheating on during lockdown. And many of us will stick around to pay for meals and pub snacks.”

“Even for a revenue-hungry government, temporary suspension of excise at on-license venues would be a highly affordable COVID response measure. Even if we eliminate the excise tax for 12 months, the $168 million* in lost revenue would equal just 0.24% of Grant Robertson’s $69 billion COVID response fund.”

“This idea is an economic no-brainer and a political winner. New Zealanders love happy hour. Let’s make it last all summer.”

The elimination of alcohol excise would result in:

• $0.77 off a 500ml handle of 5% beer.
• $2.73 off a 1.8L jug of beer.
• $0.58 off a 187.5ml glass of 13% wine.
• $2.33 off a bottle of wine.**

*Estimate based on $1.2 billion in total annual alcohol excise tax, of which 14% comes from on-licenses.

**Figures are based purely on the elimination of excise tax. If the Government also chose to refund the GST that is charged on the excise, savings would be greater.

Taxpayer Update: Message to Luxon | Three Waters ads canned | Taxpayers get "Milked"

Dear Supporter,

A note on National's new leadership

Luxon and Willis

You will have seen the news that Chris Luxon has been selected as the National Party's new Leader, with Nicola Willis as Deputy.

Here's the reaction from our Executive Director Jordan Williams:

It is to Chris Luxon’s credit that he is one of the few MPs to have taken a pay cut – in his case of over $4,000,000 a year – to enter Parliament, having left the top position at Air NZ. He is a person who is clearly motivated by public service rather than raiding the taxpayer’s wallet.

He is one of the few MPs who has paid more tax in this life than he has taken out of the system, unlike most Labour MPs and sadly many National MPs.

We are urging Chris Luxon to confirm he will maintain major commitments to taxpayers made by previous National Party leaders – such as indexing income tax brackets for inflation, reining in Superannuation costs, opposing new asset taxes, and repealing Three Waters legislation should it pass under this Government.

Jordan and I interviewed Chris Luxon in two recent episodes of the Taxpayer Talk podcast – on Three Waters and on congestion charging.

Taxpayer Victory: Government's Three Waters ads canned for straying into propaganda

Ad canned

You've probably seen the Government's Three Waters ads. The childish, condescending cartoons have been played to death on TV and cost taxpayers $3.5 million.

What you might not know is that the Government isn't allowed to use taxpayer funds to persuade the public to support a Government policy.

BusinessDesk has revealed that the ads have now been canned early due to concerns from the Public Service Commission that the campaign was ‘straying into advocating government policy rather than explaining policy’.

This is good news and ought to be a major embarrassment for the Government. But it still feels like too little, too late. The ads were allowed to run for months, during a highly sensitive council engagement process. And the Government’s Three Waters propaganda site, backed by taxpayer-funded Google ads, is still online.

BusinessDesk has also reported that officials at the Department of Internal Affairs have withheld the release of details of the campaign’s marketing and communications proposal, after taking 50 working days to respond to an information request.

This raises obvious questions. Is the marketing proposal being kept secret because it reveals in plain language that the campaign was always intended to influence political opinion?

The Ombudsman is currently investigating the Department of Internal Affairs's failure to explain how these ads were signed off. Watch this space.

Ratepayers drive 500km to protest Three Waters

Media scrum

How good is this! Yesterday we joined a group of Thames-Coromandel ratepayers who travelled to Wellington to hand over signatures from local residents and ratepayers calling for proper local consultation on Three Waters.

Cheers to Scott Simpson, MP for Coromandel, who accepted the petition and attracted a scrum of media desperate for his comments on the National Party's leadership contest.

Our nationwide petition is still active at www.ThreeWatersPetition.nz. Once Nanaia Mahuta formally unveils the legislation (possibly next week), we'll be making a renewed push to get the petition to 100,000+ signatures.

Taxpayers Milked by anti-dairy documentary

Milked poster

You may have seen the marketing for a new anti-dairy documentary, "Milked".

We've discovered the film is taxpayer-funded: it received a $48,550 "finishing grant" from the Film Commission.

The film argues that the dairy industry causes climate change, pollutes water, destroys land, abuses cows, and victimises dairy farmers. It's explicitly political, with constant shots of the Beehive in the trailer, and features contributions from Greenpeace, SAFE, and the Green Party. And it appears to be part of a wider anti-dairy campaign – the promoters have erected billboards attacking the dairy sector.

Milked billboard

As we've said with the Government's Three Waters ads, taxpayers should never be forced to fund political propaganda. We accept that sometimes it can be difficult to define what makes a documentary "political", but Milked is a clear-cut case of activism intended to shift public opinion on a major issue of policy and economics.

Click here to read more – including the Film Commission's pathetic response to our questions.

New Zealand's worst landlord: the Government

State housing

The past week has seen an avalanche of reports of Kāinga Ora tenants terrorising their neighbours. Kāinga Ora is the Government's social housing agency.

Despite the abuse suffered by neighbours, Kāinga Ora has not evicted a single tenant since 2018. This is part of the Government's official policy of "sustaining tenancies".

Here's just one experience from someone living next door to a Kāinga Ora property, as told to the NZ Herald:

In a terrifying 2019 incident, the man says his house was "smashed up" at 3am by a meth-crazed man linked to the Kāinga Ora property who tried to break into their home.

The homeowner chased the intruder down the road with an umbrella to protect his petrified partner and later discovered a discarded knife.

The couple then spent thousands of dollars building a fortress-like 2.5m metal perimeter fence and installing security cameras for their protection. The fence has since been repeatedly vandalised by the tenants - who have Mongrel Mob links - costing thousands of dollars in repairs.

The man suspects the Kāinga Ora property is operating as a "tinny house". He has witnessed savage beatings on the road, and has footage of the neighbours abusing him, firing an airgun at his home, hurling large river stones on to his roof and smashing a car windscreen with a brick.

This lowlife behaviour completely disrespects the efforts of taxpayers who make social housing possible. We're even forking out thousands for compensation payments to victimised neighbours.

The Government's refusal to evict problem tenants sends the message that social housing comes with a free pass to act like animals.

State housing should be set up to handle difficult tenants, but that doesn’t mean we should throw all standards out the window. Thousands of more deserving New Zealanders are currently living in cars or garages and would gratefully take the place of violent tenants.

Wellington City Council spends $11,000 on translation of spatial plan

Translation

Here's an odd case of council waste: Wellington City Council spent $11,482 producing a te reo translation of the summary of its new spatial plan – a city planning document.

Just 50 te reo copies were printed. That's a translation cost of $220 per printed copy.

This is a council that cries poverty at every opportunity and just hiked rates by 13.5%. It’s a terrible look that they still can’t resist tokenistic gestures like translating reports into Māori versions that no-one will ever read.

New episodes of Taxpayer Talk 

If you enjoy these email updates but want to see more in-depth analysis, I recommend our podcast, Taxpayer Talk. Below is a selection of recent episodes.

How do Kiwis view China? What do they think of the Queen? Will an ACT-National Government lead to radical policy from the right? David Farrar joins Taxpayers' Union researchers Max and Levi to analyse a recent mega-poll of 5000 New Zealanders. Listen here.

IRD

Inland Revenue recently sent 400 letters out to New Zealand's wealthiest individuals in an attempt to figure out how much tax they pay on their economic income. Could this be the lead up to a wealth tax grab? Jordan joins tax expert Mike Shaw for answers. Listen here.

Prior to being selected as National's new Deputy Leader, Nicola Willis broke the story of Kāinga Ora promoting an activist while planning to cover up their knowledge that the activist was about to stand for Labour. Listen here.

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

All the best,

Louis circle


Louis Houlbrooke
Campaigns Manager
New Zealand Taxpayers' Union

Donate

Media coverage:

Homepaddock  Rural round-up

Homepaddock 
The right of reply Stuff won't publish 

Stuff  Points of Order: Covid vaccine targets become milestones

NZ Herald  Thomas Coughlan: What is Labour without Covid?

NZ Herald  Bill Ralston: The pandemic has distracted us from politics

Newshub  Climate activists plan to disrupt Groundswell protest, organizer suggests they watch Country Calendar instead

The Press  Is Ardern abdicating the leadership?

NZ Herald  Covid 19 Delta outbreak: 31 unvaccinated Oranga Tamariki staff on paid special leave

Manawatu Standard  Mayor rejects 'politiking' criticism

NZ Herald  Claire Trevett: Simon Bridges' road back to National leadership hits pothole

Indian News Link  Labour suffers at opinion polls but National is too weak to capitalise

NZ Herald  Covid 19 Delta outbreak: Big call bosses must make before demanding jabs

Newstalk ZB  Heather du Plessis Allan: the popular or polarizing Prime Minister?

Gisborne Herald  Political headwinds for Labour, Ardern

NZ Herald  This week critical for Ardern after her rating slumps

Stuff  Manawatū mayor rejects campaign against Three Waters is anti-Labour

Indian Weekender  Week in Politics: Will 1 December be Auckland's 'Freedom Day'?

Q+A  Q+A with Judith Collins

Stuff  New Covid-19 bill is a case of government overreach

Stuff  Three Waters opposition sees some of the worst political impulses leak out

NBR  Red light for Auckland, protest confusion, and a virtual Apec

Stuff  Before or after Christmas? The question Nation MPs are starting to ask about Judith Collins' leadership

RNZ  Week in Politics: Will 1 December be Auckland's 'Freedom Day'?

ACT  Newsletter: The Week in Action - ACT Party

NZ Herald  Polls highlight PM's need to get Aucklanders out of town

The Spinoff  Live updates, November 11: Six new cases of Covid-19 confirmed in Stratford, Taranaki

The Daily Blog  2 new polls highlight the problem of National & ACT

Stuff  Meta apologises for blocking links to Groundswell's website

ACT  The gap is closing and we can win in 2023

The Guardian  Jacinda Ardern's popularity plunges as New Zealand reckons with a new era of endemic Covid

Stuff  New poll shows Labour dipping below 40 per cent, National up slightly

Kiwiblog  Labour down in two polls

NZ Herald  Covid crash: Labour support slumps in two new polls

Newstalk ZB  The Huddle: School's back, Ardern visit and AstraZeneca

Taxpayers Milked to the tune of $48K for anti-dairy propaganda

Milked posterThe New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union is challenging the New Zealand Film Commission’s funding criteria after it gave anti-dairy documentary Milked a $48,550 “finishing grant”.

The film, currently screening in New Zealand cinemas, argues that the dairy industry causes climate change, pollutes water, destroys land, abuses cows, and victimises dairy farmers. The film is explicitly political, with constant shots of the Beehive in the trailer, and features contributions from Greenpeace, SAFE, and the Green Party. The film appears to be part of a wider anti-dairy campaign – the promoters have erected billboards attacking the dairy sector.

The 40,000 New Zealanders employed in the dairy industry are unlikely to be happy to learn they are funding a film that attacks the source of their livelihoods. And that’s to say nothing of the rest of us, who all benefit from dairy’s enormous contribution to New Zealand’s economy.

We wish the filmmakers well in their attempts to win hearts and minds, but that doesn’t mean they should receive government money for their propaganda. Just imagine the outcry from certain groups if the Taxpayers’ Union received government money to produce a film on the evils of socialism.

BillboardThe filmmakers have been far from upfront about the government support they’ve received. The film’s marketing makes no mention of the financial contribution of the Film Commission. The only public record of the payment is deep in the Film Commission’s funding database.

The Film Commission has form for funding political propaganda. Back in 2016, they gave more than $900,000 in funding to Capital in the 21st Century, a documentary based on the book by left-wing economist Thomas Picketty. And last year, it was reported that the makers of a film about Jacinda Ardern intended to apply for funding, before the film was put on hold.

There is nothing in the Film Commission’s funding criteria to prevent political propaganda from receiving taxpayer funding. In fact, it’s worse than that – the Commission appears wilfully ignorant about the political implications of its work. We asked if the Film Commission is funding political content, and they told us no. That’s laughable.

Taxpayers should not be forced to fund political propaganda. We accept that sometimes it can be difficult to define what makes a film political, but Milked is a clear-cut case of activism with a primary purpose of shifting public opinion on a major issue of policy and economics.

The Film Commission had agreed to speak to the Taxpayers’ Union in a podcast interview about its funding practices, but then claimed its representatives were unavailable once they saw our questions. They instead provided written answers, which are pasted below.

Does the Film Commission accept that it is funding political content? i.e. documentaries that explicitly seek to shift the public’s view on issues of policy/economics.

No. The New Zealand Film Commission (NZFC) supports a variety of projects with a diverse range of themes and content, through its development and production funds. There are criteria which must be met by all projects seeking funding from the NZFC, which includes market interest and the ability to attract a theatrical audience.

Are political messages a factor in decisions to fund (or not fund) films? What about the presence of active politicians within films?

No. The NZFC is an autonomous Crown entity, which funds and promotes New Zealand filmmaking. The NZFC’s funding framework is neutral and only requires films to meet the criteria of the specific fund. Section 17 of the NZFC Act states that the Minister may not give direction to the Commission in relation to cultural matters. The types of films and filmmakers that the NZFC can support is determined by Section 18 of the NZFC Act.

Does the Film Commission accept that Milked is an explicitly political film?

We have no opinion on the documentary in question which met the criteria for the funding it received.

Is the NZFC aware that Milked appears to be part of a broader anti-dairy campaign? Note the billboards being put up by the film’s producers. If the billboards promoting the film instead said, “Party Vote Green”, would this be a cause for concern for the FCTC? I.e. a taxpayer-funded film being used as a tool in a partisan campaign.

Our involvement with the documentary in question was purely in regard to the criteria of the Feature Film Finishing Grant, which the production met.

In the case of films applying for the Feature Film Finishing Grant, the NZFC examines the content’s diversity and inclusion factors. Does this include political diversity?

There are clear guidelines and criteria that productions have to meet when applying for the Feature Film Finishing Grant. The documentary in question met these criteria.

What about more commercial films such as those funded under the NZSPG? Is it ‘open slather’ in terms of the content that is funded, political or otherwise?

Productions that meet the criteria, both New Zealand and International, are eligible to submit an application for the New Zealand Screen Production Grant, which is assessed by the NZSPG Panel.  Once the NZFC receives an application, it is checked to ensure that it is complete and includes all relevant documents.

The complete application may be sent to an independent consultant contracted by the NZFC or assessed internally at the NZFC. The independent consultant’s role is to assess the application against the requirements of the criteria. If necessary, the applicant will be contacted to provide further information about the application,

The NZFC will prepare a report, based on the independent consultant’s report, for the NZSPG Panel to consider. It is NZSPG Panel’s role to assess whether the application satisfies the criteria.

Filmmakers are themselves an interest group with values and political leanings distinct from the general population. Their beliefs are presumably reflected in the product they create, and that you fund on behalf of taxpayers. If it turns out that films applying for funding are disproportionately informed by (say) left-wing values, is this a problem? How does, or how could, the NZFC deal with this?

The NZFC supports a diverse range of New Zealand and international stories to be told and seen by audiences everywhere. Market attachment, either by an invitation to screen at an international film festival, local distribution or a sales agent indicates audience interest And of course, the criteria of the particular fund must be met.

Has any work been done to retrospectively to evaluate the political content of films/documentaries funded by the Film Commission? Do you think a wide spectrum of political ideas are represented in films the NZFC funds? Milked aside, can you name any other examples of political content funded by the NZFC?

The films the NZFC funds must meet the funding criteria and show the ability to reach a theatrical audience in New Zealand. We aim to represent all New Zealand’s diverse voices, stories, and communities.

We conduct ongoing research about audiences and the industry.  This, and our regular publications, including Annual Reports, Statements of Intent and Statements of Performance Expectations can be found in the Resource Library.

We are strongly committed to increasing diversity in the film industry. We have developed new initiatives that support filmmakers from all backgrounds and encourage them to express their unique voices through original storytelling.

Women remain under-represented in our screen industry, so we have introduced programmes, including bespoke production funding initiatives, to assist women to build sustainable careers.

If the Taxpayers’ Union produced a film with a strong political message and wanted the same grant Milked got, how would we go about that? What are our chances?

Like any production, the Taxpayers’ Union would have to submit an application which meet the Feature Film Finishing Grant criteria.  

 

David Farrar on Lord Ashcroft's Mega-Poll

How do Kiwis view China? What do they think of the Queen? Will an ACT-National Government lead to radical policy from the right? Pollster David Farrar joins Taxpayers' Union researchers Max and Levi for a discussion about all this and more from a recent mega-poll of 5000 New Zealanders.

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Is Inland Revenue Hunting for a New Wealth Tax?

Inland Revenue recently sent 400 letters out to New Zealand's wealthiest individuals in an attempt to figure out how much tax they pay on their economic income. Could this be part of a lead up to a wealth tax grab? Join Jordan and tax expert Mike Shaw for answers.  

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