Lower Taxes, Less Waste,
More Accountability

Championing Value For Money From Every Tax Dollar

Taxpayer Update: Economy fails to take off as Luxon grounded | Council officials go rogue | Pay boost for top bureaucrats

The (very) slow progress on slimming down Wellington's bureaucracy 🐢

For all the talk of 'brutal cuts' and 'savage job losses', the latest figures from the Public Service Commission show that most of the Government's savings are yet to materialise.

When you add all the extra people still being hired, plus all of those you read about in the media being "fired", I'm sad to say it's not coming to very much.

From December last year until the end of March, the Public Service Commission report that the bureaucracy reduced by just 416 full-time equivalents (FTEs).

That's just meagre 2.3 percent of the 18,418 hiring extravaganza that took place under our old friend, Mr. Robertson. 

Public Service Cuts

Erm... is that it? 👀

Now the Government will say that many of the savings decisions are yet to flow through into these numbers. While that may be true, the total number of proposed job losses is still well short of what's required.

Even when you account for population growth we are still going to be left with a Public Service that is much, much larger than it was under last Labour Government. How much larger? Connor's explains it all with the infamous "Parliamentary cardboard boxes" here.

What kind of performance-related pay sees everyone get a boost?

Here at the Taxpayers' Union, we are all for performance-related pay – especially in a Public Service where they haven't been known for, well, decent performance. 

But, usually performance-related pay means that those who get an increase are the ones that have performed well. It's not really rocket science. 

The Post: Chief Executive Pay Boost

But earlier this week, it was revealed that the Government is planning to give all the already highly paid chief executives a pay boost. In the last financial year, Public Service departmental chief executives were paid, on average, a cool $489,000. 🤑

Yes, Chief Execs who deliver exceptional bang-for-buck should be rewarded, but the rest of the hangers-on shouldn’t get an increase to their massive handouts simply for doing what they were employed to do in the first place.

UPDATE: Nicola Willis doesn't rule out funding medicine over movies

But at the moment, it's not her Minister for the Public Service portfolio that is giving Nicola Willis the biggest headache, it's the decision not to allocate money for the 13 cancer drugs available in Australia but not New Zealand that National promised to fund during the election campaign. 

Last week at Fieldays, on behalf of the thousands of New Zealanders who have signed our petition calling for the $100 million for movie and game studio subsidies in this year's Budget to be reallocated to medicines.

We challenged the Finance Minister to scrap funding for film and gaming subsidies and use that money to fund lifesaving medicines, such as cancer drugs, instead.

It’s a simple equation: We spend $100 million a year on handouts to Hollywood bigwigs and gaming sector executives. The cost of funding an additional thirteen cancer drugs, for example, is just $70 million. It seems an obvious area for reprioritisation.

Here's what Nicola Willis had to say:

Nicola Willis at Fieldays

While the Finance Minister said cutting the film subsidies "wasn’t on the agenda", she didn’t rule it out and even said that reprioritisation is something that the Government will continue to do

Will you force this issue onto the agenda by taking two minutes to send an email to the Minister demanding change?

Fund Medicines, Not Movies.

Redirecting film and gaming subsidies towards essential medicines is not only the economically responsible thing to do, it is the morally right thing to do. We've created a tool to email Nicola Willis directly:


School principals sunning themselves in Fiji while standards plummet

Principals in Fiji

The Government has made a flurry of announcements around improving educational standards and new figures released just yesterday showed some improvements in school attendance. 

But it seems that some of our school principals have other priorities...

This week it was revealed that a company called Growth Culture is offering a School of Transformation conference in a five-star resort in Fiji. This course coincidentally costs $5700 – just under the $6,000 a year allowance that taxpayers fund to support principals' professional development. A whole cottage industry seems to have sprung up to 'help' principals use their $6,000 allowance. 

While no one would deny that our teachers need to keep their training up to date, the description of the course on the company’s website suggests improving educational standards might not be at the forefront of the principals’ minds…

If you like the sound of being coached under swaying palm trees, brainstorming with colleagues against the backdrop of a Fijian sunset, and leaving with a renewed sense of mental clarity, wellness, and purpose… Then get your togs, snorkel and passport packed as I look forward to connecting with you at this transformative experience. 

During the five-day course, principals are only required to do formal learning for 13 hours (6 of which are going to a local school) I'm sure there's a word for this but it escapes me at the moment. Maybe it begins with an H...?

On Tuesday Jordan called out this latest taxpayer-funded jolly for what it is on Heather du-Plessis Allan’s Drive show.

The economy is growing (just) but we're still getting poorer in terms of per-person GDP 😔

Yesterday we got the latest GDP figures and if you’re hoping for a good night’s sleep, I wouldn’t read them before bed tonight.

Although GDP growth has been teetering around 0%, for more than a year GDP per person has been in free fall. That means Kiwis keep getting poorer.

Some back-of-the-envelope calculations show that in the space of just the last 12 months, we’ve each got nearly $1,900 worse off on a per-person basis.

New Zealand's productivity continues to be one of the worst in the developed world, and that shows no signs of changing.

Last month’s Budget saw the Government increase the size of the deficit, spending and government debt. If this isn't the wake up call the Government needs to get serious about growth, what will be?

No need for the sky-high cost of replacing Air Force plane

Luxon Plane Graphic

The economy isn't the only thing struggling to get off this week. Once again we saw the New Zealand Air Force’s Boeing 757 break down while carrying the Prime Minister’s delegation to Japan, which meant Mr. Luxon had to catch a commercial flight to Tokyo.

This has lead to the inevitable calls from some quarters for taxpayers to stump up for a brand new plane. But this would be madness. We say that getting the Defence Force to buy VIP jets for, at most, half a dozen trips a year simply isn’t worth the cost and we need to come up with a creative solution.

For the vast majority of international trips, prime ministers rightly fly with commercial airlines (granted first or business class). The problem arises when Ministers want to take a large delegation with them, such as on trade missions.  

New Zealand Ministers used to have a deal with the Australians to use federal VIP land transport. If we can do that for the limos, why not for planes too? As we suggested in The Post, we could lease one of their planes for business delegation trips.

Under the Key Government, the successful tenderer for long-haul preferred carrier for Ministers was Qantas rather than Air NZ. If Australia’s national carrier is good enough for commercial, why not their VIP jets?

Council officials at it again: Tolley and McKerrow go rogue 🚩

Fly Swatter

It looks like the wheels are falling off councils up and down the country.

Earlier this week, we slammed outgoing Tauranga City Council Commission Tsar Chair, Anne Tolley, for abusing her unelected position of power to influence the upcoming election. She joined Jack Tame on Q+A where she badmouthed candidates in the upcoming council election.

Throughout her tenure, Tolley has shown nothing but contempt for the local voters who didn't elect her. She just can't help herself playing politics in what is supposed to be a politically neutral office. We say the sooner she is out of this job, the better. 

And it wouldn't be a Taxpayer Update if there wasn't something nutty also going on at Wellington's council. Not to be outdone, our friends at the Wellington City Council, Chief Executive, Barbara McKerrow, has again denied councillors from accessing the information they need to do their jobs. This time she withheld ratepayer-funded legal advice on selling airport shares to elected council officials until the last possible minute. 

If that weren't enough, as revealed in another great investigation piece by Andrea Vance in The Post, Barbara McKerrow is now trying to impose a new code that would restrict the official advice that councillors are allowed to see. A code that legal expert Dr Dean Knight described as “unlawful and unconstitutional.”

Who does this council CEO think she is to prevent the people Wellingtonians elected to represent them (and make decisions on their behalf) from accessing the vital information they need to make well-informed decisions?

We say enough is enough.

Taxpayer Talk – MPs in Depth with Nancy Lu

This week on Taxpayer Talk, Connor sat down with National MP Nancy Lu.

Nancy was National’s highest ranking candidate who wasn’t already in Parliament and was elected on the list in unusual circumstances following the death of a candidate in the Port Waikato electorate during the election that created an overhang seat in Parliament.

Nancy moved to New Zealand from China as a child in 1997. She went on to become a chartered accountant working for large companies like PwC, EY and Fonterra and graduated with a Masters in Public Administration from Harvard Kennedy School of Government. Nancy and Connor discuss her career before politics, why she decided to stand for election and what drives her as a politician.

Listen to the episode on our website | Apple Podcasts, | Spotify | Google Podcasts | iHeart Radio

Have a great weekend.

Yours aye,


Callum Signature

Callum Purves
Head of Campaigns
New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union <


Media Mentions:

Newshub Aotearoa's rich list shows New Zealand is 'a little out of balance' - E tū union organiser and ex-Labour MP Michael Wood

RNZ Te Pāti Māori inquiry: Six government agencies in the spotlight

RNZ PM calls inquiry after claims Te Pāti Māori misused census info (02:55)

NZ Herald National drops post-Budget, Chris Hipkins pulls ahead of Christopher Luxon in new poll

The Post The Post politics live: New poll and He Waka Eke Noa abandoned

Newshub National, Labour lose support in new poll, support for Christopher Luxon plummets

RNZ Opposition makes gains in new political poll

Pacific Media Network News PMN News 11 June 2024 – Poll

NewstalkZB The Huddle: What do we think of He Waka Eke Noa's scrapping?

NewstalkZB Barry Soper: The newest poll was all about timing

The Working Group Fast Track powers, more budget talk and the Act Party's dreams | GUESTS: Shane Te Pou, Barbara Edmonds & Simon Court (27:35)

The Spinoff Australia’s hardline deportation policy and what it means for the government

Radio 531pi Will’s Word - Alarm bells for coalition Govt

Waatea News 12th June 2024 English News Bulletin 12:30pm – Poll

Greymouth Star Opposition makes gains [print only]

Waatea News Luxon lagging in likeability poll

RNZ The Panel with Sue Bradford and Stephen Franks (Part 1) – Jordan on MPs' Allowances (02:57)

Newsroom Hipkins says Labour has ‘very good chance’ in 2026

Radio 531pi Barbara Edmonds, Labour MP (16:28)

NewstalkZB Politics Thursday: David Seymour and Ginny Andersen debate MPs accommodation and oil and gas exploration – Poll (14:47)

Stuff Tova: Scams, fraud and deception: Are we tough enough on white collar crime? (02:09)

RNZ The Week in Politics: Data misuse, MPs' perks and talks with China

NewstalkZB John Barnett: Former South Pacific Pictures Boss on whether the Film Commission is funding the right projects

The Platform Government breaks second cancer drugs promise

NewstalkZB Morning Edition: 16 June 2024 – Poll (00:59)

Kiwiblog Guest Post: The Budget we should have seen

NZ Herald Labour leader Chris Hipkins tells party faithful of hopes for a one-term National-led Government

The Post How police alcohol activism risks overstepping the mark

The Spinoff Can Labour win back Auckland?

The Post Defence Minister Judith Collins says replacing broken 757 ‘horrendously expensive’

NZ Herald Public sector cuts: More than $8 million spent on one government ministry’s redundancy plans

Waatea News Hipkins stronger as Opposition leader

NewstalkZB 'Not a good look': Taxpayers' Union on the optics of sending principals on a five-day leadership trip to Fiji

NZ Herald KiwiSaaS report sees export billions from cloud software – as Technology Minister Judith Collins confirms defunding

NZ Herald Auckland train disruptions: Strikes, track issues slammed as third-world by deputy mayor

Bassett, Brash & Hide JORDAN WILLIAMS: We can't afford cancer drugs, but can afford this?

Kiwiblog This is what taxpayers fund as health research

Duncan Garner: Editor-in-Chief Worst government for conservation in our history? - 21st June 2024 (31:41)

Showing 1 reaction

  • Callum Purves
    published this page in News 2024-06-21 15:21:12 +1200

Join Us

Joining the Taxpayers' Union costs only $25 and entitles you to attend our annual conference, AGM and other events.


With your support we can make the Taxpayers' Union a strong voice exposing waste and standing up for Kiwi taxpayers.

Tip Line

Often the best information comes from those inside the public service or local government. We guarantee your anonymity and your privacy.