Joining the Taxpayers' Union costs only $25 and entitles you to attend our annual conference, AGM and other events.
The Taxpayers’ Union has condemned the Government’s decision to allocate $160 million in rebates to the gaming sector over the next four years – calling it ‘corporate welfare’.
Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Callum Purves, said:
“It was quite incredible to watch the gaming sector lobbyists in the budget lock up celebrate the ‘win’ for their wealthy clients. Gaming, now joins the film industry as an exalted industry that somehow justifies special treatment with politicians taxing ordinary Kiwis more to fund corporate welfare schemes.
“Corporate welfare to help ‘grow’ an industry is a false economy. Just like film, these companies get addicted to the rebates and subsides. Even if the industry grows, so too does the subsidy.
“Rather than pick winners, a far better economic strategy would be to slash the subsides for gaming and film and deliver every business and entrepreneur tax relief. Maybe then our company tax rate wouldn’t be among the highest in the world.”
The Taxpayers’ Union is calling out Government Greenwashing in its justification of spending at least $182.5 million of taxpayer dollars over the next four years on environmental subsidies that will fail to reduce net emissions.
Taxpayers’ Union Executive Director, Jordan Williams, said:
“The Government loves to crow about the action it is taking to tackle climate change, but today’s announcement that the Government plans to throw at least another $182.5 million of taxpayer dollars on environmental subsidies will not reduce net carbon emissions by a single gram.
“Under New Zealand’s Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), any reduction in carbon emissions in these areas will simply free up carbon credits for other less efficient industries to emit more. The Government should allow the ETS to do its job and ensure that reduce net carbon emissions in the most efficient way possible and at the minimum cost to Kiwis.”
“Every electric car that reduces transport emissions, simply frees up ETS credits for emissions in other areas of the economy. It’s literally undermining the whole purpose of the ETS – to find the most cost efficient ways to meet client targets – for the sake of political expediency.”
“Justifying spending with claims that it ‘reduces emissions’ is dishonest greenwashing. If it was done by a private company, the Commerce Commission would be investigating for deceptive conduct.”
After almost six months’ worth of excuses, transfers and extensions on an Official Information Act request sent back in November, your humble Taxpayers' Union has revealed that taxpayers and Otago ratepayers have forked out more than $2.76 million and employed over 26,000 hours of work to 'destroy' (that’s the term the bureaucrats use) just… 18 wallabies! That's a kill cost of $153,000 per wallaby.
This was just one of the ‘Jobs for Nature’ projects funded by the COVID slush fund. Jobs for Nature was allocated $1.2 billion – that's $614 for every kiwi household – as a ‘make work’ scheme when the Government feared we would see mass job losses as a result of the pandemic.
Despite record-low unemployment and an economy overcooked by Government spending, the fund has continued to dish out taxpayer money to ineffective ‘conservation’ projects at an average cost of around $200,000 per 'nature job'.
There is still $167 million yet to be spent: We say this should stop.
The story was also covered in the Otago Daily Times and Stuff’s Dominion Post.
John Walsh of Biosecurity New Zealand (the government agency responsible for this project) defended the spending arguing “it’s not wasted money”. Walsh was quoted in Stuff newspapers as saying the kill count no way represented “all the wallabies killed by the programme” and due to wallabies’ nocturnal nature and the remote landscapes, aerial drops were often the best method of killing.
We called out these misleading comments pointing to the official information response provided by his agency that showed that no aerial drops were actually used in Otago...
It is clear that this project, alongside many others supported through the Jobs for Nature fund, have no ambition in delivering meaningful outcomes for New Zealand's environment on a restrained budget.
This is just our second investigation into this enormous fund. This is just the tip of the iceberg for a much greater raft of unnecessary waste...
Writing in the New Zealand Herald, I looked at the system of "co-government" in Northern Ireland and considered the parallels with some of the recent proposals here in New Zealand. Three Waters, the proposed Resource Management Act replacement, and the Government's so-called 'Review into the Future for Local Government' all reserve places on governance bodies for unelected mana whenua representatives.
There are two major problems with co-government models. First, is the creation of veto power. Where one community can block a proposal – even if it has majority support – simply because it disagrees with it. This veto power means that Northern Ireland is currently without a government and it is almost impossible to get anything done.
Secondly, there is the problem of disconnecting decision making from democratic accountability. By reserving spaces on governing bodies for certain groups, it means that, however they might vote in elections, people are not always able to effect meaningful change as the people making the decisions remain the same no matter how much voters disagree with their policies.
The lesson from Northern Ireland is, however well-intentioned, co-government rarely works in practice. It can bring government to a standstill, undermines democratic accountability, and often exacerbates the divisions it is designed to heal. If New Zealand wants to avoid similar paralysis, it should think twice before embarking on this path.
A Taxpayers’ Union investigation revealed that several councils are forking out millions of ratepayer dollars to subsidise a private airline and the wealthy individuals using it.
Across Kapiti Coast, Whakatane and Whanganui, ratepayers have been forced to foot the bill for more than $2 million in corporate welfare – benefiting only a tiny number of ratepayers who use the services. Since 2018, Air Chathams has been given almost $1 million dollars by Kāpiti Coast District Council along with a $500,000 interest-free loan. Whanganui and Whakatane district councils also coughed up hundreds of thousands of dollars in loans bringing the total value of welfare to more than $2 million.
Kāpiti Coast airport would need to see a 1,500 per cent increase in passengers in order for it to be financially viable, something even its own Chief Executive recognised.
In a blog post this week, one of our young interns, Alex Murphy, criticised the Council's decision to fund these unsustainable routes. You can read the full post here.
Like many, we've been following the events in Gore where the country's youngest Mayor has had a 'relationship breakdown' with the Council's CEO.
While it is difficult to know exactly what is going on at the Council, we've been astonished by the willingness of the CEO – an unelected bureaucrat – to air his dirty laundry in public by speaking to multiple media organizations. The role of public servants is to serve the public by implementing the policies of their democratically elected representatives – not obstruct them and then bad mouth them in public.
Newsroom have just published a good summary of events and picked up my comments:
More power to the people
Taxpayers’ Union Campaign Manager Callum Purves says the Taxpayers’ Union wants to see an option of recall elections introduced so that, if people are unhappy with the performance of a mayor or councillors that there is a mechanism by which they can resolve it without having to look at something like commissioners or some external influence.
And if conflict between a council chief executive or local body politician is unable to be resolved the Taxpayers’ Union is quite clear who should resign.
“Ultimately in a democracy if there is also a conflict between elected representative and officials, so in this case we have a conflict between the mayor and the chief executive, that we are strongly of the view that the elected representative is the one that stays if there is a choice,” says Purves.
This week on Taxpayer Talk, I sit down with ACT Party MP, Simon Court, to discuss the recent Three Waters rebrand, the proposed resource management reforms and what ACT is proposing to solve New Zealand's significant infrastructure and planning problems.
Simon Court is ACT's spokesperson for infrastructure, the environment and local government and has been leading their response to the contentious Three Waters and RMA reforms. Prior to becoming an MP, Simon was a civil and environmental engineer working both in the private sector and for local government. Simon believes that local control, strong private property rights and the right incentives for councils to make good decisions will be what leads to solving some of our biggest problems going forward.
Later in the podcast, for our War on Waste segment, Taxpayers’ Union Deputy Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, reveals a 19-month long investigation into the Government’s decision to give millions of taxpayer dollars to a gang-affiliated meth rehabilitation program and the bureaucratic process of simply getting straight answers from officials.
We’re proud to be a truly people-powered organisation, and it will only be through the generosity of thousands of supporters like you chipping in what you can that we’ll be able to keep up our work promoting our mission of Lower Taxes, Less Waste, and More Accountability.
If you can, please click the button below to make a donation today so we can keep growing our movement, and fighting for a better deal from Wellington (and town halls!).
Thank you for your support.
Newstalk ZB Midday Edition: 04 April 2023 – Lobbying Review (02:05)
NZ Herald Bryce Ewards: Victory for transparency in lobbying reforms
The Northern Advocate Future of Kerikeri’s Turner Centre up in air as council mulls ownership
Stuff Air Chathams received more than $1 million from Kāpiti Coast council
NZ Herald Māori holds balance of power in new poll
The Time Online NEW POLL: Māori Party holds the balance of power
NZ City Another poll points to Te Pati Maori holding the keys to Parliament at this year's election
Te Ao Māori News Te Pāti Māori 'kingmakers' in latest political poll
Newstalk ZB Morning Edition: 09 April 2023 – New Poll (00:38)
Newstalk ZB "We're very clear on our priorities": Deputy PM on Labour's plan for re-election
Newstalk ZB "We've got a fantastic future ahead of us": National's Chris Luxon shares six-month plan for election
Newstalk ZB Politics Central: Will staff misconduct derail Chris Hipkins' chances for re-election? (15:40)
Waatea News Te Pāti Māori Kingmakers must have immediate bottom lines for every New Zealander
Newstalk ZB Auckland Transport's new CEO plans to increase public transport use by 20 percent
The Spinoff The edge of a knife, six months to voting day
The Working Group with Shane Te Pou, Matthew Hooton & Damien Grant
NZ Herald A lesson in co-governance from Northern Ireland – Callum Purves
Kapiti Observer Revamped Three Waters to create 10 water management entities in an effort to give local governments more influence over massive infrastructure upgrades
NZ Herald Frontline police told to ‘consider necessity’ of bail arrests as NZ’s largest prison nears capacity
Q+A “Nobody died because of lack of empathy”: Auckland mayor Wayne Brown (18:44)
Newstalk ZB Taxpayers' Union Executive Director 'astounded' by $2.7 million cost to eradicate 18 wallabies
Stuff Govt officials stand by $2.76m wallaby spend in Otago for 18 kills - 'It's not wasted money'
Otago Daily Times MPI defends $2.76m cost of Otago wallaby control
Stuff Ruth Richardson: The taxation problem I should have fixed 33 years ago
Wairarapa Times-Age Carterton’s rates are on the rise
Newsroom Gore council war could outlast inquiry
Newsroom Kawerau leads small councils’ fight against new amalgamations
Misleading statements used to justify another $16 million in corporate welfare for big business
The Taxpayers’ Union is calling out Minister of Energy and Resources, Megan Woods, for her claim that the Government Investment in Industry Decarbonisation Fund (GIDI) will reduce New Zealand’s emissions.
Announcing the Round Four recipients of the GIDI fund, including the likes of Fonterra, AFFCO and Ovation, Minister Woods claimed that the $16 million taxpayer subsidy “will reduce carbon emissions by 38,354 tonnes each year.”
Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Callum Purves, says:
“This is a blatantly misleading statement and will not reduce New Zealand’s net emissions by a single gram.
“As we have previously noted, New Zealand’s emissions are already governed by the capped Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) meaning that any emissions reduction from these businesses will simply free up carbon credits for other businesses to emit instead.
“Taking into account the co-funding from these businesses, the cost per tonne of gross emissions reduction is $52. That is less than the current carbon price so these businesses should already have the financial incentives to invest.
“The taxpayer is not a piggy bank. These are large, profitable businesses, if they need money, they can go to a real bank like any other business.
“The Minister needs to front up to the taxpayers who, during a cost of living crisis, are being forced to fork out millions to subsidise some of our largest businesses. With another $570 million in corporate welfare yet to come, this fund should be immediately scrapped rather than further fueling inflation.
Last week, we blew the whistle on the Government's planning reforms, which seek to replace the awful Resource Management Act with something even worse. It takes all the worst elements of Three Waters – like seizing powers from councils and introducing unelected decision makers – and applies them to your house, your business or your farm, but on a much bigger scale.
Like many, when the 891 pages of legislation were published, we were scratching our heads thinking 'this can't possibly be right'. What David Parker has proposed is so complicated and so convoluted, it could only have been designed by bureaucrats in Wellington.
Below, we sketch out what the new Regional Planning Committee might look like using Canterbury as an example.
But because the bill leaves so much to negotiation between councils, iwi and the minister, it is difficult to know exactly where things will end up. The likely answer is in the courts.
But the courts aren't too happy either. In a very unusual move, the Chief Justice made a submission on the Natural and Built Environment Bill. She warned that many of the provisions contained within the proposed legislation were things that were likely to be challenged in the courts. This means that the true implications of David Parker's bills are very uncertain and these court battles will be expensive.
In an even more staggering intervention, however, the Chief Justice raised concerns about the role of the proposed new National Māori Entity. She said that the bill as currently drafted includes the Environment Court as an entity whose decisions would be independently monitored by the National Māori Entity and would be required to respond to their reports.
The Chief Justice said that such a set up "would be inconsistent with New Zealand’s constitutional arrangements" and that "Court decisions are appropriately challenged by way of appeal, not by way of review by a statutory entity". She was so surprised by this that she said that the Supreme Court "assume[d] this is an error in drafting or an oversight."
This is bigger than Three Waters but so many people still don't know about it. In the coming weeks, we will be launching our campaign to put a stop to these radical reforms.
Councils often struggle to pay for essential infrastructure in our local communities such as roads and water pipes. While many don't help by funding vanity projects and white elephants, one of the biggest drivers of this problem is that when new developments are built, almost all of the tax revenue generated goes straight to central government in Wellington.
This means local councils are often reluctant to support development, such as new housing or suburbs. But the solution is simple: Let some of the taxes collected from new houses and businesses stay in the communities where they are generated. This would ensure that the money would be directed exactly to where new infrastructure is needed and would empower councils to make sensible decisions about local development.
This is not a new idea and has been promoted by our friends at the New Zealand Initiative (a Wellington-based think tank) for many years. Now it seems the idea has widespread public support. In this month's Taxpayers' Union – Curia Poll, our pollsters asked a representative sample of Kiwi voters if they supported such a proposal and an overwhelming 70% were in favour while just 15% were opposed and 15% were unsure.
ACT deputy lead and housing spokesperson, Brooke van Velden has been championing this idea in Parliament for some time and has tabled the Housing Infrastructure (GST-sharing) Bill that would give councils half of the GST raised on new houses in their area. National and the Greens have already pledged to support it at first reading, but it will need Labour votes to progress any further.
We say it's time for Wellington to stop their development money grab and urge the Government to support this bill that is desperately needed to improve local infrastructure.
We always enjoy getting outside the Wellington bubble and meeting our supporters. Speaking to people across New Zealand just highlights how detached the public service machine is from the concerns and priorities of hard working Kiwis.
For the past couple of days we have been at the Central District Field Days in Feilding and it has been great to meet with so many of you and hear your thoughts on Three Waters and the Resource Management Act reforms. The event continues until 4 p.m. today so if you are in the area, do pop by and say hello.
Later this month, we will be at the South Island Agricultural Field Days in Kirwee from Wednesday 29th to Friday, 31st March. If you are in Canterbury, we would love to see you there.
This week, Wētā FX won an Oscar at the Academy Awards for their work on Avatar: The Way of Water. It is great to see a Kiwi firm having such great success on the international stage, but that achievement is somewhat tainted by the millions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies that the Avatar franchise has received.
Taxpayers like you have been made to fork out over $140 million in subsidies for the Avatar sequels, but the first sequel has grossed over $3.7 billion. Between 2021 and 2026, New Zealanders will have given more than $1 billion to wealthy film production companies, including one owned by Jeff Bezos – the world’s third richest man.
Why should taxpayers be made to subsidize these extremely profitable films? Every dollar taxed to fund these subsidies is a dollar that could have been spent improving public services or reducing the tax burden on families.
This week, we called on the producers of Avatar to express their gratitude to New Zealanders by paying back the generous subsidies that have been provided by taxpayers over the years. We aren't holding our breath.
Last week saw a new addition to the Taxpayers' Union Board in the form of businessman and former ACT MP, the Hon. John Boscawen. John served as Minister of Consumer Affairs and Associate Minister of Commerce in the John Key Government.
John has been a long-time supporter of the Taxpayers’ Union. With his experience in business and politics, John brings with him great knowledge and insights to the organisation. We are delighted to be able to work with him to champion lower taxes, less waste and more accountability.
All of our board members are not just volunteers, but financially support the work of the Taxpayers' Union. As we get stuck into the important work this election year, we are grateful to all of them for their commitment to making New Zealand a more prosperous society with an efficient, transparent and democratically accountable government.
Thank you for your support.
Stuff Damien Grant: Things get done because of agitators and advocates
RNZ Ashley Bloomfield, the public service and political neutrality
NZ Herald Labour overtakes National in new political poll - Greens hover just above threshold
Interest.co.nz Chris Hipkins helps Labour take the lead in Taxpayer Union political poll for the first time in 12 months
Stuff Labour and National neck-and-neck, with just one seat in it, in latest poll
RNZ The Panel with Nicky Pellegrino and Allan Blackman (Part One)
NewstalkZB Afternoon Edition: 09 March 2023 – New Poll
NewstalkZB Barry Soper: ZB senior political correspondent on Labour taking the lead in new Taxpayers’ Union-Curia poll
The Daily Blog BOOM: New Taxpayers’ Union Poll puts Labour on Top but Greens in danger of falling below 5%
RNZ Labour rises in new Curia poll, Greens dangerously close to threshold
Te Ao Māori News Hipkins hoists Labour’s election chances but not quite enough to rule
NewstalkZB The Huddle: Te Whatu Ora apologises for reporting inaccurate information and Labour leads in new poll
TodayFM Full Show: 10 March 2023 – New Poll (02:12:22)
RNZ First Up - The Podcast, Friday 10 March (00:36:19)
NewstalkZB Morning Edition: 10 March 2023 – New Poll
RNZ Political editors panel: Public service posturing
Otago Daily Times Hipkins doesn't see kids 'anywhere near enough'
NZ Herald Prime Minister Chris Hipkins tells Newstalk ZB he doesn’t see kids ‘anywhere near enough’ in top job
NewstalkZB Jordan Williams and Fleur Fitzsimons face-off over Government consultant spending
NZ Herald Chris v Chris: Poll, battle, mistakes - did Luxon or Hipkins deliver the goods to win the week?
The Gisborne Herald National has to change tack
Stuff National snaps politics right back to December
NewstalkZB Jason Walls: Newstalk ZB political editor on multiple public servants breaking impartiality requirements
RNZ Political commentators Lamia Imam & Brigitte Morten
NewstalkZB Callum Purves speaks to Kerry Woodham on the RMA reforms
The Platform Is the Government sneaking through legislation with their latest RMA reforms?
NZ Herald Voters want councils to have a share of GST, poll shows
Politik Speed limits hit potholes
Newsroom Auckland’s light rail stage fright
NZ Initiative Localism: The initiative that has won the nation over
Today we have released our latest report, ‘Socialism for the Rich’, by Jim Rose. The report shows that the annual cost of corporate welfare is now $1.6 billion - or $931 per New Zealand household.
‘Socialism for the Rich’ collates the costs of all the corporate welfare expenditure in Budget 2017. It shows that the company tax rate could be six percentage points lower if these favoured handouts were abolished and spread fairly across all New Zealand businesses.
Instead of rewarding profitable businesses with an across the board tax cut, these subsidies pick winners by directing subsidies to businesses that cannot keep afloat on their own.
Budget 2017 has allocated $294 million to commercialising science and innovation. In the past, the Government has directed investment at ‘public good’ science - research and development that has low commercial viability. Now, funding is going towards trying to commercialise technologies in the private sector. It’s socialised costs for privatised profits.
A further $148 million is going towards subsidising the film industry, $12 million less than the last budget. Since 2008, $997 million of taxpayer funds have been spent trying to attract the glitz and glamour of Hollywood.
The largest recipient of taxpayer funded corporate welfare is KiwiRail. The latest budget has allocated $396 million to KiwiRail, a 50% increase on the previous year. KiwiRail has now received more than $4 billion in taxpayer handouts since 2008 despite being valued as a $1.5 billion liability.
Corporate welfare is not only a waste of taxpayer money but also counterproductive. Look at Emirates Team New Zealand. Removing the direct corporate welfare saw Team New Zealand bring home the Auld Mug. Forcing private businesses to compete on their own footing, rather than rely on government handouts, will inspire competition and innovation. On the other hand, corporate welfare slows down the boat.
The report's author, Jim Rose, says, “The role of government is to provide essential public goods and social welfare that the market cannot. This Government has significantly overreached this role and actively engaged in picking winners and propping up failing businesses.
The Taxpayers’ Union is questioning why NZ Aid money, meant to help the world’s poorest, is being used to support countries and governments with their own space programs. The figures (see below) show that since 2010 more than $214 million of taxpayer money has been given to countries rich enough to fund their own space ambitions.
If a foreign government has enough cash to invest in ambitious space programmes, it should not expect to be receiving cash from New Zealand taxpayer which is earmarked for helping the world’s poorest.
Total amount of NZ Aid money (since 2010) given to countries with government space programmes: $214,111,149
Like any spending of taxpayer money, aid funding should be directed to where it is most needed. These figures show MFAT aren’t ensuring that Official Development Assistance is being allocated to those most in need. We should follow Australia’s lead and be redirecting Aid money away from Indonesia and India, and towards those in the Pacific with a much greater need.
Corporate welfare amounts to more than $800 per New Zealand household, according to a calculation by the Taxpayers’ Union contained in a report released today. The report, entitled Welfare Bums, is authored by economist Jim Rose.
The report updates the previous Taxpayers’ Union reports, Any new kids at the trough?, which scrutinised Budget 2015, and Monopoly Money, published soon after the 2014 Budget.
The key findings in the report are:
Over the weekend we revealed more Upper City Council corporate welfare 'economic development' grants amounting to $375,000 of ratepayers’ money. Joining Burger Fuel, grant recipients include Subway, Vogue (a clothing store), Bed Bath and Beyond, and even a hairdresser!
Stuff.co.nz covered our comments here:
"It is economic trickery benefiting only the favoured businesses.
"Take the example of Prodigy Hair. There are at least 29 hairdressing firms in Upper Hutt, but the council picks this one out for a handout."
Previously, the council defended its corporate welfare scheme on the basis that it was creating jobs, Williams said.
"Of course the politicians and officials ignore that every cent is drained from the very community they are claiming to help. It is intellectually dishonest.
"Upper Hutt ratepayers are smart enough to see that this isn't economic development, it's robbing the poor to pay the rich."
To respond, Mayor Wayne Guppy spoke to Newstalk ZB's Larry Williams tonight just prior to the political Huddle with our Executive Director Jordan Williams and Vernon Tava.
Any new kids at the trough? a report by Jim Rose launched today, collates all of the corporate welfare in Budget 2015. The report updates our previous report, Monopoly Money: the cost of corporate welfare since 2008.
The new report shows:
Corporate welfare will cost taxpayers $1.344 billion this year, up from $1.178 billion in Budget 2014
The amounts are the equivalent to $752 (Budget 2015) and $663 (Budget 2014) per household
The largest item of corporate welfare is still KiwiRail which has cost taxpayers $13.2 billion (including write downs) since 2008 with still no sign of the ‘turn around’ National promised soon after it was elected to office.
‘Economic development’ is the second largest category of corporate welfare, including a $115 million appropriation for NZTE 'international business growth services’ which saw the controversial ‘Agri-hub’ given to a Saudi farmer.
The fastest growing area of corporate welfare is the ramping up of taxpayer funded grants to agriculture businesses wanting to install irrigation.
Corporate welfare is where politicians try to pick winners and the taxpayers lose. It robs middle class taxpayers to reward the well off and politically connected. For every dollar spent on corporate welfare, there is one less dollar for education, health, or investment by the taxpayer who earned it.
The report includes a forward by Matthew Elliott, Chief Executive of the London-based business group, Business for Britain. Mr Elliott has been in New Zealand as a guest of the Taxpayers’ Union and told media:
Many of the business subsidies and corporate handouts this report exposes are more suited to an EU-style picking business winners regime than a modern open economy. What these reports demonstrate is that lower taxes – not additional government spending – are the best driver of economic growth and prosperity.
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.
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