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The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union is offering to redesign logos for any renamed government departments for free in an effort to save taxpayers money following concerns that requiring a name change of government departments will give them an excuse to undergo an expensive rebrand.
Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:
“Taxpayer-funded organisations will take any opportunity to undergo an expensive rebrand which involves spending tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of dollars on design and consultation fees – we will do this for free.
“Government branding guidelines say all departments should begin transitioning towards the NZ Govt logo mark, which incorporates the Coat of Arms next to the name of the department. But this is being ignored with many departments continuing to have free rein over their branding – racking up costs with every brand change and creating confusion among the public as to which departments are affiliated with the Government.
“We recently revealed that the Human Rights Commission spent $418,000 on a new brand and website while the Electricity Authority spent almost $100,000 on a logo that was was near identical to the old one. Standardising government branding, as is done in the UK and Australia, will increase accessibility and save taxpayers millions.”
Taxpayers will be alarmed that the Minister of Finance has said the new Government has discovered “nasty financial surprises” despite Ruth Richardson’s Fiscal Responsibility Act that was specifically designed to avoid the exact situation the new Government appears to be in.
“Ms Willis is not prone to Winston Peters-style rhetoric so her comments are particularly alarming” says Jordan Williams, a spokesman for the Taxpayers’ Union.
“Given Treasury’s role to prepare the Pre-election Fiscal and Economic Update, it is inexcusable for a government to be greeted by economic surprises.
“We need to cut through political claims and point scoring and get to the bottom one way or another. It is becoming clear that Treasury has dropped the ball and we urgently need an updated assessment of the objective state of the books over and above HYFEU, due by the end of the year.
“A government inquiry, or at minimum, a select committee inquiry with the ability to call under oath the former Minister of Finance, and Treasury officials is called for. If the books are in the state Nicola Willis claims, clearly there has been a major failing within our public finance institutions. As well as getting to the truth, Wellington need to learn the lessons, if we are not to return to the 1980-style politicisation of public accounts.”
The Taxpayers' Union can reveal that the Hastings District Council has spent over $70,000 on its recent rebranding initiative. A staggering $46,512 was allocated to "Strategy & Creative" for the logo's design and development, with an additional $19,850 for signage guidelines development.
"It's both startling and disheartening to witness such a significant portion of ratepayer money—equivalent to 24 years’ worth of the average residential ratepayer's rates in Hastings —being used on mere branding," said Oliver Bryan, Investigations Coordinator at the Taxpayers' Union. "This comes as the average residential ratepayers' rates have gone up by 7% in the past year."
"Councils are not corporations competing for market share. They are service providers funded by ratepayers. This kind of extravagant spending on branding starkly deviates from their primary responsibilities. It's high time councils prioritize tangible community benefits over transient branding exercises, particularly during times when pressing challenges, like cyclone recovery, loom large.”
“In an era where every dollar counts and communities confront genuine challenges, it's crucial for local councils to demonstrate fiscal responsibility.”
The Taxpayers' Union can reveal that a $6 million taxpayer-funded hydrogen truck initiative has failed to deliver a single truck, despite promises that they would be on the road by 2022.
Oliver Bryan, Investigations Coordinator at the Taxpayers’ Union, expressed dismay, stating, "It's an affront to taxpayers that a project heavily funded by the outdated COVID Response and Recovery Fund has yielded nothing but empty promises. The corporate welfare for a project that wouldn’t even reduce emissions, due to transport emissions already being governed by the Emissions Trading Scheme, is bad enough. However, the fact that the government has nothing to show for it at all is even worse."
"This is not merely a case of unfortunate delays – it's a glaring example of misused public funds on a project that appears ill-prepared and poorly executed. This initiative should never have been funded in the first place, but after its clear failings, this money should be returned to taxpayers."
"The new government needs to intervene immediately. Every day that this project continues without results is another day taxpayers are left footing the bill for a scheme that was never going to be effective."
Taxpayers’ Union OIA's reveal that despite the Chief Ombudsman's introduction of a self-assessment tool in July, aimed at enhancing public sector transparency and adherence to official information protocols, prominent ministries and agencies including Waka Kotahi, the Ministry of Health, and the Ministry of Justice have yet to utilize it as of September.
Oliver Bryan, Investigations Coordinator at the Taxpayers' Union, said, "It's a glaring irony: departments and Ministries hesitant to use a tool explicitly designed to enhance their transparency and reputation, especially concerning the OIA. It's truly baffling that ministries, which frequently find themselves under the public microscope, are dragging their feet on a tool that promotes better governance. Is it simply a case of old habits dying hard? Or is there an underlying apprehension about transparency?"
"While these ministries play catch-up with good governance tools, one wonders how many other departments and ministries are also stuck in the bureaucratic doldrums. This isn't a game of hide and seek; it's about ensuring transparency and building trust with the taxpayers who fund these agencies."
"We urge the incoming government to show leadership on this issue. It is imperative to ensure all departments, irrespective of their size, employ the Chief Ombudsman's tool. Beyond the immediate operational advantages, this is a clear way to signal commitment to openness and build faith with the New Zealand public."
Responding to Wellington City Council’s approval of plans to spend up to $147 million more of ratepayers’ money on the city’s town hall, Taxpayers’ Union Policy Adviser, James Ross, said:
“Whilst pipes are leaking, roads are crumbling and costs of living are climbing out of control, Wellington City Council have voted to raise the potential cost of the town hall restoration project to over $1,500 per resident. As a Castalia report reveals Wellington City Council is set to blow its budget by $1 billion, quite how the council could justify considering burning hundreds of millions propping up numerous crumbling heritage sites whilst basic services fail beggars belief.
“Council officials have railroaded this decision, providing one-sided information to elected representatives and demanding a decision be taken before proper scrutiny of their advice can take place. Credit must be given to Councillor McNulty for recognising the enormous opportunity costs of this project and calling for time to investigate more cost-effective options, while also encouraging the council to explore a local bill to ensure they don’t end up in the exact same position again in the near future with other buildings.
“A huge chunk of the costs and delays associated with demolishing the buildings stem from heritage-status red tape, but despite what officials would have you believe this is completely avoidable.
“A local bill must be sought to allow Wellington Council to de-list buildings by simple majority. A local bill was progressed by Tasman District Council in relation to a water augmentation scheme in 2018, taking only four months to pass through Parliament. Years of legal battles and spiralling costs can easily be avoided so that Wellington can start focusing on getting the basics right again."
Responding to news that Wellington City Council is planning to buy the land under the currently earthquake-prone Reading cinema complex and re-strengthen the building, Taxpayers’ Union Head of Campaigns Callum Purves said:
“The Reading Cinema may be a dead spot in the heart of the City Centre, but that doesn’t mean the Council needs to step in.“Just earlier this week we saw with Wellington’s Town Hall just how costly these earthquake-strengthening projects turn out to be. It’s just as likely that another massive budget blowout is on the cards with this proposal.
“If Reading International won’t take on the restrengthening itself, then the Council needs to accept that. Should a private buyer choose to purchase and redevelop the land in the future, the Council should ensure that the consenting process – including the demolition option – is as smooth as possible, but that’s all it needs to do.
“This is just another example corporate favouritism at the expense of the ratepayer. Wellington residents are already facing a double-digit rate increase this year. A project of this magnitude will only guarantee further rate hikes and continue to burden Wellingtonians."
The Taxpayers’ Union is questioning the Government’s decision to provide corporate welfare to the wood processing sector, both in the form of direct hand-outs and the Government playing bank manager by providing loans when this could easily be left to private sector banks.
Taxpayers’ Union Deputy Campaigns Manager, Connor Molloy, said:
“Too often we see the Government branching out into areas that are not core government functions and where Ministers and bureaucrats have little to no expertise. What does the Government know that banks don’t when it comes to making sensible investment decisions? This is simply more corporate welfare providing handouts to business at a time when Kiwis are struggling with the cost of living.
“Not only are these spending decisions distortionary by arbitrarily encouraging more investment in some sectors to the detriment of others but they also unnecessarily place private risk on taxpayers who are left out of pocket if things go wrong.
“If the Government is concerned about the lack of investment in growing industries, perhaps they should look at the root causes of the problem – high interest rates made necessary by out-of-control government spending and overly-restrictive overseas investment rules that make it so difficult to get foreign capital into the country.
“The only tree that the Government should be focused on is the self-proclaimed ‘Tāne Mahuta’, Adrian Orr, who has consistently failed to keep inflation in the target range and whose Large Scale Asset Purchase programme has seen taxpayers foot the bill for billions of dollars in losses."
Despite facing consistent financial challenges and relying on taxpayer bailouts - most recently to the tune of $220 million in May's budget - The Waikato Times has revealed a staggering $15.6 million spent on ads, PR, and publications, which includes a $3.5 million campaign launch.
Oliver Bryan, Invesitgations Coordinator at the Taxpayers' Union, commented, "Feedback on Te Pūkenga's performance from experts in the tertiary sector echoes the country's sentiment that this is clearly an organisation costing us a fortune and delivering little in return."
“The consistent mismanagement and questionable spending decisions by Te Pūkenga are alarming and unacceptable. It is deeply concerning to see millions being channeled into advertising campaigns while the very core of Te Pūkenga is riddled with operational deficiencies. The latest feedback from experts and surveys clearly indicates that their hefty advertising investment is not yielding the desired results in terms of student numbers or improved public perception."
"Until the organisation rectifies its operational issues, the Government is just pouring money into a failing system. It needs to stop."
The Taxpayers’ Union is slamming Cabinet's decision to provide yet another taxpayer-funded handout to Ruapehu Alpine Lifts (RAL), this time to the tune of $7 million.
Taxpayers’ Union Head of Campaigns, Callum Purves, said:
“We warned earlier in the year that taxpayer-funded bailouts for failing businesses would be a slippery slope and unfortunately we have been vindicated.
“Every dollar that the Government wastes on corporate handouts is a dollar that first had to be taxed from someone else. While the Government may claim that they are protecting jobs in the ski industry, the taxes to pay for this corporate welfare costs jobs in other industries.
“The Government would be better to let RAL go under and allow a new buyer to come in as a replacement – including leaving the door open for an international investor. This would allow a financially viable operator to take over the ski field while also saving taxpayers from funding unnecessary corporate welfare in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis.
“Once businesses realise that they can get money by coming cap in hand to the Government, the potential for pork-barrel politics and back-room deals is increased as businesses begin to respond to Ministers instead of markets.”
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