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It appears that Hawke’s Bay mayors may have known of the omnishambles at the new museum in Napier a year ago and apparently have failed to do much about it.
The museum and gallery opened last September and cost Hawke's Bay ratepayers $18 million to build. To recap, last month we learned that the budgets were wrong:
Napier City Council has been caught short after discovering that thousands of people it thought were visiting its museum were just popping in to use the toilets.
Now it needs to revise its 10-year plan after finding that the projected visitor numbers for its new $18 million museum and gallery were based on inaccurate figures.
Then we found out that the museum cannot hold the collection it was built to accommodate. In fact, it is so small up to 40% will need to stored at an as yet unknown site. Radio NZ, The Dominion Post and TVNZ covered the story.
Then began the spin from Napier City Council that they knew of the problems all along, but were nevertheless conducting a 'review' on how it happened.
This morning the Dominion Post reported that Hastings Mayor Lawrence Yule was aware of the situation, an allegation made by Napier's Mayor but strongly refuted by Mr Yule. The whole saga appears to be resulting in a somewhat undignified spat between the mayors of the Bay cities.
I venture to suggest that there is more to come of this story...
“Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said Australian taxpayers were entitled to ask why they should be covering the cost of assisting Australian activist Colin Russell to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars.
"It took a huge effort and a lot of money to get this guy out and the Australian taxpayer paid for it," Ms Bishop said yesterday.
"If it is a deliberate strategy designed to provoke a response and potentially to risk breaking the laws of another country, the question of cost recovery does arise."
But MFAT has ruled the option out.
"The ministry has no plans to charge Greenpeace for the consular assistance provided to the two New Zealand detainees from the Arctic 30," an MFAT spokesman said.
Why? This isn't a case of some New Zealand citizens accidentally ending up on the wrong side of the law in another country. It's been widely reported that the two New Zealanders travelled to the Arctic to protest against exploration of fossil fuels by deliberately break the law. Why shouldn't they (or Greenpease - the organisation that put them up to it) pay the costs of the required assistance?
While the Taxpayers’ Union can only speculate as to the extent of these individuals’ carbon footprint in journeying to the arctic, we can reveal the amount of support taxpayers’ doled out as a result of their protest.
In a response to an Official Information Act request lodged with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Trade reveal that they provided approximately 173 hours of support for the two wayward protestors.
While MFAT was unable to quantify how much this support has likely cost the taxpayer, we doubt that the specialist consular services from our diplomatic personnel both in New Zealand and Moscow would have been cheap.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade provides a great service to New Zealanders who have found themselves in difficult, often unforeseen circumstances while abroad. But should these resources be spent bailing out known political agitators at the taxpayers’ expense?
Yesterday Stephen Joyce announced:
$15m investment in sheep and beef genetics
Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce today announced a $15 million investment over five years into advances in genetics research that will improve the profitability of New Zealand’s sheep and beef sector.
A new partnership, Beef + Lamb New Zealand Genetics, will also bring together New Zealand’s existing sheep and beef genetics research by consolidating Sheep Improvement Ltd, the Beef + Lamb New Zealand Central Progeny Test, and Ovita. Total funding for the new project from government and industry sources will be up to $8.8 million per year.
“Science and innovation are major drivers of economic growth and international competitiveness. The Government is committed to ensuring we invest in purpose-driven research that benefits New Zealand,” Mr Joyce says.
“Genetic improvement in the sheep industry has contributed greatly to farm profitability, and for every dollar captured on farm, another 50 cents is captured off-farm. In just 10 years Beef + Lamb New Zealand Genetics expect that farmers will receive $5.90 extra profit per lamb sold at that time.”
We think this is corporate welfare - the only winners are the sheep and beef farmers who will ultimately profit. Like most corporate welfare, it’s everyday taxpayers who will be left out of pocket.
As Mr Joyce goes on to point out in the release, New Zealand already leads the world in pastoral animal and plant genetics.
“As a nation, we are already leading the world in pastoral animal and plant genetics. This partnership will help us maintain this critical position and to continue to build on it through further research and development in sheep and beef genetics.”
The first part of that paragraph is correct - NZ does lead the word. What is not clear is why taxpayers need to stump up to keep us there. Why does this multi-billion dollar export industry suddenly need the Government pouring millions into it? Expecting increases in farmers' profits is not justification.
This funding is for good headlines, not good economics. What other industries have their normal research and development costs borne by the taxpayer?
Government won't seek repayment from axed yacht race Newstalk ZB - 16/1/2014
The Government has no intention of making the organisers of an axed yacht race repay $100,000 in taxpayer funding.
The inaugural Auckland to Bluff race - scheduled for next month - was cancelled due to a lack of entrants, but not before receiving a quarter of its $400,000 government grant.
The Taxpayers' Union says organisers should be made to pay it back.
But Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce says organisers have already spent the money and he doesn't expect them to find another $100,000 to pay it back.
Stuff has just reported:
BusinessNZ rejects training scheme attacks
Business NZ has hit back at ACC Minister Judith Collins over her attacks on an ACC-funded health and safety training programme run by Business NZ, the Council Of Trade Unions and a private provider.
ACC announced this week that the $1.5 million a year programme would be canned at the end of of 2014 because it was not providing value for money.
Collins had joined criticism of the scheme, which has run since 2003, describing it as a cosy arrangement that had the hallmarks of a scam and a rort.
Business NZ today broke its silence on the issue, with a press release quoting its chief executive, Phil O'Reilly.
"For the record, Business NZ utterly rejects mistaken allegations made by lobbyist Jordan Williams since repeated by the ACC minister," O'Reilly said.
"The BusinessNZ family's involvement has been completely ethical at all times, and I am confident that this is also the case with the involvement of the CTU and Impac Services."
The CTU has also strongly rejected the criticisms by Collins and Williams.
O'Reilly said it was "unfortunate that important debate on workplace safety has been undermined by intemperate media comment".
Media reporting of uninformed assumptions by Williams appeared to have led to the minister's comments, O'Reilly said. continue reading...Read more
Yesterday Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce announced research and development grants that are set to cost taxpayers $140million over three years. The Herald reports:
Yesterday it looked like the Taxpayers' Union struck up it's first win, with ACC announcing that it would scrap the health and safety training scheme which has cost levy holders $19million to date, with 84 cents per dollar being wasted (even with optimistic assumptions).Read more
The documents, available and summarised below show ACC knew that millions paid to Business NZ and the CTU to provide health and safety training did little, if anything, to reduce workplace accidents.Read more
Cr Nicola Young, whose motion to consult before Wellington implemented the living wage was defeated 8 votes to 5, writes in today's Dominion Post.
Wellington City Council has lit a fuse leading to a bomb of unknown size, with its vote to implement a "living wage" for its employees from January 1.
Councillors often stress the need for evidence-based, reasoned and clear decisions; correct process; and the need to avoid writing blank cheques but there was little - if any - consultation and analysis of the impact this wages policy would have on Wellington households and businesses. Ironic, considering the council has also committed to the capital being "open for business".
This is key. As we've pointed out before, the study by Auckland Council, and advice from the Treasury on the question of whether a living wage policy is a good tool to reduce poverty is damning.
Mayor Celia Wade- Brown has defended this Alice in Wonderland approach by pointing out the council didn't consult on the chief executive's salary either. The reality is that the CEO is paid the going rate in a competitive international market, whereas the "living wage" is an artificial intervention to boost incomes of lower paid workers who happen to work at the council.
The "living wage" proposed by the Living Wage Aotearoa New Zealand Campaign, is higher (relative to GDP per capita) than the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, and Canada. Incredibly, ours is higher than London's; the 18th most expensive city in the world (Wellington is ranked at 74th in Mercer's Cost of Living survey).
This is incredible. Wellington Council want low income Wellintonians to pay more in rates to fund a 'living wage' higher than London's!
We're all for higher wages, but taxing more in rates to artificially pay some more is not the way to get there.
Following the well publicised case of global warming scientists being stuck in record pack ice in Antarctica (ironically the expedition was intended to study the dwindling sea ice) and the efforts to rescue them, the Taxpayers' Union began enquires late last year to find out precisely how much taxpayers' money the NZ Government "supporters" listed on the expedition's website had contributed.
It appears that thankfully New Zealand taxpayers' haven't forked out the huge amounts feared. In fact, it appears that the Australasian Antarctic Expedition (AAE) is claiming at least one 'supporter' it doesn't have...
The expedition's website lists expedition supporters the Department of Conservation, Landcare Research, and the University of Waikato.
Despite asking the AAE leader (via email and his very active twitter account), and the media contacts at the University of New South Wales, no one would tell us how much kiwi taxpayers had contributed via the three agencies.
On 1 January we lodged Official Information Act requests with DoC, Landcare and the University of Waikato.
To DoC's credit it responded by 8 January, stating that DoC were not participants in the expedition and therefore the information (i.e. what financial and non-financial support was given) does not exist. DoC's letter and our response is below.
Last night DoC's Director of Policy Jeff Flavell called me and confirmed that the Department not being 'a participant' in the expedition was intended to mean that DoC did not provide any support to AAE at all. In fact he seemed surprised that DoC was listed as a supporter on the AAE website and that he would ask his officials whether it was known that the AAE was using the DoC logo and claiming support.
So credit for DoC for coming back to us so quickly and from someone so senior, especially given our recent expose of failings within the department.
We await the responses from Waikato and Landcare.
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