Joining the Taxpayers' Union costs only $25 and entitles you to attend our annual conference, AGM and other events.
Commenting on Grant Robertson’s and Jan Tinetti’s recent announcement of a $128 million bailout for the tertiary sector, Taxpayer’s Union Campaigns Manager, Callum Purves, said:
“Rather than giving universities and polytechs a cheque, the Government could save a lot of taxpayer dollars by asking them to trim the fat. Given that both Victoria University of Wellington and the University of Otago have higher administration staff numbers than research and teaching roles, universities could easily make savings without cutting frontline roles.
“While the universities need to make savings, one of the primary drivers of funding gaps has been the drop in student numbers, which has been directly affected by the Government’s restrictive travel policies during the latter stages of the pandemic.
“We also need to have proper rethink about how the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) doles out subsidies to universities around New Zealand as it is becoming very clear that the current funding model is costing taxpayers more and more for diminishing returns.
"At the very least, this money should come from a reprioritisation from within the tertiary sector, specifically scrapping the fees-free policy that overwhelmingly benefits wealthy families without increasing enrolment numbers."
Reacting to the news that the Government is set to become a part owner of the Ruapehu ski fields, Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager Callum Purves said:
“The Government should not be getting involved with propping up businesses that cannot stay afloat on their own. If the current operators go under, the mountains, ski-lifts and other infrastructure will still be there for another company to take over.
“Many international companies would be interested in buying the rights to operate the ski-fields for the reported price of $1, without the need for taxpayer loans, bailouts or buy-ins. Investing in New Zealand would be an attractive option for international companies seeking to diversify risk geographically and smooth income during the off-season in their respective countries.
“If the government wants to do something, a good start would be speaking with the many international ski-companies to see what regulatory barriers there are which are preventing them from taking over operations and seek to reduce them in time for the winter ski-season.
“People often forget that these things have an opportunity cost. The ski industry is one dominated by wealthy families who can afford to get away over the winter for some time on the slopes. Spending taxpayer money on bailing out the Ruapehu ski-fields means that we are effectively subsidising the hobbies of the wealthy at the cost of say funding frontline education or health services that have the greatest impact on low-income New Zealanders.”
Commenting on this morning’s GDP figures, Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Callum Purves, said:
“While the impacts of the severe weather events earlier in this year will have damaged primary production, the Government needs to shoulder much of the blame for this economic contraction. Its spending addiction has driven inflation to record levels and forced the Reserve Bank to hike the Official Cash Rate repeatedly, which has undoubtedly hampered economic activity.
“New Zealand might have only just entered a technical recession, but without drastic and urgent action from the Government to rein in its spending, this situation may well persist for some time to come.
“While Grant Robertson might not want to listen to us, he should take heed of the IMF’s damning indictment of his economic policies. They rightly argue that other than investment in cyclone recovery and social housing, the Government should tighten its belt by cutting spending and ensuring that cost of living support is targeted to those who need it most.”
Commenting on news that the former Te Pūkenga chief executive, Stephen Town, was paid out close to $200,000, Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Callum Purves, said:
“The Government’s polytechnic merger was always a bad idea and one driven by their obsession with centralization. Far from delivering efficiencies, Te Pūkenga has simply created additional layers of bureaucracy while worsening financial problems and failing to address the issue of student numbers.
“The fact that the chief executive presiding over this mess was given a nearly $200,000 payout after having already been paid $65,000 for a period of ‘special leave’ is simply outrageous and completely unjustifiable. The golden goodbye culture in the public sector of rewarding failure must end immediately.”
Commenting on former Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt’s request for a ratepayer-funded statue of himself, Taxpayers’ Union Campaigns Manager, Callum Purves, said:
“It beggars belief that Tim Shadbolt thinks this is an appropriate use of Invercargill residents' money, especially considering that the public have already had to pay for his enormous ratepayer-funded mayoral portrait.
“We commend Mayor Nobby Clarke for standing firm on this issue and looking out for ratepayers’ interests. If Mr Shadbolt would like a statue of himself, he is more than welcome to fundraise for one privately.”
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.”
Exclusively for our supporters like you, here are the results of May's Taxpayers’ Union – Curia Poll:
National drops one point this month to be on 36% but retakes the lead over Labour which falls back three points to 34%. ACT is up three to 13% while the Greens are unchanged on 7%.
Of the smaller parties, the Māori Party is on 3.7% (+0.8 points), NZ First on 2.6% (nc), TOP on 1.7% (+0.9 points), New Conservatives on 1.6% (-0.1 points), and Democracy NZ 0.3% (-1.3 points).’
Here is how these results would translate to seats in the 120 seat Parliament, assuming all electorate seats are held:
Labour is down four seats on last month to 44 while National is down one seat to 46. ACT is up four seats to 16 while the Greens are unchanged on 9 seats. The Māori Party is up one seat to 5.
On these numbers, the Centre-Right bloc would be in a position to form government with a combined total of 62 seats, which is up three on last month. The combined total for the Centre Left drops four seats to 53.
Chris Hipkins's net favourability score of +22% is six points lower than last month and down 11 points on his March peak of +33%.
Christopher Luxon’s score of -7% (-1 point) is at its lowest level since he became National Party leader in November 2021 while David Seymour is on -11% (-5 points).
Chris Hipkins has a slight positive net favourability rating with National voters +7% while Christopher Luxon has a score of -56% with Labour voters.
In another worrying sign for Christopher Luxon, among undecided voters, Chris Hipkins has a positive net favourability of +30% while Christopher Luxon is on -26%. David Seymour is on -32%.
Visit our website for more information and details of how to get access to the full polling report (which includes favourability figures for the two MPs in the centre of the Green Party's 'cry baby' text scandal: Chlöe Swarbrick and Elizabeth Kerekere).
They say ‘less is more’, but the Human Rights Commission (HRC) took it a bit too literally when its website redesign amounted to little more than a change of colour scheme and a new tool to 'help' New Zealanders appreciate the HRC and its work. Our Investigations Co-ordinator, Ollie Bryan, revealed earlier this week that HRC has spent $417,962 on the new site.
One of the few changes is a new tab on their home page called ‘Take a Moment’. We pointed out that all this button did was take you to a plain blue screen and a pulsing HRC logo... and nothing else.
Soon after our story was covered in the media, the HRC quickly updated this page. The page now includes relaxing music, soothing bird song and calming animations. I'm not sure they quite understood the point we were making...
With so many pressing needs in our society – the cost of living, healthcare and education in crisis, and infrastructure falling apart – these sort of vanity projects really make us wonder whether the Human Rights Commission itself needs to 'take a moment'...
With high inflation, bracket creep means that workers' taxes are being hiked without a single vote having been cast in Parliament. If politicians want more of our money, they should have to make the case to Parliament – and the public.
There is a simply solution: Linking the thresholds at which different rates of income tax kick in to inflation.
A Taxpayers' Union – Curia Poll last month showed that 65% of New Zealanders favoured automatically increasing income tax thresholds in line with inflation as is already the case for welfare benefits. 19% of those polled were against while 17% were unsure.
Many countries already adjust tax brackets for inflation and it is not a difficult policy to implement. Here in New Zealand, there are already inflation adjustments for welfare benefits and superannuation payments. Why should working New Zealanders be punished with stealthy tax hikes when they are not actually earning more?
Last year, the New Zealand Film Commission sent two employees to Hollywood to attend the Academy Awards in Hollywood. Despite the ceremony only lasting a few hours, the two employees managed to bag themselves a ten-day extended trip. Their extravagant jaunt cost taxpayers like you a staggering $58,000 including more than $5,000 on wine at one event and $1,223 on spirits, beer, wine, and bar snacks at another.
Well, not this year!
It seems our pointing out this waste of taxpayer dollars put the Film Commission off from sending a representative again. A recent Official Information Act response confirmed that your hard-earned money was not squandered on a lavish Hollywood trip this year.
The Taxpayers' Union will continue to hold government departments and agencies like the Film Commission to account on their spending. We’ll be keeping a close eye on whether any New Zealand public servants rock up to the Cannes Film Festival later in the year...
Thank you for your support.
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
The Taxpayers’ Union has revealed that several councils have forked out millions of ratepayer dollars to subsidise a private airline and the wealthy individuals using it.
Across Kāpiti Coast, Whakatāne, and Whanganui, ratepayers have footed the bill for over $2 million in corporate (and middle-class) welfare to maintain regular flight services to Auckland. From 2018 to date, KCDC have gifted almost $1.5 million dollars in grants and interest-free loans to Air Chathams. Accompanied with hundreds of thousands in loans splurged by Whanganui and Whakatāne district councils on their routes, the total value of welfare is brought to more than $2 million.
If these routes were financially viable, and demand was plentiful, airlines would pick them up without the need for council subsidies. Unfortunately, there clearly is not enough demand to justify continuing with these services. Documents obtained by the Taxpayers’ Union under the LGOIMA indicate that Kāpiti Coast District Council believed the service would become profitable after a few years, but would run at a loss initially. If this really was the case, established airlines should be able to access their loans privately, rather than exposing ratepayers to the risk of default.
Prior to the Air Chathams takeover, Air New Zealand operated all three of these services. Due to financial unviability, however, one by one the routes were cancelled. That same despair was shared by Air Chathams themselves, who recognised the numbers didn’t stack up. However, when presented with the option of a million dollars in free money by seemingly economically illiterate councillors, the decision to continue the service was an offer too attractive to refuse.
With alternative airports nearby, flyers were ‘voting with their feet’ and opting to travel to other airports instead. Whanganui residents, for example, were pivoting towards Palmerston North as the more attractive alternative. There’s good reason for the change in preference too. Rotorua, Tauranga, Palmerston North and Wellington airports are all under an hour away from at least one of the three airports in question. In general, they have a greater range of flight times available and, for the most part, far cheaper prices. Wellington’s fares to Auckland are, at times, only a third of Kāpiti's.
*Air Chathams takes over Kāpiti Coast's Auckland Service*
The Kāpiti Coast Council has claimed there is strong public support for the subsidies. This, however, is based on a series of out of date analyses with flawed methodology. In 2018, they commissioned a survey to gauge public support for the airport, but nowhere did the survey mention ratepayer funding. Despite respondents agreeing with the statement, “Kāpiti Coast Airport should work to ensure frequent passenger services to popular destinations around New Zealand are provided to and from the airport”, the question neglected to ask respondents' positions on ratepayer funding of such a service and therefore does not provide a true refection of what the community actually feels. What’s more, the methodology states that any individual who had not flown out of any of the airports in the area did not qualify for the survey. That is like claiming the whole community wants a new racecourse when you only surveyed the jockeys.
Even the airport’s CEO recognised that the airport was simply not viable. He points out that the airport needs 400,000 people flying a year to be worthwhile — currently there are 25000.
What is more is that, regardless of how cost-ineffective the provision of these services is, there remains a striking contradiction at play with the Councils’ climate change initiatives. Kāpiti Coast for example, crows about their climate change approach, acknowledging the importance of reducing their carbon footprint wherever possible. Whakātane and Whanganui are also strong advocates. Yet, they are all more than happy to subsidise gas guzzling aircrafts which, consistently, have been running on reduced passenger numbers.
Of course, due to the waterbed effect, emissions in any one sector (agriculture excluded) have no impact on New Zealand's net emissions, given total net carbon emissions are capped by the Emissions Trading Scheme. However, the fact that the Councils' endorsement of a carbon-emitting travel option contradicts their own (albiet ill-informed) values suggests they are incapable of holding a coherent position on their environmental impacts.
This is, simply, a regressive allocation of ratepayer funds. One where the exorbitant cost on lower-income ratepayers is used to benefit a small selection of wealthy businesspeople. These subsidies fail the litmus test of good spending decisions. They are regressive, inefficient and ultimately will just prolong the inevitable closure of this failing airport.
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