Joining the Taxpayers' Union costs only $25 and entitles you to attend our annual conference, AGM and other events.
In the coming weeks, we will be launching a new project: Winston's Dowry.
Marriage can be expensive, but normally the guests aren't given a bill at the end of the ceremony. In a political marriage, the cost of attendance can be significant. The aim of Winston's Dowry is to calculate the total cost to taxpayers from the demands of two-time coalition divorcée, Winston Peters.
We will be updating the Dowry regularly as new vanity projects, expensive trips away, and pork-laden policies are announced or appear on our radar. If you have any examples of expensive projects or eye-watering trips abroad related to Winston Peters' presence in Government, you can send them through to our tipline.
NZ First are calling for wool carpets to be put back on the floors of government departments and state houses.
Party leader Winston Peters believes the move would revitalise New Zealand's declining wool industry and make for better building.
It's a clear bid for the rural vote, which NZ First have been chasing ever since Peters' win in Northland in 2015.
What wasn't mentioned in Mr Peters' speech is that the cost would be approximately $120 million, based on the Government Property Group’s estimate of Government floor space.
While smarter carpets for government bureaucrats may be appealing to some, in comparison to what $120 million will buy you in nurses, policeman or teachers, we’re not so sure.
In another context, $120 million is the income tax take of over 6,000 average New Zealand households. The Taxpayers’ Union questions whether taxpayers would really get $120 million of value for bureaucrats having wool carpet and a more comfortable walk around their office.
In the lead-up to the election, we would encourage all political parties to provide costings with their policy announcements. If not, the Taxpayers' Union will be here to help.
• Using a standard price of a woollen carpet of $79 per square metre, and a floor space of 1,524,524 metres squared, the total cost is $120,437,396.
• If new carpets were only installed as part of usual replacements, the marginal cost of wool is $60 million to $93 million (in today's dollars) more than usual synthetic commercial carpets
Following another week of policy announcements on the Northland by-election campaign trail, NZ First is now clocking up promises that, if implemented, would cost more than $200 per New Zealand household.
As of today, National has promised $63.5 million for Northland, while NZ First's promises total $378.9 million. The amounts are equivalent to a cost per New Zealand household of $35.67 for National’s promises and $212.87 for NZ First.
The largest new bribe since last week's update was Mr Peters’ pledge to use taxpayer money to bailout the Kaipara District Council’s debt arising from the Mangawhai Heads wastewater project. This alone increased Mr Peters’ Bribe-O-Meter total by $80 million.
On yesterday’s TVNZ Q&A debate, Mr Peters made reference to a policy to build a ‘fast’ train service to the North. An independent economic expert commissioned by the Taxpayers’ Union for the Bribe-O-Meter, estimates that a high-speed rail link to Northland would cost at least $6.5 billion, more than Northland’s total annual GDP.
But you can breathe a sigh of relief. Winston Peters’ Chief of Staff confirmed to us this morning that the NZ First leader was not meaning high-speed rail. Apparently Mr Peters’ comments relating to ‘fast’ rail to Northland was a reference to line upgrades, already factored into the Bribe-O-Meter, and an express passenger service.
We are proud that the Bribe-O-Meter is forcing politicians to be transparent about the cost of their promises, but with one week to go there is still a risk that politicians turn the by-election into a lolly scramble at taxpayers’ expense.
Over the flip is a breakdown of the promises and our methodology.Read more
It appears that Mr Peters wants to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on a NorthPort rail link, but hasn't even spoken to the Port's management.
The Taxpayers' Union can reveal that Winston Peters has never visited, nor spoken to the management of the port company his key Northland by-election promise is framed around. Mr Peters announced soon after his Northland campaign launch that his party would champion an extension of the Northland railway line to the Port Whangarei and channel growth there, rather than allow expansion at the Port of Auckland.
Below is a letter we sent to Mr Peters last week seeking clarification of the cost to taxpayers of the policy and confirmation that he has never visited the port. The letter also outlines Mr Peters' apparent confusion between Northport (operating near Marsden Point) and the now defunct Port Whangarei (which for legal and technical reasons is unable to be reopened).
Last week, Northport's CEO told us that the Port does not want the rail link and that Mr Peters had never spoken to them about any rail proposal.
This is just the sort of expensive political promise our Northland Bribe-O-Meter is designed to expose. Mr Peters appears to consider New Zealand's hard earned tax dollar so expendable that to win a by-election he's willing to throw nearly $200 million at a Port, despite having never visited or spoken to those in charge.
Our letter is here:
No response has been received from Mr Peters or his staff.
With just over a week to go until the general election, and with much chatter of Winston Peters riding high in the polls. New Zealand First still won't front up with details of the cost of its election policies for inclusion in the 'Bribe-O-Meter'. This morning we issued a media release giving NZ First a final chance to provide our expert the material to cost NZ First’s policy.
"The Taxpayers’ Union has made numerous formal and informal approaches to Mr Peters and his party. Despite our best efforts Mr Peters continues to fob off providing transparency to the voting public."
Our independent expert, who used to lead the team at IRD that costed social policy for numerous governments (ironically including when Mr Peters was Treasurer!) has spoken to Party officials in Winston Peters’ office but still does not have enough information to give any insight as to what NZ First’s policies will cost.
Perhaps the reason NZ First has shied away from releasing their policy costings is because Mr Peters is worried it would deter voters? In 1996, the last time National was forced to go into government with Mr Peters, it cost taxpayers $5 billion, or $2,950 per household.
Right now we’re working hard behind the scenes to complete the final update of the Bribe-O-Meter. With the exception of NZ First, we want to thank the general helpfulness and enthusiasm other parties have displayed towards the project.
The voting public and taxpayers deserve better – but it looks like Mr Peters doesn’t want you to know how much his support will cost…
We've added the Green, ACT, United Future and Conservative Parties to the ‘Bribe-O-Meter’ election costing page launched last month. Excluding ACT and New Zealand First, the total election ‘bribes’ - that is new spending not already in the budget covering the next parliamentary term, equals $12.7 billion, or $7,486 per household.
We're delighted that the Bribe-O-Meter is enabling Kiwis to judge for themselves the various bribes this election. With the addition of the minor parties voters can assess which political parties are offering taxpayers value for money.
Currently National's election promises add up to $329 per household. The equivalent figure for Labour is $2,776, the Greens $2,893, United Future $1,253, and the Conservatives $236. ACT is in the negative, committing to cut spending by $6,876 per household.
A lack of detail in New Zealand First’s policy documents has made it impossible for the Union's independent expert, Dr Michael Dunn, to calculate credible figures for the Party’s inclusion in the Bribe-O-Meter. Public and private requests to New Zealand First have, to date, not resulted in amelioration. New Zealand First apparently just doesn’t have the information. It appears that Mr Peters makes promises to all and sundry, but no one at his office is adding up the cost.
In recent days we have heard how NZ First leader Winston Peters wants to take GST off some foods, but not others. While any reduction in the tax-burden should be welcomed, this picking and choosing of which items should include a sales tax causes unnecessary confusion for suppliers, retailers and consumers.
Take the humble burrito.
It’s a Mexican staple; a food that’s becoming increasingly popular in New Zealand. And in New York State there is significant debate (think tax lawyers and accountants) on the question of whether it counts as a sandwich for tax reasons.
When politicians pick and choose sale taxes willy-nilly there are often unforeseen circumstances. In New York this has meant that the eight percent “sandwich tax” has become applicable to burritos. It’s also led to numerous hours of government officials and tax experts debating the trivial point of just what constitutes a sandwich.
At a cost of at least $3 billion, removing GST on items of Mr Peters’ choosing is a big-ticket policy. But as with New York sandwiches, there would be endless regulations, descriptions and exemptions.
If politicians want to truly reduce the tax burden facing New Zealanders, they should start by cutting sales or income taxes across the board. Playing politics with your pantry is an expensive exercise that leads to some truly bizarre outcomes.
With your support we can make the Taxpayers' Union a strong voice exposing waste and standing up for Kiwi taxpayers.
Often the best information comes from those inside the public service or local government. We guarantee your anonymity and your privacy.