Lower Taxes, Less Waste,
More Accountability

Championing Value For Money From Every Tax Dollar

Taxpayer Update: How to cut wasteful spending 💰 | Hipkins spent $1 million on truancy 'awareness' 🏫❌ | High Court confirms Three Waters is asset grab ⚖️🚰

It's been a tough few weeks. Like so many, our team in Wellington have family and friends who have lost their homes and livelihoods following Cyclone Gabrielle and our thoughts continue to be with all of those who have been affected. 

Government must cut wasteful spending – not hike taxes – to fund cyclone clean up ✂️💰

The clean up and restoration works following the devastation of the cyclone will cost a lot of money, but the knee-jerk reaction to hike taxes is not the solution. People are already struggling with the cost of living and a new tax could not come at a worse time. 

Worryingly, this week both Chris Hipkins and Grant Robertson refused to rule out a ‘cyclone levy’ or other new taxes.

Borrowing more – an option the National Party signalled it was open to – is not the solution either. It will simply serve to drive up inflation further and force the Reserve Bank to whack up the Official Cash Rate even higher than the 4.75% it was set at yesterday.

The answer is actually quite simple but it may be a difficult pill for politicians to swallow: The Government needs to get a grip on its spending. 

Unnecessary projects such as Auckland's proposed tramway that Treasury officials estimate could cost up to $29 billion – equivalent to $14,842 for every New Zealand household – should be scrapped. The over $1 billion annual spend on consultants should be slashed, and the explosion in the number of public service mangers could easily be reduced without impacting on frontline public services.

Chris Hipkins keeps talking of a shift towards 'bread and butter politics', but refocussing policies isn't enough, the Government needs to refocus its spending too.

🔍 Taxpayers' Union Investigation: Ministry of Education wasted $1 million on truancy 'awareness' campaign under Chris Hipkins 🏫


With much fanfare, the Prime Minister announced funding for new truancy officers to tackle the attendance crisis in our schools. While the funding may be welcome, we were curious as to why it had taken the Government so long to take serious action to tackle the problem.

It turns out Chris Hipkins did take action on truancy when he was Minister of Education. A Taxpayers' Union investigation this week revealed that the Ministry allocated $1 million last year for an 'awareness' campaign about the truancy crisis. 

Unclear about what this actually meant, we asked the Ministry to explain how the campaign addressed the problem of declining attendance and how it improved it. Shockingly, the Ministry said it “was not expected to have a direct, quantifiable, impact on attendance rates itself.”

In short, instead of working to fix the problem (kids not going to school), taxpayers have been made to foot the $1 million bill for an advertising campaign to make them aware about something the media had already done a very good job of covering. You couldn't make it up! 

You can read the full details of our investigation on our website.

High Court confirms Government's Three Waters is an asset grab from local councils and ratepayers ⚖️🚰 

High Court

This week the High Court issued its decision on the Three Waters case brought by Timaru, Waimakariri and Whangarei District Councils. They had asked the Court to make declarations on the rights and interests that property ownership entails. You will recall the comments the then Local Government Minister, Nanaia Mahuta, made last year that under her Three Waters scheme councils would still 'own' the assets.

The High Court said

"local councils will lose central incidents of ownership that they presently hold... that local councils’ ability to control the use of their assets will be materially diluted through the WSE governance structure, and... that local democratic accountability for the provision of the Three Waters services in local communities is essentially lost."

This confirms what we have known all along: That the Government's claims that councils retain ownership of water assets are just plain wrong. What will the Government say now?

The judgement also noted that the Government:

"has deliberately decided that [the Three Waters funding package] is not intended to compensate local councils for the value of the infrastructure assets"

But ultimately, our constitutional framework and parliamentary sovereignty means Parliament can make these changes to water service delivery regardless of the impact on local governance and accountability. The way to stop this is through the ballot box, and that is why we continue to work hard to raise public awareness and force the Government to Scrap Three Waters!

Far North District Council spends $2.4 million on pound that can house just 10 dogs 🐶

Dog Pound

Our friends in the Far North are having a tough time of it as it is with money desperately needed to fix the roads and flood-damaged infrastructure.

So it's raised some hackles that the Far North District Council has spent $2.4 million on a pound to house just ten mutts. The Northern Advocate reports:

An existing dog kennel bought by Far North District Council to use as a dog pound has ballooned from a $200,000 upgrade project into a “bizarrely expensive” $2.4m facility that will house fewer dogs.

The council bought Melka Kennels near Kaikohe in 2020 with the aim of converting the commercial dog kennels into a dog shelter that would serve the district’s busy southern area.

The original plan was to spend $200,000 to upgrade the site to meet national animal welfare codes to house up to 24 dogs.

Now the new Southern Animal Shelter has morphed into a purpose-built facility that has cost $2.4m and will house just 10 dogs.

That's nearly a quarter of a million dollars per dog that can be housed at any one time and nearly three-and-a-half times the average value of a house in the district. 

The Council is defending the decision, saying that it's value for money, and was partly funded by a Covid "shovel-ready" Provincial Growth Fund grant.  So, taxpayers across the country paid up too...

Taxpayer Talk with Peter Williams: Dr. Oliver Hartwich And Callum Purves On The Future Of Local Government 🎙️

Taxpayer Talk – Federated Farmers

In the latest edition of Taxpayer Talk, the focus is on local government. A review into the future of local government has been commissioned but it fails to address the main issues affecting the sector, in particular the way it’s funded and what its main functions should be.

New Zealand Initiative Executive Director, Oliver Hartwich, explains to host Peter Williams why more localism is such an important concept and why it can be great for a country’s economy. I also speak to Peter about what was wrong with the recent local government review and how the Taxpayers' Union thinks local government could be improved.

Also in the podcast, our War on Waste team focus on some silly spending by the Wellington City Council.

You can still make your voice heard on the Review into the Future of Local Government's consultation report using our easy submission tool at www.protectlocaldemocracy.nz

Listen to the episode | Apple | Spotify | Google Podcasts | iHeart Radio

Thank you for your support.

Yours aye,


Callum Signature
Callum Purves
Campaigns Manager

New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union


Media coverage:

NZ Herald 
National and Labour tied, but Chris Hipkins way ahead of Christopher Luxon - poll

The Spinoff
New poll puts Labour and National neck and neck

Labour closes gap with National in new poll

Newstalk ZB Jordan Williams: Taxpayers' Union says Eleanor Catton should pay back her subsidies

Newstalk ZB
The Huddle: Curia poll results and Auckland Grammar staying open despite Cyclone Gabrielle

Newstalk ZB Barry Soper: senior political correspondent on Chris Hipkins announcing $11.5 million in support for cyclone affected regions

Te Ao Māori News Labour closes gap with National in new poll

The Kaka by Bernard Hickey National emergency declared for Gabrielle

The Working Group with John Tamihere, David Seymour and Damien Grant

The Platform Jordan Williams on Eleanor Catton’s swipe at the NZ Tax Payers' Union

Kiwiblog Journalist complains polling question wasn’t leading enough




Showing 1 reaction

  • Callum Purves
    published this page in News 2023-02-23 11:14:03 +1300

Join Us

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.

Tip Line

Often the best information comes from those inside the public service or local government. We guarantee your anonymity and your privacy.