Taxpayer Update: The $153,000 wallaby 🦘 | Co-governance, a Northern Ireland perspective 🇬🇧🇮🇪 | Welfare for airlines 🛫
Hopping mad: COVID-19 funding to ‘destroy’ wallabies for $153,000 a pop 🦘🔫
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.
Hopping to it: officials defend spending with misleading spin 😵💫
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.
A lot more to come... 🤫
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...
A lesson from Northern Ireland: Where co-government often means no government at all 🇬🇧🇮🇪
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.
Councils funnelling millions into failing regional flight services 🛫💰
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.
The war in Gore: Mayor and CEO face-off ⚔️
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.
Taxpayer Talk: ACT MP Simon Court on Three Waters and the proposed RMA reforms🎙️
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.
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