Taxpayer Update: Damning report | Green manifesto | Debt Monster selfie
Damning report on Provincial Growth Fund confirms pork barrelling, conflicts, and worse
A damning new report from the Auditor-General has confirmed what your humble Taxpayers' Union has been saying about the Provincial Growth Fund all along. He found failing processes with regards to the approval of grants, managing conflicts of interests, and tracking of performance.
The Auditor-General said:
It was not always clear from the documentation why certain projects were considered for funding from this part of the Fund. . . it was difficult to find evidence of how projects had fully met the normal criteria for the Fund.
When the Auditor-General with all his expertise does a deep dive into the application documents and still can’t figure out why recipients were granted funding, we have a serious problem.
The Auditor-General goes on:
In my view, in the interests of the transparency of the overall process, it is important for the public and Parliament to have better visibility of how all the parts of the Fund operate
We couldn’t agree more. Post COVID-19, every dollar handed out from the fund is borrowed from future generations of taxpayers. New Zealanders deserve more information to shed light on whether Shane Jones’s slush fund justifies a mortgage on our future.
The report’s breakdown of spending by region shows the real motivation behind the Provincial Growth Fund. The region to receive the most funding – half a billion dollars and counting – is Northland. That’s a $3,671 election bribe for every man, woman, and child in the region that New Zealand First is targeting for votes. It is banana republic stuff and is a blot on New Zealand’s reputation for having incorruptible institutions.
Labour candidate does the right thing. But what about National in Port Hills?
The Labour Party’s new Palmerston North candidate, Tangi Utikere (pictured left), is the City's deputy mayor.
Last week we called on Mr Utikere to give up his ratepayer-funded salary – and now he’s agreed.
Good on him. The amount of money saved might be small in the scheme of things, but it's an important principle: ratepayers should not be forced to pay a councillor to campaign full time for a political party they may not support. It also sends the right message about the attitude Tangi Utikere will bring to Parliament when it comes to the use of public funds.
Meanwhile, National’s candidate in Port Hills – Catherine Chu, a Christchurch City Councillor – continues to take a $114,000 salary from ratepayers while she campaigns, on top of a taxpayer-funded salary as a DHB member! As we told The Press, ratepayers deserve more focus from their local representatives.
Taxpayer Briefing: The Green Party Manifesto
Our Analyst, Neil Miller, was tasked with trawling through the Green Party's 52-page manifesto so you don't have to. Highlights/lowlights include:
A "wealth" tax – i.e. a tax on retirement, housing, entrepreneurship, and death for the average Auckland homeowner.
Not one, but two more income tax brackets above 33%.
"Investigating" a sugar tax.
A "water only" policy for sports clubs.
Taxpayer-funded snorkeling lessons (yes, seriously).
Clear here to read Neil's full briefing for taxpayers.
AJ Hackett Bungy process could set chilling precedent
Crux reports that MBIE handed over taxpayer money to AJ Hackett Bungy without even confirming that private funding wasn't available.
As one of New Zealand's most successful tourism operators, AJ Hackett Bungy would have survived without corporate welfare. It is completely unacceptable that it received a taxpayer-funded handout of $5,100,000 (and access to a further loan of the same amount) while smaller, less well-known and less politically connected businesses continue to struggle and fail.
The least taxpayers expect is a thorough process to make sure alternatives are unavailable before public funding is provided. In this case, AJ Hackett Bungy simply stated that it had not received a response from its bank – incredibly, that single line was enough to be given a cool $5 million.
We say Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis must signal to the wider corporate community that this is not the standard process. Otherwise, businesses may pursue a strategy of making merely token attempts to secure private funding (or making no such attempts at all) before asking for a handout.
AJ Hackett’s reputation should not be tainted by handout
In our annual Jonesie Waste Awards, we nominated the handout given to AJ Hackett Bungy as an example of unfair corporate welfare, joking that AJ Hackett is the only tourism operator in Queenstown who doesn’t want to throw Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis off a bridge.
An associate of Mr Hackett's family has since contacted us to clarify that AJ Hackett separated from his company’s New Zealand operations several years ago. He had no involvement with the lobbying for taxpayer funding.
It’s a shame that an iconic New Zealand innovator should have his reputation tarnished, through no fault of his own, as a result of a politically-motivated handout. The Taxpayers’ Union apologises to Mr Hackett, having now learned he is not liable for payments given to the company that bears his name.
If only AJ Hackett Bungy the company valued their reputation as much as Mr Hackett's family, they wouldn't have attempted this cosy special deal.
No Marama, tax is not "love"
We've laughed before about commentators claiming that "tax is love". But now our politicians are saying it too.
Here's our response to Green Party co-Leader Marama Davidson, who made the claim on Q&A:
Marama Davidson is asking New Zealanders struggling to pay higher income taxes, fuel taxes, rubbish taxes, and tobacco taxes, to accept all this with a warm feeling of affection. That’s not just delusional, it’s offensive.
Frankly this is a grotesque, masochistic, Orwellian distortion of language. The Green Party should be ashamed.
Tax punishes productive New Zealanders and takes food off the table. For those who have recently lost their jobs, tax paid is the difference between meeting mortgage payments and losing the house. And then, come election time, politicians fritter away our hard-earned taxes on political bribes to serve their own re-election chances.
Debt Monster gets a selfie with the Prime Minister
It's been a busy couple of weeks for the Debt Monster. Here he is posing with the Prime Minister at a campaign event in Naenae:
The Debt Monster is a big fan of Jacinda. He even woke up early to meet her and Grant Robertson for a breakfast event at Te Papa! Click here to watch the short clip on Facebook.
The Debt Monster is our malevolent symbol of the cost of politicians' borrowing – set to reach $109,000 per Kiwi household in 2024.
He's not party political – he loves to stalk any politician who vies for votes with taxpayer money. Look at this photo from Judith Collins's recent event in Petone:
Judith seemed to see the funny side. She even posted on Facebook about the encounter.
The Debt monster also visited New Zealand First's campaign launch in Auckland:
Who's that in the background? Another Debt Monster??
He was hoping to hear Winston Peters' big speech, but New Zealand First staff members wouldn't let him in.
The Debt Monster will be an inescapable presence on the campaign trail. We won't let politicians forget that their promises are paid for by future generations of taxpayers.
Have a great week,
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The Press Christchurch City councillors enjoy a bit (of work) on the side
Bay of Plenty Times Tax write-off: IRD waives hundreds of millions of dollars in debt
Sunday Star-Times The Government's Covid-19 spending will be an economic albatross for decades
Newsroom Ardern hypes up housing in the Hutt
The Press National candidate resists call to forgo ratepayer-funded salary during campaign
Hawke's Bay Today Resident claims Wairoa rates restructure could 'kill' town
Crux A J Hackett $10 million - company claims "no support from shareholders or banks"