Taxpayer Update: Māori procurement | Missing $1.9b | Rest in Peace
As you'll see at the bottom of this post, the team have been busy responding to media enquiries about our 2021 edition of Ratepayers' Report – our council league tables. Meanwhile, our campaigns against the planned car tax and the $685 million bike bridge are still going strong.
But there are plenty of other issues facing taxpayers (and no shortage of work to do!):
Government entities are now asking contractors to prove they're Māori
Midge Holdings is a small business owner in Christchurch. She's contracted by the Defence Force to provide them with special makeup effects and fake blood for their training.
However, she's now received a letter from the Defence Force asking her to prove her business is 'Māori owned'. It's not, and that could mean she loses the contract under new procurement rules coming into effect.
Here's what we told the media:
The Taxpayers’ Union were the first to raise the alarm over 'indigenous procurement' policies back in 2019, when we found the idea buried deep in a Cabinet paper. Now that the policy has been rammed through without consultation, we're seeing the ugly results.
We should welcome government entities reviewing contracts to maximise value, but that's not what's happening here. A government entity is threatening a specialist contractor's livelihood on the basis of her race. It's almost unbelievable that this could happen in 2021 in a developed country.
Chopping off best-placed contractors for the sake of political correctness will result in second-best contractors providing less value for the taxpayer.
New Zealanders shouldn't be forced to lie about their family background, or to pay genealogists and consultants to verify their Māori credentials, in order to offer services to the Government. The key consideration – in fact, the only consideration – in Government procurement should be value for the taxpayer.
Mental health: Where did the $1.9 billion go?
Remember the "Wellbeing Budget"? In 2019, Jacinda Ardern made a huge splash in international media with her $1.9 billion investment announcement in mental health.
Popular left-wing American news site Vox said the Budget showed how Ardern's Government "emphasizes citizen happiness over capitalist gain."
But they also quoted your humble Taxpayers' Union: in the same article, I warned that the Government could just be throwing money into a black hole.
Two years later, it's fair to say the results are in: the $1.9 billion announcement bought us just five new mental health beds. If that's not a case of money disappearing into the abyss, I don't know what is.
Meanwhile, mental health advocate Mike King has returned his order of merit medal, saying that in hindsight, the $1.9 billion actually made life worse for people by providing a sense of false hope.
The Health Minister's response? He says he's "frustrated".
Taxpayers' Union Analyst Neil Miller has penned a ferocious op-ed in response:
Sorry Andrew Little, that is simply not good enough.
You are not an impartial observer, a mid-level official, a health journalist, or a political commentator. You are the Minister of Health, you are the boss, and you should have been all over this issue months ago.
Too often we are seeing Ministers of the Crown responding to a lack of results in their portfolio by saying they are “disappointed”, “frustrated”, “annoyed”, or that their “expectations have not been met”.
Ministers seem to assume that issuing a press release means the policy, after being developed by a Working Group and/or Expert Advisory Board, will be implemented on the frontlines.
You can read the full op-ed here (it was originally published in the Northern Age).
Caught on camera: Masterton Council boss loses the plot
We'd love to say local government brings out the best and brightest... but this story out of Masterton makes you wonder what planet some of these people come from.
The District Council's Chief Executive (Kath Ross, salary: $247,000) has been caught on camera ripping down posters that advertised a ratepayer group’s protest against her own Council.
Unfortunately for her, the posters were on private property, in a carpark managed by someone supporting the protest!
There is absolutely no excuse for this behaviour. It undermines the dignity of her position and will only serve to entrench the suspicions of ratepayers who think she’s trying to shut down public criticism.
(The protest, which was organised to oppose a new $30 million council building, was by all accounts a great success.)
Revealed: ‘Living Wage’ trickles up to higher paid staff
When Porirua City Council announced it was adopting a "Living Wage" policy, it sold the idea to ratepayers as a way to help workers on the bottom rung, just enough for them ‘to live a life of dignity’.
But we have now revealed that for every council worker who was bumped up to the Living Wage, another three higher-paid workers also received a pay hike in the name of 'relativity adjustments'.
In other words, the Council exploited public sympathy for high-vis workers to give a handout to back-office staff. And they did it during a pandemic when ratepayers and businesses were cutting back.
This should serve as a warning to all Councils: the intention to help low-paid workers is noble, but other staff are likely to demand commensurate pay hikes.
Claims that three waters reform will save money are laughable
The Taxpayers’ Union is slamming Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta's proposal to remove local democratic control over water assets and says that regional cross subsidisation is a recipe for gold plating and higher costs.
The claim this will save ratepayer money is laughable. It will see Auckland water users funding new water treatment plants in the far north, and force gold plated solutions onto tiny communities. Even worse, these proposals remove the ability of ratepayers to hold the water bodies to account. They’re going to be able to impose huge costs, without being accountable, even indirectly, to the communities who will pick up the bills.
The proposed matrix of committee and iwi governance is a bugger’s muddle, and the claim councils will still "own" the assets is at best misleading. 'Ownership' will be true in name only. Elected councillors won’t be able to do a thing – i.e. sack directors or govern the water assets local communities have paid for.
Finally this week, we’re encouraging our supporters to their respects to the passing of Labour’s “No New Taxes” promised by sharing this memorial on Facebook.
Have a great weekend,
PS. I'm away next week on annual leave so that means our Grassroots Coordinator Grace will be monitoring the replies to this email for me. Thank you to everyone who sends kind messages of support – even if we can't always reply promptly, we read and appreciate them all!
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