Taxpayer Update: New poll | Bach tax | Hon Ruth Richardson | Media pay-off
Welcome to the first Taxpayer Update of 2022!
First off, we have just published the results of this month's Taxpayers' Union Curia Poll. This is the first scientific political poll published by anyone this year.
It appears that the summer break has lifted New Zealanders' moods, with more respondents saying the country is heading in the right direction. But interestingly, this has not translated to a bump in the Government's overall share of support.
And National has pulled well ahead of Labour on the measure of which party is seen as best at "the economy". Our pollster, David Farrar, says that this is critical in terms of National's ability to grow its vote.
A sight to behold
Over the summer, Taxpayers' Union supporters have covered the country with massive "Stop Three Waters" banners, ensuring that holidaying politicians and public servants are kept aware of public opposition to Nanaia Mahuta's asset grab.
There are now more than 200 of these on major highways up and down the country!
We still have a few of these banners available on our shop. Click here to get yours.
Watch this space...
If you have signed our petition to stop Three Waters, you will soon receive an important update on a plan to stop the Three Waters scheme in court by challenging the Government’s misrepresentation of its Treaty obligations in order to justify the asset grab.
For the facts on Three Waters, take a quick look at the Stop Three Waters website here.
The taxman wants to know who's staying at your bach
Back in 2020, the Government pushed tax changes for family trusts through Parliament under urgency. The rushed legislation meant there wasn't time for proper scrutiny, and now that Inland Revenue is beginning to enforce the rules, we're seeing some serious devil in the detail for bach owners.
In a paywalled NZ Herald article, Hamish Rutherford explains:
Where the holiday home is owned through a trust but has some income - such as family members paying enough for accommodation to cover the upkeep - any beneficiary who stays for free or even pays less than the market rate has to have their name, date of birth and IRD number recorded and provided to the IRD.
The rules also require the disclosure of the details of anyone who provides a settlement to the trust, meaning a friend who helped out by painting the bach for free while on holiday would need to have this "gift" recorded to the IRD.
These new rules are intrusive, absurdly bureaucratic, and completely out of sync with New Zealand's culture of easy-going hospitality.
The good news is that Revenue Minister David Parker has admitted the rules are more over-the-top than he intended. He says he may make a retrospective amendment to the law to remove the need for "minor and incidental non-cash distributions".
To be honest, we're not sure how this hare-brained law can be salvaged.
(In another case of unintended tax consequences, parents who help their children get a house deposit have found themselves triggering the Government's 'bright line' test, meaning they're liable for tax on the capital gain. Another nail in the coffin of Grant Robertson's "no new taxes" promise.)
Former Finance Minister joins the Taxpayers' Union Board
This week we're pleased to welcome Hon Ruth Richardson as a Board Member of the Taxpayers' Union.
Ruth's direct experience in tackling bloated government from the inside will be a tremendous asset as she assists in guiding and championing our mission of Lower Taxes, Less Waste, More Transparency.
Ruth describes herself as a reformer, lifelong market liberal, activist and feminist. She was Minister of Finance in the fourth National Government, has been Chairman and Director of a range of private and public companies as well as the Reserve Bank of New Zealand, and coaches sovereign states seeking to transform their prospects.
Governments make spending and regulatory choices, but not in an accountability vacuum. The Taxpayers’ Union gives well researched and often noisy voice on behalf of we who pay and suffer the consequences of ill-designed public policy. As a lifetime activist in these causes being a Director of the Taxpayers’ Union sits well with my DNA.
The quantity and quality of public expenditure again rears its head – it’s time to reapply the discipline of fiscal responsibility.
All our board members offer their invaluable time and insights as volunteers. Further board members will be announced in short order. The new members replace Rex Nichols and Barrie Saunders who recently retired from the board – thank you Rex and Barrie for all the wisdom you've shared with our team.
Revealed: Government's media pay-off for APEC puff pieces
Remember APEC, the online conference hosted last year that somehow cost taxpayers $76 million?
An official information response passed to the Taxpayers' Union reveals the Ministry of Foreign Affairs paid news outlets $93,000 to publish full-page ads and puff pieces about APEC in Stuff and the NZ Herald.
Here are some examples:
This exemplifies the pointless, wasteful spending rife in New Zealand's diplomatic sector.
You'd think that a conference of global leaders on the scale of APEC is important enough to attract news interest on its own merits. If it isn't, then why is New Zealand participating, let alone spending $76 million hosting it?
The decision to buy positive media coverage doesn't just stink of self-promotion. It risks legitimising the illiberal collusion between media and state practiced by APEC's dodgiest banana republics, undermining New Zealand's moral authority on the world stage. We should be better than this.
Taxpayers still haunted by the ghost of Auckland's bike bridge
After we successfully campaigned to scrap Auckland's planned $785 million bike bridge, Transport Minister Michael Wood has now set aside $150 million for an alternative crossing plan – such as a ferry or shuttle bus.
However, more than $51 million of that will go down the drain to cover the planning costs sunk into the doomed bridge.
Michael Wood has shown he's willing to move heaven and earth to satisfy the demands of the Auckland lycra mafia, so we'll be watching closely to ensure his 'alternative' proposals actually stack up on a value-for-money basis.
Government slashes speed limits instead of fixing roads
You might think you pay road user charges to improve the quality of our roads. But the New Zealand Transport Agency has decided that instead of making our roads safer, it will simply slash speed limits, imposing a massive cumulative time cost on millions of motorists.
The latest example is the Napier-Taupo road. NZTA plans to cut the speed limit on the entire Eskdale to Rangitaiki section from 100km/h to 80km/h. Regular users of the road are fuming, and we've decided to support their cause with a petition for NZTA to scrap its plan and instead improve maintenance.
Of course, lower speed limits also mean more Kiwis are pinged with speeding tickets, sending revenue straight to the Government's Consolidated Fund.
The petition has already hit almost 10,000 signatures. We'll be asking the local Labour MP Stuart Nash to accept this petition and intervene to stop the change.
The sad case of Wellington's $570,000 roundabout
As reported by the Dominion Post, we have revealed that the installation of a small mountable roundabout in Wellington has cost ratepayers $570,000.
In November, Wellington City Council crowed about the completion of works at the Hataitai intersection. The centrepiece is a 'bespoke roundabout' adorned with 'a circular design symbolising the tides and currents of the sea and the coiled-up tails of the taniwha'.
The artwork itself cost $16,500, and delayed the opening of the roundabout by 28 days while the design cured. But now after just a few months, the roundabout is badly scuffed by the buses that drive straight over the top.
Photos taken by a Taxpayers' Union researcher this week.
The tire marks are more visible than the artwork itself! Meanwhile, bus users have complained about the jarring bump when mounting the roundabout.
The total cost, which includes adjustments to the surrounding pavement and pedestrian crossings, is $570,000 – that's 203 years' worth of rates bills for the average Wellington ratepayer.
This is without taking into account the cost of regularly sending in contractors to control traffic and clean up the artwork, as we've seen with the famous 'rainbow crossing' on Cuba Street.
It's fitting that we were given this information in the same week that Wellington City Council unveiled its new $130,000 waterfront artwork: a giant "Wellington" sign that is intentionally misspelled:
Imagine paying rates for 45 years and realising you still haven't covered the cost for this monstrosity.
Wellington City Council needs to dial down its urban beautification efforts and focus on the basics: sewage pipes that don't burst, buses that run on time, and rates that don't break the bank.
Have a great weekend,
Dominion Post $570,000 Wellington roundabout already damaged, two months after opening
NBR Ruth Richardson joins Taxpayers' Union board
Stuff We Kiwis are a content lot, but trouble looms over the horizon
NZ Herald Jordan Williams responds to Simon Wilson
RNZ Politics and the pandemic - another year of Covid-19
Stuff Looking back on the big stories in South Canterbury in 2021 - March