Taxpayer Update: New poll | Stop 3 Waters roadshow heads north | $337k for a ribbon cutting
We've just released the latest Taxpayers’ Union-Curia Poll. In short, it continues to show a trend against the Ardern Government towards National/ACT. Headline results are at the bottom of this newsletter and over on our website.
Stop Three Waters roadshow draws big crowds in the South, now hits the North Island
We've been doing what Nanaia Mahuta wouldn’t: listening to the local communities who have actually paid for the local water assets Ms Mahuta wants to put under the control of unaccountable, co-governed, bureaucratic monster water entities.
After 19 events around the South Island, including sell-out events in Gore, Alexandra, Invercargill, and Wanaka, the Stop Three Waters Roadshow now hits the North!
The team have been humbled by the hundreds of people who are turning out – in particular those who have chipped in to cover the diesel costs and make this effort possible. It’s always great to put a face to the names.
While we were in Fairlie (a town of just 800 people – but with plenty of Taxpayers’ Union supporters!), we hit a real milestone – 100,000 New Zealanders have now signed the official Stop Three Waters petition.
Along the way we’ve been documenting our trip:
> Christchurch here and here
> Rolleston here and with local MP for Selwyn Nicola Grigg here
> Ashburton here and here
> Fairlie here and with local Mayor Graham Smith
> Lake Tekapo toilet facilities review 👀
> Queenstown here with Southland's MP Joseph Mooney and Marlborough MP Stuart Smith
> Alexandra event
> Wanaka event
> Gore event
> Balclutha event
> Invercargill event
> Lewis Pass
and our trip across the Cook Stright.
A huge thanks to those who brought the team home baking, coffees, (and even the odd beer!) for the interns. We gave them a day off in Queenstown, but even then they claimed they were hard at work!
If there is one thing the team and I have learned from the South Island over the last few weeks, it’s that the newsrooms in Auckland and Wellington don’t have their head around the anger in small communities about the proposals to take away local control. But that’s OK. We win this through people power, not big PR budgets.
A simple but highly effective thing you can do is spread the word with our bold Stop Three Waters banners. So, I'm delighted to tell you...
A generous supporter has agreed to fund 60% of the cost for these roadside Stop Three Waters banners 🚩🚩🚩
If you (or someone you know) live on a busy thoroughfare anywhere in New Zealand, for just $50 we’ll courier you a beautiful “Stop Three Waters” 2.4m x 1.2m banner.
If you don’t want Nanaia Mahuta or her Three Waters regime coming to your house, we highly recommend hanging one of these on your front gate 😉
Buried in Mahuta's Bill: The Government has added a second layer of co-governance to the Three Waters regime!
Last week’s newsletter was sent just after the formal introduction to Parliament of the core Three Waters legislation – the euphemistically-named "Water Services Entities Bill". Back in the office, the team have now had a chance to work through the detail.
You couldn't make this up: instead of listening to local councillors’ and community concerns about the reduced democratic control, Nanaia Mahuta has inserted a second layer of co-governence at the last minute!
It’s a bit sneaky, but it works like this: Clause 73 of the Bill requires the Boards of the new water entities ensure that the entity acts in a manner consistent with its objectives, functions, operating principles, and current statement of intent.
That sounds fair enough, but among the 'operating principles' (Clause 13(d)) is:
partnering and engaging early and meaningfully with Māori, including to inform how the water services entity can—
(i) give effect to Te Mana o te Wai; and
(ii) understand, support, and enable the exercise of mātauranga Māori, tikanga Māori, and kaitiakitanga
The meaning of "Te Mana o te Wai" refers back to the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management (here's a good summary) but in short, it is incredibly broad and includes matters relating to the spiritual or metaphysical well-being of water and water bodies and tangata whenua's relationship with the same.
Mana whenua whose rohe or takiwā (district) includes a freshwater body in the service area of an entity get to define the relevance of Te Mana o te Wai by making what are termed "Te Mana o te Wai statements" (see Clause 140).
The water entity board must respond to the statement and the response must include a plan for how the entity intends to perform its duty to give effect to Te Mana o te Wai.
So who is really in charge?
We understand from our sources within the Government that the Minister justifies the change on the basis that it placates small hapu who were concerned that with the enormous entities, smaller iwi groups would be "locked out". In short, the ability for any iwi or hapu to issue a "Te Mana o te Wai statement" is seen as a feature not a bug.
And there’s also a new layer of bureaucracy
The Bill also adds yet another layer of bureaucracy: "Regional Advisory Panels".
The role of Regional Advisory Panels is to provide advice to the Regional Representative Group about how to perform or exercise its duties, functions, and powers within a geographic area. But unlike Te Mana o te Wai statements, the advice is not binding, and the Regional Advisory Panels are themselves co-governed, with 50/50 mana whenua and democratically accountable representation.
We need to Stop Three Waters: here's what you can do
That's right: written submissions are now open until 22 July, and we're making sure everyone knows it. Next week we release a submission tool to make it easy for tens of thousands of New Zealanders to have their say.
That said, please don't wait if you'd like to write your own submission directly to the Select Committee via the Parliamentary website.
After written submissions close, the MPs will then hear oral submissions. We (along with Councillors and Mayors we've met on our roadshow) say these submissions should be heard in person, up and down the country. We encourage you to include that suggestion in your written submission.
New Zealand is now halfway to a recession and stagflation – the hangover from Robertson's spending?
This week's GDP figures make tax relief even more pressing as the economy shrinks and households do it tough.
Gross domestic product (GDP) fell a seasonally adjusted 0.2 percent in the three months ended March, compared with a 3.0 percent rise in the previous quarter, StatsNZ data showed.
Inflation is the highest it’s been in my lifetime, incomes aren’t keeping up, and the GDP news confirms that we are halfway toward a recession: defined as two consecutive quarters of negative growth.
But while household budgets are squeezed, Wellington is booming – inflation means the Government’s tax take is at record highs.
Rather than pile on inflationary government spending, we say New Zealanders need tax relief now. More money in Kiwis' pockets means debt can be repaid, some saved, and households have some breathing room.
Compared to Grant Robertson spending your money, tax relief doesn’t stoke inflation and would serve to address the economic challenges exposed by this week’s negative growth figures.
New Zealand's COVID economic response was second only to the United States in terms of government spending as a proportion of the economy. Is it any wonder which economies are now paying the price?
Taxpayer victory: Government backtracks on costly tax changes
We’ve had a significant tax victory related to very concerning proposals by IRD to take company retained earnings for all non-listed companies at the time of shareholding changes.
The proposals included:
- shareholders being taxed on the sale of shares in a company to the extent that the company (and its subsidiaries) has retained earnings; and
- changes to the personal services company rules that effectively remove when small business can use the lower corporate tax rate.
See: NZ Herald, Government quietly backtracks on tax changes after outcry
Inflation bites: the cost of an Ardern ribbon cutting soars to $337,000 for Transmission Gully opening ceremony
When it comes to NZTA/Waka Kotahi's responsibility with public money, your humble Taxpayers’ Union has pretty low expectations. But even we were shocked to learn that opening a new motorway now costs as much as a cycleway!
The March 30 opening ceremony for the 27km Transmission Gully came with a price of $336,712. According to officials the costs included planning, iwi blessing of the road, venue and equipment hire, traffic management, marquees, chairs and tables, temporary fencing, catering, photography and video, audiovisual equipment, lighting, stages, provision of electricity and buses for the 300 “special” guests.
As ACT’s Simon Court pointed out, $337,000 is enough to fund five nurses or 3 kilometres of asphalt. We know what taxpayers would prefer.
Regular readers will recall that only last month we had Waka Kotahi on the ropes for spending $30,000 on five of these illuminated zeros – justified as promoting to “Road to Zero”.
National/ACT gain a greater lead in our latest scientific poll
Finally this week, our latest poll was released just a few moments ago.
The lead for the centre-right (National/ACT) has grown by one to 62 seats, vs the centre-left (Labour/Green) on 56 seats.
Thank you for your support.
ps. Louis and I been asked a lot on the road whether a change in Government is enough to Stop Three Waters. Possibly, but we don’t need a change in Government, we need a change in direction. So far the National Party have promised to repeal Three Waters, but we don’t know what they’ll replace it with. A slightly watered-down co-governed model isn’t enough. To retain local control, fight for democratic accountability, and push back against more bureaucracy and higher water costs, a strong voice for taxpayers is essential no matter the political colours in Wellington. Click here to support the efforts of the Taxpayers’ Union holding them all to account.