Doughty – brave and persistent; marked by fearless resolution; valiant; steadfastly courageous and resolute; intrepid; fearless; strong; powerful.
The Taxpayers’ Union has announced its Jonesies Awards for 2020:
The third annual Jonesie Awards were hosted at Parliament today, celebrating the best of the worst of Government waste. Watch the video at www.taxpayers.org.nz/2020_jonesies.
New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union spokesman Louis Houlbrooke says, “Every year, we host a glamourous Oscars-style award ceremony to highlight and lament the most absurd examples of wasted taxpayer money to emerge in the last 12 months.”
“Behind the tuxedos and gilded statuettes is a serious message: politicians and bureaucrats in both local and central government happily fritter away your hard-earned money on bizarre pet projects and ill-planned schemes without fear of consequence.”
“The Jonesies serve as a shot across the bow for anyone in charge of a government chequebook: rein in the waste, or see your name up in lights at the next Jonesie Awards.”
Local government nominees
Dunedin City Council: Responding to COVID-19 with dots
Dunedin City Council responded to COVID-19 by spending $40,000 on red and blue dots for its main street. The dots were variously justified as a tool to assist social distancing, a way to attract people to the city, and as a “traffic calming” device. The Council also spent $145,000 on a new tourism slogan: “Dunedin, a pretty good plan D”.
Napier City Council: Golden handshakes for a failed CEO
After a series of headline-grabbing failures, Napier City Council gave its CEO Wayne Jack a reported $1 million payout to leave before his contract expired. Mr Jack’s final official act was to throw himself a $4,000 farewell tea party. The Mayor complained that she was not invited.
Wellington Mayor Andy Foster for Extraordinary Leadership
When nine-term councillor Andy Foster was unexpectedly elected Mayor last year, he promptly enrolled himself in a $30,000 leadership course at Arrowtown’s Millbrook estate. However, he has refused to say what, if anything, he learned – and has since spent more money on a team facilitator to smooth over problems on his Council.
Auckland Council: Temporary cycleways for COVID-19
Auckland Council installed 17 kilometres of temporary cycleway in response to COVID-19. Like Dunedin’s dots, the initiative was intended to assist social distancing. All works had to be reversed in a matter of weeks. The total cost is estimated to be more than a million dollars.
Rotorua Lakes District Council: $743,000 for the Hemo Gorge sculpture
Rotorua’s 12-metre, 3D printed Hemo Gorge sculpture was initially planned to open in 2017 at a cost of $500,000. Three years later, it is still under construction, and costs have blown out to at least $743,000.
WINNER: Wellington Mayor Andy Foster for Extraordinary Leadership
Central government nominees
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Responding to COVID-19 with horse tracks
The Deputy Prime Minister and New Zealand First Party Leader led the Government’s COVID-19 response by announcing a $72 million funding package for the racing industry. This package included two synthetic horse tracks. No-one has been able to establish how horse tracks relate to coronavirus.
Rt Hon Trevor Mallard: $572,000 for a Parliamentary slide
As part of his initiative to make Parliament more “family-friendly”, the Speaker of the House commissioned the construction of a playground on Parliament’s lawn. The playground, which essentially consists of a slide and some stepping stones, was budgeted at $400,000, but ultimately cost $572,000.
Hon Chris Hipkins: $87 million for unwanted internet modems
An $87 million package to give students the means to study remotely during COVID-19 lockdown resulted in thousands of unwanted modems being sent to wealthy schools. Epsom’s Auckland Grammar alone received 137 unwanted modems, and even Mike Hosking’s child was a beneficiary of the policy.
Hon Shane Jones: Three train trips for $6.2 million
The Regional Economic Development Minister re-opened the Wairoa-Napier rail line last year, predicting that up to six train services would run per week. As of last month, only three services had run in total: a cost of more than $2 million per train trip.
Hon Kelvin Davis: $10 million for AJ Hackett Bungy
In response to a tourism downturn due to COVID-19, Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis singled out one of Queenstown’s most successful businesses – AJ Hackett Bungy – for a taxpayer handout. AJ Hackett received a $5.1 million grant, plus a potential $5.1 million loan, all on top of its substantial payout received under the COVID-19 wage subsidy scheme.
WINNER: Rt Hon Winston Peters for responding to COVID-19 with horse tracks
Lifetime Achievement Award
Hon Phil Twyford is this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award Winner for excellence in government waste.
First elected as a list MP in 2008, Phillip Stoner Twyford was thrust into power as Minister of Housing, Urban Development, and Transport in 2017.
His most high-profile election promise was to build 100,000 KiwiBuild homes in 10 years, with an initial investment of $2 billion. Two years into that period, KiwiBuild has delivered just 395 houses – fewer than the number of houses blocked by protestors at Ihumātao. At the current rate, Phil Twyford’s promise will be fulfilled in 436 years.
Even with the taxpayer subsidy, these homes are too expensive or located in places people don’t want to buy. As a result, many finished homes have sat on the market for six months or more, and the Government has promised to buy back homes that do not sell.
Last year, the Prime Minister finally removed Phil Twyford from the Housing portfolio.
However, his record of waste now extends far further than KiwiBuild. As Transport Minister, Twyford blew out the cost of SkyPath – a cycleway across Auckland’s Harbour Bridge – from $67 million to $360 million, with more cost increases expected once construction actually begins.
Twyford has also increased fuel taxes by 12 cents per litre – and even more in Auckland – across three years.
This tax hike was justified on the basis of paying for light rail from Auckland Central, down Dominion Road to the airport. Last month, after two and a half years and $5 million was spent investigating the project, the light rail proposal was shelved.
Despite the main justification for fuel tax hikes being void, Twyford has no plans to reverse his increases to the tax on commuters.
In his maiden speech in Parliament, he remarked: “At the end of our times here, some of us will be remembered, but most of us will not.”
He need not worry. We are confident that taxpayers will never forget Phillip Stoner Twyford.
Eighty three of the world’s wealthy are asking governments to tax them more:
Businessman and philanthropist Sir Stephen Tindall is among the world’s richest people urging governments to raise taxes on the rich, as the world grapples with the economic impact of Covid-19.
Tindall is one of 83 millionaires who signed an open letter which said “today, we, the undersigned millionaires, ask our governments to raise taxes on people like us. Immediately. Substantially. Permanently”.
“As Covid-19 strikes the world, millionaires like us have a critical role to play in healing our world,” it says.
“So please. Tax us. Tax us. Tax us. It is the right choice. It is the only choice.”
Are they saying this in the knowledge that they have been and are paying all the tax they should, that they haven’t arranged their affairs to minimize their personal or business taxes?
Oh and how many of them have applied for government subsidies? If they have, would they like to start by repaying at least some of that?
The letter says: “No, we are not the ones caring for the sick in intensive care wards. We are not driving the ambulances that will bring the ill to hospitals. We are not restocking grocery store shelves or delivering food door to door.”
But we do have money, lots of it. Money that is desperately needed now and will continue to be needed in the years ahead, as our world recovers from this crisis.” . . .
They do have lots of money and they’ve got that through hard work and shrewd investments. Do these people really think the government would spend their money better and do more good with it than they can?
If so they are free to give the national coffers a lot more money than they owe in tax at any time.
But there aren’t very many really rich people in New Zealand and governments aren’t as good at using other people’s money as successful people are at using their own.
If they really want to make a positive difference the wealthy would be better to invest their money themselves in businesses that would increase or create jobs, preferably ones that would also earn export income to replace at least some of what we’ve lost from international tourism and education.
These successful businesses would then contribute to the tax take without the need for the punitive tax rates the wealthy are suggesting.
If they prefer something more philanthropic they could build and run charitable hospitals and schools to reduce the burden of providing health and education services publicly.
Either way they would waste less and achieve more than the governments they are so eager to give more to would.