Rural round-up

July 9, 2020

Wool, trees, rules threaten sheep – Annette Scott:

Sheep farming is under serious threat from incentives to grow trees and more crops, retired Federated Farmers meat and wool chairman Miles Anderson says.

In his six years on the national executive, the past three as section chairman, Anderson said the biggest single frustration has been wool.

“We have got a product we have selectively bred for generations and generations, it ticks all the environmental boxes and many of us are dumping crutchings, bellies and pieces on-farm because it costs more to get them to the woolstore than you get for it – it’s ridiculous.

“If there was ever a time for the wool industry to get its act together and work collaboratively to improve the fortunes of everyone in the industry, now is the time. . . 

We don’t know how lucky we are – Gerald Piddock:

New Federated Farmers dairy chairman Wayne Langford says the next few years will be critical for the industry as it navigates freshwater reform, climate change and Mycoplasma bovis.

The Golden Bay dairy farmer takes over from Chris Lewis, having served as his vice-president for the past three years.

“I think with the state of the Government and potentially them doing another term, I think these are all going to start to come to a head. 

“They have made their intentions pretty clear on that so I think these next three years are pretty crucial in that, making sure our farming sector, where we are still profitable and where there are still vibrant communities and a bunch of young farmers still on the ground.” . .  

A shake-up for the land and her export billions – Tim Murphy:

The Government wants to accelerate improvements to production and sustainability on the land to greatly increase export earnings over the next decade. But big change will be needed, Tim Murphy reports.

A new package to grow our agriculture, food and fibre industries, improve the environment and stimulate jobs has a huge financial target and an even bigger set of challenges for farmers and growers.

The final report of the Primary Sector Council – Fit for a Better World – sets an ambitious agenda to ‘transform’ farm and forestry practices sustainably and in keeping with Te Taiao (the natural world) to address the climate crisis, while finding new $1 billion export products and saving and developing free trade for our products.

After a long period of consultation and research, the council’s vision for New Zealand’s primary industries is all encompassing: “We are committed to meeting the greatest challenge humanity faces: rapidly moving to a low carbon emissions society, restoring the health of our water, reversing the decline in biodiversity and, at the same time, feeding our people.” . . 

Grief over grain drain – David Anderson:

A whole generation of farmers don’t seem to know about the advantages of feeding NZ-grown grain to livestock, claims Jeremy Talbot.

Talbot is a South Canterbury arable farmer and long-time proponent of farmers using more NZ-grown grain to feed their livestock.

believes the current drought in many parts of the country, and the resulting shortage of hay and baleage, is an ideal time for the practice of grain feeding livestock to be highlighted. . . 

Government Sells Taxpayers Down The River:

The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union is sceptical that 61% of taxpayer funding for waterway clean-up just happens to be focused on the Northland electorate.

Union spokesperson Louis Houlbrooke says: “The Government has announced that $162 million of taxpayers’ money will be spent on cleaning our waterways. There are 23 projects, but one will receive $100 million, 61% of the total allocation. It is also the only project set to run more than one year.”

“The Kaipara Moana Remediation programme is predicted to create 1,094 jobs over the six-year life of the project surrounding the Kaipara Harbour, most of which sits within the key electorate of Northland.  . . 

How bush fire management is saving the Carpentaria grasswren – Derek Barry:

Aerial fire management is helping save the Carpentaria grasswren in North West Queensland.

The project at Calton Hills at Gunpowder, north of Mount Isa has been running for three years replicating land management that used to be done for centuries before Europeans arrived and a new video produced by Southern Gulf NRM is showing how it is working.

Michael Blackman, a fire management consultant with Friendly Fire Ecological Consultants said the aerial burns was carried out in older age spinifex.

“This country here has a lot of large wildfires come through in 2011 and 2012 and the main reason for doing this project is to assist in the recovery of the Carpentaria grasswren which lives in the old age spinifex,” Mr Blackman said. . . 


Paying for propaganda

June 12, 2020

The Taxpayers’ Union has filed a complaint  over unite for recovery advertisements:

The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union has laid a formal complaint with the Auditor General regarding today’s full-page advertisements placed in a number of newspapers, including The New Zealand Herald and the Dominion Post, by the New Zealand Government.

Taxpayers’ Union spokesperson Jordan Williams says, “These advertisements are not primarily informative or educational, unlike earlier Government COVID-19 advertisements. Today’s ads have moved into the realm of thinly veiled political propaganda at the taxpayers’ expense.”

“‘Unite for the recovery’ is widely expected to be the central theme of the Labour Party’s 2020 election campaign. Only 102 days from an election, the public service should be vigilant to political masters using taxpayer-funded resources to support political messages.”

“Full page newspaper adverts of a political nature, even in this depressed media environment, are expensive. With Government debt going through the roof, borrowed funds should be used on vital services, not propaganda.”

I’m over the lectures, being talked at as if I’m a child,  and am now at the point where I see the yellow branding for Covid-19 and pass over whatever it says.

Whether or not these advertisements are political propaganda, they’re a waste of public money.

When the government is incurring such an eye-watering amount of debt it should be scrutinising every cent it spends and not wasting it on propaganda.


Another step forward together in confidence

May 23, 2020

Todd Muller’s first speech as National Party leader:

The past few months, our country has made many sacrifices.

You have made many sacrifices. You have put a lot on the line to get us through this crisis.

Now, we must begin taking another step forward together, with confidence. 

The confidence to rebuild our country, rebuild our economy and to restore the livelihoods of New Zealanders.

Only a National government can provide the leadership to do that.

That is why we must win the next election.

Nikki and I, and our team, understand that the task for the next Government is immense. We’re honoured by the opportunity to lead this Party.

We take it seriously.

I would like to thank and acknowledge Simon Bridges and Paula Bennett.

Simon has worked hard as Leader, given the job his all, and the caucus is grateful for his service.

Both he and Paula have served the Party and our country well.

Thank you to my wife Michelle and our three children for supporting me on this journey.  Kids, Dad will be home soon.

I want to pause here and acknowledge New Zealand’s tremendous response to the health crisis ravaging the world.

We should all be proud of what we’ve achieved together. 

But regardless of these efforts, COVID 19 has hurt us.

My absolute focus as National Party Leader will be New Zealand’s economic recovery.

We will save jobs, get the economy growing again and we will do so by leveraging our country’s great strengths: our people, our communities, our great natural resources, our values of hard work, tenacity, innovation and aspiration.

I know the size of this task and I will bring my all to it.

Yes, I’ve run businesses. I can read a balance sheet and a profit and loss account.  I can tell a good one from a bad one.  And yes, I’ll bring those skills to the Prime Ministership.

But that’s not what drives me.

What drives me is community – the people who help their elderly neighbours with the lawns on the weekend; The Dad who does the food stall at the annual school fair; The Mum who coaches a touch rugby team;

This election will be about the economy, but not the economy the bureaucracy talks about. It’ll be about the economy that you live in – the economy in your community – your job, your main street, your marae, your tourism business, your local rugby league club, your local butcher, your kura, your netball courts, your farms, your shops and your families.

This is the economy National MPs are grounded in, and the one that matters most to New Zealand.

For too long this economy, your economy – and your life – has been invisible to decision makers in Wellington.

This must change. And under my National government it WILL change. The economy that I believe in – is the one you live in – it is the economy of your community.

If we can rebuild that – we can rebuild our country.

This is what you can expect from my leadership: First and foremost – I’m about what’s best for you and your family – not what’s wrong with the Government.

And I’m not interested in opposition for opposition’s sake. We’re all tired of that kind of politics.

I’m about ideas that get results.

I’m proud of working across Parliament on the Zero Carbon Act. 

Wherever I have the opportunity to work with other parties for our country’s good, I will do so. 

Will I criticise the government?  Yes.

But ultimately, values and ideas are what ground me.

Like the idea that you can shape your own future and are free to do so.

I believe in enterprise, reward for hard work, personal responsibility, and in the power of strong families and communities.

Fundamentally, I don’t believe that for each and everyone of us to do better, someone else has to be worse off.

Those are National’s values. They are New Zealand values.

I don’t believe the right values or the right management skills are guiding our country as it confronts its biggest challenge since the end of the Second World War.

I will lead a party that rises to the great challenges facing us as a nation.

Labour has failed against every measure it has set for itself in Government- KiwiBuild, Light Rail, child poverty, prison numbers.

If we continue on this track of talking a big game but failing to deliver, we simply won’t recognise the New Zealand we are part of in a few years’ time.

Because New Zealanders know, whether or not they support National, they can have confidence that National will meet the challenges our country faces.

New Zealand, it is time for your sacrifice to be repaid, and for your community to be rebuilt.

Today, that work has just begun.

Thank you.

Clarity, direction and positivity on a base of practical experience, this  is what the country needs.

Over at Kiwiblog, you can listen to a Taxpayers’ Union podcast interview with Todd, recorded a few days before his leadership bid.


Taxpayer funded competing with taxpayers

March 5, 2020

Taxpayer-funded RNZ is running an advertising campaign which doesn’t tell the whole truth:

The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union is slamming Radio New Zealand’s use of taxpayer money for misleading advertising suggesting New Zealanders do not have to pay for its content, unlike other media organisations.

Taxpayers’ Union spokesman Jordan Williams says, “The idea that we don’t pay for RNZ is ridiculous. Unlike other media organisations, all New Zealanders are forced to pay for RNZ.”

“Private platforms also present a much more diverse range of views and perspectives.”

“In addition to being dishonest, RNZ’s advertising is an underarm bowl to those private media organisations, many of which are kneecapped by the state subsides for RNZ and TVNZ.”

Example of RNZ online advertising:

 

We’re all paying for that premium content through our taxes whether or not we listen to it.

Galling as these advertisements are to taxpayers, they’re worse still for those with which the state broadcaster competes:

 Stuff recently campaigned on the value of journalism.

Billboards, bus backs, paid social posts – it was everywhere. RNZ drove its message so hard it even featured in a digital display in Stuff’s own lobby. Trolling maybe?

The message was right, but only in part. RNZ doesn’t run ads. RNZ doesn’t have paid subscriptions for its content.

This, though, is only because it doesn’t need to.

You already pay for its content through your taxes, so its journalism doesn’t need to be either ad-funded, like ours is, or supplemented through a paid content model like, say, the NZ Herald.

It’s simple:

    • Commercial media make money through ads and subscriptions, which they then use to pay for public interest journalism.
    • Public media are Government-funded to pay for public interest journalism.

But, like newsrooms the world over, the advertising and subscription revenues commercial media once thrived on no longer sustain the number of journalists we once could. As audiences have shifted from newspapers to websites, so have advertising dollars. But the slice of the pie left for news organisations is tiny after the giant global platforms like Google and Facebook take their share.

In short, funding journalism, especially in regional New Zealand, has become increasingly hard. The pursuit of a new, sustainable business model to support journalism is something that is common across competitors; one galvanising connection that brings us all together. . .

Plurality of journalistic voices is deemed in the public interest. RNZ is chartered to serve that public interest. It is its purpose to serve an audience, not to compete for audiences; audiences which in one way or another are needed to fund the great journalism created by many organisations and many companies across New Zealand each and every day.

Journalism and mainstream media are under threat from digital platforms and social media.

Struggling businesses don’t need the taxpayer-funded outlet which competes with them.

The unfair competition from the state-owned Landcorp has been a bone of contention for farmers but at least it hasn’t run a campaign putting down private sector competitors the way RNZ is. That it’s doing it with what isn’t the whole truth makes it worse.


Mixed messages

December 6, 2019

The government is sending mixed messages on fuel prices.

It’s imposed a carbon tax as part of its climate change strategy while it’s also criticising fuel companies for charging too much.

In doing the latter they are conveniently ignoring the fact that nearly half of the cost of fuel at the pumps is tax.


Cash spray BAU

December 2, 2019

What does it say about a party when a keynote speech on infrastructure offers nothing more than funding for school maintenance?

Jacinda Ardern and Grant Robertson have cancelled billions of dollars of infrastructure projects whilst dressing up business as usual school maintenance grants as infrastructure investment, National’s Economic Development spokesperson Todd McClay says.

“Kiwis deserve the roads, transport and education infrastructure that National was delivering, not spin from a weak and wasteful government that’s failing to deliver on its promises.

“Today’s education announcement is less than it’s wasted on 300 plus government working groups and committees.   

“This Labour-led Government’s poor economic policies have slowed New Zealand down and on its watch, New Zealand’s infrastructure plans are in disarray.

“Labour inherited a strong economy with GDP growth around four per cent. Latest ANZ and ASB forecasts predict a drop to two per cent at a cost of $1.7 billion in lost revenue each year.

“At the same time this Government has wasted billions on failing policies and isn’t delivering on the things that matter to hardworking Kiwi families.

“Our economy is slowing because of Labour’s failure to deliver. A complete stall in infrastructure spend and $400 million of business as usual school repairs and maintenance just won’t cut it.”

Taxpayers’ Union spokesman Jordan Williams describes the announcement as  a lazy attempt to buy votes, rather than better educations:

“This announcement appears more targeted at parents’ votes, than fixing run down schools, and you only need look at which schools get what to figure that out.”

“What a lazy and pathetic policy. A brand new school gets the same dollop of cash as a school with buildings from the 1950s.  No school gets more than $400,000, but none less than $50,000. Ultimately that approach means those schools which desperately need redevelopment get less.”

“Instead of asking officials which schools need what, the Labour Party has cooked up an ‘every school gets cash’ policy for the PM’s big speech. This is the sort of stuff you’d expect from an unorganised opposition, not a Party in Government.”

It is because Labour was disorganised in opposition it delivers this sort of stuff in government.

“If this is indicative of Labour’s big spending plans, spraying taxpayer cash, instead of micro targeting so taxpayer money goes to where it is most needed, hundreds of millions of taxpayers’ dollars are going to go down the drain.”

If a government that inherited a very healthy economy has to borrow to fund maintenance it has its spending priorities wrong.

Borrowing for infrastructure investment when interest rates are so low isn’t wrong per se, but if the government is borrowing to spend on infrastructure it ought to be investing in new projects not on-going maintenance.

Maintenance is business as usual (BAU), it’s shouldn’t be the recipient of a cash spray, but then spraying cash is BAU for this government.


Open and transparent?

September 30, 2019

When Jacinda Ardern declared hers would be an open and transparent government this probably wasn’t what she was meaning:

Controversial Cabinet Minister Shane Jones told a forestry awards ceremony they needed to vote for him or miss out on the billions he’s handing out for provincial growth, it has been alleged.

One person present labelled Jones’ comments as an inducement to “bribery” and another thought the minister – responsible for forestry and the $3 billion provincial growth fund – was “buying votes”.

But Jones says New Zealand can expect him to remind it over the next 12 months that votes for New Zealand First are needed to ensure it continues to fulfil promises in its coalition agreement with Labour.

“When you get a retail politician like myself – a son of the north – you’ve never going to take the politics out of the politicians.” . .

There’s politics and there’s politicking and then there’s blatant vote-for-us-or-else which looks very close to bribery.

Another person who paid close attention to Jones’ speech said he was angry and shocked at the political approach.

“Some of the things he said I didn’t particularly like. [It was] he had this big pot of gold so make sure you keep voting for me. There were direct comments along those lines.”

A third person who objected to Jones’ comment said it detracted from the intent of the evening, which was to celebrate excellence in forestry.

“It should never have been a political rally, which is what he made it. He was saying ‘if you don’t vote for me, you won’t get any share of the billion dollars’. He said you’ve only got a few months of me here, so you’d better vote.

“It’s just bribery. I thought that was pretty disgusting.”

Another person present said: “It wasn’t a political forum. He didn’t do himself any good. He just made a complete idiot of himself.”

Those interviewed did not want to be named, citing the influence of Jones’ Provincial Growth Fund and concerns speaking openly could have a personal and financial impact. 

Whether it was meant as a threat or not, these people have not only interpreted what Jones said as vote-for-us-or-else, they’re scared about the consequences of speaking out.

What he said is bad enough. That he said it so openly is worse. It shows that he thinks he’s immune from any censor by both his leader and the Prime Minister that ought to follow this behavior but won’t.

Reacting to the Herald piece, Taxpayers’ Union Spokesman Jordan Williams said:

“This is truely banana republic stuff.  A Minister telling an industry sector that they need to pony up with support, or else lose taxpayer funded lavish.”

”It is shocking, and belongs in Namibia, not New Zealand.”

“Even for Shane Jones this is breathtakingly shameless.  This not only sours the reputation of the current Government, it sours the reputation of our whole political establishment.  It is pork barrel politics in its true meaning.”

“Taxpayers are relying on the Prime Minister to prevent Shane Jones dragging us down the transparency indexes.  Now is the time for her to show whether she demands western democracy standards of her Ministers, or whether her junior coalition partner wields the true power and can do what they like with public funds.”

Sadly the junior coalition partner does wield the true power and its members not only can and do do what they like with public funds, at least one is open that they’re vote-buying with them.


If can’t count the concrete . . .

April 11, 2019

Statistics NZ has finally come out with the number of partial responses to the census:

Stats NZ’s confirmation that the problems with Census 2018 is not just with the record low response rate, but a doubling in the partial response rate compounds the problems for the State Sector, says National’s State Services Spokesperson Nick Smith.

“We now know over 700,000 people or one in seven New Zealanders did not complete Census 2018. This leaves a huge data hole that will create problems for years in allocating tens of billions of dollars in funding for central state services like health and education, as well as affecting electorate numbers and boundaries for Election 2020.

“Stats NZ needs to accept responsibility for the 2018 Census shambles. It cannot blame the funding when it was 36 per cent greater than Census 2013 and when this budget was underspent. It cannot blame the digital strategy when Australia successfully delivered its 2016 Census with a 95 per cent response rate using a similar strategy.

“Stats NZ botched the delivery of Census 2018 by excessively relying on online responses and providing insufficient neighbourhood backup for others. It compounded the problem by dismissing concerns expressed by Census field offices, commentators and the National opposition when the Census could have been retrieved. . . 

The census shambles hasn’t stopped the department coming out with more things to measure:

Indicators Aotearoa New Zealand is being developed by Stats NZ as a source of measures for New Zealand’s wellbeing. The set of indicators will go beyond economic measures, such as gross domestic product (GDP), to include wellbeing and sustainable development.

The wellbeing indicators will build on international best practice, and will be tailored to New Zealand.  . . 

The indicators cover New Zealand’s current wellbeing, future wellbeing (what we are leaving behind for future generations), and the impact New Zealand is having on the rest of the world. Under these dimensions are a list of topics and indicators developed to measure wellbeing.

You’ll find a link to the suite  of indicators if you click on the link above.  Among them are abstract things like spiritual health,  sense of belonging, ability to be yourself, locus of control and sense of purpose.

If Stats NZ hasn’t managed to properly count concrete things through the census, how on earth is it going to measure these abstract things?

Even if it can, when did spiritual health, a sense of belonging, the ability to be yourself, locus of control (whatever that is) and sense of purpose become the government’s business?

Stats NZ isn’t the only state entity getting touchy-feely.

Eric Crampton reports on a Treasury initiative:

There’s a $35 registration fee for this event at Treasury. . .

I have no clue whether the money goes to the folks running the session or what; I suspect it covers a cost of the deck of cards provided. But they recommend that attendees buy a deck of their cards in advance as practice as well, so attendees would wind up with double the compassion. It’s wonderful how Treasury is helping to promote a small business by hosting it and encouraging folks to buy its products.

Minister Jones would approve, if Heartwork were based in the Provinces.

Here’s the pitch. Treasury is Love.

Imagine surprising Aotearoa with a strain of compassion so delightful that it re-wires our collective consciousness!

COME TO THIS SOCIAL LAB TO CONNECT AND CREATE TOGETHER.

We’ve created a “compassion starter culture” – a network of people who want to create a more compassionate culture in Aotearoa, starting where we are – in our workplaces.
We’ve been playing and rapidly prototyping with the Heartwork Wellbeing Card Game* – now available publicly. 
We know that the intention for what we want to create has a huge power.
We don’t have all the answers. And we can’t do this mahi alone.

So we’d like to invite you into this social lab.

So we can grow an even more beautiful, and more resilient strain together.
We’ll share what we’re learning while we’re still metabolising. . . 

Crampton concludes:

I, for one, love that this is a priority both for Operations and for Strategy and Performance at Treasury, as indicated by the attendance and presumed endorsement of the Chief Operating Officer and the Manager for Strategy and Performance.

Just imagine how better Treasury would have been prepared for the currency crisis after Muldoon lost election if they had thought to consult both their sun feelings and their moon feelings. I don’t know how New Zealand came through it without that. But we will be far better prepared for the next crisis. Treasury may have few remaining economists, but every single person who remains there will care deeply.

And surely that matters more than anything else.

You can watch a video of the card game here.

Not surprisingly the Taxpayers’ Union isn’t impressed:

Treasury’s ‘well-being’ focus is leading it to replace economic rigor with buzzword culture, says the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union, as top department officials host a ‘social lab’ centered around a ‘Heartwork Wellbeing Card Game’.

Taxpayers’ Union spokesman Louis Houlbrooke says, “The purpose of Treasury is to provide the Government with economic analysis and monitor the success of the wider civil service. It seems this has been abandoned in favour of feel-good card games.”

“It’s no wonder we need a taxpayers’ union when the agency responsible for monitoring public spending is busy trying to ‘surprise Aotearoa with a strain of compassion so delightful that it re-wires our collective consciousness!’”

“Treasury was once a proud institution, a key cog in the vital economic reforms of the 1980s and 1990s. It’s a bleak vision of the future when you see adult civil servants consulting with their ‘sun’ and ‘moon’ feelings.” . . 

Do the government, and it’s agencies, know about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs?

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a motivational theory in psychology comprising a five-tier model of human needs, often depicted as hierarchical levels within a pyramid.

Needs lower down in the hierarchy must be satisfied before individuals can attend to needs higher up. From the bottom of the hierarchy upwards, the needs are: physiological, safety, love and belonging, esteem and self-actualization. . . 

 

Image result for maslow hierarchy of need

The government has a role in ensuring some of its citizens’ basic physiological and safety needs are met.

The abstract concepts in the indicators come under psychological and self-fulfilment needs. Most of these aren’t the business of government and those which are won’t be met unless the government and its agencies get the basics – health, education, welfare, housing, infrastructure . . .  right.

 


Union funded CGT campaign ‘astrotruf’

April 9, 2019

A union-backed lobby group is campaigning for a capital gains tax:

Tax Justice Aotearoa, a coalition of community and union groups, has spent $15,000 on ads in major newspapers, billboards and buses.

At its launch at Parliament today, about 15 members of Tax Justice Aotearoa gathered holding signs saying: “Fairness is the Kiwi way, it’s time for a capital gains tax.”

It’s also calling for tax cuts for low to middle income-earners and hikes for the highest paid.

Spokesperson Paul Barber responded to questions from the Taxpayers Union about the source of the money used to pay for it.

“We’ve funded the campaign by chipping together our various skills and resources, and we’ve had a bit of support around communications work and that’s all we’ve got at this stage.”

Mr Barber from the Council of Christian Social Services earlier told RNZ the group’s campaign had been largely supported by the Public Health Association.

The association’s a registered charity which is partly funded through a contract with the Health Ministry, but also receives donations from the public. . . 

Registered as a charity, partly funded by the Ministry of Health and spending money on a political campaign? . . .

How can that be?

But Mr Barber said the ads were paid for from donations, and the Public Health Association only contributed by offering communications support.

Services in kind for a political campaign still isn’t right from a publicly funded body.

Jordan Williams from the Taxpayers’ Union says:

“This campaign is not a grassroots movement – it’s more like astroturf. The campaign group is a union-funded front for New Zealand’s usual left-wing agitators. They are funded by the same people who bankroll the Labour Party’s campaigns and even include the Labour Party’s recent General Secretary in their steering committee.”

“The group’s key message – claiming that ‘most’ New Zealanders support a capital gains tax – is false. Public polling consistently shows Kiwis want the Government to axe Dr Cullen’s unfair tax.”

“Despite extensive media coverage of their campaign ‘launch’, the front organisation has attracted just a few hundred signatures on their pro-CGT petition. That will be embarassing for the union cronies when more than 3,000 New Zealanders have used the Taxpayers’ Union’s email tool to tell Jacinda Ardern to axe this tax.”

“If the Government is too afraid to promote Michael Cullen’s unfair tax itself, it should scrap the proposal, instead of palming off the politics to a front group for the Labour Party.”

“Anyone with big-union money can hold a press conference in Wellington and set up a website with American stock images, but until this group can show that typical New Zealanders are engaged in its campaign, it shouldn’t be taken seriously.”

A Reid Research poll confirms a majority are opposed to a CGT::

New Zealanders do not want a capital gains tax (CGT) – not on their investment property, not on their farms or businesses, and definitely not on their KiwiSaver.

Newshub has been given exclusive access to a Reid-Research poll commissioned by Business New Zealand that shows an overwhelming majority of voters – 65 percent – don’t think a CGT should be a priority for the Government.

The poll found that just 22.8 percent think it should be a priority. And nearly half of voters – 47.8 percent – say the CGT debate has harmed the Government, while 33.1 percent say it hasn’t, and 19.2 percent don’t know.

David King, a waterproofing and industrial coating master, spent 26 years building his business Modern Maintenance Products from scratch. And it’s endorsed by Parliament – he just finished fixing up a bunch of MPs’ leaky homes.

But King told Newshub he’s livid about a potential CGT on his business.

“I’m a bit hot under the collar about this. I don’t have a KiwiSaver, I don’t have any other savings – my savings are in this business.”

That’s the case for a lot of small businesses people. They work long hours and pour their profits back into the business leaving little if any for other savings.

Most New Zealanders are also opposed. The Reid-Research poll asked New Zealanders: “Do you think there should be a capital gains tax on things like businesses and farms?”

The majority – 54.3 percent – said “no”, while just 31.6 percent said “yes”.  . . 

On taxing property profits, half of voters pushed back. The poll found 49.8 percent don’t think there should be a CGT on property – the family home would be exempt. 

And that’s versus just 39.1 percent that support it.  . . 

When it comes to KiwiSaver, voters say hands off. The poll found that 90 percent do not think there should be a CGT on KiwiSaver earnings. That leaves just 4.4 percent – next to no one – that support the idea. 

Ninety percent is a very clear majority, even with a margin of error of 3.1%.

Fairness and justice that are motivating supporters of a CGT are abstract concepts but neither would be improved by the proposal put forward by the Tax Working Group with three of its members dissenting.

The proposal would be both unfair and unjust and would do nothing to counter the inequity which concerns its supporters.


CGT will hit everyone

April 4, 2019

The Taxpayer’s Union has launched a campaign to axe the capital gains tax (CGT) :

New Zealand’s tax system is admired around the world for its simplicity, affordability, and fairness. The capital gains tax proposed by Sir Michael Cullen’s Tax Working Group would put all of this at risk.

It is bureaucratic, costly, and would be the harshest in the world. It will curtail entrepreneurship and investment, meaning a reduction in all New Zealanders’ economic prosperity.

The rate is one of the world’s highest, it would be unfairly levied on inflation, it would require costly and fraught asset valuation, and in many cases it would break the Government’s promises by targeting the family home.

New Zealanders deserve better than this unfair tax.

    • It unfairly taxes people with assets for inflation
    • It will unfairly tax 350,000 home owners who live on a lifestyle block even if they only have one home
    • It will unfairly impose billions of dollars of compliance costs on 500,000 small businesses
    • It will unfairly tax farmers who sell a farm in order to buy another farm
    • It will unfairly lead to higher rents for over a million tenants
    • It is an unfair double tax on 500,000 business owners who already pay company tax
    • It will unfairly benefit tax lawyers and accountants who can exploit American-style loopholes
    • It will unfairly advantage foreign owners of New Zealand shares and disadvantage 800,000 New Zealand investing in local companies

Who will be affected by the CGT?:

Anyone who owns a business, including a farm, shares, bach/crib/holiday home, lifestyle block bigger than .45 hectares,  or rental property; anyone who claims expenses for a home office; has intellectual property, anyone who owns a home and moves into a rest home without being able to sell it within a year, or buys another and can’t sell the first within a year, or goes overseas for a while; anyone who buys a section for a new home that isn’t completed within a year;  any homeowner who forms a relationship with another homeowner;  and anyone who has taxable assets and migrates.

A lot of people would be hit by the tax directly but everyone will be hit indirectly when costs go up and the economy slows.

Even Inland Revenue advised against it:

Tax officials advised the Government 15 months ago that our small companies, start-ups and innovators were better off without a Capital Gains Tax, Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges says.

“Even before Sir Michael Cullen and others were named to the Tax Working Group in December 2017, Inland Revenue officials told the Government that the absence of a Capital Gains Tax in New Zealand was ‘potentially advantageous to start-ups’.

“Not having a Capital Gains Tax is ‘advantageous’ to every Kiwi willing to give it a go by starting a small business and creating jobs. People who take risks with smart ideas and build something bigger than themselves shouldn’t be discouraged.

“Governments should encourage innovators because smart people will take us to a better future. We need people who take risks and stretch themselves because the ones who succeed create more jobs.

“The Government was also told that the lack of a Capital Gains Tax ‘indirectly incentivises’ people to put more of their own money into a venture because they have the chance of a better return when they sell. That could be somebody who wants to stop working, sell the business and retire. . . “

That’s another consequence that would hit a l9ot of people – disincentive to invest and carry out succession as aging farm and other business owners hang on instead of selling.

The economy is slowing.

If it’s going to reverse that the government must take a much more frugal approach to its own spending and axe the CGT.


If not sacking AG must investigate

March 11, 2019

Shane Jones is in another spot of bother:

After declaring a conflict of interest in a proposed Northland cultural centre, Shane Jones sat through a meeting when ministerial colleagues decided on its multi-million dollar funding application, even giving reassurance about its governance.

Manea, Footprints of Kupe was among the first group of projects to be awarded cash from the Provincial Growth Fund, a $1 billion a year fund secured in coalition negotiations between Labour and NZ First, which is coming under increasing criticism. . . 

He has repeatedly said he stepped back from having involvement in the project and denied advocating for it.

But documents quietly posted on the website of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) showed that Jones attended what appears to be the single ministerial meeting to determine the application.

“Minister [of Finance Grant] Robertson raised his concerns about the broader management and commercial operations of the project,” MBIE official Mark Patterson wrote.

“Minister Jones provided reassurance that as the project has Far North Holding Ltd, the commercial arm of the Far North District Council, involved in its governance structures, he was comfortable their presence would alleviate any concerns on the issue.”

Patterson added that MBIE would manage other concerns through milestone payments.

“Minister Robertson was comfortable to sign the briefing knowing this mitigation was in place.”

Less than a month after Davis announced the funding, Jones was asked by Act leader David Seymour whether he had held any discussions with his ministerial colleagues about Manea.

“I asked my colleagues to make the decision on that project in order to manage a conflict of interest”.

Later he said he “noted” the involvement of Far North Holdings to colleagues.

On Friday, Jones insisted he purely offered “statements of fact” in the meeting and he believed he had managed his conflict of interest, but acknowledged others would consider it appropriate to exit meetings altogether.

“You can physically exit or you can declare a conflict and let colleagues deal with the issue,” Jones said.

“I don’t believe my presence in any meeting with three other powerful ministers has any deterrent effect.” . . 

He might believe that but it doesn’t stop the perception that he used his influence when he declared a conflict of interest and ought to have not even been in the room.

[Act leader David] Seymour said the documents suggested Jones “was decisive” in seeing the funding go ahead to an organisation he had a prior association with.

“He actually provided reassurance to his colleagues, which is at stark odds with  his repeated assurances in Parliamentary questions that he’d recused himself from any role,” Seymour said, claiming Jones had breached the Cabinet manual.

“I don’t see how you can continue to be a minister when something as simple as a conflict of interest, you can’t manage.”

On Sunday morning, Seymour, called for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to sack Jones.

“Shane Jones not only involved himself in an application in relation to which he had a conflict of interest, he also concealed this key meeting in answer to a written parliamentary question,” Seymour said.

Clare Curran was eventually sacked for a similar transgression.

National’s regional development spokesman Paul Goldsmith said it defeated the purpose of declaring a conflict of interest and delegating responsibility, “if a minister then engages fully in favour of a project which Shane Jones appears to have done”.

“We need a full explanation from Shane Jones of his involvement in this project from start to finish.” . . 

 Seymour and the Taxpayers’ Union have both called for the Auditor General to investigate:

Taxpayers’ Union spokesman Louis Houlbrooke says, “Ministers have it drilled into them that when it comes to decisions that involve a personal interest, they shouldn’t be in the room, let alone provide advice and ‘reassurances’. Shane Jones’ behaviour will give taxpayers zero confidence that the Growth Fund is being spent impartially or for economic good.”

“Businesses across the country will look at this example, along with other Growth Fund handouts, and figure that the key to profitability is cosy relationships with the political class. That is the path to cronyism and corruption.”

“The Prime Minister mustn’t let her Government’s reliance on NZ First lead to an open season on taxpayer funds. She should call in the Auditor General to investigate Shane Jones’ actions, and be prepared to strip him of his Regional Economic Development portfolio if necessary.” . . 

The Provincial Growth Fund is a $3 billion fund which has been criticised several times for doling out money without the usual cost-benefit appraisal and rigour which should precede largesse with taxpayers’ money.

The Prime Minister dilly-dallied before sacking Clare Curran.

Given the sensitivities with New Zealand First, it is unlikely she will act on the calls to sack the minister over this matter so it is up to the Auditor General to investigate.


Govt can’t cope with CGT oppositon

March 8, 2019

The normal course of events for government working groups is to do the work, submit a report and leave what happens next to the politicians.

That this government feels the need to keep the chair of the Tax Working Group, Sir Michael Cullen, on at  $1000 a day to explain and defend the group’s recommendations is a sign the politicians don’t think they’re up to explaining and defending it themselves.

Paying a working group chair $1000 a day might be the going rate while he’s actually chairing for a day but continuing to pay him that to lobby is outrageous:

The Tax Working Group process has become blatantly politicised with the Government’s decision to pay Sir Michael Cullen to continue lobbying for a capital gains tax, says the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union.

Taxpayers’ Union spokesman Louis Houlbrooke says, “The advertised purpose of the Tax Working Group was to deliver an expert-driven appraisal of the tax system along with a series of recommendations. That advice has now been received, but Sir Michael is still being paid over $1000 a day to argue for higher taxes. Funding for expert advice is one thing, but taxpayer-funded public campaigning is outrageous.”

“If the National Party set up a Steven Joyce led Working Group and paid Mr Joyce to get on radio and attack the Labour Party and advocate for lower taxes, the political left would rightly get up in arms. It’s the same principle here: expert advice should not be politicised at taxpayers’ expense.”

“Grassroots organisations like the Taxpayers’ Union campaign using voluntary donations. Proponents of the capital gains tax should try to do the same.” . . 

Paying Cullen is in effect a government vote of no-confidence in themselves and their ability.

Government MPs have had remarkable little to say on the TWG’s report, with the exception of James Shaw who asked if the government deserved to be re-elected if it didn’t introduce a capital gains tax (CGT).

That it needs to hire the group’s chair to speak for it, shows it doesn’t deserve to be re-elected anyway.


CGT gets it back to front

February 21, 2019

If there’s such a good thing as a good tax, it’s one that discourages things we don’t want and encourages things we do.

That’s where the Tax Working Group was handicapped from the start when the government ruled out any CGT on the family home.

A CGT hasn’t had any impact on keeping house prices down in other countries, but if, as we’re constantly told New Zealander’s over-invest in their houses, taxing other capital gains and leaving houses alone will only make matters worse.

We’re also told, with good reason, that New Zealand lacks savings and investments. Why then would a government introduce a tax which disincentives them?

If has been widely forecast the Tax Working group’s report recommends a CGT on savings, investment and businesses and not on family homes, it will be getting the tax the bad more and the good less rule back to front.

It will almost certainly get a lot more wrong.

The Taxpayer’s Union provided five rules for a CGT:

To be fair, a new capital gains tax must abide by the following:

  1. No Valuation Day: Any capital gains tax regime should exclude a valuation day approach in favour of grandfathering assets into the system upon sale, as was the case in Australia when it introduced a capital gains tax.
  2. Indexation for Inflation: Any capital gains tax regime must discount for inflation, so taxpayers are taxed only on their real capital gains, rather than nominal gains.
  3. Revenue Neutrality: Given the Government’s surpluses, any revenue from a capital gains tax must be used to fund tax cuts in other areas so that the total tax burden does not increase overall.
  4. Roll-Over Relief: Tax should be paid only on sale – not death. Further, there should be roll-over relief when capital raised from a sale is then immediately invested in the same asset class.
  5. Discounted Rate: Any capital gains tax should apply at a discounted rate, instead of at the full personal income tax rate, to avoid New Zealand having one of the highest capital gains tax rates in the world.

The TU has also provided 19 details to look out for in the recommendation for a CGT:

Details to look out for include:

  • Rollover relief:
    • will the capital gains tax apply on death or just on sale of an asset;
    • will the tax apply if capital is simply being recycled within the same asset class (selling a smaller farm to purchase a larger farm, for example)?
  • The rate:
    • will there will be a discounted or lower rate, like in Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, or the United States?
  • Revenue neutrality:
    • will the revenue be offset with tax cuts;
    • if so, who will receive them;
    • will revenue neutrality be maintained in the medium-to-long term as CGT revenue grows?
  • Family home exemption:
    • will there be exemption exclusions for large properties (will lifestyle blocks be subject to the tax?);
    • will there be a ‘maximum value’ for the family home;
    • how much tax will be payable if there is an exemption exclusion?
  • ‘Valuation Day’:
    • will asset owners be required to value their property and businesses;
    • if so, will it be at their expense, or will the general taxpayer be required to pay;
    • if the general taxpayer is required to pay, what will be the estimated cost of ‘V-Day’;
    • how much time will taxpayers have to obtain asset valuations;
    • if valuations are not obtained, will other ‘default valuations’ be used?
  • Exemptions:
    • are there any sectoral exemptions (e.g. racing, fisheries);
    • will Maori authorities pay capital gains tax, if so, at what rate;
    • how are vehicles, boats, antiques etc. treated?
  • Trusts:
    • at what rate are trusts taxed;
    • will they be taxed on accrued or realised gains?

Fairness, which is the supposed motivation for introducing a CGT, is very much a matter of opinion but if the proposals from the TWG don’t meet the five rules, it will be anything but fair and do more harm by disincentivising savings and investment.

 


How to lose donors

January 23, 2019

Oxfam claims inequality is increasing in New Zealand  but it’s wrong

While Oxfam claims inequality is increasing and uses its latest report to push a political campaign, the official data shows the complete opposite, says the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union.

Taxpayers‘ Union Executive Director Jordan Williams says, “Oxfam bases their conclusions from the Credit Suisse Global Wealth Databook 2018. That report shows wealth inequality in New Zealand measured by the Gini coefficient falling from 72.3 to 70.8. Instead of using a comprehensive statistic like the Gini coefficient, Oxfam abandon any of their residual credibility and instead choose to cherry-pick two wealthy New Zealanders and highlight their improved financial position. It is a dishonest political manipulation of public debate.”

“As is clear from this campaign, Oxfam is little more than a left-wing political campaign group. In the same way that Family First and the Sensible Sentencing Trust are not allowed charitable status, it is time the same rules were applied to Oxfam and it was deregistered as a charity.”

Charities which get political risk losing donors.

A few years ago my daughter gave me a midwife for Christmas. It was an Oxfam programme that paid for midwives in a developing country.

The charity got my email and began asking for funds. I liked the idea of practical help and donated.

Then I saw a media release similar to this one that I knew was based on misinformation and stopped my donations.

Political advocacy plays an important role but charities which get into it risk confusing people about their priorities and losing support for their charitable work.


Does not compute

January 18, 2019

A business offering $400 a day to people willing to plant trees can’t get staff.

Aged care workers are concerned about under-staffing.

But one in 10 people are on a benefit.

That does not compute.

A Taxpayers’ Union report found that benefit sanctions, the help-but hassle approach to welfare reduces poverty.

. . . If the Government wants to reduce child poverty, it should encourage the unemployed and single parents back into work and off welfare.

Our report advocates a help-but-hassle approach that nudges beneficiaries back into work, leaving more to spare for those in genuine need.

If the Government took this approach, it could afford to be more generous, within existing budgets. The difference is that the money would be more targeted to those who most need it. . . 

Is it that simple?

That benefit numbers reduced when National took that approach suggests it is.


Govt should look in mirror

December 4, 2018

Fuel prices are coming down which ought to be good news for the government.

But as they drop, the percentage we pay in tax gets higher which only reinforces the knowledge that the government’s impost is too high.

It has confirmed that it’s ordering a market study into the retail fuel market.

This will be an expensive exercise and the Taxpayers’ Unions says the government could save the money by looking into a mirror, not the market:

Taxpayers’ Union spokesman Louis Houlbrooke says, “The recent spike, and now drop, in petrol prices shows that the market’s influence on petrol price varies. What is constant, however, is the Government’s fuel tax, which makes up close to 50 per cent of current prices.”

“The Government’s conspicuous hand-wringing over the conduct on petrol companies looks like an attempt to distract from its ongoing tax revenue grab – set to escalate with further petrol tax hikes in 2019 and 2020.”

“The Prime Minister is playing loose with the truth when she says tax revenue goes straight into improving our roads. Her Government has pursued a strategy of raiding excise tax revenues to fund projects motorists don’t use – like trams and cycleways.”

This last point is particularly galling.

High fuel taxes spent on roads would be a form of user-pays which is  a a bit less difficult to swallow than higher fuel taxes for public transport and cycleways.

High fuel prices flow on to the cost of all goods and every service for individuals and businesses.

They also impact on not for profit organisations that provide social services and hit the poorest hardest.

If the government was serious about reducing poverty, it would acknowledge the high cost of fuel is one of the biggest contributing factors and the part tax plays in that.

Reducing, or at least not increasing, fuel taxes would be a simple way to reduce the cost of living and therefore help the people it purports to want to get out of poverty.

 


CGT & death tax by stealth

November 29, 2018

The Tax Working Group wants a Capital Gains Tax:

The Tax Working Group has reached a consensus on introducing a capital gains tax, but it is not supported by all members of the working group, chairman Sir Michael Cullen has revealed.

“We have got to the point where we have a central package around the extension of capital income tax which is supported by a clear majority of the 10-person working group,” he said. . . 

I am not opposed to a CGT per se, but to be fair and efficient it must be comprehensive and replace other taxes. This one is likely to fail on both of those counts.

If it’s not comprehensive it will be expensive to administer and full of loopholes making it ripe for avoidance.

If it doesn’t replace other taxes it will be placing an even greater burden on individuals and businesses and act as an even stronger hand brake on productivity.

Cullen said the working group had discussed an alternative option of an inheritance tax, despite an instruction from Finance Minister Grant Robertson that should be off the table.

“We are not supposed to be looking at inheritance taxes but a majority of my colleagues on the tax working group appear to have a found a partial way around that,” he said. . . 

National finance spokesperson Amy Adams says:

“The Government already takes about $50,000 a year in tax from the average New Zealand household and has worked quickly to increase that burden with more taxes on everything from fuel to residential property.

“A Capital Gains Tax will see New Zealanders pay more tax on their small businesses, baches and investments and are known to be very difficult and expensive to apply. . . 

“National believes extra taxes that hit New Zealanders in the back pocket are wrong. If the Government cut down on its wasteful and poorly target expenditure we wouldn’t need any more tax. National are committed to repealing any capital gains tax brought in by this Government.”

On top of a CGT, there’s also the threat of a death tax by stealth:

If the Tax Working Group recommends an inheritance tax in all-but-name, the Government should declare it dead-on-arrival, says the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union in response to comments made by Sir Michael Cullen in Wellington today.

Taxpayers’ Union spokesman Louis Houlbrooke says, “The Government ruled an inheritance tax out of scope in the Tax Working Group’s Terms of Reference, but Sir Michael Cullen says a majority of the Group has found a way to include it. Warping a capital gains tax to implement a death tax by stealth would be a betrayal of those terms.”

“Taxpayers were told the role of the Working Group was to modernise the tax system. It’s actual task appears to be preparing the country for an ideological tax grab.”

One of the TGW’s aims was to make the tax system fairer.

A CTG which isn’t comprehensive and a death tax by stealth will do the opposite.

But perhaps the mention of the death tax is merely a diversion to take attention away from the CTG.

 


Who’s fleecing us?

October 10, 2018

Jacinda Ardern reckons fuel companies are fleecing us.

The Motor Trade Association says that isn’t so:

. . . MTA Chief Executive Craig Pomare says the biggest influences on prices at the pump are the landed refined price of petrol and diesel, taxes and the value of the NZ dollar against the USA dollar.

“Competition also has a big effect in New Zealand. It is well recognised that the deregulation of the market and the emergence of Gull, and other smaller independents such as Challenge and G.A.S. have affected prices in the areas where they operate. So too has the widespread use of discounting.”

Mr Pomare says the independent fuel retailers have minimal control over their daily pump prices.

“Most of these small businesses have contracts with the oil companies which give them very little wriggle room when it comes to setting their pump price.

“We take issue with the Prime Minister for suggesting that service stations, or oil companies are ‘fleecing’ motorists. Last year’s review of pricing by MBIE found no evidence of this. Like others in the sector, and the public, we support a further detailed market study to give us all more information on pricing structures.”

He says if the Government is seriously concerned, there is plenty of precedent for reviewing fuel taxes and either lowering them, or holding off on further increases.

Michael Barnett, chair of the Auckland Business Chamber has no doubt where the blame lies:

The tipping point for fuel consumers has been the blunt and ineffective fuel taxes imposed by local and central government. The margins identified by media today are less than most retailers would seek and have not changed.

It is worth noting:

• The major fuel companies welcome the proposed investigation from the Commerce Commission

• Of the 1,500 service stations in New Zealand, over 1200 are mum and dad running their small businesses, employing people and trying to make a profit. They deserve a return on the risk

• There are 20% more fuel providers than 5 years ago – does this signal a lack of competition?

The currency and additional Government taxes have created a price point consumers find unacceptable.

Consumers don’t only find the price unacceptable, Many also find it unaffordable.

The National Party has called for the tax increases to be dropped.

The Government should axe its fuel tax increases to provide immediate relief to motorists, Opposition Leader Simon Bridges says.

“Instead, the Prime Minister’s response to record high fuel prices is to announce yet another inquiry.

“She’s saying consumers are being ‘fleeced’ while her Government is driving up fuel prices and taking hundreds of dollars from Kiwi households through higher taxes on fuel.

“The inquiry will take months and any resulting changes could be years away. Meanwhile New Zealanders are paying record prices for petrol and the Government is collecting hundreds of millions of extra tax from them.

“Unlike petrol, talk is cheap. And the Government is a big part of the reason why petrol prices are so high.

“The importer margin, the profit petrol companies make on every litre of fuel sold and which the Prime Minister wants more information on, is 31 cents per litre and around the same as it was last year. The amount the Government makes is $1.25 – and that keeps increasing.

“The average New Zealand household is now paying $200 a year more in petrol taxes than this time last year, with Auckland families paying $324 extra as a result of higher petrol prices and this Government’s decision to hike fuel taxes. It’s pricing Kiwis out of their cars.

“There are a number of other reasons behind record petrol prices and National supports another look at the practices of fuel companies, something we also looked at in Government, but the Government should also be looking in the mirror.

“While the Government passes new legislation and waits for yet another report it should provide immediate relief to motorists by putting a stop to its relentless imposition of new taxes.”

The Taxpayers’ Union agrees:

Taxpayers’ Union Economicts Joe Ascroft says “When the Government was legislating for fuel tax hikes, we argued that these taxes punish hard-working families – especially those that live in the city-fringe and are forced to commute for work. The Government should back the call from the Opposition and provide much-needed relief to family motorists who are struggling.”

“Now that National has called for fuel tax repeal, it must meet that commitment if it goes back into Government in 2020, 2023, or later. It’s easy to argue for tax cuts in opposition, but walking-the-talk in Government is much harder. The Taxpayers’ Union will be watching closely
.”

Who is fleecing us?

The government that is taking nearly half the price of fuel in tax and worsening the pain by spending the increases not on roads but public transport and cycle ways most of us will never use.


More than $1b/year + human cost

October 9, 2018

The Green policy to remove benefit sanctions would cost more than $1 billion a year.

A new report from the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union shows the success of benefit sanctions, explains why efforts to make life on a benefit easier simply encourage a culture of welfare dependency and fraud, and exposes that more than one third of unemployment and single parent beneficiaries admit to failing on their obligation to seek employment.

The release of the report, Benefit Sanctions, coincides with a Green Party campaign to remove sanctions for beneficiaries who don’t comply with associated obligations. The report also works as a submission to the Government’s working group tasked with providing recommendations to overhaul the welfare system.

Taxpayers’ Union Executive Director Jordan Williams says, “Beneficiary advocates have good intentions, but their prescriptions – removing requirements to seek work and removing sanctions – are a social and moral failure. The Green Party’s policy to make life on a benefit will simply encourage a culture of welfare dependency and fraud.”

These good intentions lead to bad policy and high costs in both financial and human terms.

Removing obligations and sanctions might look like kindness but it’s not.

It’s giving up on beneficiaries, entrenching welfare dependency with the poor outcomes which accompany it and adding to the costs imposed on the rest of us.

“Rates of welfare fraud are many times higher than most New Zealanders would expect or find acceptable under the current system. The report canvasses the evidence that easing up on sanctions and obligations for beneficiaries would dramatically increase fraud and dependency. That means driving up the cost of the welfare system for taxpayers and leaving less room in the Budget for other forms of social spending.”

Every dollar spent on benefits for people who could be working is a dollar not available for people who can’t work and other priority areas including health and education.

“If the Government wants to reduce child poverty, it should encourage the unemployed and single parents back into work and off welfare.

The report’s author, economist Jim Rose, says, “Our report advocates a help-but-hassle approach that nudges beneficiaries back into work, leaving more to spare for those in genuine need.”

Help but hassle is a far better approach than getting rid of sanctions.

Beneficiaries need to be given the help they need to get and keep work and encouragement should be firm enough to ensure they’re not more comfortable on a benefit than being independent.

“If the Government took this approach, it could afford to be more generous, within existing budgets. The difference is that the money would be more targeted to those who most need it.”

And while the billion dollar plus cost of dropping expectations and sanctions is bad enough. The human costs of long term benefit dependency for beneficiaries and their children are worse.

Benefits must never be more generous than full-time work and the longer the time on a benefit the greater the gap between earnings from work and welfare.

On top of that, long term beneficiaries are more likely to have no or low education qualifications, poor health and a greater chance of committing and/or being a victim of crime.

Some people need permanent help.

Others require temporary assistance and it is best for them, and the rest of us who pay for it, if they get the help when they need it as long as they need it but no longer.
The report is here.


Ratepayers’ report released

September 18, 2018

The Taxpayers’ Union and the Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance have released this year’s Ratepayers’ Report, online government league table:

With these league tables, New Zealanders can easily compare their local council performance and financial position against similarly sized councils and types.

By setting out more than two thousand data points, Ratepayers’ Report provides transparency, so no-one can credibly claim cherry-picking or a political agenda. The league tables set out metrics such as Council debt, assets, spending and staff costs, all on a per-ratepayer basis.

Some councils do very well in the league tables, some not so much. Every council has checked its own numbers and approved it for accuracy.

Across the country council borrowing continues to skyrocket. On average, councils have increased the share of debt for each of their ratepayers by $244 – a 5.3 percent increase in borrowing in just a year!

The data shows why Auckland Ratepayers, in particular, have cause for real concern, with Council liabilities now $19,537 per ratepayer, up more than $600 since last year. This is second only to Christchurch, and almost four times the national average of $4,876.

Every dollar spent by a Council was earned by a hard working ratepayer. Ratepayers’ Report allows ratepayers to see how their money is being spent.

Notable Findings:

  • Christchurch City Council has more debt on a per ratepayer basis than any other council in the country ($21,137). Auckland Council is the second most indebted authority, with debt per ratepayer of $19,537.
  • The average debt per ratepayer of all councils is $4,876.
  • Auckland Council pays 2,250 of its staff salaries in excess of $100,000. Auckland Council also employs more staff per ratepayer than any other unitary authority (17 staff per 1,000 ratepayers). Marlborough District Council, another unitary authority, employs 10 staff per 1,000 ratepayers.
  • The highest average residential rates in New Zealand are in Western Bay of Plenty ($3,234 per year).
  • The lowest average residential rates in New Zealand are in the Mackenzie District ($1,637 per year)

The report is here.

This is a valuable resource for ratepayers to check on their councils’ performance.

All councils should take it seriously and those that perform badly should learn from those who do better and regard it as an incentive to improve.

Rates are a considerable cost for most property owners and councils which take them have a responsibility to spend them wisely and ensure they give ratepayers value for money.


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