Stop 3 Waters roadshow launched

01/06/2022

The Taxpayers’ Union is launching a Stop Three Waters roadshow:

New Zealand’s largest centre-right grassroots movement is hitting the road for a five-week, nationwide roadshow to hear and highlight the concerns of ratepayers and elected councillors threatened by the Government’s Three Waters regime – and is calling on the Select Committee in charge of the legislation to do the same.

The itinerary will see New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union team members visiting 39 local centres in a ‘Stop Three Waters’-branded campervan. The team will meet community leaders, Mayors, Councillors, and candidates for October’s local body elections, and ask them to sign a “Community Leaders’ Appeal” calling on the Prime Minister to halt the controversial reforms.

Ratepayers at every stop are invited to meet the Taxpayers’ Union and hear the commitments of local candidates to Stop Three Waters. The itinerary can be viewed at www.ThreeWatersRoadshow.nz

Long-time campervan enthusiast and Union spokesman Jordan Williams says, “Three Waters is a uniquely local issue. Ratepayers in every community have paid for water assets that are proposed to be being taken by Wellington with the removal of local control. We will be visiting these assets and meeting with affected ratepayers face-to-face. We say the Select Committee that will be considering the Three Waters proposals should do the same thing and get on the road to listen to local communities.”

There is recent precedent for a Select Committee roadshow. The End of Life Choice Bill’s select committee process lasted 15 months, with consultation extended in light of the large number of submissions. The Select Committee in charge toured 14 centres to hear 1,350 submissions in person.

The Union will be encouraging ratepayers, councillors, and local candidates at every stop on the roadshow to request an oral submission on the legislation: in person and in their local centre.

The roadshow starts on Friday in Christchurch.

 


If they can’t build houses

13/04/2022

Sixteen months on from the Ihumātao settlement and there’s still no houses:

Progress at the disputed land, Ihumātao, remains stalled as the Crown waits for the final members of the governance group to be appointed, writes political editor Jo Moir

Māori Development Minister Willie Jackson had hoped the governance group, Roopu Whakahaere, would be up and running in February but it could now be late May before that happens.

It’s been 16 months since the Government announced the controversial land – home to a long-running occupation – had been purchased by the Crown from Fletcher Building for $30 million.

By then, SOUL (Save Our Unique Landscape) protesters at Ihumātao had been peacefully occupying the privately-owned land for the best part of four years. . . 

If Jacinda Ardern hadn’t interfered many, perhaps most or even all, of the houses Fetchers was going to build would have been built, sold and now housing people. And they’d have been built for a much lower cost than that of building now.

Her interference set a very bad precedent and has kept people out of new homes.

The Crown’s appointments were made in December, but haven’t been announced due to delays around the other members of the group.

Jackson told Newsroom he knew that would leave him open to criticism about the speed in which things are progressing.

“That goes with the territory – this is a hard area,’’ he said.

“You’re talking about people having to give way and it’s taken much longer than I wanted, I wanted this to be away last year for goodness sake.’’

Jackson blames Covid for much of the delay due to the various parties not being able to meet face-to-face to work through any concerns.

“The main thing is they start working together and putting down a plan and a strategy.

“It’s not going to happen overnight – Māori politics is a tough area.’’ . . 

A plan for how to use the land is expected to be drawn up by the end of the year, Jackson said.

He has no intentions of intervening any time soon, because he wants to give the group a decent opportunity to “nut it out’’.  . . 

This is why so many people are so concerned about co-governance.

If it takes this long to get nowhere with houses, what damage will be done to health, three waters and all the other areas for which the government is proposing co-governance?


Wellbeing $s not well spent

25/03/2022

How many households can afford another $150 a week?

The cost of living crisis is set to get even worse, with ASB today signalling the average household could be $150 worse off a week by the end of this year, National’s Finance spokesperson Nicola Willis says.

There’s a lot of households that don’t have any spare money every week, now. They can’t possibly find an extra $150.

“With inflation already at a 30-year high and forecast to keep climbing, wages not keeping up with costs, and interest rates set to bite, struggling Kiwi families are becoming increasingly short of cash for the essentials.

“It’s not just petrol prices that are going up – food, housing and borrowing costs are soaring too. Many families will be facing difficult choices in the year ahead.

“For some, the increase in the cost of living will be much more than $150 a week. Things are going to get particularly tough for young families who had to take on large mortgage debt just to get their feet on the property ladder.

“The Government’s only response has been the re-announcement of already scheduled changes to benefits and a three-month petrol tax tweak. Those measures will provide small relief for some, but won’t help the vast majority of Kiwis who are worse off under Labour.

“The Government must set a very high bar for any additional spending. At a time when Kiwi families are being forced to tighten their belts, so too should the Government.

“Labour needs to rein in their big new spending plans to take some pressure off prices and interest rates, and then deliver meaningful tax relief to the squeezed middle.

Labour must also take a very strict look at existing spending and take a very sharp scalpel to any and all waste.

“National’s proposal to reset the tax brackets for inflation back to where they were in real terms in 2017 would mean that someone earning $55,000 a year would pay $800 less tax. It would also mean another $546 for a couple on NZ Super.

“When inflation is the highest in three decades, now more than ever is the time to adjust tax brackets for inflation and give Kiwis some of their own money back.”

Refusal to adjust tax brackets for inflation is increasing taxes by stealth.

Leaving people with more of their own money is a start.

It is however, one which this government is unlikely to find attractive.

It also doesn’t have any appetite for reducing waste, even if it could start with ensuring its agencies aren’t profligate with expenditure on furniture:

The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union can reveal how the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) spent $2,047,388 on furniture in just 18 months.

Last month, National MP Melissa Lee grilled the DIA for an apparent furniture blowout in 2020/21, but now we learn that she wasn’t given a full accounting of the Department’s shopping spree.

An official information response obtained by the Taxpayers’ Union shows that the DIA spent $1,935,674 million on furniture for its offices in the 18 months to the end of 2021. The major expenses included workstations (desks), chairs, and ‘collaboration furniture’ for shared spaces.

Additionally, $111,714 was spent on furniture for use in employees’ homes. Two hundred and forty-eight employees received office chairs to use at home, at an average cost of $431 each. Some staff were even given adjustable foot rests, and one received a $115 floor mat.

The spending figures exclude installation costs and IT equipment.

Union spokesman Louis Houlbrooke says, “The spending works out at $1,048 for every permanent employee. Are we expected to believe that every desk, chair, locker and beanbag all went kaput at once? Remember, this was a period in which a large portion of DIA’s staff were working from home.”

“It appears that DIA has pressed ahead with a department-wide furniture revamp instead of simply replacing items on an as-needed basis. This is egregious during a cost of living crisis when taxpayers are tightening their belts and making sacrifices.”

“The Department even forked out for 3,526 workstations despite only employing 1,954 permanent staff. This kind of spending raises the question of whether DIA is in fact over-funded. If the Government is serious about reining in debt, it should take a close look at the budgets of DIA and other major public service entities.”

More detailed descriptions of a selection of DIA furniture purchases can be found in a response to Select Committee questions by Melissa Lee (page 23). The breakdown reveals a strong proclivity for standing desks.

The sum itself, $2 million, is small change in the grand scheme of government finances.

There’s a far bigger number of far greater concern –  $1.9 billion that hasn’t resulted little improvement in mental health.

A report released today questions why $1.9 billion of investment in the 2019 Wellbeing Budget has not seen improvements materialise as hoped.

The Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission has found long wait times for specialist support, more prescriptions being handed out for anti-depressants, and more Māori being put into solitary confinement.

Its chief executive, Karen Osborn, said there had been some improvements to primary and community services, but “the specialist end of the services are still under a lot of pressure”. . . 

National Party MP Matt Doocey said the mental health services he had talked to did not know where the government’s $1.9b investment had gone.

“You’ve got to ask yourself – where has all the money gone, why is it not making difference, and why are services harder to access?” he said. . . 

Whether  it’s one agency spending a couple of million on furniture or nearly two billion that’s doing little to address major problems, they’re signs of government that is much better at taking money than ensuring it’s well spent.

 


Wasting $s on bureaucratic back patting

18/03/2022

Does this government and its agencies hold the record for the most money wasted on propaganda?

The government and Waka Kotahi are wasting money on advertising what amounts to an admission of failure.

They’re failing to make roads safer and so in an effort to reduce the road toll they’re resorting to reducing speed limits and trying to convince us that’s good.

The advertisement isn’t the only money being wasted on transport mistakes.

The Auckland tram might cost $29.2 billion.

That is $15,000 for every household in New Zealand. So every family in Gore and Hastings and Levin will be paying $15,000 more tax so Auckland gets some trams to the airport!

If it costs $29.2 billion, then that is a cost of:

  • $1.22 billion per km
  • $1.22 million per metre
  • $12,167 per cm
  • $1,217 per mm

Think of the opportunity cost. A new four lane motorway costs around $50 million per km. For what the Government may spend on trams in Auckland you could construct a 630 km long four lane motorway. That is approximately the distance from Auckland to Wellington. . . 

Back to annoying advertisements, Waka Kotahi has another that starts by showing a driver swerving to avoid a possum.

It is, as Camryn Brown writes,  a case study in obliviousness :

. . . Consider the TV ad for the new “Road to Zero” campaign. What does that ad want you to do? A typical road safety ad wants you to slow down, be sober, or wear a seatbelt. This ad has nothing for a road user to act on, it simply promotes the idea of an all-of-system approach to road safety. It tells you that road safety depends on coordinated work across enforcement, road design, regulation, and so on.

It shares this big idea that has excited the bureaucrats so you may see how clever they are and so that you may appreciate them more.

That’s what the ad wants you to do – it wants you to know what the bureaucracy is doing to do and it wants you to think better of them for it. The beneficiary of the ad is the public service, not the public. . .

Compounding the waste of money is the stupidity of showing a driver swerving to avoid a possum, which is dangerous.

If the advertisement pointed out that drivers should never swerve to avoid a small animal and that running over a possum would be doing a service to conservation because they’re pests which carry TB and prey on native fauna and flora it might be acceptable.

But it doesn’t to that and it’s not acceptable use of scarce money that would be far better spent on making roads safer.

Instead, they’re wasting millions on an expensive exercise in bureaucratic back patting.

It does nothing to encourage safer driving and it reinforces the growing chasm between the government, its agencies and the public who finance their wasteful spending.


One big mistake

14/03/2022

Our water is supplied by the oldest rural water scheme in the country.

Before it was established, farms didn’t just run out of feed for their stock when droughts struck, they ran out of water for people and animals too.

The need for a reliable source of water was solved by the rural water scheme that pumped water into tanks and then fed it through pipes under pressure to troughs and houses. The success of the Windsor scheme prompted other areas in the district and further afield to follow its example.

The North Otago schemes were gradually taken over by the Waitaki District Council but requirements for stricter regulations on water quality led to a trial with four of the schemes taking back control under one organisation.

. . . Corriedale Water Management Ltd was formed when the Waitaki District Council rewrote its water bylaw four years ago.

A “fundamental” philosophical difference separated the way its users wanted to operate and the way council-owned water schemes were expected to work, chairman Bill Malcolm, of Airedale, said.

A trial was agreed to in December 2013, and the company — set up to take over the operational management of the Awamoko, Tokarahi, Windsor, and Kauru Hill water supplies — worked to meet “ever increasing compliance requirements” and still believed in the benefit of “consumer-driven decision-making and hands-on operation”.

“It’s from the ground up, rather than a few people at the top driving things,” Mr Malcolm said.

“They [the council] see a large-scale contractor as the way to go, and we see caretakers.”

The local knowledge of where pipes were in the ground meant less mucking around when a fix was required and the company’s two employees and one contractor kept costs down, he said.

The company’s four rural schemes cover an area of about 50,000ha, serve about 1150 people and, by a conservative estimate, about 75% of the water is used for stock. . . 

The trial was successful, the company still operates and we have a reliable supply of clean water.

Every now and then after very heavy rain we get notification to boil water. That usually only lasts a few days until the river runs clear again.

When we have a problem we know who to ring to get it sorted. It’s a local call to someone who knows the scheme intimately and the the problem gets sorted, quickly.

I have far more confidence that the scheme will continue to deliver clean water at a reasonable cost as it is, than I have in the expensive, multi-headed bureaucrat-heavy monster that Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta is trying to inflict on the country.

She has admitted she got two parts of the Three Waters proposal wrong:

“There are two areas of the Three Waters reform programme that I underestimated, and I acknowledge that’s my responsibility.

“The first one is I underestimated that the public really knew what was happening with pipes under the ground, and they had a lot more knowledge of the trade offs councils were always making in relation to what gets spent above the ground, what gets spent below the ground,” Mahuta said. . . 

That might apply in some places, but not here. We are rated for our water scheme, and we know what it costs.

Then there was the expensive and puerile advertising campaign.

“There was a high level of sensitivity from local government around that campaign because they felt that they were getting blamed for something and I acknowledge that decades of underinvestment in water infrastructure is within the council purview but perhaps the advertising campaign wasn’t the best way to tell the message,” she said.

Not every council and every water scheme has suffered from underinvestment.

“Again, those are two areas that I underestimated that I got wrong, and I accept responsibility for that,” Mahuta said. . .

If only that was all that was wrong, it’s not.

The whole proposal is one big mistake and the Taxpayer’s Union explains how the proposals by the working group that was supposed to improve it, have made it worse.

When the Government announced last year it would delay the Three Waters legislation, they appointed an “independent” Working Group to provide recommendations on ways to make the legislation more palatable for local councils. At the time, we called it out as anything but independent. The Working Group itself was 50/50 co-governed, and of the Mayors appointed to represent the interests of local government it was stacked in favour of the very few who were supporting the Government’s proposals.

Today the Working Group has released its recommendations.

Under the recommendations, councils would still not have anything close to proportionate representation on the four “Regional Representation Groups” that appoint the selection panel that appoints the board members for the new entities. For example, Auckland Council would have just four of 14 seats for the northern group, despite having 90 percent of the region’s population and contributing the lion’s share of the assets.

As we predicted, the Working Group has backed Nanaia Mahuta’s co-governance model that will see half the seats for each region held by iwi/hapū members, giving iwi an effective veto right over every major decision.

Here are some of the key recommendations:

⚠️ Fresh off the back of the infamous $4 million “Better Water” television ad campaign, the Working Group wants another new public communications campaign to explain “need for change” to New Zealanders.

The first proposal is for propaganda  an advertising campaign, to explain the need for change, but we don’t all need to change and none of us need the change that’s proposed.

⚠️ Councils would now hold shares in the new water entities. This is clearly an attempt to ward off accusations that Three Waters is an asset grab. But it’s yet another deceit: regardless of their shareholdings, councils (and therefore ratepayers) will still be stripped of all the crucial rights of control that define ownership. Councils won’t be allowed to receive a return from the water entities, yet that is specifically allowed for Mana Whenua groups. In short, the “ownership” of shares will be meaningless.

It is ownership in name with none of the rights that true ownership confers on owners.

⚠️ Further, the Working Group has suggested adding yet another layer of bureaucracy to the scheme, in the form of new “sub-regional” groups representing smaller councils and iwi. This would mean five layers of bureaucracy in total separate ratepayers from water services: councillors, the co-governed sub-regional representative group, the co-governed Regional Representative Group, the Selection Panel, and the water entity board.

If the answer is more bureaucracy, they’ve asked the wrong question.

⚠️ The Working Group also wants to establish a new Water Services Ombudsman, with a “tikanga-based dispute resolution process”. And they have demanded a new policy consultation process between the Crown and its Treaty partners, separate from public consultation. . . 

That’s more bureaucracy, more costs and less accountability.

Together, these ideas intensify the absurd complexity of the scheme. The whole thing stinks of “jobs for the boys” that will ultimately cost ratepayers.

Nanaia Mahuta and her Cabinet colleagues will now “consider” the recommendations before unveiling the legislation that will be put before Parliament. From our perspective, there is nothing to consider: Three Waters cannot be salvaged.

RNZ has the full 47 recommendations here.

The proposal would lead to higher costs, more bureaucracy and loss of local control. It cannot be salvaged but it could be bulldozed.

The Taxpayers’ Union has a petition urging the government to abandon these costly, undemocratic proposals. You can sign it here.

It is also backing the Water Users’ Group that has filed an application for judicial review with the High Court on the basis that the co-governed Three Waters scheme is based on an invented and incorrect interpretation of the Treaty of Waitangi.

. . .If the Water Users’ Group wins, it will knock back the radical interpretation of the Treaty that underpins He Puapua and is driving co-governance across the local government, health, and resource management sectors. . . 

You can donate to support the legal action at the link above that paragraph.

A win wouldn’t just torpedo Three Waters, it would put a stop to the ever increasing Treatyfication and the racism and divisiveness that it is spawning.


Late, lax and lying?

16/02/2022

The government kept telling us they went hard and early against Covid-19.

They didn’t.

That might have been excused at first when the global pandemic was in its infancy. But there’s no excuse for it continuing to be late and lax, as it is with rapid antigen tests (RATs):

The Government has admitted that the reason why their bureaucratic ‘test-to-work’ regime for close contacts doesn’t apply to every worker is because they don’t have enough rapid antigen tests, National’s Covid-19 Response spokesperson Chris Bishop says

“Answering questions in Parliament today, Chris Hipkins fessed up that the reason only ‘critical’ businesses are included in the Close Contact Exemption Scheme, rather than all businesses, is that there is a limited supply of rapid tests in the country.

“This is a stunning admission. The Government ordered its own rapid tests too late and now businesses are under pressure because the Government doesn’t have enough tests to make sure the scheme can apply to all.

“The incompetence of this Government also explains why the scheme is so tedious. Close contact critical workers have to provide an order number, two separate letters, two forms of ID, their vaccine pass, and a text message before they can get a rapid test.

And if you live in the country you also have to travel many kilometres to be able to get it.

“The scheme is bafflingly bureaucratic and could only have been designed by Labour.

“If they hadn’t dropped the ball so badly in 2021 and gotten onto ordering rapid antigen tests when it was clear from countries around the world that they’d be crucial in the next phase of the pandemic, then New Zealand would be in a much better position now.

“The Government banned rapid tests for most of 2021, and only at the tail end of the year allowed a select few companies to import them into the country. Having belatedly recognised their importance, the Government then confiscated the stocks ordered by private companies, including stocks already in the country.

“National’s position is clear – all businesses should be able to have workers who are close contacts of Covid cases return to work using rapid antigen tests.” 

It’s not up to the government to say which businesses are critical and which workers are essential – they all are:

Chambers across New Zealand have stated clearly that every business is essential, and every worker is critical to their family and their place of work.

Every employee and employer should have access to Rapid Antigen Testing and following a daily test where required be able to front up to work every day.

Without this, businesses will face closure due to staff shortages and other will face failure due to loss of revenue.

Government must understand this and respond urgently.

The combination of incompetence and control freakery by the government and the MOH are costing businesses time and money and could well result in Covid spreading faster and wider.

We would all be much safer if everyone could access as many RATs as they needed any time they needed them. That would be much easier if the government approved the tests that are available in other countries but have yet to be sanctioned here.

Incompetence and control freakery are bad enough, lying is worse:

The Taxpayers’ Union is calling on the Minister of Consumer Affairs to report companies accused of lying about the Government’s alleged confiscation of RAT tests to the Commerce Commission for breaching the Fair Trading Act with misleading or deceptive conduct.

Union spokesman Jordan Williams says, “While the Government claims it has not been stealing businesses’ rapid antigen tests, the Herald reports that companies supplying the tests are still telling customers the opposite. This is consistent with what the Taxpayers’ Union has been told about its own order.”

“Unlike for politicians, it’s illegal for companies in trade to lie or deceive under the Fair Trading Act.”

“There’s possible cartel behaviour here too. How else do you explain that all of these companies have exactly the same story?”

“Consumer Affairs Minister Kris Faafoi needs to take action. His Cabinet colleagues appear to be victim of an elaborate ploy to deceive New Zealanders. If he really believe his Government hasn’t stolen RATs, why isn’t he on the phone to the Commerce Commission demanding these companies are held to account?”

Could it be that he won’t because he doesn’t believe that its not the businesses which are the guilty party?


Misusing our money

28/12/2021


Rural round-up

03/12/2021

Fonterra expected to pay highest milk price since it was formed 20 years ago – Tina Morrison:

Economists have been hiking their expectations for Fonterra’s milk payment to farmers for this season, with most now expecting the co-operative to pay the highest level since it was founded 20 years ago.

In late October, Fonterra lifted and narrowed its forecast for the 2021/22 season to between $7.90 and $8.90 per kilogram of milk solids. The midpoint of the range, which farmers are paid off, increased to $8.40 per kgMS, matching the previous record paid in the 2013/14 season.

Since then, tight milk supply and continued demand have underpinned prices on the Global Dairy Trade auction platform, prompting economists to raise their forecasts even higher, with BNZ and Westpac both picking an $8.90/kgMS milk price, ANZ at $8.80/kgMS and ASB at $8.75/kgMS. . . 

Taxpayers funding anti-dairying messages:

“Some days it’s difficult to comprehend what I see in the news,” says National Agriculture spokesperson Barbara Kuriger.

“Unbelievably, and thanks to Louis Houlbrooke of The Taxpayers Union and Scoop Independent News, I learnt on Monday taxpayers have funded the anti-dairy documentary ‘Milked’ to the tune of $48,000 — a ‘finishing grant’ given by the New Zealand Film Commission.

“Houlbrooke said in the story the 40,000 Kiwis employed in the dairy sector wouldn’t be happy to know they’ve funded a film that attacks their livelihoods.

“I can tell you right now, as a farmer and MP for a huge rural electorate, we are not! It is a real slap in the face to a sector which brings in 80% of the country’s export revenue. . .

“More milk from fewer cows’ trend continues in a record year for dairy industry :

Kiwi dairy farmers hit a new high for milk production last season with fewer cows, showing that a focus on breeding higher performing cows is paying off.  

The annual New Zealand Dairy Statistics report, released today by DairyNZ and Livestock Improvement Corporation (LIC), shows that total milk volume, total milksolids and per cow production were the highest on record in the 2020-21 season.

New Zealand has 4.9 million milking cows – down from 4.92 million the previous season, and they produced 1.95 billion kilograms of milksolids.

DairyNZ Chief Executive Dr Tim Mackle says it is great to see a continuation of the “more milk from fewer cows” trend because it shows a continuing focus on milking better cows and farming even more sustainably. . .

Honey production and yields fall while export volumes remain buoyant for the 2021-21 year:

New Zealand’s national honey production in the 2020/2021 season was down 24% on the previous season and the average honey yield per hive fell 18%, according to the 2021 Apiculture Monitoring Report released by the Ministry of Primary Industries this week.

Beekeeping for the season ended June 2021 proved to be more challenging than recent seasons, with the national honey production down 24% on the 2019/2020 year to 20,500 tonnes, while the average honey yield per hive fell 18% to 25kgs.

These findings will not be surprising to beekeepers, says Apiculture NZ CEO Karin Kos. “Last summer presented more challenging weather conditions than the previous season when the harvest was aided by excellent weather across the country. . . 

NZ Truffle Company plans to be biggest exporter in the Southern Hemisphere  :

Matthew and Catherine Dwan’s aim to use a 139 hectare North Canterbury Farm in a more profitable and planet-friendly way, looks set to create the largest exporter of truffles south of the equator.

In fact, when the NZ Truffle Company’s plantation of 37,500 trees reaches full maturity in 2036, production is expected to be the largest yield in the southern hemisphere.

“At capacity, we’ll be producing around 17,250 kg of Black, White and Burgundy truffles,” says Matthew Dwan, who, along with his partner Catherine set up the NZ Truffle Company in 2017.

The crop, worth between $2500 and $3500 per kilogram, will be exported to Europe, the Middle East and Asia, where there’s a huge demand in the luxury food market for the counter seasonal supply of what’s known as “plant-based caviar”. . . 

Bronte Gorringe pursues her agriculture leadership goals

Bronte Gorringe has always aspired to be a leader in the agricultural industry and sponsorship to attend a renowned development program will bring her closer to her goal.

Ms Gorringe is being sponsored by the DemoDAIRY Foundation to attend the Marcus Oldham Rural Leadership Program in May next year.

Participants are encouraged to have industry support via sponsorship and DemoDAIRY Foundation would consider supporting additional applicants.

Ms Gorringe had expected to complete the five-day intensive workshop in 2021, but it was delayed due to COVID. . . 


Sneering at success

03/12/2021

Journalism reached another low yesterday with the breathless reporting on National leader Chris Luxon’s property portfolio.

Had he acquired them through crime or by luck, owning seven houses – four of which are his family home, a crib, an apartment in Wellington and his electorate office – it would indeed be a story.

But there is no question about how he was able to buy them.  He got an education then used it, his ability and personality, to succeed in well paid jobs and invested wisely.

Media attention wasn’t just on the number of houses, it then focused on his family home and that he didn’t know its value.

How many people know their houses are worth unless they are planning to sell them?

In spite of at least one journalist trying to blame Luxon for the increased value of his home, it’s government policies and the Reserve Bank which have fueled the steep rise in house prices all over the country.

But why attack someone for their wealth anyway?

Journalists ought to be celebrating success, not sneering at it.

How much better we all would be if more people were successful and if that was shown as something to aspire to, not something to criticise.

If the media had even a passing interest in balance, they might have pointed out that Luxon took a massive pay cut when he entered parliament which shows he’s not in it for the money.

Apropos of which, wouldn’t it be interesting to know how many other MPs took a pay cut and how many got a pay rise?

Don’t hold your breath waiting to find out which other MPs earned more before they got to parliament than they do now and how many earn more in their current job than they did in previous ones.

That wouldn’t suit the media agenda and the modus operandi of journalists about which Karl du Fresne writes:

Trapping politicians, baiting them, trying to catch them out and make them look silly, hypocritical or indecisive … that’s what now passes for political journalism. And of course the journalists always come out on top, because they can set themselves up as judge and jury, are responsible to no one, pay no penalty when they get things wrong  (as they frequently do) and always have the last word.

What’s more, they’re highly selective about whose feet they hold to the fire. Luxon wields no real power at this stage of his political career, yet he’s subjected to far tougher treatment than the sainted prime minister, who clearly enjoys immunity from difficult questions. But most New Zealanders still believe in giving people (even conservative politicians) a fair go, and the media are probably doing far more damage to themselves than to Luxon.

Journalists usually rank at or near the bottom of trusted occupations and the blatantly biased way the media has focused on Luxon’s faith and finances shows why.


Three waters word soup

02/12/2021

The Taxpayers’ Union recorded a lengthy interview with Nania Mahuta in an attempt to address concerns about proposals including ratepayer input, iwi veto power, and forecast costs.

If you’ve got a spare half hour and are fluent in word soup, you can listen to the interview here.

Matt Burgess listened and this is his interpretation:

Taxpayers’ Union: How does taking water assets off councils save money?
Nanaia Mahuta: Because of economies of scale. We need to solve under-investment. Water has to be financially sustainable. We’re not taking the assets.

What do mean you’re not taking the assets? Councils lose ownership except in name.
Councils will own the assets. We have to prevent privatisation. Economies of scale.

What ownership rights will councils have?
Councils will set strategic performance expectations. There will be good governance. Water won’t compete with other council services for funding.

Can you rule out iwi groups receiving water royalties?
We have to prevent privatisation. Iwi cannot sell the assets. Iwi care about the long term.

You said iwi won’t have a veto right. But iwi will be 50% of boards and major decisions require a 75% majority. So, iwi hold a veto, correct?
No.

Given 61 of 67 councils oppose your reform, how has consultation shaped your reform?
First, we need public ownership. Second, we must prevent privatisation. Third, we need solutions. Fourth, we want good governance.

Will ratepayers be represented on the working group?
Only through councils.

You signed off a Cabinet paper on the reform on 18 October. Four days later, your office received a summary of council submissions. Was your consultation a sham?
I received regular feedback from DIA and LGNZ through that period.

Why are the reforms so unpopular?
The current system does not work.

61 of 67 mayors oppose your reform.
It’s about the ratepayers.

Ratepayers hate your reforms. Have you seen our poll? It’s three to one against.
It’s about economies of scale.

Castalia has rubbished your cost modelling.
Castalia accepts privatisation. We must prevent privatisation.

Your cost savings are based on Scottish data which was not adjusted for New Zealand.
It was adjusted.

You are promising operating cost savings of 50% and [up to 9,000] more jobs in water. How does that make sense?
Economies of scale. Better funding.

You only looked at new statutory entities, not the existing Council Controlled Organisations (CCO) model. Why?
Because water needs to be able to borrow off council balance sheets. There is no way to do that with a CCO. Economies of scale. Prevent privatisation. Good governance. Affordable services.

Why is the Treaty relevant when we’re talking about pipes not water?
Excellent question. Iwi will achieve better environmental and drinking water outcomes for the whole community.

How are Māori more connected to the environment than anybody else?
They’re not. But Māori are very connected to the environment.

Why not leave water with councils and guarantee their debt instead?
Economies of scale.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
So, in summary, Three Waters is about alleged scale economies and thwarting a privatisation nobody wants.

Three Waters is also about the abuse of political power, a very flawed process and, as highlighted in this interview, a Minister who can’t adequately address legitimate concerns about it.

Hat Tip: Kiwiblog


Rural round-up

30/11/2021

Taxpayers Milked to the tune of $48K for anti-dairy propaganda :

The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union is challenging the New Zealand Film Commission’s funding criteria after it gave anti-dairy documentary Milked a $48,550 “finishing grant”.

The film, currently screening in New Zealand cinemas, argues that the dairy industry causes climate change, pollutes water, destroys land, abuses cows, and victimises dairy farmers. The film is explicitly political, with constant shots of the Beehive in the trailer, and features contributions from Greenpeace, SAFE, and the Green Party. The film appears to be part of a wider anti-dairy campaign – the promoters have erected billboards attacking the dairy sector.

Union spokesman Louis Houlbrooke says, “The 40,000 New Zealanders employed in the dairy industry are unlikely to be happy to learn they are funding a film that attacks the source of their livelihoods. And that’s to say nothing of the rest of us, who all benefit from dairy’s enormous contribution to New Zealand’s economy.”

“We wish the filmmakers well in their attempts to win hearts and minds, but that doesn’t mean they should receive government money for their propaganda. Just imagine the outcry from certain groups if the Taxpayers’ Union received government money to produce a film on the evils of socialism.” . . 

Unease over regulations – Kayla Hodge:

Proposed changes to adventure activity regulations could prove to be a nightmare for commercial operators and landowners.

A review of the adventure activities regulatory regime is proposing to tighten restrictions on how operators work, and introduce tougher rules for landowners who allow access to adventure activity operators.

Under the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment proposal, landowners will have to be involved in the management of natural hazards, providing information to operators or assessing and managing risks.

The review came in the wake of the 2019 Whakaari/ White Island eruption that killed 22 people and injured 25 who were on a tour accompanied by an operating company. . .

Co-products offaly underused: academic – Sally Rae:

Fancy a shake of pizzle powder in your chowder? How about some heart in your tart?

Don’t choke at the suggestion; meat co-products, better known as offal, are protein-rich and food scientist Associate Prof Aladin Bekhit, from the University of Otago, believes consumers are missing out on “wonderful nutrients” by turning their noses up at them.

A recent study, supervised by Prof Bekhit, investigated the macronutrient composition of sheep heart, kidney, liver, skirt, stomach, testis, tail and pizzle.

Protein content ranged from 10.2%-28.8% and the pizzle (an animal’s penis) was found to have one of the highest levels. . .

 

Fight to eradicate wilding pines far from over – expert – Tess Brunton:

The lead investigator of a nationwide fight against wilding pines says they can’t stop work to eradicate wildings or risk the tide turning against them.

Before 2016, wildings were estimated to be invading roughly 90,000 hectares each year.

Later that year, a five-year government-funded research programme, Winning Against Wildings, was launched aiming to control or contain wildings nationally by 2030.

It has sparked new knowledge, research and techniques for controlling the pests including remote-sensing tools to detect and map invasions in remote areas and using low-dose herbicides to control dense wilding invasions. . . 

ANZ sponsors Dairy Industry awards :

A unique sponsorship opportunity with the New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards (NZDIA) has been entered into by New Zealand’s largest bank.

ANZ Bank New Zealand will sponsor the Financial and Business merit awards in the Share Farmer and Dairy Manager categories in four regions – Southland/Otago, Canterbury/North Otago, Waikato and Taranaki.

A representative from the bank will also judge the National Share Farmer of the Year category.

NZDIA General Manager Robin Congdon says this sponsorship shows ANZ Bank New Zealand has huge support for the dairy industry. . . 

NSA responds strongly to article labelling sheep a menace of the countryside  :

The National Sheep Association (NSA) is shocked and disappointed by factually incorrect and damaging comments made of UK sheep farming in yesterday’s Daily Telegraph (Thursday 25th November 2021).

In the article titled ‘There’s a fluffy white menace that is spoiling Britain’s National Parks’ ‘destination expert’ Chris Moss labels sheep as a blot on the landscape suggesting they be removed from National Parks and failing to recognise their importance to the countryside he is enjoying or the rural communities that so many appreciate visiting.

NSA Chief Executive says: “The comments made in this piece are both unhelpful and divisive at a time when many in agriculture and the environmental movement are working together to move to an even more multifunctional land use and approach to farming.

“Mr Moss states that sheep are ruining our landscapes, including National Parks, ignoring the fact the vast majority of these are in areas where sheep farming is the predominant land use activity. Maybe he should consider that it is thousands of years of sheep and livestock farming in these areas that has actually made these iconic regions such that people want to designate them as national parks. In fact, sheep farming and its relationship with the Lake District landscape and culture is one of the core reasons why this national park was designated a World Heritage site in 2017.” . . 

 


Higher costs for no gain

14/10/2021

The government has done it again – an announcement of a plan that will add costs but do absolutely nothing to reduce emissions:

The proposed Emissions Reduction Plan is an emperor with no clothes as it won’t reduce emissions because of the way the Emissions Trading Scheme works, points out the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union whose members and supporters made up the vast majority of submitters to the Climate Change Commission on the same plan last year.

“The Government’s approach to climate change is centred around making as many announcements as possible, with costly new interventions into Kiwis’ lifestyles and the economy, while ignoring the system that actually governs our net carbon emissions,” says Taxpayers’ Union spokesman Jordan Williams.

“Most of our emissions are capped and traded under the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). That means when the Government uses regulation to cut emissions from a particular source – say, petrol vehicles – carbon credits are simply freed up making it more affordable to produce emissions in other ways. That is why the UN advises countries against the very interventions this Government proposes when cap and trade is in place.”

“Even if the laundry list of regulations proposed in this plan did succeed in reducing total emissions, a Government-knows-best approach inevitably means blunt measures with unforeseen costs. For some businesses, their particular circumstances mean switching to electric heating or electric vehicles will involve inordinate cost.”

The Government has the power to cut emissions at will by simply reducing the emissions cap, which would increase the cost of carbon credits and incentivise businesses and households to cut emissions in ways most practical for their individual circumstances. Ignoring the ETS and using a hundred different regulations to whack unfashionable sectors is divisive, costly, and cynical politicking.”

Using the ETS to increase costs will hit everyone and be hardest on the poor which makes it politically unpalatable, but it would reduce emissions.

What the government is imposing will increase costs but won’t reduce emissions.

Matt Burgess wrote about this last month and concluded:

. . .Next month, the government will commit tens of billions of dollars-worth of new emissions policies under its Emissions Reduction Plan. Nearly all of them will work under a binding ETS cap. As a result, they will not change total emissions by a single tonne. We will be no closer to our emissions targets, not by one gram. We will just be poorer. . . 

This is exactly what’s been proposed – a plan that will impose higher costs on us all for absolutely no environmental gain.


Stop the ‘smorgasbord of abject waste’

22/09/2021

If only Jason Walls was making this up :

As New Zealand faced the brunt of a global pandemic, the Government spent $26,000 commissioning a novel about the collapse of democracy in an association of alpaca breeders.

As people lost jobs in droves, almost $50,000 was given to the Comedy Trust to examine what changes need to be made to better support a more diverse and sustainable comedy industry.

I’m not making this up.

Since the start of the pandemic, the Government has spent $57 billion on New Zealand’s economic recovery.

A lot of this money has been well spent – the wage subsidy scheme prevented what would have likely been an economic collapse.

But amongst the important, well-targeted spending is a smorgasbord of abject waste.

Billions and billions of dollars have been spent on projects that don’t come close to a semblance of sensible spending, let alone meeting the threshold for Covid Recovery.

What makes this waste even worse is that every cent of those billions and billions of dollars is borrowed.

Every cent wasted on these projects is a cent that has to be repaid, with interest.

None of these cents will be available for health, education, infrastructure, police, welfare and other essential public spending for decades.

Take the $18,000 for writing poetry that “explores indigeneity and love in the time of climate change,” for example.

It’s easy to take aim at the Creative NZ funding and to poke holes in what the Government’s decided to fund through its $55m “public interest journalism” fund.

And yes, although $21,800 for the writing music that forms a song-cycle from the suburban labyrinth is a relatively small amount when considering the Government’s mammoth budget, other larger projects are harder to ignore.

Some $26.7 million was spent on cameras on fishing boats, in the name of Covid recovery.

There was also $200m for the construction of a new building at the University of Auckland.

And a whopping $1.22 billion was spent on the jobs for nature scheme – as a little perspective, that’s enough to buy roughly 1000 houses in Auckland.

Are they important projects? Maybe. Should they have been the Government’s focus in these unprecedented times? Absolutely not.

The focus should have been on what was really needed, one, arguably the most urgent, of which even without a pandemic, is the health system.

The currency of politics is opportunity cost – what project has missed out on funding as a result of another getting the nod from the Beehive.

In the case of the Covid-19 Recovery Fund, every cent spent on commissioning podcasts, picture books and poetry is money not spent on New Zealand’s health care system.

Meanwhile, that very system is being stretched to its limits. . . 

Hardly a day goes by that serious problems with health services and for the staff who provide them, don’t feature in the news.

Many of the problems are long running but all have been exacerbated by this government’s policies. These include the failure to grant residency to overseas health professionals who are here, not giving those outside New Zealand priority in MIQ, and wasting millions with a wholesale change to the system that will do nothing to improve services.

The very real threat of overburdening the health system was a major reason for lockdowns. Little if anything has been done to improve its capability and resilience.

But there is some hope.

Tacked at the bottom of a Grant Robertson press release about New Zealand’s “strong economic momentum” was a fairly significant note.

Cabinet’s decided to allocate a further $7 billion to the Covid-19 Recovery Fund.

When added to the $3b that’s left in that fund, ministers have a tidy $10b extra to spend.

Although it’s a sixth the size of the overall Covid fund, it’s not an insignificant amount of money.

It needs to be spent properly, with New Zealand’s health care system at its focus.

That’s more hospital beds – not funding the instrumental arrangement of 10 songs for children, from ideas given by children.

More nurses – not paying for seven large domes in fiberglass for exhibition as exoplanets using satellite imagery.

More money for New Zealand’s hospitals – not funding for obscure and wasteful projects in the name of the ‘Covid Recovery’. 

More money not just for hospitals and their staff but for primary health services too.

The Taxpayers’ Union has been highlighting bizarre funding decisions on Twitter:

Arts are important but the biggest benefit from these grants goes to individuals.

That money would have done so much more for so many more had it been spent on health.

 


Really is a tax grab

07/07/2021

The ute tax isn’t just a tax, it’s a tax grab:

The sheer scale and cost of Labour’s ‘clean car rebate’ has been revealed today in answers to written parliamentary questions from the Act Party.

Taxpayers’ Union spokesman Jordan Williams said: “When this policy was first announced, we immediately labelled it a Car Tax that would have absolutely no impact on carbon emissions. However, it seems that we actually underestimated the real impact.”

“More than 100,000 New Zealand car owners could be affected by this virtue signalling tax. In addition, the Government is projected to rake in hundreds of millions of dollars more than it will pay back in rebates. There are simply not enough electric vehicles available – now and in the foreseeable future – to make this a revenue-neutral policy as the Government has suggested.”

The government has been attempting to spin the tax as a fee. Call it what they will, it is a tax, it’s broken  the no-more-taxes .promise and it will be taking far more form the people taxed than it will give back in rebates.

“Of course the elephant in the room is that this policy does nothing for the environment because transport is already covered by the Emissions Trading Scheme. That means any emissions saved by the move to electric cars are simply made available for cheaper emissions elsewhere. What is really promoting this is the tax boost to the Government coffers.”

Kiwis are encouraged to sign the official petition at www.CarTax.co.nz, which is about to click over 30,000.

Farmers and tradespeople are obvious targets for this tax but it will hit far more business and service providers.

Emergency services, country GPs and midwives, Search and Rescue, power companies and various local and central government entities including councils, the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) and Department of Conservation (DoC), need utes and SUVs for their work.

The tax might/ be a relatively small part of the total cost of buying a vehicle, but lots of small parts add up and impose more costs on businesses and service providers that either make them less profitable or have to be passed on to customers and service-users.

It would be bad enough if it was going to have a positive impact on emissions, but it won’t.  Compounding that, it will take far more than can be used for the purpose for which the government bases its justification which makes it not just a tax, but a tax grab.


Good law is clear law

29/06/2021

When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.

Fiddling with language in this way might be alright in literature, it isn’t in law making which requires clarity, yet confusion and lack of clarity are what we’ve got with the government’s explanations on its proposed law on hate speech.

Richard Harman writes in Politik the Prime Minister is confused, or confusing:

The Prime Minister yesterday added more confusion to what was contained within the Government’s discussion document on hate speech.

It quite clearly proposes that inciting hatred or hostility against a group on the basis of its political opinion would be grounds for prosecution.  A successful conviction could result in up to three years jail or a $50,000 fine.

However, Jacinda Ardern claimed at her post Cabinet press conference yesterday that the Government had removed political opinion as grounds for prosecution. . . 

But the confusion comes right at the top of the document,  on page four, where there is a summary of the Government’s proposals which it says it has agreed to “in principle”.

“Under this proposal, more groups would be protected by the law if hatred was incited against them due to a characteristic that they have. This may include some or all of the other grounds in the Human Rights Act. These grounds are listed in section 21 of the Act, which is included in Appendix One.”

That section has a long list of grounds that could be invoked, but critically it says in Section 21 (j), “political opinion, which includes the lack of a particular political opinion or any political opinion.”

And herein lies the confusion; the Prime Minister was clearly talking about page 17 while seeming to not know about what was in the summary on page four. . .

Tova O’Brien points out the Prime Minister and Justice Minister don’t understand what they’re proposing:

Jacinda Ardern is wrong about her own hate speech law. Completely and utterly wrong.

Not only is the Prime Minister wrong about the basic facts of the proposal, she was wrong to shut down debate on hate speech on The AM Show this morning with her glib, inaccurate dismissals. 

The Prime Minister and Ministers develop policy and set policy directions for law. If they don’t understand the policy direction and intent of the law, how can they expect the judiciary to interpret and apply the law? 

On Newshub Nation we questioned the Justice Minister about the proposed changes and tested his policy direction and intent with examples. He conceded that, for example, if millennials expressed hatred towards boomers they could potentially be found liable for hate speech. 

Ardern is now contesting that, saying the law will only apply if it ‘incites violence’. That is wrong, the proposed threshold is as low as ‘insulting’ someone. 

The Prime Minister was dismissive about the interview and said we were trivialising the need for the law change – the terror attacks on March 15. 

It is insulting and irresponsible to pit journalists – or anyone who questions or debates the legislation – as somehow being in opposition to the needs of the victims of March 15th. 

If Jacinda Ardern wants to be the only voice who can have a say on the proposed hate speech changes – let’s fact check some of what she said on The AM Show this morning and you can decide whether she should have the only and ultimate say.  . . 

If the Prime Minister doesn’t understand the law how are the rest of us supposed to?

The more that our elected lawmakers talk about the proposed ‘hate speech’ laws, the more concerned New Zealanders should become, according to the Free Speech Union.

“Over the weekend the Minister of Justice, Kris Faafoi, couldn’t clearly say that millennials wouldn’t be up for possibly three years in jail if they wrote something that spoke ill of boomers as blame for not being able to afford a house,” said Dr David Cumin, a Spokesman for the Free Speech Union.

“This morning the Prime Minister told the AM Show the proposed law was to ‘clarify’ the existing legislation, was to stop incitement to violence against groups, and political opinion would not be included as a protected category.”

“The PM’s comments do not match the proposals issued by her Government. If the proposed law change is just about stopping incitement to violence, why is the wording not so clear?”

“And why would our PM allow incitement to violence against people with a certain political opinion? Surely, when the threshold of inciting violence is breached, whoever is the target should be protected. Inciting violence towards anyone is already criminal, and rightly so.”

“Something doesn’t add up. Either the politicians don’t understand what they are doing, or they are misleading Kiwis.”

The Free Speech Union is calling on New Zealanders to join its campaign against the proposed ‘hate speech’ laws at www.fsu.nz/support 

Why, when the law against blasphemy has been repealed, would the government want to introduce a new and confusing law criminalising people who criticise religion.

As the Observer editorial says:

Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right and a cornerstone of democracy, which cannot flourish unless citizens can articulate their opinions and ideas without fear of retaliation, censorship or sanction. . . .

Good law is clear law. The proposed hate speech legislation is neither good nor clear; in threatening free speech it threatens to undermine democracy and neither the PM nor Justice Minister even understand what they’re proposing.


Taxing poor to help rich

14/06/2021

The government has broken another promise with its policy on electric vehicles which will hurt the poor and do nothing to reduce emissions:

The proposed penalty on ‘gas guzzling’ vehicles is a painful, regressive tax, and does zip for saving overall emissions due to transport already being in the Emissions Trading Scheme points out the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union.

“This is the sort of policy you implement when you want appearances to defeat reality,” says Jordan Williams a spokesman for the Taxpayers’ Union. “This policy doesn’t even lead to lower overall emissions. The Emperor has no clothes.”

Like so much else this government does – the promise sounds good but the results won’t be.

“Ministers either don’t understand the ETS or are lying about environmental benefits of this scheme.”

Transport Minister Michael Woods claims that up to 9.2 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions will be ‘prevented’ by 2050. But land transport is already in the ETS. That means that every emission ‘saved’ goes elsewhere under our cap-and-trade model.  It’s called the ‘waterbed effect’ and is precisely why the UN recommends against this sort of political direct intervention.

The waterbed effect is like whack-a mole – push one down here and another pops up there.

“This lack of understanding of the ETS — or deliberate greenwashing — is shocking. Ministers should be hounded by journalists for even trying to pull this line off.”

“Not only does this measure do nothing to reduce overall greenhouse gas, but it also comes at a huge cost to Labour’s traditional working-class supporters who won’t be able to afford to replace gas guzzlers.” . . 

Which is worse, not understanding the ETS or deliberate greenwashing?

The former would be incompetence the latter is lying.

Either way, the policy breaks the no-more-taxes policy, helps the rich at the expense of the poor and will not reduce emissions.

Given how much coal we’re burning to generate power could increasing EV use also increase emissions?

This tweet shows how out of touch the government is about life in the real world where farmers and trades people need bigger vehicles for their work:

The Taxpayers’ Union has launched a petition to stop the tax:

The Taxpayers’ Union is set to launch a new campaign to stop Labour’s unfair, uneconomic, and unenvironmental tax scheme on family cars and utes to fund electric vehicles and the wealthy elite for zero environmental benefit.

The campaign’s petition, at CarTax.co.nz is targeting all vehicle owners who can’t afford a Tesla, or who need a car that lasts more than a few hundred kms or larger than a Nissan Leaf.

“What makes this tax scheme so unfair is that it disproportionately impacts larger families and low-income earners for whom an electric car is a pipe dream,” says Jordan Williams, a Spokesman for the Taxpayers’ Union.

“And the electric vehicle subsidies don’t even help climate change. Because transport is already under the ‘cap and trade’ Emissions Trading Scheme, any emissions saved simply appear elsewhere. It has a huge cost, but zip economic benefit.”

“The electric car rebate system is yet another example of this Government acting contrary to the advice of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Their advice is for the politicians not to intervene in parts of the economy covered by an ETS because of the ‘waterbed effect’. This environmental virtue-signalling will add a few grand to the price of a large family car. This campaign is to call out the cost and the lack of environmental benefit.”

“The Government will be taxing utes and people-movers in Otara so National Party voters in St Heliers can get eight grand off the base model Tesla. And for not a single tonne saved in New Zealand’s greenhouse emissions. Socially, environmentally, and financially, it is wrong.”

New Zealanders are encouraged to sign the petition to stop the Car Tax at www.CarTax.co.nz


There’s a better recipe

10/06/2021

More centralised control, more regulation, more bureaucracy; higher costs, fewer farm animals; less export income, more poverty . . .

That’s the Climate Commission’s recipe.

The New Zealand Initiative has a better one:

The New Zealand Initiative calls on the Government to reject the Climate Change Commission’s recommendations and instead rely on the Emissions Trading Scheme’s cap to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.

“The Climate Change Commission has based its plan on the idea that the ETS does not cap emissions,” says Dr Oliver Hartwich, Executive Director of the New Zealand Initiative. “But an ETS cap is the government’s policy and, since June of last year, it is the law.”

“Only this week, the Climate Change Minister said the government’s reforms of the ETS “put a sinking lid on emissions”,” says Dr Hartwich.

“The Commission’s plan cannot reduce emissions by a single gram since the ETS already caps emissions. You can only cap emissions once,” says Dr Hartwich.

“The Commission’s plan is based on a misunderstanding. The government should ignore the Commission’s advice.”

“The Commission says stockpiled carbon units mean the ETS cap is not fixed. But the government takes that stockpile into account when it decides how many units to auction each year. If the stockpile were not there, the government would auction more units.” The Commission’s claim is wrong.[1]

The New Zealand Initiative supports the commitment to lower emissions and the emissions targets agreed by Parliament.

“Because we support the net-zero goal, we oppose the Climate Change Commission’s plan,” says Matt Burgess, Senior Economist at the New Zealand Initiative.

“The first job of any emissions policy is to reduce emissions. Today’s plan from the Climate Change Commission does not do that.”

“The Climate Change Commission has now made two botched attempts to explain how its plan cuts emissions under an ETS,” says Mr Burgess.

“Households and businesses will unnecessarily pay many times too much to cut emissions because the Climate Change Commission refuses to reduce emissions at least cost,” says Mr Burgess.

“That puts our emissions targets at risk.”

“We can manage afforestation risks without abandoning a least cost approach,” says Mr Burgess.

“Rod Carr had one job, to deliver a credible path to our emissions targets. He has failed in that duty.”

[1] The Ministry for the Environment states auction volumes are set taking into account stockpiled units (April 2021): https://environment.govt.nz/what-government-is-doing/key-initiatives/ets/nz-ets-market/setting-unit-limits-in-the-nz-ets/

The Taxpayers’ Union  says the commission has doubled down on the most egregious and costly aspects of the plan,:

The Climate Change Commission has thrown a bone to a few sectors while doubling down on the most egregious and costly aspects of the plan,” says New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union spokesman Jordan Williams in response to the release of the Commission’s final report.

The following quotes are attributable to Mr Williams:

High-cost approach: “The Commission doubles down on its decision to avoid a ‘least cost’ approach. In other words, the plan knowingly does far more damage to our economic welfare than is necessary to achieve our emissions targets.”

Obsession with ‘gross’, not ‘net’ emissions: “The Commission barely bothers to justify why it’s focused on slashing ‘gross’ emissions, and not ‘net’ emissions. Slashing gross emissions means radical and costly regulation of local sectors. Meanwhile, affordable ways to reduce net emissions, such as offshore tree-planting, are ruled out.”

Ignores the ETS: “The Commission’s own fine print once again concedes that we are already on track to meet our net zero emissions target using the Emissions Trading Scheme. This should be in the headline of every news story about the plan. If the Commissioners were worried the accuracy of the forecasts, they could have laid out a plan to strengthen the ETS. But instead they’ve used their obsession with ‘gross’ emissions to ignore these forecasts and push new regulations that won’t even reduce emissions due to the way the ETS works.”

If the Commission admits we are on track to meet the zero emissions target with the ETS why does it want to impose such high economic and social costs on us for no environmental gain?

Politicians empowered: “The Commission’s report has been welcomed by the Prime Minister and James Shaw, and it’s not hard to see why. This report urges politicians to be ‘as ambitious as possible in each sector’, and James Shaw is saying that all Ministers will have to think of themselves as Climate Change Ministers. This opens the floodgates for radical interventions at every level of our economy and lifestyles.”

Politicisation by the Commission: “The Commission was set up to ‘take the politics out of climate change mitigation’ but at every turn Rod Carr and his officials have done the opposite. He’s taken it on himself to outline what he has acknowledged are the most radical reforms of the New Zealand economy since the ’80s. Such radical plans deserve real scrutiny, but he’s even politicised that. In today’s lock-up briefings, media and independent analysts were given less than an hour to absorb a 400-page document, and while favoured media were invited, opponents of his draft plan were excluded. That’s outrageous.”

The reforms of the 80s were tough but made the country stronger.

The Commission is prescribing far stronger medicine and it will do little or nothing to treat the environment while imposing unnecessary economic and social pain.


Don’t change law, enforce it

27/05/2021

Neil Miller Taxpayers’ Union analyst says electoral laws should be enforced, not changed:

Faced with a steadily growing number of electoral finance investigations by the Serious Fraud Office, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern stared kindly into the camera and intoned, “we should be looking at the way our regime works. Clearly, it’s not currently, so let’s do something about that.”

The Taxpayers’ Union could not agree more that we should “do something about that.” However, the “something” is not to change the rules again or argue they are unclear (which they are not). The real “something” is to actually enforce the law. These prosecutions are proof that the regime is finally starting to work.

It is a terrible look for the Prime Minister to suggest that the electoral finance law needs to be changed so soon after her party has been charged. National was charged – the law was fine. New Zealand First was charged – the law was fine. Labour is charged and their ally the Māori Party is under investigation – the law is not working and needs to be changed. That is Banana Republic behaviour.

The law that worked for other parties now doesn’t work for Labour and its ally? Banana Republic behaviour indeed.

Of course, all parties are presumed innocent until found guilty of course, and all have pleaded innocence in relation to the charges.

Prime Minister, the problem is not the regime or the system – it is how politicians try to constantly push the boundaries of the system. They do it because it often works, there are rarely any consequences of note, and, if there are, they come long after the election affected by the activity in question. By the time any judgment is made most voters, if they were even aware of it, will have forgotten about the issue.

National and Labour are well established parties with teams constantly working on the minutiae of election finances. There are no excuses. The Māori Party is alleged to have missed deadlines for declarations which seems to be a cut and dried issue. Either they did, or they did not. There is no room for interpretation.

There is no hope of taxpayers ever seeing a cent paid back from New Zealand First – sorry, the completely separate New Zealand First Foundation – now that the organisation is essentially moribund. If Winston Peters wants to come back, he will likely disband New Zealand First (and its debts), then create the First New Zealand Party with Rt Hon Winston Peters as the leader.

Advance New Zealand’s Billy TK can plausibly plead ignorance – there is plenty of evidence of that in his public comments. His co-leader, Jami-Lee Ross, much less so. In fact, what Labour is being charged with (hiding the identity of donors and the size of the donations) is – allegedly – known in Wellington as “the JLR shuffle”.

We do need to do something and that is to support the Serious Fraud Office finally enforcing the existing laws. Parliament has not done it, the Police have shown no interest in doing it, and the Electoral Commission cannot enforce them.

All power to the Serious Fraud Office.

If anything needs changes it’s to give the Electoral Commission the power, and any necessary funding, to police the law and the ability to deal with transgressions during the pre-election period before voting starts.


Stop tax increases by stealth

09/04/2021

National is seeking to stop tax increases by stealth:

National is committed to letting Kiwis keep more of what they earn and has proposed new legislation that will end tax hikes by stealth, Tauranga MP Simon Bridges says.

Mr Bridges’ Income Tax (Adjustment of Taxable Income Ranges) Amendment Bill, drawn from the Member’s Ballot today, will require tax thresholds to be adjusted every three years in line with the cost of living. This will mean that within a year, after every election, Treasury will advise the Government on how much the thresholds should be adjusted for inflation.

“This will stop New Zealanders moving into higher tax brackets even when their income isn’t keeping up with the rising cost of living, putting an end to inflation being an annual tax increase by stealth.

“New Zealanders will be able to keep more of what they earn, helping them stay on top of rising costs for necessities like petrol, rent and electricity.

“The Tax Working Group advised the Government that bracket creep could lead to as much as $1.7 billion in stealth tax increases in a given year. The Government is taking more than it needs, only to waste billions on bad spending.

If passed into law, this change will make a real difference, Mr Bridges says.

“It will mean Kiwis can keep more their own money in their own bank accounts,” Mr Bridges says.

“This law change shows how committed National is to helping New Zealanders get ahead.

“There is widespread agreement that bracket creep is a hidden tax increase on hard working New Zealanders, and I urge Finance Minister Grant Robertson to stop taxing Kiwis by stealth and wholeheartedly support this law change through all stages.”

The Taxpayers’ Union applauds the Bill:

. . . Union spokesman Louis Houlbrooke says, “From a taxpayer perspective, this is one of the most important private members’ bills we’ll see in our lifetime. For decades successive governments have exploited inflation to sneakily increase the average tax rates levied on New Zealanders. It’s a stealthy, dishonest tax hike that makes a liar of any politician who promises ‘no new taxes’.”

The Taxpayers’ Union has campaigned against bracket creep since 2016. In a submission to the Tax Working Group, the Union highlighted bracket creep as the ‘under-arm bowling of our tax system’, explaining: Inflation sees taxpayers’ nominal incomes, but not real incomes, increase. Because income tax thresholds are fixed, taxpayers face a higher proportion of their income lost to income tax, without any corresponding increase to their real income.

“Take our 30 percent income tax rate. When it was introduced in 2010 for income over $70,000, that was the equivalent of $83,000 in today’s money. That meant only high earners were hit. But today, $70,000 is an unremarkable salary. It’s atrocious that middle-income New Zealanders are forced to give up 30 percent of any pay rise to the taxman.”

“Labour has no good reason to block this bill. They’ve already rushed through unannounced taxes on housing, so they don’t need extra revenue. In fact, under Bridges’s bill, the Minister of Finance could still veto bracket adjustments on a case by case basis. Of course, he’d have to explain himself to New Zealanders, but he shouldn’t be afraid of accountability.”

Having no good reason to block the bill might not be enough to stop Labour doing that.

But if it is serious about its quest for wellbeing and the need for kindness, it will do the right thing and back this bill to stop the stealthy tax increases by adjusting thresholds in line with inflation.


Discrimination doesn’t solve discrimination

02/02/2021

The government has major problems to address.

Among them are dealing with Covid-19, including issues with border protocols, shortcomings in MIQ and lack of certainty around when and if we’ll get vaccines; the housing crisis; and increasing numbers of people in poverty.

Is it an admission it has no answers to these problems that instead of focusing on these, it is going to prioritise a law change to take away the right for people to petition against Maori wards on local councils?

The government is to introduce legislation to uphold council decisions to establish Māori wards, said Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta who made the announcement in New Plymouth today.  . .

Mahuta said the rules needed to change.

“The process of establishing a ward should be the same for both Māori and general wards. . . “

Maori and general wards are very different – the latter apply to all people in the area, the former doesn’t.

If that difference isn’t a strong enough argument against the change and the issue is that general and Maori wards are treated differently a better solution would be to allow petitions over changes to all wards.

Discrimination isn’t solved by more discrimination, although a lack of Maori wards isn’t discrimination when Maori have the same rights as other New Zealanders to stand in local body elections.

If the issue is that in spite of this there are too few Maori on councils, the solution isn’t special wards, it’s addressing whatever stops more standing for councils in existing wards.

There is no single Maori view that will be given a voice by separate wards but this law change will give some Maori more control over councils with less accountability than general wards provide.

That is another good reason to support the Taxpayer’s Union’s call for the right to petition for recall elections:

Stronger accountability tools for local government will be needed if the Government succeeds in entrenching Māori wards, says the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union.

Union spokesman Louis Houlbrooke says, “As more councils introduce Māori wards, a significant proportion of our local representatives will be accountable to just one segment of local of voters. This loss of accountability needs to be offset with new accountability tools.”

“An obvious example is recall elections: when a councillor breaks a promise or brings disgrace to their authority, voters shouldn’t have to wait until the next election to vote them out of office. Voters should be able to petition to recall a councillor. Under this model, as practiced in the UK and many parts of the United States and Canada, if the petition reaches a given threshold of signatures a recall election will be triggered for that ward.”

Last year the Taxpayers’ Union, the Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance, and Northern Action Group jointly released a paper proposing recall elections. It is available at www.taxpayers.org.nz/recall_paper

Disfunction in several councils in recent years provide good arguments for the ability to petition for recall elections. Losing the right to petition against Maori wards is another one.

What makes this worse is that it appears this was on Labour’s agenda before the election but wasn’t in the party’s election policies.

That wouldn’t have made a difference to the outcome but it is a very bad look for a government that aspires to be open and transparent.

 


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