troughing

Hide on an off day

We must fervently hope there are no more by-elections. The country simply can’t afford them.

I am not talking about the cost of running the by-election – although they’re not proving cheap. Last year’s Northland by-election cost just under a million dollars. That’s $30 a vote.

But the real expense is they make politicians dig deeper into our pockets.

The Northland by-election spooked National into promising upgrades to 10 bridges. The cost was put between $32 million and $69m.

Labour Leader Andrew Little dismissed National’s announcement as “pork barrel and a desperate bid to win the confidence of the Northland people”. He was quite correct in his assessment.

The disappointing thing is that National has stuck with the bridges despite losing to Winston Peters.

Their message should have been clearer: no votes, no bridges. The pork can’t arrive regardless of how people vote: that undermines the entire rationale of pork barrel politics.

Hide’s political radar must be down.  To deny Northland its pork, National would have all but guaranteed another loss in the general election.  Besides, taking things away isn’t John Key’s thing.   Read more »

If this doesn’t make you angry then who knows what will

The University of Canterbury believes it is appropriate to spend $530,000 on some research into why Southlanders roller their Rs.

I’m not kidding.

Ask a Southlander where they’re from, preferably one from Gore or Mossburn, and you get the same heavy burr in response.

Southlanders roll their Rs. Everyone knows that. But why?

A researcher at the University of Canterbury now has half a million dollars to find out.

Read more »

Steve “Santa” Joyce opens another $100m taxpayer-funded trough

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Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce has allocated just under $100 million to a new science challenge looking at how to boost agricultural production while improving land and water quality.

The Our Land and Water Challenge is the ninth of 11 research projects launched by the Government, with the $96.9 million to be spent over the next 10 years. Read more »

NO sugar tax – Key

Mr Key says there is some evidence sugar taxes work, but “the government’s not doing that at the moment”.

“The problem with sugar tax is: So you put a sugar tax on fizzy drinks fair enough, OK. But what about everything else sugar is in?” he told TV3’s Paul Henry show.

But he said obesity has replaced smoking as the long-term issue for New Zealand.

“We do need to resolve these issues, but it’s a combination of education and exercise.”

Mr Key hinted the plan would work with schools to target exercise and dietary programmes.

The Ministry of Health has been working on the plan to combat obesity for almost a year.

The government’s chief science adviser Sir Peter Gluckman said last month evidence food taxes work was weak but they send signals.

Education, layout of supermarkets and companies reducing sugar and salt levels in food also make a difference, he said.

And that’s happening, and has been happening, for decades.  Low sugar and sugar-free versions of Coke are sitting right next to the sugary one.  It’s your decision to buy the one you think is right for you – they are all the same price.   Read more »

Make a submission

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When I saw that submissions were open for the Local Government (Auckland Council) Amendment Bill (No 3), I got all excited.

Unfortunately, it only addresses a small annoyance, instead of the bigger ones.   Read more »

Apparently wasting taxpayer money is less important now that the media attention has died down

The Taxpayers’ Union has been jilted by Steve Joyce’s MBIE now that the fuss has died down.

The head of the government department that spent $140,474 on a TV screen, $67,339 on a sign and $5,480 on an arts consultant for its new Wellington offices, has retracted an offer made to the Taxpayers’ Union to meet about the Ministry’s spending. Taxpayers’ Union Executive Director, Jordan Williams, says:

“After we expressed public concerns last week about the Ministry’s spending, MBIE officials told us that the CEO, David Smol, would be willing to meet and discuss the wasteful spending within the Ministry. Now the media heat has died down, they refuse to talk.”

“We wanted to have a serious meeting away from the media to constructively engage on how the Ministry is spending taxpayers’ money. Instead of keeping their word, the Ministry is once again running from accountability.” Read more »

Salt Tax – Reason #479 for Steve Joyce to cut funding to the HRC

Otago University currently has an image problem, especially its Department of Public Health Troughers, based in Wellington.

Nearly every bit of research that comes out of this hotbed of academic activism is a call for some form of new tax or policy change.

The latest is Otago University’s Public Health Expert blog calling a for a salt tax. This follows calls for a fat tax and sugar tax.

Here’s what this taxpayer funded research is calling for;

  1. Mandatory 25% reduction in sodium leves in all processed foods
  2. A package of interventions similar to those in the UK
  3. Mandatory 25% reduction in sodium levels in bread, processed meats and sauces
  4. Media campaign
  5. Voluntary food labelling
  6. Dietary counselling
  7. Sinking lid on amount of food salt
  8. A salt tax

And just to reinforce that these Department of Troughers know exactly who their audience is, they say:   Read more »

Getting married is a human right. So is not having to pay for it. Apparently

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This is a story of troughing entitleitis that makes your eyes water…

An unemployed woman has her heart set on a ‘fairy-tale church wedding’ – and believes the taxpayer should foot the bill as it is her basic human right to be a bride.

Anna Broom, of Gillingham, in Kent, has not worked since the age of 19, during which time she has claimed more than £100,000 in benefits.

The jobless 33-year-old now wants an extra £10,000 to fund her dream ‘traditional English wedding and party in a castle’.

Miss Broom is desperate for a church ceremony, designer dress, horse and carriage – ‘like Katie Price’ – and champagne for her 50 guests.

Just as a rule of thumb, multiply £ by two to get NZ dollars.   Read more »

An update on the “$1.5M state house” that nobody will live in

The controversial $1.5 million “lighthouse” sculpture on Queens Wharf is being made more in keeping with its state house roots.

After two years of artistic problems and delays, Auckland Council has finally released the first public images of the sculpture, based on a modest Mt Eden state house.

Artist Michael Parekowhai has abandoned plans for a Venetian crystal chandelier weighing 4.5 tonnes and depicting a glowing garden of native flowers, birds and insects at a cost of $705,000. It will be replaced with 10 small chandeliers in a Matariki constellation, or Pleiades star cluster, referencing the Maori New Year, most of which will be made in New Zealand.

Last night, council chief operation officer Dean Kimpton said the budget remained $1.5 million, but there was no longer any cost to ratepayers.

The project will be funded from a $1 million gift from Barfoot & Thompson, interest of about $100,000, a $100,000 donation believed to come from arts patron Dame Jenny Gibbs and an anonymous donation.

Previously, the council agreed to underwrite the $500,000 shortfall after Barfoot & Thompson made a $1 million donation in March 2013 marking its 90 years in business.

It’s good to know that the Auckland Council are no longer pouring $500,000 of rate payers money into this project, but what nobody seems to realise is that there is still a huge operational cost that has already been incurred, and will continue to be incurred that the rate payer is still paying for.  Read more »

Speaker’s delegation in Europe confirmed as a junket

The practice of downgrading airline tickets to take another passenger along – as used by a trio of MPs on a trip to Europe – is off the table for public servants.

Three MPs travelling with Parliament Speaker David Carter’s delegation in Europe are believed to have traded their single business class flight tickets for two economy class tickets, allowing them to take spouses along on the trip.

So here is the circular argument:

Hey, you’re spending too much of our tax money!

– yes, nearly $100,000 of the total $138,000 cost is for business fares

LUXURY!

– no, we need to be fresh when we get off the plane.  this is justified in this case

But you allowed the MPs to travel economy and spread the cost so they could take their wife, husband, spouse, significant other or favourite farm animal.  So now they won’t arrive fresh?

– …

The Taxpayers’ Union has said it raises questions over whether the trip is work or a junket.

The State Services Commission (SSC) says the practice would not be acceptable in the public service.

Sandi Beatie, the deputy commissioner, said the commission’s expectation was that when public servants had to travel, only their individual travel should be covered. The only exclusion was that the cost of relocating family was covered if a public servant was moving.

“Any ‘downgrading’ of flights in the manner you mention by public servants would not be appropriate. SSC has no record of ‘downgrading flights’ being considered acceptable or any directive on the issue,” Beatie said.

The commission’s standards on integrity and conduct stated that officials “use our organisation’s resources carefully and only for intended purposes”.

By definition, if an MP can travel to do business on economy fares, then we should send them with economy fares.

Or, they have to admit that it’s really just a joyride at the taxpayer’s expense.

One, or the other.  Pick.

 

– Hamish Rutherford, Stuff

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