An update on what’s happened since 17 October and what you might have missed while party politics dominated headlines.

Councils hike rates beyond inflation despite a literal pandemic

New data has confirmed that many local councils failed to take necessary steps to avoid increasing costs for struggling households. 

The average increase for Waikanae people was 3.2%

In March, we launched a campaign for local and regional councils to freeze rates, and were pleased to see 14 of 78 step up to the task. Most others slashed their proposed rate increases as a result of our campaign.

So why the massive increase? Simple: Auckland’s Phil Goff.  

Auckland Council’s size combined with its decision to opt for a massive rates hike (despite the vast majority of Aucklanders who told them not to!) made the nationwide average rates bill grow at nearly twice the level of inflation.

The hike of rates (and increased spending) comes at the same time as those in the private sector are forced to cut costs.

The economic pain of COVID-19 will extend far into next year. If councils fail to plan for rates relief in their 2021 annual plans, they should expect a ratepayer revolt.

Another domino falls in Ihumātao omnishambles

Largely lost in the post-election coverage was another group of protestors demanding privately-owned land

A group in the Bay of Islands are occupying private property set to be developed. Ratepayers or taxpayers can expect to fork out for the land if the protestors get their way.

This is the inevitable result of the Government’s deal-making at Ihumātao. Unless the Government changes tack and refuses to make a deal, opportunistic protesters will keep occupying land and taxpayers will clean up the mess.

New Creative NZ grants include $45,000 for homeless community “dialogue” theatre

Creative New Zealand has released yet another round of taxpayer-funded grants and, unfortunately, standards haven’t gone up. We’re shining a light on spending like this:

Do homeless people really need an avant-garde theatre production? Presumably, unlike Creative New Zealand, they’d recognise that taxpayer money could be put to much better use.

Revealed: Taxpayers foot bill for Landcorp staff’s animal welfare violations

If you were ticketed for speeding while on the job, would you expect to be reimbursed by your employer? Unlikely, but that’s what’s happening with animal welfare fines at our taxpayer-owned farming company, Landcorp.

While analysing the SOE’s spending, one of our researchers discovered that taxpayer money is regularly being used to reimburse Landcorp farmers for animal welfare fines. Here are examples she uncovered:

  • A $500 reimbursement for an animal welfare fine for transporting a cow that birthed a calf en route to slaughter on a moving truck.
  • A $500 reimbursement for an animal welfare fine for transporting an angus bull which was tender on its forelimbs and sore in all four feet.
  • Two $500 reimbursements for animal welfare fines for transporting a calf for slaughter which had contracted tendons in both forelimbs.

Read more about the offences here.

Fines are meant to be a stinging reminder not to break the law. When the penalty is removed, so is the incentive to maintain the gold standard in animal care that we should expect from our state-owned farms. 

Another story which was buried just prior to the election was Labour’s promise to hand out $75 million for “public interest journalism”. 

Media receive an additional $75 million sweetener

That’s the second handout for media this year — they already received $50 million in a COVID-19 recovery package (and that was of course on top of the wage subsidy).

In all, these payments are a $125 million reason to stay on the Government’s good side.

Quote of the week

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