Fewer than 24 hours before the opening of the Local Government New Zealand conference in Palmerston North, the Taxpayers’ Union was notified by LGNZ that the Union’s registration to attend the event has been revoked and that all union members, staff and board members are banned from attending the conference on ‘the future of local government’.
With sponsors including Kāinga Ora, Department of Internal Affairs, Waka Kotahi, Ministry for the Environment, and the Ministry of Transport, according to President of LGNZ Stuart Crosby the conference will focus on what the future of local government looks like.
“Despite ‘the future of local government’ featuring on the agenda of the LGNZ conference as quoted on the conference website, LGNZ has informed us that our organisation’s criticism of the taxpayer-funded body disqualifies the Taxpayers’ Union from even listening to these vital discussions,” said Union spokesman Jordan Williams.
“They have no sense of irony. LGNZ is banning the largest ratepayers’ group in the country from the discussions on the future of democracy because we don’t agree with LGNZ on these matters. It seems LGNZ are pro-democracy, but only if you agree with them.”
“It is very clear that this is a political decision. In the conversations with our staff, LGNZ cited our opposition to Three Waters as among the reasons. Either LGNZ has been leaned on by the Minister Mahuta’s office, or they themselves have turned into a blatantly political organisation.“
“With 180,000 subscribed supporters, the Taxpayers’ Union is the largest ratepayer group by a country mile. Allowing stakeholder groups to attend should not be contingent on holding the same views LGNZ and the Minister.”
“There are obvious questions to be answered around whether the Minister’s office had any involvement in this decision. We note the LGNZ official who notified us of the decision is a recent Ministerial staffer. Given the many criticisms of Stuart Crosby selling out to the Government, this looks like yet another corruption of LGNZ’s purported mission to promote democracy.”
“Astoundingly, when we put to LGNZ that the revoking of our registration was ‘utu’ for past criticisms, the LGNZ representative conceded that it was!”
“This is the first time I’ve been banned from anything,” said Mr Williams. “But it’s not just me – LGNZ has said it applies to our nine staff, the board members, and even our members!”
Taxpayers’ Union board member (also a sitting City Councillor) Chis Milne – banned from a attending in any Taxpayers’ Union capacity.
- Former Minister of Finance, Hon Ruth Richardson – banned.
- Former Broadcaster, Peter Williams — banned.
- Political commentator, David Farrar — banned.
- The Union’s affiliated groups, the Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance and Tauranga Ratepayers’ Alliance — banned.
“Those public sector agencies sponsoring LGNZ need to question why they are funding such blatant politicisation of public money. How can a conference on local democracy be credible, when the democracy only extends to the groups that agree with the views of the LGNZ and the Government?”
LGNZ’s president confirmed to the Taxpayers’ Union that no other group has been banned, and that no other ratepayer groups are attending. Not even one.
The conference event webpage states:
“Approximately 600 delegates are expected to attend, such as mayors, chairs, chief executives, councillors and senior management from New Zealand’s councils, along with key players from the private sector, business, government and non government agencies.”
The event’s website quotes LGNZ President Stuart Crosby saying:
“Te Wā Heke Mai will host local government movers and shakers, influencers, and visionaries alongside outstanding local and international speakers. There will be an opportunity to listen and learn, connect and network, challenge and be challenged.”