The trough monitor: where did the politicians spend our money this week?

Point of Order is keeping an eye on how taxpayers’ money is being invested, spent or given away by the Ardern Government.

Ministers typically get a warm glow from announcing spending decisions, grants or the establishment of new troughs within the authority of their portfolios – and from providing photo opportunities to promote themselves.

Troughers aren’t the only recipients, it’s fair to say.  But separating prudent spending – the sort which all taxpayers expect from a good government – from the more questionable sort can be very much a matter of opinion. We’ll leave it to readers to decide.

We draw attention this week to an announcement not of spending, but of foregone expenditure – the latest steps to encourage investment in the horse bloodstock industry through tax breaks.

Another one worth watching is the outcome of a policy review of the Māori broadcasting sector, which includes consideration of funding.  One big question:  are these broadcasters getting their fair share from the public trough?

No-one at Point of Order is putting money on the review resulting in a reduction in public funding.

Here’s what we learned from the Beehive website over the past  week.

14 OCTOBER 2018

New plan to address teacher shortage

Education Minister Chris Hipkins announced the Government is ramping up efforts to attract more than 850 additional teachers to meet an expected shortfall next year. The initiative involves an extra $10.5m in funding, involving up to 230 grants of $10,000 for schools to get more graduate teachers into classrooms. Over 6,000 overseas-based teachers will be targeted and $5m more will be available for overseas relocation grants and finder’s fees. There will be easier access to up to $3,000 per teacher for a finder’s fee to help schools offset recruitment costs.

The Government’s commitment of an extra $10.5m is on top of the $29.5m already announced since late last year and will bring funding to $40m this year to fill vacancies.

15 OCTOBER 2018

2019 China-New Zealand Year of Tourism opening ceremony

Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis announced the official 2019 China-New Zealand Year of Tourism opening ceremony will be held at Te Papa on 20 February 2019, with a special event at Te Papa. This coincides with the hosting of 2,300-year-old Chinese artefacts as a part of the Terracotta Warriors: Guardians of Immortality exhibition.

Projections show the 450,000 Chinese people visiting NZ in the year to June 2018 will have increased to 800,000 visitors a year by 2024.

We are left to conjecture on the amount of public funding that will be diverted to this initiative.

More information about the 2019 China-New Zealand Year of Tourism, including planned events and ways to get involved, can be found HERE.

16 OCTOBER 2018

Future-focused review of Māori media sector

Māori Development Minister Nanaia Mahuta announced she has asked Te Puni Kōkiri to undertake a policy review of the Māori broadcasting sector, to ensure that Māori broadcasting entities and organisations are responsive to the changing digital media environment. The review will consider options on the funding, delivery, retention and access to te reo and tikanga Māori programming content, and alignment to Public Broadcasting.

As publicly funded Māori broadcasting entities, the groups included in the assessment will be Te Māngai Pāho, the Māori Television Service and the  Māori Radio Network and its 21 iwi radio stations.

17 OCTOBER 2018

Pest control system wins spatial excellence award

Land Information Minister Eugenie Sage announced Ethos Environmental had taken out the Supreme Award at the New Zealand Spatial Excellence Awards in Wellington for its use of location-based data to help control pest infestations on Great Barrier Island.

The awards are a joint initiative by Land Information New Zealand, Survey and Spatial New Zealand and Spatial Industries Business Association but the press statement did not disclose the sum of public funding involved.

“The awards celebrate the often unrecognised work being done to keep our economy going, help rebuild after disasters, and prepare us for the future,” Sage said. The full list of winners can be found in her press statement HERE

17 OCTOBER 2018

Next steps for bloodstock investment

Racing Minister Winston Peters announced the next steps to promote new investment in the horse bloodstock industry. Cabinet has approved the final design of the bloodstock rules which were first signalled in Budget 2018.

Investors new to bloodstock breeding will be able to claim tax deductions for the cost of horses, even if they don’t own an existing horse breeding business. The Government expects this will encourage new entrants as the industry becomes more financially attractive.

The amendments will be introduced via a Supplementary Order Paper to the Taxation (Annual Rates for 2018-19, Modernising Tax Administration, and Remedial Matters) Bill which is being considered by a Parliamentary select committee.

The legislation, to be enacted early next year, will have a retrospective start date of 1 January 2019 and will apply retrospectively to yearlings acquired at the New Zealand National Yearling sales series at Karaka in January.

17 OCTOBER 2018

$245,000 for Great Lake Trail

 Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis announced a new 15 kilometre extension to the Great Lake Trail, to improve safety for cyclists and help promote Taupō as a cycling destination.

The Government has committed $245,000 from the Ngā Haerenga, New Zealand Cycle Trail: Enhancement and Extension Fund for the Otaketake Link, which will branch off the K2K Track, between Kawakawa Bay and Kinloch, and run to the start of the Orakau Track.

Davis said almost 18,000 riders are expected to use the new track in the first year alone, bringing in an additional $1m in visitor spending to the region.

17 OCTOBER 2018

Stardom beckons for young performers as Showquest continues

Education Minister Chris Hipkins announced more young stars are set to be discovered as a series of popular performing arts shows for young people is rolled out for another year.  RockQuest Promotions was selected by the Ministry of Education to run Showquest earlier this year after the organisers of Stage Challenge indicated they could no longer put on the event due to falling sponsorship revenue. After a successful run of shows and positive feedback from participants this year, RockQuest Promotions Ltd has been asked to organise the event for 2019. More information can be found HERE. 

No mention was made of how much public funding is involved.

17 OCTOBER 2018

Enhanced air ambulance service for the South

Health Minister David Clark announced the third and final agreement in principle has been reached for new air ambulance services that will be (what else?) “safer, better and firmly focused on patients”.

The southern region agreement has been signed with a new provider, Helicopter Emergency Medical Services New Zealand Limited (HEMS). This follows earlier announcements covering the northern and central regions.

HEMS,  a joint venture between well-established Helicopters Otago and GCH Aviation (Christchurch), will be supported by existing trusts and funds raised by each trust will continue to support services in their area.

The providers will buy two new helicopters during 2019 to give clinical staff more room to provide vital patient care on board. All existing bases in the South Island will remain.

The public costs were not mentioned.

18 OCTOBER 2018

862 new police officers into the frontline

Police Minister Stuart Nash said the graduation of another 78 officers from the Royal New Zealand Police College brings the total number of new police who have graduated since the Government was formed to 862.

The Government has committed $300m in new operating funding and $18m in capital funding to strive for 1800 extra police officers and 485 new support staff.

19 OCTOBER 2018

No ceiling on recycling opportunity

Environment Minister Eugenie Sage announced Auckland-based business Asona is getting $185,000 from the Waste Minimisation Fund to help develop a recycling system for acoustic ceiling panels. The grant will help Asona reduce an estimated 350 tonnes of ceiling panels going into landfills per year.

Asona recently designed and invested in a portable production system that can resurface used ceiling panels on construction sites, reducing waste, transport emissions and construction time.

The Waste Minimisation Fund provides financial support to projects that promote or achieve waste minimisation. The levy on landfills generates its revenue.  More information can be found HERE.

19 OCTOBER 2018

PGF invests to build economic development capability in the provinces

Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Regional Economic Development Fletcher Tabuteau announced the Provincial Growth Fund will invest $985,000 over three years to help Economic Development New Zealand build the expertise of economic development agencies in New Zealand’s regions.  The money is intended to enable the EDNZ to roll out a comprehensive professional development programme and suite of best-practice resources for EDAs. The PGF Guide, Sector Statements, detailed Investment Statement and Cabinet paper can be found HERE.

19 OCTOBER 2018

More beds, upgraded facilities for North Shore and Whangarei hospitals

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced more patients will receive the surgery they need through a $224m funding boost to North Shore and Whangarei Hospitals.

The investment will provide 120 additional elective surgery beds and four new operating theatres for North Shore Hospital, new endoscopy and cardiac care facilities for Whangarei Hospital .

The Government will invest more than $200m in a new elective surgery unit at North Shore Hospital and $24m in new endoscopy and cardiac care capacity at Whangarei Hospital.   Ardern said the government set aside a record $750m in this year’s Budget as a first step to rebuilding New Zealand’s hospitals.

An update on capital investments from Budget 2018 was included in the press statement:

  • $275m for Auckland DHB to address significant infrastructure challenges at Auckland City Hospital and Greenlane Clinical Centre
  • $8m for Individualised Service Units at Capital and Coast DHB for our most high needs intellectual disability and mental health patients.
  •  $200m for a new elective surgery unit at Waitematā’s North Shore Hospital
  • $24m for new endoscopy and cardiac care capacity at Northland’s Whangarei Hospital

19 OCTOBER 2018

Pacific Aotearoa website launched

Pacific Peoples Minister Aupito William Sio announced the launch of a Pacific Aotearoa website  ahead of the Pacific Vision summit next month. Pacific Aotearoa places the aspirations of Pacific peoples at the heart of thinking and decision-making, he said. It also captures the challenges and creative solutions our communities have determined as being vital to lift our general wellbeing.

The Pacific Vision Summit is being held at Eden Park Stadium in Auckland on 13 November and will be live-streamed at


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