This week at the Taxpayers’ Union has been filled with yet more media buzz surrounding government waste. One of the key roles of the Taxpayers’ Union is to reveal misuse of Taxpayer, or ratepayer, funds by government and local council. These are predominately uncovered through the use of Official Information Requests under either the Official Information Act (“OIA”) or the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act (“LGOIMA”).
Although not discovered by a Taxpayers’ Union OIA, we were astounded to learn of the following story. The Ministry of Justice spent $23,000 of taxpayer funds on a video of its senior leadership team lip-syncing to a Justin Timberlake song. Radio New Zealand uncovered that the Ministry had employed a professional video production company to produce the video whilst on a leadership conference.
The Official Information Act allows for certain information to be withheld for reasons of privacy. Under the relevant privacy clause, the radio station was not able to obtain a copy of the video. This week we have been exploring any avenues to get our hands on a copy of the video for a media release. Despite our perseverance, the Ministry is insistent on not releasing the video and putting a lid on what they may now realise, was an obscene waste of taxpayer funds.
My work this week continues with sending out new OIA’s and LGOIMA’s to various local counsels and Government departments. As the responses arrive back I am an intrigued to see what other embarrassing wastes of ratepayer money I can discover.
On the weekend my boss took me and three other friends of his to a station in the Wairarapa region, located closest to the town of White Rock. Although the station is not viable due to its mountainous terrain, it made for fantastic hiking, or ‘tramping’ as they call it here. From the highest point on the station, you are able to see the waves breaking on the coast 25KM away. I really enjoyed the weekend away, amongst the fresh air and warmer climate. It was great to get a chance to experience what a station in New Zealand is like, not surprisingly, the station was quite different to any stations I have visited in Australia.
I am looking forward to making the most of the coming long weekend by driving up the coast to Taupo and Tauranga with my housemates.