June 22, 2017 Print

North Korean soldiers. Credit: Flight Video and Photo / Shutterstock.com

The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union (NZTU), a Wellington-based Atlas Network partner, has stopped taxpayer funds from going to the authoritarian regime in North Korea.

The current government of New Zealand, elected in 2008, has claimed that there was not any money — including taxpayers’ money — flowing into North Korea. But this has not been the case. Through work scrutinizing government spending, the Taxpayers’ Union uncovered that funds did indeed flow from New Zealand to North Korea through the “Embassy Fund for North Korea.” Despite claims to the contrary, money flowed to North Korea until as recently as 2016. The silver bullet was in an exposé that uncovered the funding program run by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Through countless efforts to dig up information amidst government denial, the NZTU exposed this operation. About $30,000 NZD a year in aid money “officially” went to fund projects such as the “NZ Friendship Farm” which included money to purchase tractor-trailers. However, the NZ Friendship Farm and the tractors do not belong to the people, and are within the complete and total control of North Korea’s dictator.

According to the New Zealand government, this program was ultimately suspended in 2016 after North Korea continued to ramp up its missile delivery efforts. But it was really the work of the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union that made the difference.

“This story, and our success in getting the government to stop the funding, shows the value of taxpayer organizations asking the questions, and shining the light on government spending,” said Jordan Williams, CEO and co-founder of the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union. “This isn’t the largest win we’ve had in terms of the amount, but it is illustrative of how bad spending decisions of the state can be when they are not scrutinized by the public.”