Rotorua, a New Zealand town renowned for its Maori culture and geothermal activity recently planned to spend NZ $90,000 of taxpayer dollars to import five tons of mud from South Korea to be used in its “Mudtopia” festival. However, it has since backed down after an intense public backlash, spurred by New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union, which had awarded the mayor a “Supreme Achievement Award” in wasting taxpayer dollars.
“What made this example of waste so attractive from a campaign perspective was that every New Zealander could relate to it – and how silly it was,” said Jordan Williams, executive director of the Taxpayers’ Union. “Rotorua is the volcanic capital of New Zealand, iconic for its geysers and bubbling volcanic mud pools. The idea of importing mud is like Saudi Arabia importing sand. Total madness.”
Watch “Porky the Waste-hater,” the Taxpayers’ Union mascot, deliver the award to the mayor’s office.
The Taxpayers’ Union’s awarding of the Supreme Achievement Award for Rotorua’s exceptional feat of imagination in wasting public money made an otherwise local issue of a municipal government choosing to import foreign mud for a festival designed to showcase local mud into a national news story.
“So, from our perspective, although the amount is tiny in the grand scheme of government, it was extremely useful in reminding New Zealanders of our key premise – that citizens are better at spending their own money than politicians and bureaucrats,” Williams continued.
This recent success buttresses the Taxpayers’ Union’s larger mission of advocating on behalf of taxpaying Kiwis: “About 50 percent of our work is on our #WasteWatch campaign,” explained Williams. “Its goal is to edge the political center toward fiscal conservatism by regularly showing the public how government continues to waste their money – that they cannot be trusted with more.”
The Taxpayers’ Union is enjoying success after success – commensurate with its growing profile and list of victories on behalf of none other than the taxpayers of New Zealand.
“Highlighting this silly spend … shone the light on a provincial council, and had every other Council thinking ‘we don’t want the Taxpayers’ Union turning up on our doorstep for something this silly,’” Williams continued. “Good – that is the goal: reminding officialdom that someone is watching over their shoulder.”
The Taxpayers’ Union’s reputation has also gotten government officials thinking about the consequences of their fiscal decisions, even leading to some exercising restraint prior to considering questionable public spending.
“This year we have seen examples where officials or Ministers have referred to potential criticism by the Taxpayers’ Union as a reason for turning down requests by officials to spend money in particular areas,” Williams concluded.