Taxpayers’ Union expands

The Taxpayers’ Union announced:

The Former Mayor of the Queenstown Lakes District, Vanessa van Uden, and Wellington academic and businessman, Sashi Meanger, have been appointed Board Members of the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union. Founding member and long-serving board member Gabrielle O’Brien has now stepped down.

Chairman of the Taxpayers’ Union, John Bishop says, “Sashi has had a number of senior roles in not for profit and small businesses, in addition to his roles at Victoria University of Wellington and the New Zealand Film School where he is currently the Executive Director. He has been an active member of the Taxpayers’ Union behind the scenes for some time, so we welcome his stepping up to the role as Director.”

“Vanessa has proven that fiscal prudence is possible in the local government sector, even for regions experiencing considerable growth. Shining more light on the spending decisions in local government is a major strategic objective of the organisation. Vanessa was elected for two terms as the Queenstown Mayor on platforms of bringing Council spending under control with a focus on core services. We welcome Vanessa aboard and look forward to working with her,” says Mr Bishop.

Mr Meanger says, “I have followed the progress of the Taxpayers’ Union from its infancy and seen it grow into a loud voice for taxpayers. Every dollar of public spending is a dollar that a hard-working Kiwi earned. The Taxpayers’ Union balances the debate against the hundreds of organisations and special interests arguing for more government spending on their pet causes.”

I’m delighted that Vanessa and Sashi have joined the board as we enter a growth phase. This Southland Times profile of Vanessa is enlightening:

If you look at the floor as you walk into the office of outgoing Queenstown Lakes District Mayor Vanessa van Uden you might notice the carpet is different from the rest of the building.

She was new to the office in 2010 when she was advised carpet was being laid.

“I said ‘there’s nothing wrong with this carpet’, van Uden says.

“They said ‘but we’ve got the money to do it’.  I said: ‘Use it on something else’.”

It is symbolic of the pride she takes in her frugal approach.

We need more Mayors like Vanessa.

As she prepares to hand over the mayoral chains following six years in the job she says she achieved her financial goals by working on a zero-based budgeting model – trying to achieve efficiency in services, without cutting them.

Council vehicles, phones and legal fees were targeted. Staff muffins for morning tea and council lunches at 12.30pm before a 1pm meeting disappeared from the budget.

“This is other people’s money that we are spending,” she says. “It is incumbent on us to say ‘Is it fair reasonable and what we should do with other people’s money?’ because we don’t give them any choice about taking it off them.”

A good attitude. Taxpayers and ratepayers get no choice in how much tax and rates they pay, so those who spend on their behalf should always be restrained in their spending.

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