$80k of taxpayer money spent on a report that was never written

Drive 19/07/2018

An investigation has revealed a report commissioned by former Prime Minister Bill English on how to solve the problem of taxing water for export, was never actually written despite $80,000 in taxpayer money being spent on it.

The last Government, facing pressure from protesters, had asked for a group of independent technical experts for advice on water bottling and what they could charge exporters.

Consultants were being paid more than $500-a-day for their time, according to Stuff.

The Water & Nutrient Allocation Technical Advisory Committee was chaired by David Caygill, a former finance and health minister.

Mr Caygill told RadioLIVE Drive that the group was setup to provide advice to officials about water allocation.

“The question of whether water that is exported for bottling, or bottled and then exported, should be taxed was just a very specific issue that arose along the way.

“And when we were setup, we were told you won’t be expected to produce a report yourselves, as if you were independent, you’re here to work with officials, give them the benefit of your experience and advice – they’ll be reporting to ministers,” Mr Caygill told RadioLIVE.

Mr Caygill told RadioLIVE Drive that it wasn’t the sort of exercise where the committee was reaching conclusions at every meeting.

Taxpayers’ money was spent on:

  • Almost $50,000 on day fees (at $500-a-day)
  • $7,213 in expenses
  • Flights costing $24,532

Mr Caygill says the group last met in early August last year, and met six to 12 times. The bottling issue was discussed at just one meeting.

Asked what the group actually achieved, Mr Caygill said: “Well, to be frank, I’m not sure that answer to that is all that much.”

In the group’s 18-month existence, no report was ever handed to Parliament.

Listen to the full interview with David Caygill above.

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