Show me the money: keep it simple….

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New Zealand needs more disposable income. New Zealand currently doesn’t have enough money to realistically fund basic social services of health, mental health, education, housing, infrastructure, superannuation – you name it,  it’s underfunded. We need a simple $200. a person per annum visitor contribution.

We have the strangest economic ideas in New Zealand – we ensure that many people are paid so little by commercial and corporate entities that “we the people” through our state funds have to top up their basic living costs. Call it by its real name – it’s corporate welfare with corporate beneficiaries. We have a system of “accomodation supplements” – that goes directly to non-state rental property owners while rentals soar to unaffordable.

Trendy community groups and “social business” provide school lunches. The demand for food parcels from the “working poor” keeps rising. We have charities collecting and distributing children’s used pyjamas, shoes and raincoats. We have school-age girls unable to afford the contemporary luxury of sanitary products – a supermarket chain has a sanitary product donation scheme. Many cannot afford to visit a doctor or a dentist. And, in the “land of milk and honey” we have increasing numbers of people who are “homeless” while we sell off tranches of traditional social housing. The young are burdened by the lingering cost of tertiary education “the student loan” and home ownership is increasingly unaffordable. How are we going to resolve the human and community issues?

It’s election year – yes come September 2017 we New Zealanders will be faced with that repetitive challenge of political choice. These days it’s not so much a matter of choice they’re all a funny shade of purple with imperceptible ripples of green and black. Let the circus begin because it’s also stupid ideas time.

Instead of looking for the simplest and most straight forward ways to increase our collective disposable income, ideas are being put about that could have been written by the Monty Python team – it would be screamingly funny if it wasn’t our lives, the lives of our children and our future they’re influencing.

It’s been suggested that GST spent by “visitors/tourists” in a region be returned to that region. That a region from which a resource is derived should be “paid back” a percentage of the value of that resource. That we try to “get back” from visitors to New Zealand any benefit they receive from our Accident Compensation Scheme. That we pay for infrastructure with more “tolling”. That we have localised “bed taxes”, that we prosecute, fine and punish tourists who crap in the bush (because we don’t provide adequate toilet, washing and rubbish facilities for visitors). That we progressively raise the age of superannuation entitlement because superannuation is a financial burden we can’t afford. That we sell off state-owned “social housing to overseas corporates and my favourites that the Department of Conservation’s tourism activities should be privatised while Landcorp is already selling off state-owned farms.

Our current National Party government does not support the development of a “visitor tax” – a fee that every visitor entering New Zealand would pay. In reality it’s not a visitor “tax” it’s a visitor “contribution” to maintain the integrity of the “pure” and “wonderful” and “friendly” and “breathtaking” asset the world wants to visit. It’s really too simple. The last figure I have for visitor/tourist numbers to New Zealand is 3.5million – in fact there are complaints we as a country are suffering from too many tourists and visitors.

3.5 million x $200. is a lot of money – it’s better money than selling off state houses, state owned agricultural land, trying to take legal action from accident affected visiting individuals and it beats toll roads, bed taxes and trying to work out who was a “tourist” so the GST can be returned to some territorial authority.

I used the traditional “housekeeping formula” to apportion the $200. – $20. to general health, $20. to mental health, $20 to Accident Compensation, $20 to New Zealand’s superannuation fund, $20. to redevelop social housing, $10 for the creative sector, $10. to infrastructure costs, $10 to re-establish rail, $20. to the Department of Conservation, $20 to education $20 to tertiary education and $10 to Auckland to try to resolve the transport shit-hole it has been allowed to become.

Visitors would be required to pay a once a year $200. per person visitor contribution at the time they purchased their travel ticket to New Zealand – the computer programme would direct the $200. straight to the pre-determined individual New Zealand state accounts so no government could decide to hold onto bulk money collected and use it to buy gold-plated tanks or platinum coated helicopters. We’re talking about sending people to Mars – this system should be a piece of cake.

Am I alone in thinking that keeping it simple stupid is the best approach – no I hear the lonely, little voice of some South Island, West Coast Mayor on National Radio saying the same thing. But I also hear others of our leaders putting forward complicated formulas and barmy suggestions in the name of power rather than the benefit of the country and the community.

Do I think we’ll establish a visitor contribution – probably not – we’ll sell all the social housing and state-owned agricultural land, increase the accommodation supplement, put more people in privately owned motel accommodation, set up tent hospitals in the regions, tie lunatics to their beds (or trees which could be cheaper) build more prisons, send children up chimneys, develop an army of regional bureaucrats to determine whether or not you’re a GST refundable visitor and spend megabucks on the All Blacks, the America’s Cup or another flag.

Rosemary Balu. Rosemary Balu is the founding and current editor of ARTbop. Rosemary has arts and law degrees from the University of Auckland. She has been a working lawyer and has participated in a wide variety of community activities where information gathering, submission writing, community advocacy and education have been involved. Interested in all forms of the arts since childhood Rosemary is focused on further developing and expanding multi-media ARTbop as the magazine for all the creative arts in the Bay of Plenty, New Zealand.

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