New Zealand Labour Party

Costly flag referendum should be dumped

John Key must ditch the flag referendum before any more taxpayer money is wasted, Opposition Leader Andrew Little says.

“Millions of dollars could be saved if the Prime Minister called a halt to this hugely expensive, and highly unpopular, vanity project.

“John Key could save the country more than $17 million – money that could be spent insulating 8000 New Zealand homes, employing hundreds of extra nurses or providing breakfast for 25,000 school kids for four years.

“Extraordinary sums are being spent on it at a time when the country is facing economic headwinds and households are struggling.

“Just over 700 people turned up to public meetings that cost $208,500 for venues and a further $200,000 for the panel members’ fees to be there. That’s $550 for each of the 739 members of the public who attended.

“Add in the advertising and taxpayers paid over $2,000 for each person who showed up to the flag meetings.

“A similar amount - $200,000 - was spent to have panel members at those meetings.

“Of the 1.6 million postcards sent to New Zealand homes, only 15,000 were returned, costing the taxpayer $93 each.

“The Government has wasted millions of dollars on this vanity project.

“New Zealanders don’t care about changing the flag right now – it’s the wrong time and Kiwis understand it’s simply a distraction at a time when so many more important issues are facing the country.

“Wasteful spending has become part and parcel of this Government. They’re kitting out Government departments with extravagant extras; paying over-the-top executive salaries and running roadshows and websites on an issue Kiwis don’t care about.

“We need to stop the flag referendum now. It’s the right thing to do,” Andrew Little says.