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Charities Commission Should Deregister Sock Puppet Group Lying About Benefits Of EV Subsidies

The Taxpayers’ Union is raising the alarm about greenwashing by the Better NZ Trust – a taxpayer-funded charity – to promote the interests of the EV industry. The Trust is running a deceptive six-figure campaign across social media and billboards claiming – falsely – that the removal of EV subsidies will ‘increase’ New Zealand’s emissions and harm the climate, despite knowing full well that vehicle emissions are covered by the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).

Taxpayers’ Union spokesman, Jordan Williams, said:

“We first became aware of this group by coming across the deceptive advertising. But looking into the Trust further, we see that the founder is none other than the Steve West who is also the founder, director and shareholder of ChargeNet NZ – a private company that has received more than $7 million in corporate welfare from Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) to subsidise their commercially operated charging stations.”

“Far from being a ‘charity’ in the philanthropic sense, this trust looks to play a sock puppet role for corporate interests cloaked in greenwashing and taxpayer funding. Their campaign is trading on the public’s lack of understanding of the ETS to smear political parties whose policies affect their commercial interests.”

“The Trust’s ads claim that the Clean Car Discount ‘helps fight climate change’, when (at best) electric cars simply shift emissions from transport and allow for cheaper emissions elsewhere under the fixed cap ETS. ETS denial is worse than climate denial – it makes it harder for New Zealand to reach its emission targets.”

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“EECA’s funding has been to cover costs of roadshows and list building, used by the Trust to lobby for subsidies for industry and more money for EECA! According to the Meta Ad Library, the misleading campaign has reached more than two million New Zealanders on Facebook alone. They have publicly stated that they intend to spend $100,000 during this election campaign.”

“The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is clear that ‘if a cap-and-trade system has a sufficiently stringent cap then other policies such as renewable subsidies have no further impact on total GHG emissions’. National and ACT are following this advice when committing to scrap the clean car discount and allowing the ETS to function. This self-described ‘Better NZ’ trust is trying to undermine this with disinformation which actually serves to make climate change mitigation more expensive.”

“It’s time for the Charities Commission to step in. Charities law requires charities to educate and advocate in a 'relatively objective and balanced way'. Here a charity is spending up large on a political campaign that is dishonest and harms the climate change effort in a commercially beneficial way to its funders. They can dress it in as much greenwashing language as they like, but the Charities Commission cannot let it stand.

“EECA also has some explaining to do. How are they allowing an organisation which lists EECA as its primary sponsor to not only play politics with taxpayer money but do so in the most disreputable way? This EECA-funded trust is misleading New Zealanders in the very area EECA are supposed to be experts on.”

An example of the deceptive political advertisements can be seen here. 

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