Financial statements reveal The Opportunities Party continues to attract donations but needs more to put up a real fight in the 2020 election

Financial statements reveal The Opportunities Party continues to attract donations but needs more to put up a real fight in the 2020 election

The Opportunities Party (TOP) is keeping its head above water – just – without founder Gareth Morgan bankrolling it.

Its financial statements, released ahead of its AGM on August 10, show it reported a deficit of $5,389 in the six months to June.

Yet adding funds accumulated the previous year to the mix, TOP’s total accumulated funds were $33,469.

Leader Geoff Simmons acknowledged the party didn’t at this stage have enough money to mount a strong campaign going in to the 2020 election, but was continuing to talk to party members and other potential funders.   

TOP received $50,640 in donations in the first half of the 2019 calendar year, and $65,757 in 2018 – excluding a $50,000 donation made by Morgan and later returned to essentially get him out of the party’s affairs.  

TOP received $2.36 million in donations in 2017 – at least $2.14 million of which was from Morgan.

A messy year

Morgan in July 2018 called the party off, then about a week later said he’d fund a successor, who would be “personally liable” if they didn’t implement all his policies.

Simmons was in August named Leader – a title affirmed in December after he won an official leadership election.

While Morgan remained the chair of TOP’s policy committee, he in March this year said “bugger that” to politics and left the party altogether.

With party members, including Simmons, rejecting Morgan’s top-down approach, the divorce ended up messy.

Morgan continued to lob insults at TOP while travelling abroad, as the party contended with internal politics.

Board member Donna Pokere-Phillips in May sent members an email, saying: “I am constantly concerned we will struggle to pay our monthly outgoings, the greater part of which was going to pay the General Manager/ leadership role.”

Simmons responded saying the board had agreed to pay the leader a salary of about $60,000 a year – funds he needed for it to be viable for him to do the job.

Indeed, Simmons was paid just over $26,000 in the six months to June.

The future: evidence-based policy with heart

Speaking to interest.co.nz he said TOP was re-focussing and “setting forward a new path” that would be distinct from the party seen in the 2017 election.

Simmons said TOP’s policy offering would remain, but the messaging would be simplified.

He was of the view the party should not only be an intellectual one, where members talk from their "minds", but they were also encouraged to talk from their "hearts".

Asked how this approach fitted with TOP’s “evidence-based policy” tagline, Simmons said: “You can’t really ever claim to just have agnostic evidence based policy.”

He said TOP has always had values, they just weren’t explicit.

Simmons wouldn’t give away, ahead of the AGM, the policy areas the party would focus on going in to the election.

Asked whether radical tax reform (IE the introduction of an equity tax and universal base income) would remain its signature policy, despite there proving to be little political and public appetite for change, Simmons indicated he’d focus his campaign on housing affordability in acknowledgement that tax plays an important role in this.

“Tax doesn’t’ really resonate with voters, but housing affordability does,” he said.

In the short-term Simmons’ goal was to get the party polling back where it was ahead of the 2017 election where it received 2.4% of the vote.

He remained open-minded to working with either Labour or National.

He made the comment that doing a deal with a major party to get an electorate seat, like Act has done, was a “path to irrelevance” even though United Future’s Peter Dunne had a good run in the Ohariu seat.

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Circling the drain.

I can tell from the quotes in this article that TOP intends to be even less open and honest about its radical tax policy going forward. Pretty shrewd actually - the worst thing that could possibly happen to TOP is for prospective voters to be made aware that they propose to tax their assets on an ongoing basis based on the value of those assets.

Tax policy is very clear.
"The current tax regime favours owners of capital and unjustly burdens wage earners. This is not only inequitable, it results in poor utilisation of capital and lower than necessary income and employment".

"...this is why old dears will need to take out reverse mortgages with the IRD to pay the tax on the imputed income we think they're earning by owning their own home."

Message to the Gnats : hey guys , its MMP ! ... you need to build some bridges to minor parties , Simon ...

.... the key mistake of your predecessors was to think they could garner above 50% of the electorates support ...

TOP that , team !

National is closer to Labour than TOP. TOP’s flagship policy is a wealth tax, which is like CGT on steroids. Labour (or Ardern at least) no longer even supports CGT. And on environmental and social issues, TOP is indistinguishable from the Greens (other than gene editing policy), so National is equally unlikely to partner with either of them.

I would rather see National finance the Mcgillicuddies as a satellite party than go into partnership with TOP.

TOP is a great party and to me is the Greens but with their economics actually thought out. Plus they had a sensible approach to migration. It won't get in, but creates a certain gravity and will drag the other parties slightly towards some of their ideas. And i think it could go better without Gareth. While Gareth had a certain grudging charisma, there's plenty of room for someone with charisma but also who wants to be there to take the party forward.

TOP was a total shambles with Green-Party levels of economist-driven "We're here to save the world and we know best" sanctimony. Nothing more, but very likely much much less.

I voted for TOP ..

When Gareth Morgan was running the show they had their policies down like the 10 commandments. Their demands were clear; meaningful reform around tax, assets, environment, cannabis ..

Hold up .. maybe TOP just had too many policies, it all got a bit much. On the positive side it gave TOP a great ethos. TOP should stick to between 3-5 policy demands:

- Making Housing Great Again / Land Tax Reform
- Infrastructure / Water (Drinking & Water Ways)
- UBI (temporary) for people between jobs

Fledgling political parties should keep in mind, nobody wants to financially back a loser. Stick to the policies which benefit that HUGE, untapped constituency called "RENTERS". TOP needs to use economic-&-financial policy to improve social-outcomes - NOT the other way round.

Just because members of TOP support any given stance, that doesn't mean it has to be made policy, or even noted. That's not to say TOP shouldn't be getting media exposure by exposing the poor policies of others. Put up a fight, get the backing!

I at least applaud Simmons for understanding that you cannot claim evidence-based policy without first starting with what values they come from. The term evidence-based is meaningless, because it doesn't answer what end-goal the evidence is supporting. As such, they ended up with a bunch of random policies with no clear vision of what they wanted for the country. This really is populism in its truest form.
The problem with this reset however is that Simmons isn't starting again from the values, he is just going to keep the random policies, and work backwards by making the values align with the policies. We all know this whole thing started with Morgan's Big Kahuna tax policy. Trying to pretend that TOP has always had values is laughable.
And I agree with Due Diligence, Simmons is going to use "housing affordability" as a tagline to hide their radical tax policy. They tried their best last time to hide it by calling it anything but a wealth tax. This time it looks like they will go even further to hide their true intentions. This is a one-policy populist party.

I joined up to TOP and intend to stay so. I simply can't see in any other party the policies that are needed to get us through. Yes, there is tinkering around the edges from other parties, but this will not resolve what are fundamental difficulties with our current situation and the gross inequities we now have will just get worse. Sadly, our population in general votes for personal gain rather than the general good. Good policy that will make the changes we so need as a country is not necessarily popular policy.