The New Zealand Initiative, who we have on the programme on an increasingly regular basis, might have done some of its best work yet.

Ironically, they do perhaps what the media should be doing more of. If you missed our interview on Friday, under the Official Information Act, they have got hold of papers that show the Ministry of Health has been (a) doing work on the sugar tax and its effectiveness and (b) looking at other work that's already been done.

This is the advice that goes to the Minister. And why this is important is the sugar tax debate, as most of us have suspected, has been hijacked by the zealots.

The research done is shonky and loaded. The research carried out by the ministry, who we can still presumably trust to be unbiased, is highly sceptical as to whether any tax would ever work.


This, hopefully, can once and for all put the subject to bed. It won't, of course, but at least next time the academics and the cloistered fanatics spring forth with another burst of tax PR, we have papers that show they are making it up.

I'd like to suggest we can probably come to the same conclusion around the myth of public transport being the answer to congestion.

The trains are on strike at the moment, the buses are threatening to go on strike. And even when they're not, they don't supply, have never supplied and will most likely never supply the sort of service we want.

If petrol gets to $3 a litre it'll change. But until then, we love our cars, we have more cars per head of population than most places in the world and that isn't changing.

It's an ideological battle, the exact same way the sugar tax is. Obesity and diabetes is solved through diet and exercise, that's an indisputable truth. But very few do it. So they look for a new angle - doesn't matter that the angle doesn't work - it keeps them busy and in grant money, peddling an idea.

The same way the public transport lobby preach the myth that bike lanes and bus lanes, and less and less bitumen for cars, is the answer to getting to work.

What's gone wrong in these debates is the dishonesty. Nothing wrong in new ideas, different approaches, nothing even wrong in the passionate preaching their particular form of wisdom.

But it has to be fact-based and honest and too often these days and the New Zealand initiative work on the sugar tax shows it.


If you can't win on fact, you start to gild the lily, twist the stats and bend the truth. And if you're not busted, we then run the risk of implementing things that cost a fortune for no return - all because a small clique got obsessed and lost sight of reality and the truth.