While hardworking New Zealanders go about their day-to-day lives, struggling to pay the bills, those weaker souls, many of whom have lost faith, gamble away their milk money at Sky City Casino. Criminals launder their criminal proceeds in the cozy confines, while the house flips a buck or two to the local politicians and bureaucrats.

Few take notice or care to know. Collective apathy is no secret in Middle earth.

Last week, Transparency International New Zealand gave a speech at NZ Treasury where they recorded New Zealanders have “incredible complacency” regarding actual corruption.

penny bright photoThe speech by TINZ director Suzanne Snively requested attendees – almost all government employees – “post the ‘corruption perception index’ (which rates ‘perceived’ corruption in New Zealand low) in your kitchens and staff rooms”. The perception index, partially funded by the Office of the Auditor General, who also partnered with TINZ in conducting the survey, rated the Office of the Auditor General the “pillar” in New Zealand with the highest integrity.

Meanwhile, in the real world, watchdog Penny Bright is increasingly providing actual anecdotes of corruption, adding “you can’t make this shit up”. She recently initiated a petition to Parliament seeking an urgent inquiry into why Auditor-General Lyn Provost did not disclose she was a shareholder in Sky City while refusing to conduct an investigation into law enforcement failures leading to the increased risk of money-laundering at Sky City.

Not long ago, the public largely did not want to believe Ms Bright’s message and the corrupt bureaucracy considered her shoestring advocacy for honest governance was best avoided. Auckland Council looked away from her very public refusal to pay her property rates for years, not wishing to allow her a platform to trumpet her refusal rested on the Council’s refusal to reveal where the ratepayers money was being spent (the Council refused on grounds the expenditures are commercially sensitive).

Last year, Ms Bright ran for mayor of Auckland on an anti-corruption platform and garnered 12,000 votes despite her campaign spending less than some politicians carry in their pocket – under $4,000. After 20 years of doggedly pulling skeletons out of unnoticed closets, this tall poppy now needed clipping in the uniquely New Zealand style.

Did you know this woman who exposed the Office of the Auditor General covering up a 4 million dollar discrepancy in the Auckland Council annual report is a nutter? You must realise this woman who helped expose the current mayor for taking comp rooms from Sky City to comfort his mistress and laundering campaign money through a trust is only refusing to pay her rates to make every other ratepayer pick up the slack? Do you not realise that everything she does is all about her?

If this propaganda campaign is working, shame on the media for allowing it and shame on all New Zealanders for not demanding better.

The issues Ms Bright has been raising for years have never been discounted on the merits. This woman truly does her homework.

Last month Ms Bright was in court over unpaid water bills to the defunct Auckland City Council organisation Metro Water Limited. High paid lawyers for Watercare Services Limited filed an affidavit claiming to be the judgment creditor, neglecting to provide the judgment the dearly-departed Metro Water Limited had obtained. Watercare also requested the court ignore its application was out of time. After a two-step and a dosey doe, the judge was left to ponder how many appearances to schedule.

Damn those tall poppies who clog up the wheels of progress and efficiency.

Meanwhile, back at Sky City, business is good. Perhaps, just perhaps, the Sky can pay Ms Bright’s rates bill to keep her out of court. At roughly $29,000 for back rates, penalties and legal costs, few gambles taken to keep up the perception of low corruption are a safer bet.