More than $1 million splashed on New Zealand anti-money laundering billboards

Global advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi and Starcom were called in to procure the campaign. Photo credit: Getty

The Government has spent $1.083 million on its anti-money laundering campaign 'Keep Our Money Clean'.

Global advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi and Starcom were called in to procure the campaign, which aims to raise public awareness of legislative changes to the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism Act, and to help businesses such as lawyers, accountants and real estate agents educate their customer base about the new obligations.

The law changes put in place measures to protect businesses and make it harder for criminals to profit from and fund illegal activity.

money laundering campaign costs
Photo credit: Newshub.

But ACT leader David Seymour told Newshub it's a complete waste of taxpayers' money.

"This Saatchi & Saatchi campaign from the Government is a good example of why you might be sceptical about politicians spending taxpayers' money. When you're spending someone else's money on someone else's project, you don't care how much you spend and you don't care what results you get. This is textbook 101 Government waste.

In the 2018/19 financial year $87,699.62 has been spent so far on buying advertising for the campaign. Mr Seymour says it's not working.

"A smarter approach would've been to finalise the details of the [anti-money laundering] laws earlier. In reality, real estate agents only found out about the detail in November or December. They're now reeling to get prepared, and a million dollar advertising campaign hasn't helped matters at all.

It's estimated that more than $1 billion a year comes from drug dealing and fraud, and can be laundered through New Zealand businesses.

In the 2017/18 financial year, $216,459.83 was spent on the campaign.

  • $126,957.51 for concept design and creative development
  • $9,016.51 for focus group testing
  • $46,280.00 for digital media production and development
  • $34,205.81 for administrative costs.

Justice Minister Andrew Little refutes Seymour's claims, telling Newshub it's what's needed.

"Getting information out about what is happening, and most importantly why it's happening. I think the cost is pretty modest by comparison and given the objective of it - which is to slow down or prevent money laundering and financing of terrorism - I think it's money well-spent."

Mr Little accepts there have been challenges with raising awareness, but is confident it's doing its job.

"By in large the feedback is it is doing what it was intended to do, people are getting their heads around it. It's not as a bad of problem as people thought it might have been when it was originally started.

The Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism Act now covers transactions and purchases in casinos, banks and financial institutions, trust and company service providers, lawyers and conveyancers, accountants and providers of accounting services, and real estate agents.

The following sectors are being covered progressively: dealers in high value goods and the New Zealand Racing Board (from August 1).

Real Estate Institute CEO Bindi Norwell backs the campaign, but told Newshub consumers need more assistance.

"It's really good how the campaign explains why the issue is so important to consumers. I believe more could be done in terms of the information in that campaign to make it easier for consumers to understand what they need to do and why.

"The real estate industry is taking it seriously. I think it's going to have some frustrations at the start, but hopefully it will be business as usual over the next few months. This is very important legislation for New Zealand."