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April 16, 2018 | by  | in News |
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The Bizarre Story of Dave Bucks

A few months ago my friend showed me a Snapchat she had received of David Seymour’s head pasted onto a magazine cover. This wasn’t Photoshop however — she told me she cut out the picture of Seymour’s stiff beaming face from something called “Dave Bucks”. Hearing that the ACT Party leader had his own currency, I decided to investigate with all the journalistic rigor that I could muster on student journalist pay.

Salient was able to obtain a large stack of Dave Bucks, which are modified twenty dollar notes with the Queen replaced by Seymour awkwardly grinning. In place of the usual text about the note being legal tender, the Dave Bucks say “ACT WILL PAY GOOD TEACHERS TWENTY THOUSAND DOLLARS”.

In the 2017 election The ACT Party campaigned on a policy of creating performance targets for teachers, promising to deliver higher salaries for well performing teachers. The ACT Party website states, “We will enable schools to opt out of union contracts. This will mean they gain the flexibility to recognise great teachers by paying them more and rewarding their achievement.” ACT promised an average pay increase of $17,700 per teacher.

A New Zealand Herald article from September 2017 revealed that the mock currency was created as part of an election campaign stunt, delivered to the NZEI Te Riu Roa (a teachers’ union) offices. Seymour personally carted a wheelbarrow full of over a billion dollars of the fake currency into the offices.

It appears however, that NZEI had caught word of the stunt in advance and preemptively cleared the 13th floor of their offices, which meant the ACT Party leader was greeted by a singular staff member, who to his surprise accepted the offer. The wheelbarrow was then placed in the corner of an office where it remained for several months.

So what became of the billion dollars worth of Dave Bucks after the campaign stunt went awry?

To find out I contacted David Seymour in the most reliable way to reach him, via Snapchat. I asked David where I could go about redeeming the “Dave Bucks”. He replied suprisingly quickly, telling me “sadly they are not widely accepted”. After asking what I was meant to do with them now, he simply replied “frame them”. A later selfie from David revealed that I was indeed talking with the real ACT Party leader.

After failing to get a substantial response from Seymour himself, I attempted to get in touch with ACT on Campus at Victoria. In an email I asked if I could redeem the Dave Bucks at any retailer, after all I did have — by my own estimation — over two million dollars of the currency. I asked if I could “use them to “pay good teachers” as the currency claims. No reply. I continued with the questions: “the notes replace Queen Elizabeth II on the $20 note with David Seymour, is this a subtle nod to ACT advocating New Zealand becoming a republic? Or possibly that David Seymour intends to install as himself as monarch? Can you comment on that?” Again ACT on Campus chose not to reply.

Unable to be advised by the ACT Party on any practical use for the Dave Bucks, I ventured to find out what became of the remaining notes left in the NZEI offices. A source within the NZEI offices told me that the wheelbarrow full of stacks of notes eventually was placed in the conference room, where it became somewhat of a defacto rubbish bin. She said the stunt was an ACT party “Libertarian shit idea”, adding that teachers already dislike National performance standards — linking pay scale to performance would undermine an already underpaid profession.


My source revealed that at some point later David Seymour contacted NZEI to ask about getting his wheelbarrow back. It is unclear however if this was before or after election results were finalised. Months later one NZEI staff member allegedly enquired about taking the wheelbarrow home to use in their garden, however I was unable to ascertain if this request was approved. Dave Bucks became somewhat of an inside joke at the NZEI, being used in leaving cards. Seymour’s image was pasted onto numerous different pieces of media, including his head being placed on a Union brochure to create the fabled “Union Delegate Dave”. Salient was however unable obtain an image of this document. I was told that as of April of 2018, supplies of the currency were running low.

Salient is in possession of the apparent last remaining stack of Dave Bucks. If you are a retailer who accepts Dave Bucks or you have any suggestions for the use of two million dollars of David Seymour currency, please contact Salient at editor@salient.org.nz.

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