National’s Family Incomes Package means 750,000 superannuitants will receive a further increase on 1 April on top of their normal annual increase, with the couple rate going up by a further $680. Seniors spokesperson Maggie Barry said New Zealand Superannuation for a couple has increased by more than $7000 a year under National – from $24,062 in 2008 to $31,216 in 2017.
Barry also reaffirmed National’s intention to increase the age of entitlement for New Zealand Superannuation from 65 to 67, beginning in 2037. The plan to increase the age of entitlement received has received opposition from Labour, while the ACT party was critical of the Government’s decision to delay the increase.
“Life expectancy has increased by 12 years over the past 60 years, including by four years since 2001, when the age for NZ Super was increased to 65, so it is fair to increase the age of entitlement in 20 years’ time to ensure Super stays on a firm footing,” Barry says.
Other policy highlights included cheaper GP visits for lower income New Zealanders which will mean 300,000 over-65s will have the cost of seeing their doctor capped at $18.
National also proposes to increase the number of life-changing elective surgeries for things like joint replacements, cancerous skin lesions and cardiac surgeries. They intend to roll out a national bowel screening programme.
The party also pledges to continue to support and invest in the SuperGold Card, which now provides discounts at over 9,000 businesses for services such as optometrists, dentists, audiologists, lawyers and vets. They have backed the SuperGold Card public transport concession with $41 million of additional funding so it can provide more than 10 million trips a year.
The policy also drew on the action taken against elder abuse and social isolation with the launch of the nationwide Elder Abuse Response Service, including a 24/7 helpline – 0800 EA NOT OK – and increased funding for support services, as well as ensuring that rest homes are upholding high standards.
“New Zealanders are living longer and National is determined to providing the support and security to ensure all of us are able to age positively and lead fulfilling lives in retirement,” says Barry.
The New Zealand Seniors’ Party will be relieved to hear more attention given to Seniors policies.
“We hear promises like extending parental leave with time off for both parents, free post-secondary education for a year along with an additional $50 per week for university students,” says chairperson Paul Rea.
“One promise that is sadly missing is what will these parties do for pensioners. We are the forgotten generation who have worked hard all our lives, been honest law-abiding citizens – for what? Many are living on the bread line struggling to make ends meet; costs are rising but pensions are not. $50 a week would go a long way to help pensioners pay their bills.”
New Zealand First has a strong Seniors policy in which it intends to maintain New Zealand Superannuation entitlement at 65 years, as a universal, non-contributory, publicly funded pension scheme with no means-testing. The party wants to raise the minimum residency requirement for full New Zealand Superannuation from 10 to 25 years after age 20 and “end the labyrinth of bureaucratic complexities” cased by reciprocal pension agreements with other countries.
NZ First also wants to boost SuperGold benefits by including three free doctor’s visits a year and promote a 10 per cent discount on power bills during winter.
The party proposes to remove income and asset testing for long stay aged hospital care services.
Labour and Greens recently launched the findings of their aged care inquiry, but neither party has a clearly articulated Seniors policy. In July, former leader Andrew Little said the party would reinstate contributions to the New Zealand Superannuation Fund and would not increase the age from 65 years.