Eldernet asked each of the political parties contesting the 2020 election to tell us what they see as the primary issues facing older people and what they plan to do about making older people’s lives easier. Here is the response from New Zealand First.
New Zealand First has been the only party to continue to advocate for our seniors since our inception, 27 years ago. Over that time we have fought against both major parties’ attempts to over tax and under recognise our more mature citizens. That advocacy is still needed.
For the last three years New Zealand First MP, the Hon. Tracey Martin, has been the Minister for Seniors. As soon as she took up the role, Tracey identified that there had been a deliberate neglect of the Super Gold Card and that all actions in the “Positive Ageing” strategy had expired in 2010. She was decisive in her determination to deliver not only more support for our seniors via increased discounts and services available through the Gold Card but that any future government would have a strategy to ensure that government departments were delivering on necessary services to this valuable cohort of Kiwis.
Launching a nationwide conversation around what seniors needed to live “Better Later Lives” in 2018, Minister Martin completed and launched the Better Later Lives strategy towards the end of 2019. Using the strategy to heighten government’s understanding of not only the needs of this group of New Zealanders but also the individual agencies’ responsibilities, the Minister officially created a Ministerial group to drive progress. This group includes the Associate Minister of Health, Associate Minister of Housing, Minister of Employment and the Minister of Social Development and is chaired by the Minister for Seniors.
A toolkit for small and medium-size business has already been produced to help these companies understand the value of keeping their senior workers connected to their businesses and acknowledging that there is no retirement age in New Zealand. It also grows the understanding that by 2036 those over 65 will outnumber those under 15 and will be 20 percent of the population – businesses can’t afford for them to stop working and remove that historical knowledge from the workplace.
In the 2019 Budget, Minister Martin also secure over $7 million for the enhancement of the Super Gold Card website and the development of a new Super Gold App. Over 5,000 New Zealand businesses are now offering discounts and deals to our seniors. The new Super Gold App has not only meant that our seniors can now touch a button while they are out and see the closest business offering them a discount but it has meant that more businesses can see the benefit of advertising to this demographic with discounts and offers that suit their needs. This work was done with seniors so the website and app design our senior-friendly.
However there is more to do. New Zealand First believes that there not only needs to be a separate Ministry for Seniors (currently only an office inside the Ministry of Social Development) but that there needs to be a Seniors Commissioner with similar advocacy and monitoring powers as the Children’s Commissioner. Should we be in a position to negotiate the next government as we did in 2017, this will be a major discussion point for us.