Organisations for seniors

Lobbying for the 50+ age group

Grey Power

Grey Power is a lobby organisation promoting the welfare and well-being of all citizens aged 50+. They are well organised, well known to the general public, and have a relatively high profile in both the media and Government circles. This lobby group knows how to make its voice heard.

Grey Power had a dedicated policy on NZ Superannuation, details of which could be found on their website. Not so anymore (as of November 2021). They made it clear that Government terminology is basically marketing speak and misleading, especially when stating that NZ Super is 66% of the average wage, which is the married couple rate, but the amount paid to each individual is actually 33%.

However, when the website was more informative, Grey Power has not defined its position on Section 187-191 in its official policy. After contacting Grey Power in 2010 or 2011, and not receiving an answer to our questions, we have known for quite a long time that a membership with Grey Power is a waste of money if you hope they support us in our fight against the Direct Deduction Policy.

After two longterm members cancelled their Grey Power memberships in late 2016, it came to an, at times, heated email exchange with then Grey Power president Tom O'Connor in which he made crystal-clear that they acknowledged a few anomalies but that in general they found nothing wrong with the direct deduction of contributory overseas pensions from NZ Super and that they had no intention of supporting us. (And just to clarify: we as have never asked them to.)

Despite the president's claim to the opposite we still think that Grey Power are ignorant on the issue - and if they know and understand the facts, they don't care because the huge majority of affected pensioners are immigrants.

We find their stance xenophobic, to say the least, with various pensioners writing to us that in the early days in New Zealand Grey Power told them to go back where they came from if they didn't like it in New Zealand. The usual stuff we immigrants are used to hear when we dare to say a word of criticism.

Grey Power president: No support for fight against (former) Section 70

Some excerpts of Tom O'Connor's statements:

"Please understand that the role of Grey Power is to advocate for the interests of all our members not just a few who complain the loudest or outside groups who try to use our political credibility to further their own campaigns. In doing that I have a team of professionally trained researchers who know exactly where to find important information and how to interpret it and the law. [...]

We know exactly what we are dealing with in relation to S70 and more importantly we know the clear intention of Parliament in enacting that regulation and we know how a few people have tried to circumvent that intention.

We also have a good understanding of the various foreign pension schemes which are impacted by New Zealand superannuation from UK, USA, Netherlands and Canada. We have spent a long time gathering this information.

We know there are unfair anomalies in S70 and we know there are a very few people who assume they have a birthright to come to New Zealand and take more from these combined pension schemes from abroad and from New Zealand than they are entitled to. This small minority has made things difficult for the majority of honest people and for my team of negotiators who are making a major effort to solve some very complex issues.

[...] In essence we support the principles of S70 in the knowledge that there is room for improvement and that are some people who feel aggrieved by that. These people should take up their grievances with their local MP or directly with MSD or the Government, not with Grey Power. [...]"

Just to recapitulate:

Grey Power support the principles of Sections 187-191. Grey Power think affected pensioners are ripping off the system and that this "small minority" are dishonest people.

Age Concern

Age Concern is another lobby group serving the needs of older people. In addition to providing practical support to individuals, Age Concern campaigns on issues such as age discrimination and pensions, and works to influence public opinion and Government policy. While Age Concern does not have a policy on NZ Superannuation, it does have a general policy framework. It reads:

"Policies that work for older people

Age Concern New Zealand plays an important role responding to government and non-government policy development initiatives. We are also proactive in addressing older people's issues directly with government.

If proposed policy changes affect older people we make submissions (written and sometimes oral) to the appropriate bodies, such as select committees for government consultations.

Proposed law changes may directly harm older people or may have indirect consequences. Age Concern New Zealand is experienced at spotting both.

Where an existing law causes problems or unfairness for older people, Age Concern New Zealand can engage with the relevant minister or agency to work toward a solution. Amendments of existing statutes or regulations is one of the solutions we can offer. Media comment on issues outside of the policy area can draw off our policy expertise."

As Age Concern is a charity and as such short of resources, they prioritise the issues they address, and Sections 187-191 are not high on their list. They did, however, raise the problem with the Government in 2008, and we are delighted to say that Age Concern shares our opinion on the deduction of overseas pensions. Chief Executive Ann Martin wrote to a pensioner: "We are keen for overseas pensioners to receive what they are entitled to." In their 2008 exchange with the Government (Ministry of Social Development) Age Concern wrote, in the first place discussing pensions of the employee/employer-funded Canada Pension Plan (CPP) which is similar to many other contributory pensions:

"It seems strange that the CPP is considered to be analogous to NZ Superannuation when it is an employer/employee funded scheme which has the effect, not unlike KiwiSaver, of ensuring that individuals save for their own retirement.

Indeed this inconsistency is noted in paragraph 73 of the 2005 report to Cabinet on the treatment of overseas pensions and payment overseas: 'Currently section 70 authorises the direct deductjon of second tier earnings related pensions, despite the fact that, other than being administered by the state, they have little resemblance to NZS.'

New Zealand Superannuation is paid regardless of whether a person has worked, regardless of whether a person has saved for his or her own retirement - yet older New Zealand residents who have worked in Canada appear to be being penalised precisely for having worked and saved."

It might help to move the problem higher up on Age Concern's agenda again if more people write them and make it clear that it is still as pressing as it was in the past.

Retirement Commission

The Retirement Commission is an autonomous Crown entity, set up in 1993. The Retirement Commissioner's role was established under the NZ Superannuation and Retirement Income Act 2001, and he/she is appointed by the Minister for Social Development and Employment. In 2013 Diane Maxwell became the successor of Diana Crossan, and in February 2020 Jane Wrightson took on the job.

See more information on separate page.

(Last update: 23.11.2021)

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