Rarotonga’s veteran superannuation campaigner Les Priest thinks it should be called the social disaster bill.
“If the intention is to offer the three realm countries (Cook Islands, Niue & Tokelau) social assistance, it has failed miserably,” writes Priest in another letter to the editor.
“It will have the opposite effect, causing disharmony within our senior citizens community by creating a privileged group who just happen to be over 55 when leaving NZ (good luck for winning the age lottery) versus an unfairly disadvantaged group (the ‘Lost Tribe’) who have worked in NZ for the qualifying 20 years or more but returned to or settled in one of the realm countries before age 55.”
Priest believes the bill also exacerbates the problem of outward population drift from the islands.
“Since those in the under 55 group will still need to leave their homes, family and friends here to spend up to five years in NZ from 60 to 65 to qualify for the NZ benefit, during which time the NZ government will have to provide them with health and other social services, even the dole in some cases.”
Priest says it doesn’t make sense for NZ to incur such expense while causing major disruption to old folks’ lives, when they could just pay the benefit back in the realm countries.
“That would be genuine assistance, not the half measure that this discretionary bill has spawned.”
Of 13 submissions to the recent select committee which considered the bill, 10 recommended that this iniquitous ‘five years after 50’ rule be waived for the realm countries, but they were ignored. Therefore Priest believes the select committee hearing was therefore a farce.
“The NZ government members, in their obsessive paranoia about retaining the said rule, opposed the Hon Winston Peters’ amendment seeking to exempt the clause for the realm countries.”
The amendment was lost by one vote during the bill’s second reading. Priest says that at least this indicates that substantial numbers of opposition members are enlighted and have a conscience. In his letter to editor, Priest also takes a shot at National MP Alfred Ngaro who he says “voted against his own people”.
Read Les Priest’s provocative letter to the editor on page four.