The law now allows people wanting to return home to the Cook Islands, Niue or Tokelau to apply for New Zealand Super from those places, instead of just from New Zealand.
However, they will still have to abide by the usual superannuation eligibility rules, that is, people must have lived in New Zealand for at least 10 years after turning 20, five of which must be over the age of 50.
Those who moved to the islands after the age of 55 can apply for super when they turn 65.
Puna is disappointed that the voice of the Cook Islands, and its parliamentary supporters in New Zealand failed to resonate with the New Zealand government in making further changes to the pension qualification arrangement.
The Cook Islands Government alongside Labour and New Zealand First, supported the rule requiring people to live in New Zealand for five years over the age of 50 to be dropped.
In February, Puna made an official presentation to the Select Committee in New Zealand seeking amendments to the qualification so that Cook Islanders would not be forced to uproot themselves from home in order to travel back to New Zealand to reside for a period of five years after the age of 50.
A key component of the Cook Islands argument was to impose similar conditions as required to gain a New Zealand passport. One requirement is a provision that a five-year residency in a Realm country contributes toward qualification.
Puna asked that the same principle be applied for the qualification of the New Zealand pension but this added proposal was not supported in Committee, and was defeated in the House by 58 to 63.
New Zealand’s Social Development Minister, Anne Tolley told the NZ Herald the Bill would offer more pension flexibility for people who wanted to live in the islands.
Previously, she said, people had to be ‘resident and present’ in New Zealand when they applied for Kiwi superannuation.
“These islands struggle with depopulation and retaining a skilled workforce. This Bill allows people to return to these islands and contribute valuable skills for up to 10 years before applying for New Zealand Superannuation,” Tolley says.
“We want our superannuitants to have as many options as possible as to where they choose to live. They have worked hard throughout their lives and many wish to return home as they near retirement.”
Puna says the qualification requirements for residency do not encourage younger Cook Islanders to return home to contribute to nation-building, and the arrangement also penalises those who have already contributed to New Zealand’s economy and development.