Speaking after she and New Zealand deputy prime minister Winston Peters met with Cook Islands Cabinet ministers at the Office of the Prime Minister, Ardern said talks had resumed yesterday from the meeting she and Peters had held with Cook Islands PM Henry Puna and finance minister Mark Brown in Wellington in December last year.
The pension portability issue has long been a bone of contention with some Cook Islands residents.
Current rules require that past the age of 20, residents of realm countries must spend 10 years working in New Zealand, and then another five at the end of their working life in order to be eligible for the New Zealand pension.
Ardern said that while many taxpayers fulfilled the first requirement to qualify for the pension scheme, many chose later in life to return to their home countries in the Cook Islands or Niue and Tokelau.
“They’ll often run businesses and become members of the community here, but then find themselves in a situation where they must consider leaving their home and business in order to go back to New Zealand for those final five years to ensure their eligibility.”
“That’s not a situation that we think is satisfactory, for these countries, as many struggle to find work at that time of their life.”
The new changes would mean that past the age of 50, residency in Cook Islands, Niue and Tokelau would count towards pension eligibility requirements.
Pension portability has been longstanding issue for Peters, he who raised it during coalition talks after last year’s New Zealand elections and Ardern said that the Labour Party always agreed with Peters’ sentiments.
“He made it a priority. So did our minister for social development (Carmel Sepuloni), who expedited the work, and made sure that we could get the legislation ready.
“It’s in a position now where we anticipate, that all going to plan, we should have full pension portability no later than January 2019.”
The pension portability will apply to those eligible for pensions, as well as veterans, in the Cook Islands, Niue and Tokelau.
“The new rules would mean that people from realm countries who were eligible for New Zealand Super will be able to remain in these countries and contribute to the local economy without having to return to New Zealand just to qualify for their pension,” a New Zealand Parliament statement said.