16 Mar 2018

Easier NZ super access to ease pressure - Cook Islanders

10:51 am on 16 March 2018

Changing the eligibility for New Zealand superannuation (NZSA) for residents of the Realm countries will ease pressure on families who have had to support family members moving back to New Zealand, some Cook Islanders say.

Most retirees will eventually rely on superannuation.

Most retirees will eventually rely on superannuation. Photo: 123RF

People born in the Cook Islands, Niue, and Tokelau are New Zealand residents by birth.

However according to Work and Income, in order for them to qualify for NZSA, they need to have lived in New Zealand for at least 10 consecutive years since the age of 20, and at least five years since the age of 50.

Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters has said the government would drop the latter requirement for NZSA and the Veteran's Pension.

When the announcement was made last week, it was the talk of the island for those over 50, Cook Island resident Mona Ngaau said.

She was pleased her father, who will be 65 this month and lives in the Cook Islands, would not have to move back to New Zealand now and could remain with his family, she said.

"We know that his services to the Cook Islands and New Zealand is going to be appreciated and having him at home in the Cook Islands where he's always wanted to be to live his days is a pleasure for us."

A lot of Pasifika people had contributed to the New Zealand community and for them to not be able to receive superannuation the same as every other New Zealander "just felt wrong", Cook Island resident Boaz Raela said.

Many people moved to New Zealand to meet one of the criteria for the NZSA - by spending at least 10 consecutive years in New Zealand after the age of 20, he said.

He said they would then move back to the Cook Islands where anxiety set in in their 50s when they realised they had to move back to New Zealand to meet another requirement - spending at least five years here after the age of 50.

"They've got to plan their life around changing from having settled back in their homeland then to uproot themselves to come back here to work again," he said.

"And to re-establish themselves again and in some ways it's not just putting pressure on themselves, but on their families."

The Ministry of Social Development wasn't able to provide RNZ any figures about how many people get the pension in the Realm countries.

Mr Peters said dropping the requirement of being in New Zealand after 50 would come into effect later this year.