Scoop on 14 June 2007
Press Release: NZ Pension Abuse
On Friday 15 June, superannuitants receiving KiwiSaver-like pensions from overseas, angry at their reduced NZ Super payout, will commemorate the second annual World Elder Abuse Awareness Day by protesting outside WINZ service centres across the country.
New Zealanders who worked overseas find it ironic that Work and Income, the agency responsible for administering a discriminatory direct deduction policy, trains its staff to recognise signs that its clients may be victims of extortion or fraud.
Every year, as they turn 65, thousands of new superannuitants encounter for the first time what WINZ rightly calls financial abuse, finding themselves victims not of family members, however, but of the state.
The overseas pensions they receive are deducted from their NZ Super according to WINZ's interpretation of section 70 of the Social Security Act 1964. The CEO of WINZ maintains that foreign government-administered pensions are equivalent to New Zealand's old-age benefit.
Most such pensions, however, are not benefits at all, but the overseas equivalents of KiwiSaver, paid out only to those who have paid for them. Most - like KiwiSaver - provide for employer and employee contributions but - unlike KiwiSaver - are not subsidised by the state.
Kiwis who saved with such schemes discover too late that whatever they receive of their overseas government-administered investment is forfeit. In effect, WINZ is helping itself to Kiwis’ retirement savings. Many New Zealanders who have worked here for over thirty years are getting less NZ Super than some who have lived here for just ten years.
Even New Zealanders who have never worked overseas are penalised. They have lost their right to NZ Super simply because they live with a person who is eligible for a pension from another country.
The Government justifies the deduction by saying that those who had the opportunity to work overseas should not be enjoying an unfair advantage!
WINZ's interpretation of pension law contradicts a long-standing source of pride in New Zealand: though the Government keeps insisting that its “universal” superannuation is not income-tested, the direct deduction policy relieves Kiwi superannuitants of $185 million every year.
For 52,000 retired Kiwis and their families, WINZ is the face of elder abuse. Protests will be mounted from 9.00am to 4.00pm tomorrow outside WINZ service centres in Takapuna, Auckland's Queen St, Tauranga and New Plymouth, as well as smaller demonstrations at a number of other centres.