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Rip-off plan (3)

Money and mobility

The SuperGold Card is a discounts and concessions card issued free by the New Zealand government to all eligible seniors and veterans in recognition of the contributions they have made, and continue to make, to New Zealand society.
It gives access to discounts from a wide range of businesses nationwide, and facilitates easy access to government entitlements and local authority services and concessions. One of its most popular benefits is free off-peak travel on public transport.

The SuperGold Card was introduced in October 2008 with the intention of reviewing it after 12 months to identify any refinements that may need to be made to ensure its long-term sustainability.

Don’t underestimate the power of the vote of a greying electorate

When in mid-March 2010 Transport Minister Steven Joyce announced that the SuperGold Card scheme was not sustainable in its present form and that free off-peak travel might be reduced or cut, this caused an outcry among senior citizens and their lobby groups.

Soon after, the minister and even Prime Minister John Key had to backtrack on the rumoured cuts to free public transport. A series of headlines such as "Seniors may have free travel perk cut" (Nelson Mail) and "Hidden agenda fear over gold card" (Bay of Plenty Times) caused a swift assurance by Steven Joyce that the entitlements would remain, and that he was only trying to get a better deal from the transport operators who are reimbursed by the Government for the pensioner fares. John Key quickly insisted that free bus, rail and ferry trips as they stand had never been the issue.

Silver agers can keep full Gold card entitlements

Grey Power, who were instrumental in bringing about the quick change of mind, deserve credit for having made it clear that they represent about half a million votes – a reminder that obviously counts with politicians. The story is also a textbook example that it helps to be organised and make oneself heard – just as Pension Protest intends to be heard on the issue of Section 70 of the Social Security Act.

The highest priority for the SuperGold Card review is now to consider how to keep the scheme financially sustainable while continuing to provide improved mobility for older people. The Transport Minister’s stance has changed to one, as stated in his press release of 12 March 2010, that „the Government is totally committed to the SuperGold Card, including the transport concession as it stands. The Government will not be introducing any co-payments or any other way of changing those concessions.“