Home‎ > ‎The Law‎ > ‎

Winter Energy Payment

More Money for Millionaire Beneficiaries - 
Another Kick in the Gut for Section 70 Victims
When - in February 2018 - we first heard of pensioners who are denied the new Winter Energy Payment because they do not receive NZ Super after the deductions of their overseas pensions, we immediately wrote to Carmel Sepuloni, the Minister for Social Development, and the leaders of the other major parties.  

We thought this was a simple oversight and were hopeful this mistake would be corrected in time before the then delayed start of the payment in July 2018.

But how wrong can one be! While the Prime Minister's office - as usual - forwarded our letter to Carmel Sepuloni, and the Greens and NZ First did not answer, Minister Sepuloni answered several months later, saying that the draft reflected the policy intent and that there were no plans to amend this shameful policy.

This incredible decision adds insult to injury to people who are already robbed of their contributory overseas pensions. First they steal the overseas money from these pensioners, resulting in many of them falling into poverty, and then they pay the heating supplement to millionaires but not to the people they impoverish and who would really need it. This is a scandal of epic proportions.

Not a single party of the current government seems to care. 

Jacinda Ardern is busy with giving birth and taking parental leave, not answering letters or emails on Sections 187-191 - then still Section 70 - anyway. 

The Greens don't answer at all, not even if you request answers under the Official Information Act. 

NZ First leader Winston Peters is too busy working on policies for his cronies in the Racing industry. And believe it or not, he will keep the Winter Energy Payment he surely doesn't need.

His party mate Tracey Martin forwards questions on the Direct Deduction Policy to Carmel Sepuloni, as social policies that affect senior citizens are obviously not part of her portfolio as Minister for Seniors! And she signs the SuperSeniors newsletters in which she condemns elder abuse without understanding that the Direct Deduction Policy, and particularly the spousal deduction, constitutes elder abuse. Not to talk about the treatment of these seniors by officials of the Ministry of Anti-Social Development.

Question Time

Parts of the letter we had sent to Carmel Sepuloni and other leading politicians of the Labour-led government in February:

"I am infuriated after some pensioners have contacted me, telling me that they won’t receive the Winter Energy Payment because – after the deduction of their employer/employee-funded overseas pensions – they don’t receive NZ Super.

I would like to know who is responsible for this legislation or policy or however you want to call this injustice?

[The questions:]

1. Are you willing to change the wording of the policy, so pensioners who are eligible for NZ Super but don’t receive it due to the dreadful policies of Section 70, receive the Winter Energy Payment? [...]

2. When deciding to put the policy in place, were you aware that the requirement to receive the Winter Energy Payment would disadvantage pensioners who are already disadvantaged because their self-funded overseas pensions are factually stolen by WINZ/MSD by means of Section 70 of the Social Security Act (I know they are not really stolen – just NZ Super is not paid)? If someone’s retirement savings from overseas are as high or higher than NZ Super and then deducted from NZ Super, they don’t receive any NZ Super, leaving them and their partners constantly struggling to make ends meet. And just these people won’t receive the Winter Energy Payment, really, while it is paid to millionaires if they have the nerve to not opt out of it! This is absurd.

3. Were you aware at the time that the words “eligible” and “receive” would have any relevance on the payment of the Winter Energy Payment?" 

As seen above, Ms Sepuloni thinks the criteria are fair. Nothing to add.

And now to Winston Peters.

On 28 June 2018 The Press printed a Letter to the Editor from MSD, clarifying that pensioners do receive the Winter Energy Payment but that couples don't receive the payment in their individual accounts, following a complaint from a pensioner who had claimed that couples don't receive it if they don't have a joint account. The MSD response did not mention that many pensioners will still not receive the heating supplement.

At the same time it was published that Winston Peters could not "remember" if he had signed a document to opt out of the Winter Energy Payment. Haha!

A Letter to the Editor ("Pension Unfairness") followed to clarify the truth about the eligibility criteria for receiving the payment:

And another one:

On the same day as the second letter, The Press reported that Winston Peters keeps the Winter Energy Payment:

The Press, 05 July 2018:

The Press, 09 July 2018:

2 x 0 = 0
In response to the Covid-19 crisis, the Government decided to double the Winter Energy Payment (WEP) for 2020. To pensioners who do not receive NZ Super after the deduction of their overseas pension this means that they get double zero dollars. The equation is: 2 x 0 WEP = 2 x NZ$ 0 = 0.

By delaying the end of the Spousal Provision from 1 July to 9 November 2020, which happened on 4 June 2020, hundreds of pensioners who would have received the WEP from 1 July are missing out again. Never forget: this is the government of kindness.

Article in the NZ Herald
Pension deductions mean no to Winter Energy Payments

The policy
While all pensioners (and many others) are entitled to receive the Winter Energy Payment, only those receive it who also receive NZ Super.

This excludes all pensioners who are entitled to NZ Super but don't receive it because their overseas pensions are higher than NZ Super and leaves them with not a cent of NZ Super after the direct deductions.

Still, millionaires who do not need it can receive it if they don't opt out. Privileged seniors like Winston Peters who receives more than NZ$ 330,000 a year as Deputy Prime Minister, plus several pensions that are not deducted from anything, can also receive it. 

Poor cold Winston Peters

And this leaves us with this sphinx of New Zealand politics, the champion of seniors, who has promised before the 2017 Election to end the Direct Deduction Policy but has suffered memory loss since then.

On 4 July the Press (and other media outlets) reported that Winston Peters will not opt out but keep the Winter Energy Payment - with the justification that National party leader Simon Bridges and his colleagues have not handed back the tax cuts they received during the National regime! 

How pathetic!

(Full reporting on Winston Peters at the bottom of the main column.)

On par with criminals

Alongside criminals, pensioners with overseas pensions who do not receive NZ Super, are excluded from receiving the Winter Energy Payment.

This is legally questionable, as Section 70 advocate Bert Youngman put it after studying the law. 

He says he is convinced that "there is nothing they've put in a statute that requires MSD to not pay the Winter Energy Payment to people who lose all their NZ Super through the Direct Deduction Policy. The mere fact that MSD calculate each month in marginal cases whether affected persons do or do not get any NZ Super, that particular time evidences the person concerned is 'receiving NZ Super' in a legal sense, even in those months where the actual NZ Super payment comes out as zero.” 

And further:
"Rather than following the law, MSD pu
t their internal policy statements above the law, and struggling pensioners are put in the same category as those in prison or with warrants out for their arrest."

This is the wording of the policy which puts retirees who receive an overseas pension into the same category as criminals: 

Qualifying benefit must be payable (link)

"Clients and their partners must be receiving payments of a qualifying benefit each week (for main benefits) or fortnightly (for New Zealand Superannuation or Veteran’s Pension clients) to get paid Winter Energy Payment.

In any situation when a benefit is not being paid, the Winter Energy Payment will not be paid.

The types of situations where the Winter Energy Payment will not be paid include (but not limited to):

- benefit fully reduced due to income (i.e. a means tested one)

- New Zealand Superannuation, Veteran’s Pension or other main benefit reduced to nil because of an overseas pension

- imprisonment 

- warrant to arrest 

- benefit is suspended for any other reason

Note: New Zealand Superannuation and Veteran's Pension clients who have 100% special tax codes are entitled to receive the Winter Energy Payment."

How individuals become couples without spousal deduction...

While MSD are very well able to pay NZ Super to each individual of a couple at half the married rate, this is - according to MSD - not possible with the Winter Energy Payment. One partner gets selected and receives the payment into his/her account.

The wording of the policy:
"If the qualifying benefit is payable at a rate prescribed in respect of a person who is married or in a civil union or in a de facto relationship, the chief executive must determine which 1 [one] of the spouses or partners is (as only 1 [one] of them can be) entitled to a winter energy payment."

The CEO must be a person with a bit too much time on their hands...