Tired of being treated like introduced parasites
The Public Forum in Auckland on 24 February 2010 ("New Zealand Superannuation and Overseas Pensions: Issues and Principles for Reform") was a great opportunity to meet a lot of angry pensioners who are affected by Section 70 of the 1964 Social Security Act.
Some are people who have always struggled to make ends meet and are already hit hard by missing out on a monthly payment of as little as NZ$100. Others who would be entitled to the married rate of two NZ Supers do not get a cent from the NZ government. The most depressed people, of course, are those who have lived and worked all their lives in New Zealand, have contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes to the economy and to society, and are left empty-handed because they are married to the wrong partner.
Ruth Humphrey is the face of those most abused by the NZ government. She is married to Bill, an American. She has been fighting her case for nearly a decade, but still gets only a part of NZ Super because she is still married to the wrong man. Ruth is the living proof that not only immigrants are discriminated against by the Government - and often the media as well - that labels them as parasites who try to milk the NZ Superannuation system.
There are people like the opera singer Barry Mora who has an overseas pension from working in Germany for twelve years. Unbelievably he is a triple loser. First the German Superannuation Insurance
Fighting pensioners at the Auckland Forum, from left to right: Joachim Rehbein, Ruth and Bill Humphrey, Barry Mora.
(Deutsche Rentenver-sicherung) deducts 30% of his German pension because he is no German national and not from another EU country either, and because Germany has no Social Security Agreement with New Zealand. Due to the rules in New Zealand, Germany does not intend to sign one.
Second, Barry's German pension is deducted from his NZ Super. And finally, IRD (Inland Revenue, New Zealand's tax authority) taxed the remaining German pension because some ignoramus did not know or willingly ignored the Double Taxation Agreement with Germany. This clearly states that only the state that pays the pension can tax it. The Information had even been published in IRD's annual reports some years ago.
As Barry could clearly see that he had a good chance of success, he took up the fight against this unlawful deduction, and sure, even New Zealand government agencies have to acknowledge the existence of this agreement. Barry requested a reassessment of his tax returns, and in the meantime he has received the full refund for four years of overpaid taxes. Others, encouraged by this outcome, have followed suit.
The first Kiwi males married to the wrong women
In the meantime we have met the first examples of Kiwi males who have lived and worked their entire lives in New Zealand, and do or will not get a cent of NZ Super in retirement because they are married to an immigrant with a sizeable contributory overseas pension. The two professionals who have worked and paid taxes in New Zealand for a total of 70 years between the two do not get a cent from the Government. This continues saying that nobody must be better off than a New Zealander who has not made "a fair and equitable contribution via their working life to the New Zealand tax base and to New Zealand society" (John Key in a letter to the editor of this website).
We wonder how much a Kiwi who has lived on a benefit most of his life has contributed to the New Zealand tax base, be it due to bad luck, destiny, or as a chosen way of life. And how much a criminal has contributed to New Zealand society, other than imposing huge costs on the Government and society? They are all eligible for NZ Super, and can get accommodation supplements on top of it if they do not own a home - which is the norm in such cases.
Big effect on health, nerves, and relationships
But only immigrants and citizens married to immigrants or returning Kiwis are treated like a kind of criminals. Or what did John Key mean when he wrote: "We would not support changes that opened up NZ Super to potential exploitation by those who seek to access New Zealand's superannuation provisions without...", followed by the usual gobbledygook and the story about fair contributions, and that nobody must be better off than the hard working Kiwis.
Read the stories of people affected by this injustice. Some have fought for a decade already, like Ruth Humphrey. Some lost their sleep, some fell ill over it, others became depressed. In every case, the fight with WINZ has put huge stress on these people and their relationships. Some immigrants think the moment they decided to follow their heart and move to New Zealand was the worst decision of their life although they love the country and their Kiwi partner. They feel like second-class residents and citizens, and the ignorance of the New Zealand media makes things even worse.
But it is a slap in the face when they realise that there are nationals of more than a dozen countries who receive preferential treatment. Some nationalities even get full NZ Super if they have not lived or worked in New Zealand a single day before turning 65. (And we do not even talk of Kiwis who lose their entitlement to NZ Super as soon as they move to Australia.)
This only shows the inequity of the whole system. On the one hand it adds to the anger. But on the other hand it is the trigger to take up the fight against Section 70 and the perception that old people with overseas pensions are trying to milk the NZ Super scheme. The opposite is true.
Possums were introduced from Australia in 1837 to jump-start New Zealand's fur trade. Now they are considered pests and poisoned with 1080. Immigrants come to New Zealand to boost the economy. To make them not feel too comfortable, the Government has invented Direct Deduction and Spousal Provision.
"I'm a fan of immigration because migrants tend to work a damned sight harder than us natives. They are a disproportionately small share of the welfare watch and improve New Zealand every time they step off the plane."
(Michael Laws, Mayor of Wanganui and radio talkback host, in his column in the Sunday Star Times on 28 March 2010)