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The Sixth And Seventh Ages - Sans Everything?

15 April 2004

“The Sixth And Seventh Ages - Sans Everything?"

Winston Peters
Vision Senior Living Papamoa Promotion
192 Parton Road, Papamoa
Thursday, 15 April 2004 at 4.00pm

There are very few things certain in this life.

One of them, unfortunately, is the sobering fact that we are all going to get older and even die.

William Shakespeare referred to this in his play “As you Like it “ when he touched on the seven ages of man – or the seven ages of persons as we would now say.

Shakespeare described the retirement period as thus:

“The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slipper'd pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose, and pouch on side,
His youthful hose well sav'd, a world too wide,
For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
Turning again towards childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything”

That might sound a bit depressing but the sad reality in New Zealand is that we have too many people living out their final years “sans nearly everything”.

Unfortunately for the elderly, successive governments have tinkered with the standard of living of elderly New Zealanders.
Many citizens who have made their contribution, and are entitled to live in some degree of financial security, now live in a state of insecurity, because the State cannot be trusted to treat them fairly in their declining years.

We are once again having our perennial debate over retirement incomes and whether the country will still be able to afford to pay a pension when the baby boomer generation reaches retirement age.
We have opposing schools of thought.

One group, says we will be able to afford the present rate of 65 percent of the average wage at age 65, while the other says the age of eligibility should be raised and the present rate lowered.
This of course begs the question. How many employers in New Zealand want to take on workers aged 65 or over?

We certainly don’t want to follow some examples overseas where elderly people are reduced to demeaning and cheap labour, working for a pittance at menial jobs.

Retirement should not be about poverty, scraping to make ends meet and being unable to afford a doctor or a prescription.
If life is not worth living in retirement because of circumstances beyond the control of the individual, then we have reached a very sorry stage indeed.

The elderly are our taonga – our living treasures. Many have experience and wisdom sadly needed in our society.

But some commentators see them only as a problem to be financed when they are not longer able to work.

Until New Zealand First arrived on the political scene, no government in this country had ever confronted the problem of funding, or of creating a long term savings base for the future of all New Zealanders regardless of gender or economic background.

Instead, they relied on ineffectual political devices like the Superannuation Accord (which New Zealand First refused to sign), an equally ineffectual Superannuation Task Force, and expensive public relations campaigns.

To add to the problems of ordinary New Zealanders facing a bleak old age, the 1984 Labour government defied logic (as it did so often) and removed incentives for retirement savings.

This left New Zealand almost alone in the world as a country which did not encourage its people to save for their retirement.

During our time in the coalition government we offered a referendum on a compulsory retirement savings scheme.

New Zealanders were given a choice on a major issue and they voted it down but they did not vote the problem away.

It is twofold – because it involves not only the retirement income of the elderly, but also the lack of savings in this country.

We are reliant on the savings of people in other countries to finance our major projects.

And that is a worry.

During the first term of this present government, New Zealand First voted to support the Cullen fund which was set up to help finance the pension “bulge” in about twenty years or so.

It was a long way short of what we wanted but it was a start and we hope to do better after the next election.

Our debt levels and balance of payments problems will never be overcome until we accept that national savings are critical to our future economic development and the eventual freedom from dependence on foreign money.

New Zealanders must be given every incentive to save for their retirement.

Once it was everybody’s dream to own their own home.
A freehold home is wonderful security because it not only provides a rent free existence, there is growing equity to meet unexpected expense – as long as ongoing expenses like rates and maintenance can be paid for.

But, owning a home is regrettably becoming a pipe dream for many New Zealanders.

Mass immigration has created a shortage of housing, particularly in the Auckland area, and high demand for property has pushed up prices throughout the country.

As a result it is harder for young people to find the deposit for their first home, and this will create many problems for them in the future – particularly when they can no longer work.

There are no easy answers to this but one thing is certain.

If all political parties don’t reach some basic agreement on the need for adequate funding for pensions, we will continue our slide into the Third World and the elderly will be the first to be hit.

The fate of our elderly cannot rest on some political whim.
Here in Papamoa Vision Senior Living has a plan as developers, managers and owners of hospitality retirement villages.

Three hundred residents reside in three villages and Papamoa and Kerikeri are the next on the programme.

The five villages have the capacity for over 1,000 homes. Company growth statistics indicate that about two hundred a year will be added from now on.

This is a big day for the organisation, the developers and builders, and the financiers of the project.

The end result will be a better retirement for many elderly people in the Bay of Plenty.

In commending you for that I have much pleasure in declaring this project underway.

ENDS

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