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Flavell Speech: We will remember them

New Zealand and Superannuation and Retirement Income Amendment Bill

Te Ururoa Flavell, Maori Party

Tuesday 27 June 2006

Less than a month ago, one of much cherished kuia of Te Arawa and Te Whanau-a-Apanui, Anne Anituatua Delamere, passed away at the age of 85.

As we have turned to this the New Zealand Superannuation and Retirement Income Amendment Bill, her name came up in conversation.

Ani, I understand, was one of the five community members on the Advisory Council for Senior Citizens, which provided the Minister for Senior Citizens with independent advice on issues concerning the well-being of older people - and as such, I am sure her input will be evident in this Bill - as with many others before the House.

Ani Delamere was amongst a distinguished group of former service people, including James Henare, Pita Awatere and John Rangihau, who were recruited as welfare officers.

They were a group of public servants who played a key role in mobilising the Maori workforce, helping to facilitate the urban drift during the 1950s and 1960s, lining up jobs, helping them with housing and education, while still supporting them in adhering to their hapu and iwitanga.

In 1961, Ani Delamere helped to establish and run the Maori Education Foundation, interviewing thousands of school leavers, setting them on the track to higher education and watching and encouraging their progress.

Former Maori Affairs secretary Neville Baker says Miss Delamere was instrumental in helping families with their education and health and employment and so forth, particularly harnessing the strength of Maori women. Indeed, Ani was a life member of the Maori Women's Welfare League, having helped to establish it in 1951.

Mr Speaker, I mihi to Ani Delamere today, because many of those Maori she helped over fifty years ago, are the people we are talking about today - who are seeking to enjoy continued participation in our communities.

The New Zealand Superannuation and Retirement Income Amendment Bill helps to make life easier for this group - in much the same way that Ani Delamere did in taking under her wing, the hundreds of Maori who left their rural communities for the streets of Wellington.

There is another woman that I want to acknowledge, as we consider the Bill before this House today. That is the Richmond pensioner, Barbara White, who along with 1500 others, petitioned Parliament to seek fairer pension payments.

Mrs White, I am told, had received only a single person's benefit because her husband was in care suffering from Alzheimer's disease.

The Bill that is being debated today, is indebted to her initiative.

The Bill extends eligibility for the single or single living alone rate recognising the discriminatory impacts of the strict and arbitrary forms of income testing which currently exists in the sharing expenses rule.

I have received over my desk, a number of submissions from people who are in the situation whereby they would have to divorce or declare themselves unmarried in order to be eligible for additional payment.

It may not be a huge amount of money that we're talking about - the payments relate to some $20 to $30 a week.

But these are significant amounts of extra dollars for Maori, who face a relatively high rate of material disadvantage, compared to the living standards of older non-Maori.

This Bill is also very significant for Maori in that the changing ethnic composition of the older population means more and more Maori will benefit from the legislation being heard today.

We need to bear in mind, that while Maori and Pacific peoples account for only a small proportion of the senior population, the demographic is changing.

The older Maori population is projected to grow rapidly, around 5% per year, reaching 32,000 by 2011 and nearly 84,000 by 2031.

Older Maori currently account for just 3 percent of the Maori population - this will increase to ten percent by 2031.

This will also have implications for the proportion of Maori within the general senior population - expected to rise from 4 percent of all older people in 1999 to 9 percent from 2031.

So how will this affect the uptake of New Zealand Superannuation? It is extremely significant that older Maori have a lower than average take up of New Zealand Superannuation - only 78 percent reported having receiving it in the 1996 Census compared to 91 percent of the rest of the older population. According to the Ministry of Social Development, the reasons for this are unclear.

An issue that has been raised in Senior Citizens Unit consultations with Maori is the effect on Maori of the increasing age of eligibility for New Zealand Superannuation.

The issue is that the eligibility age for New Zealand Superannuation of 65 years, combined with lower life expectancy rates for Maori, means that some Maori will not receive NZ super, and indeed most Maori will not receive NZ Super for as long as their non-Maori counterparts.

Maori life expectancy is 73 years for females compared to 81.9 for non-Maori; and 69 years for males compared to 77.2 years.

Despite some rat-bag reporting and political pontificating at the time prior to last year's Elections, the issues regarding inequities in Maori access to superannuation remain current.

These are big challenges which this Parliament must consider.

We must invest in our senior citizens, Maori and non-Maori, by assisting access to health services, by challenging all agencies of the state to be responsive to our elderly, to ensure that the programmes provided reflect the choices and preferences of a diverse senior population.

In talking to this Bill today, I want to also refer to the War Pensions Amendment Bill, which relates to the pensions stemming from service in the Second World War, Vietnam War, and Korean War, with certain New Zealand Peacekeeping forces.

This Bill introduces an entitlement to veteran's pensions for spouses or partners of persons in long-term residential care in hospital or resthomes. The Maori Party is happy to support these amendments, in order to ensure that an equitable standard of living is able to be enjoyed by veterans as it is any superannuants.

There are, however, some issues which the Maori Party has brought to this House this week, which we believe warrant further debate.

We have raised the issue with the Minister of Veterans Affairs, the discriminatory impact of the differences in pension payments and compensation available for injured soldiers under the War Pension Act 1954.

This compensation, when compared to Accident Compensation; clearly disadvantages Vietnam veterans; nearly 60% of whom are Maori.

In a report presented to the Agent Orange Joint Working Group on Concerns of Vietnam Veterans , Vietnam Veteran, Bruce Isbister, stated:

"Their earning capacity has been taken from them by their service to country, consigned to an income akin to poverty line and exacerbated by blatant discrimination.

Many veteran pensioners have to sell family assets to stay afloat causing huge disruption to themselves and their families";

These are major challenges to the well-being and ongoing living standards of our veterans, within the senior population, and we must ensure that this group - a group who has sacrificed so much on behalf of our nation - is not treated in a way which dishonours the service they have given for Aotearoa.

Finally, Mr Speaker, in closing I am thinking of the passing last week, of Hapimana Toby Rikihana, a retired teacher and principal, who was given the teacher's union's highest honour, of Life Membership.

This koroua, was a passionate advocate of Te Reo Maori who has devoted his life to promoting and teaching the language; giving over forty years of his life to education - making him an inaugural recipient of Te Tohu mo Te Reo Rangatira a Te Waka Toi/Te Waka Toi Award for Te Reo.

It is so easy for us to dismiss the experience, the knowledge and the gracious and generous spirit that our senior citizens should be recognised for.

It might interest you to know that neither Miss Delamere or Mr Rikihana ever married or had children - but they cared for so many young people, and were affectionately known as Aunty Anne and Uncle Toby to many.

That is the caring spirit we are honouring here today - and is the gift of their lives that we think of in supporting this Bill.

We will remember them.

ENDS


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