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Maryan Street on issues of importance to older people

Liam Butler interviews Hon Maryan Street MP on issues of importance to older New Zealanders

Liam Butler

What are the issues of importance to older New Zealand post-election day?

"Any government elected on 20 September needs to consider the future demographics of this country. Any brief consideration should make policy and law makers pause for thought. We have an ageing population and a vacuum where our ageing strategy should be. When last in government, Labour started addressing this with the Ageing in Place Strategy, putting services into effect to allow older people to remain as independent as possible in their own homes. This government, with its pathologically short-term focus, has consistently neglected the future, settling for the short term view with immediate electoral returns. As a result, some of the work that should have been done by way of preparation for our ageing population has not been done. Labour can see this and is preparing on a number of fronts to seize the initiative if elected to govern, and progress a sustainable future for older New Zealanders, with as many options available to them as possible. One of those fronts is to make superannuation sustainable and to do that, we will extend the age of eligibility for NZ Super to 67, raising it by two months a year until we get to that age. People my age and younger (that is, born from 1955 onwards) will be progressively affected. We will have a progressive plan for those who simply are not able to work beyond 65 because of the physical demands of their working life so that they can draw a benefit which is the same as the pension until they reach 67. This will make the whole scheme more sustainable and less likely to collapse under the weight of an older population being supported by fewer young people in the workforce. It will guarantee a pension out into the future.

We will bring in free doctors' visits and free prescriptions for those over 65, even though we have had to push that out a bit recently because of the Government's figures released by Treasury in the recent Pre-Election Fiscal Update (PREFU). We have retained that commitment, even though we have had to phase it in a bit more slowly than we had originally thought. We are trying to keep the books in the black, as we did every year for 9 years when last in Government. But we will bring in those free prescriptions and doctors' visits!

We will pay aged care workers properly and value what they do more. We will tackle elder abuse and exploitation with better regulation and supervision.We will bring in a single Government-owned buying agency to buy electricity and control the prices charged to consumers. We think that will save consumers between $350-500 per year.

These are the issues that older people register with me when I talk to them in Nelson. Just in a meeting at the Orchard St flats last week, those were some of the issues they raised with me. House prices in Nelson are a worry for elderly people renting on a fixed income. Our wider policies will impact on the housing market in a way which will lower house prices and therefore rentals as well. Building 100,000 houses over 10 years will address the affordable housing supply issue and that will impact on rentals. We will also require all rental properties to have a Warrant of Fitness as well, which means they will all have to be insulated and have a fixed heating system installed. Stories of elderly people going to bed early to stay warm in Nelson come to me regularly. Having to choose between the power bill and food is not the kind of retirement I have in mind for our older citizens. We can do better than that and we should.

About Hon Maryan Street MP."

Labour List MP, Candidate for Nelson

Spokesperson for State Services

Spokesperson for Tertiary Education

Spokesperson for Disarmament & Arms Control

Associate Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs (ODA / human rights)

Maryan has been an MP since 2005. She has never wanted anything other than fairness for all, whether in educational opportunities, access to health care, decent wages and working conditions, or human rights. She is also passionate about our state services and the integrity of our system of government, as well as NZ's role in the world.

Before entering Parliament in 2005, Maryan was a teacher, a union official, an academic and an industrial relations practitioner. She was Minister of Housing and ACC, and Associate Minister of Tertiary Education and Economic Development in the third term of the fifth Labour Government.

BA (Hons) in English from Victoria University of Wellington

Master of Philosophy (First Class Hons) in Industrial Relations from Auckland University.

President of the New Zealand Labour Party from 1993-95.

Worked in Lesotho, Ethiopia and Kenya on constitutional and governance issues, including electoral matters.

Chairs NZ Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament, and is Vice-Chair of NZ Parliamentarians for Population Development.

To read more articles like this click here. ELDERNET GAZETTE


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