Supporting our senior citizens

Columns
Wednesday, July 27, 2016

As at the 2013 census there were 7,080 people aged 65 and over living in the Selwyn electorate. This represents 12% of our population and is slightly less than the New Zealand average of 14.3% of the total population who were aged 65 and over in March 2013. However, we know that our population is ageing so it will be interesting to see if this statistic changes considerably when the next census is held in March 2018.

The Government recognises the important contribution our older generation has made and continues to make in our communities. In return, the Government is committed to supporting our older citizens and assisting them to have easy access to the public services that they need.

Recent claims that the SuperGold card is being phased out are incorrect. In fact, this year’s Budget 2016 included an additional $41 million of operating funding for the scheme over the next four years.

The Government is committed to ensuring SuperGold card holders continue to enjoy free off-peak public transport. Recent changes to how the scheme is funded will not change these entitlements.

Over the past few years, costs of maintaining the scheme have increased rapidly due to a rise in the number of people who qualify for the scheme, increased use of the card, and increases in public transport fares. Consequently, the Government took the opportunity to wrap funding of the SuperGold scheme into recent changes to public transport funding, to get better value for money for public transport services as well as the SuperGold card scheme.

However there is no change whatsoever to the entitlements that our seniors have. The new funding model means better value for money, not a reduction in services. Card-holders can continue to catch public transport at no cost during off-peak hours.

There has also been some concern around the switch to smart cards in some areas such as Auckland. Again, there is no reduction in the services to which card-holders are entitled. It is about improving services for those using multiple forms of transport in one trip, as well as making collecting data easier.

The Government will work closely with other councils wanting to adopt similar technology to make the transition for SuperGold users as easy as possible, and ensure they are fully informed if changes are occurring in their region.

The SuperGold card is just part the Government’s package of support for older New Zealanders. We have increased funding for health to a record $16.1 billion. Superannuation has gone up 34 per cent since 2008, and more businesses than ever are part of the SuperGold scheme.

The broad range of initiatives underway show this Government remains committed to promoting the interests and welfare of our seniors.