Tom O’Connor

With the general election not far away and the political scene in something of a washing machine style turmoil we will have to put all the hoopla and flag waving aside and examine exactly what each party would do in Government.

In spite of our best efforts over the past several years we have received little more than a polite hearing from the present Government to our many requests to improve essential services for our members.

Many of them, particularly those who live alone with only national superannuation for an income, have a harder struggle to make ends meet than many politicians seem to understand.

We should perhaps also think beyond our own immediate needs and consider the many vulnerable groups in our society who often have no one to turn to for help.

While they may not be Grey Power members they are our neighbours, friends, family members and fellow New Zealanders.

In an increasingly harsh world for those at the bottom of the social order many people survive on very little.

There has been an ongoing debate about what our real business is or should be.

While we are generally focused on the needs of people over 50 so should we be restricted to that? That will be an interesting debate for the membership.

Elsewhere in this issue we have published the responses of major parties to our policy statements to help readers decide who would best lead New Zealand in Government.

Among our major concerns is the future of national superannuation. We were annoyed that Government chose to announce an increase in the age of eligibility for national superannuation, from 65 to 67.

While the move did not come as a complete surprise we have made our disappointment known in very clear terms.

We have initiated discussions with Government to determine how those who are physically unable to work to that age will be treated with a clear indication that we will not agree to them being treated as beneficiaries.

This problem is not about those already receiving national superannuation but about those who will enter their retirement years in the near future.

We are also concerned at the number of people, of all ages, who are struggling on very low incomes.

Poverty is much more than hungry children, homeless families and old people solely dependent on national superannuation.

Many of our young people are also slipping through the cracks in our education system and missing out on the opportunity to reach their full potential.

Already this year more than 1700 students in Waikato have had applications for help to pay for subject or scholarship exams approved.

That they have to pay at all defies the concept of a free and compulsory education and the future some of those who miss out on assistance looks gloomy at best.

The Government is correct however that the New Zealand economy is in good heart but that economy is totally dependent on a significant portion of the population living on or below the poverty line.

Our economy is only positive for those with the ability to share in it.

Too many do not and comparisons with other countries is meaningless as wealth and poverty can only be measured against each other within the same system.

One of our board members, Christina Humphreys, has taken on a comprehensive study of this very important and complex problem and I hope to have her report with recommendations for the November board meeting.

During our next visit to Wellington to talk to Members of Parliament we will ask them to ensure no one is prevented by regional air plans from living in a warm house during winter.

While most regional councils and unitary authorities have taken a practical approach to the issue of air pollution during winter, others require log burners older than 15 years to be replaced regardless of efficiency.

We will ask Government to require all regional air plans to include a provision for older solid fuel heaters to be upgraded to meet reasonable air standards as a discretionary activity.

Board member Roy Reid has been invited to join a working group set up to review the Government’s Age Care funding model.

The Healthy Ageing Strategy now refers to home care as restorative care and this has raised the possibility that if a person receiving home care has improved health they may no longer qualify for home care. We will be keeping a very close eye on developments.

At our quarterly meeting in Nelson in early August we welcomed Kilian de Lacy to the board as the new representative for Zone4.

She has already taken on the responsibility for advising the board on Government social services.

She has also offered to take over the production of the Bulletin which has been edited and produced by Bob Thompson for the past seven years.
We are indebted to Bob and many people like him who work tirelessly in the background on important work for our members.

We were fortunate to have Jan Pente-cost re-elected unopposed as Federation Board secretary at our Annual General Meeting in May.

Jan is one of four board members elected nationally who make up the federation executive committee, along with the president, vice president Pete Matcham and treasurer Roy Reid.

Few people who have not served on the board will know just how big Jan’s job is.

It can, at times, involve her in a series of ten or twelve hour days dealing with the flood of Grey Power business and correspondence which makes up a huge part of what we do.

She also arranges and manages our regular visits to Wellington to negotiate with Members of Parliament.

These duties are in addition to running her household, which often includes three boisterous and lively grandsons, helping on their small family farm and serving as secretary of  the North Canterbury Grey Power Association and secretary of Zone 6.

There should be medals for such people.

Tom O’Connor

President – Grey Power federation

Comments are closed.