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GP Presidents Report – September 2017

Tom-O'Connor
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

GP Presidents Report – March 2017

Issues And Options For 2017

Tom-O'Connor
Tom O’Connor

A number of national and international developments have the potential to cause us some problems and hard work over the next few month and we need to be united and focused on what we do and how we do it.

These developments include the election of Donald Trump to the presidency of the United States, the election of Bill English as New Zealand’s Prime Minister and the resurfacing of the New Zealand Constitution conversation, among others.

As was predicted in the long lead up to the election of Donald Trump the United States has now officially withdrawn from the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA).  While some in Grey Power might be elated at that news, as we were strongly opposed to what little we knew of the international trade treaty, it has not gone away.

Our concerns were the potential loss of access to affordable medications which would probably have impacted on older people more than most others.

There were also issues of the loss of New Zealand’s right to make our own laws without pressure from international corporations seeking easy access to the New Zealand marketplace.

New Prime Minister Bill English has signaled that New Zealand and the remaining signatories to TPPA could proceed with a revised treaty.

If that is the case then we need to insist that the big multinational corporations should be sidelined and that the process should include a more open dialogue with the New Zealand public.

This issue alone has the potential to bring a major impact on our members and, while our new Prime Minister should be given every opportunity to find his way into the job, we can’t afford to relax and are seeking an early discussion with him.

In the last few weeks the proposed New Zealand Constitution has resurfaced with all manner of wild and unfounded claims being made about the intentions of Government and some political activists.

The reality is that all the essential components of a New Zealand constitution already exist in several laws. Some of them, such as the Freedom of Information Act (1982), Bill of Rights Act (1990) are relatively well known but other elements can be difficult to find and identify. Pulling them all together into a single all encompassing, entrenched and supreme document is both logical and long overdue.

Such a constitution would provide certainty for, and prudent constraint on, protection for all New Zealanders provided that the constitution could not be amended or repealed  without the over whelming will and mandate of the nation via a binding referendum specifically and solely for that purpose.

The fact that some politicians have already said a written, entrenched constitution would be a hindrance to government, suggests it is probably a good idea.

Under a New Zealand Constitution we would have greater protection from political meddling or secret negotiations like TPPA than we have now.

In the lead up to this years General Election we can expect pressure from all manner of political groups for Grey Power to support their particular ideas on these issues.  We have already had a few last year but there will no doubt be more in the months ahead.

It is absolutely essential for us to form our own opinions and policies, not support those of other groups. We may come up with similar ideas but they must be ours, decided by our membership alone.

To achieve that it is important for all associations to not allow other groups to foist their ideas on them or make submissions to Government on these matters without letting the Federation office know first.

That way we can coordinate our efforts and strengths rather than be fragmented, contradictory and easy to ignore.

TOM O’CONNOR

President

National Grey Power Federation.

GP Presidents Report – December 2016

Tom-OConnorPushing political barrows is not Grey Power’s reason for being.

It’s great to be popular and Grey Power seems more popular than ever with groups who want us to push their political barrows.

The reaction when we decline is predictable and a bit hilarious. Like jilted lovers, they turn nasty and throw tantrums when told “no.”

The first group was the Legalise Cannabis Party which got involved in the campaign by an association to improve access to medical cannabis until I managed to convince them we did not need their help.

GP Federation Presidents Report – September 2016

Tom-O'Connor
Tom O’Connor

The past three months have been a very busy time for most board members with preparations underway for the general election next year and some changes to the way we do things.

As part of a plan to make the board more accessible to members I want to attend as many zone meetings as possible in my first year as president. I have also introduced’ a two hour open forum before our quarterly board meetings, which we will now hold in Auckland, Wellington, Christ- church and Dunedin in rotation.

The first open forum was held in Wellington in August and there was a lively but informal debate on a wide range of issues and ideas with some good suggestions for the board to consider.

GP Federation Presidents Report – June 2016

Tom-O'Connor
Tom O’Connor

It has been a time of change on the federations board with my election to the presidency,  the election of Mac Welch to the vice-presidency and the election of Christina Humphries to replace Mac as Zone Three Representative.

The new team has some very important challenges ahead and we have made an early start.

We have also lost our immediate past president Terry King and Zone Six representative Miles Jackson from around the board table and their combined knowledge of Grey Power matters will be hard to replace. After six years Miles decided it was time to concentrate on home issues with his Rangiora Association.

GP Federation Presidents Report – March 2016

terry-king
Terry King

Grey Power’s Future As Strong As Ever

My very warm greetings to everyone and I hope you all had an enjoyable Christmas/New Year Holiday break.

Like the Federation Board I’m sure all Associations had a very busy 2015 and I’m surprised at how quickly the year went.

Grey Power Electricity is a great success story and although the ownership of Pulse Energy has changed from a public listed company to a privately owned one, Grey Power’s current and future relationship remains as strong as ever.

GP Federation Presidents Report – November 2015

National Grey Power Federation President – Terry King

terry-king-300x300
Terry King

A feature for many members in the recent September magazine was the Advocacy Report covering the team’s visit to Parliament to meet with Government , opposition parties and other decision makers to discuss issues raised by our membership at large.

Many associations extract some of the detailed information presented in the report and recycle it in their own newsletters. Due to the depth of the report it is great to receive good feedback and congratulations from around the country.

Some members have asked for background on Advocacy visits and how they work.

GP Federation Presidents Report – September 2015

A Proud Tradition Covering 30 Years

National Grey Power Federation President – Terry King

 

terry-king
Terry King

In 2016 Grey Power will have been in existence for 30 years and that’s a record of which everyone can feel justifiably proud because as an organisation advocating for the welfare and wellbeing of the older person we have registered some major successes.

Grey Power stands for income security in retirement, good health services, high quality rest home care, affordable power bills, a fair rating system and much more.  In our opinion when things are out of kilter we speak to all Parliamentary parties and Government officials and express a view-point.

Dignity, decency, respect, tolerance, citizenship, service and fairness to all. We extend a helping hand to those less fortunate than ourselves.

GP Federation Presidents Report – June 2015

Life Members Inducted At AGM

terry-king
Terry King

National Grey Power Federation President – Terry King

As I write this article the Minister of Finance Hon Bill English has just6 delivered his May Budget which is positive overall for the older person.

A substantial boost to the Health budget with $76 million dedicated to helping hospices expand palliative care services, and $98 million in funding for more elective surgeries and $320 million for health boards over the next four years is good news.

Labour Leader Andrew Little did himself no favours when he led with the chin, suggesting means testing should be considered for Superannuation.

GP Federation Presidents Report – March 2015

Like members of the Federation Board and its associated National Advisory Groups, I’m sure Association Committee members around the country are looking forward to a well- earned break during the up-coming holiday period.

terry-king-300x300
Terry King

It’s therefore appropriate I express on behalf of the Federation Board our thanks to all Associations for their assistance and support during the year.

The November Board Meeting faced a heavy working Agenda and with excellent contributions from all members the many issues and requests were dealt with in good time.

Day two of the Meeting commenced at 8.00am with a 6.00pm finish and this is a punishing, but very necessary schedule, for everyone as we discuss reports and consider recommendations.