Improving pension portability to the Cook Islands, Niue and Tokelau

Minister for Social Development Carmel Sepuloni says the Government’s intent to improve access to New Zealand Superannuation or Veteran’s Pension for those looking to retire to the Cook Islands, Niue and Tokelau moved one step closer today.

Today, the Bill to amend the The Social Assistance (Residency Qualification) Legislation, introduced into Parliament on 28 March this year, had its First Reading.

“The changes will allow people applying for New Zealand Superannuation or Veteran’s Pension in New Zealand, the Cook Islands, Niue or Tokelau, to be able to use residence in any of those places to count towards the requirement for five years residence over the age of 50,” Ms Sepuloni said.

Currently, the criteria for New Zealand Superannuation or Veteran’s Pension is that a person must have been resident and present in New Zealand for 10 years after the age of 20, and for five years after the age of 50.

Ms Sepuloni says the changes will mean people who are eligible for New Zealand Superannuation and Veteran’s Pension will be able to remain in these countries and contribute to the local economy without having to return to New Zealand just to qualify for their pension. 

“This Bill responds to concerns that the current five years over 50 requirement is a disincentive for Cook Islanders, Niueans and Tokelauans to remain in their employment and to participate in their home communities after having lived in New Zealand when younger.

“It is expected that removing the five years residence in New Zealand over the age of 50 requirement will help boost economic development and human resource capacity by allowing highly skilled people to continue contributing to their communities in these Pacific islands. 

 “This change will not be restricted to citizens of the Cook Islands, Niue and Tokelau. All New Zealanders who qualify for New Zealand Superannuation and Veteran’s Pension will be able to make use of the provision should they choose and be eligible to live in the Cook Islands, Niue, or Tokelau.

“This Government wants to ensure  New Zealanders have as many options as possible as to where they spend their retirement. We also want to ensure that those countries and territories that have close constitutional ties with New Zealand are recognised and that their ongoing economic and social viability is supported.”

The Bill will be referred to the Social Services and Community Select Committee and the new policy is expected to apply from January 2019.