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Superannuitants in Australia can apply to have payments continue

MSD CEO, Debbie Power, Matthew Tukaki, Chair of the National Maori Authority & Jane Wrightson, Retirement Commissioner

The Chair of the National Maori Authority has thanked MSD CEO Debbie Power for stepping in to ensure that whanau stuck in Australia because of the border closures and the inability for many to come back through MIQ have their superannuation payments continue. Tukaki joined forces with Retirement Commissioner, Jane Wrightson, to advocate for those stuck overseas after receiving dozens of requests for help:

"The work is about to get underway by MSD staff to start contacting whanau from Monday - can i also thank all of those workers manning those phones and can i also ask people remain patient as requests are processed - the key is to ensure we get these payments sorted as soon as possible to provide certainty." Tukaki said

In a statement, MSD CEO Debbie Power has said:

"We understand the unique and challenging situation that superannuitants who left for Australia while the travel bubble was open are in because of its prolonged closure," Ministry of Social Development Chief Executive Debbie Power says.

"Although advice was always clear that MIQ could be a possibility in the event the travel bubble closed, the scale of demand for those spaces and the difficulties superannuitants are facing has only recently become apparent.

"We’ve been keeping a close eye on the situation, and now feel that superannuitants who travelled to Australia during the quarantine-free travel period could not have reasonably foreseen they would be unable to return for a period greater than six months, even if the bubble closed."

As a result, MSD will now consider applications on a case-by-case basis for NZ Super and Veteran’s Pension payments to continue beyond the 26-week temporary absence period, under portability provisions, for people whose absence is solely linked to the travel bubble closure.

Any decisions already made for superannuitants in Australia will be reviewed, and if payments have already been stopped then MSD will work with clients to determine ongoing financial assistance. MSD will begin contacting superannuitants in Australia from Monday.

Retirement Commissioner, Jane Wrightson has said:

“I support New Zealand’s longstanding policy regarding restrictions on pension payments when pensioners are overseas for long periods. It is a policy that is fair in ordinary times, but one that does not envisage the extraordinary cards Delta has dealt.

“This is not a simple matter, and I was hoping MSD would use its discretionary power to manage this urgently. I am very grateful to hear MSD has taken a pragmatic approach to this complex issue.

“Many people have contacted me over the past few weeks with their stories, and others who have also been advocating on their behalf. Together we all made a principled case for change.”

Under section 22 of the New Zealand Superannuation and Retirement Income Act 2001 (NZSRIA), a superannuitant is entitled to payment of their normal rate of superannuation in respect of the first 26 weeks of absence from New Zealand, as long as either:

- they return to NZ within 30 weeks; or

- their absence exceeds 30 weeks and the Ministry is satisfied the absence beyond 30 weeks is due to circumstances beyond their control that they could not reasonably have foreseen before departure.

MSD’s previous view was that there were no legislative provisions under which New Zealand Superannuation and Veteran Pension clients who are unable to return from Australia solely because of the travel bubble closing could be paid any financial assistance, given New Zealanders were warned this could happen.

However, there are legislative provisions that allow MSD, on a case-by-case basis, to take unforeseeable reasons why a person cannot return to New Zealand into account. For example, a serious medical event.


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