The Cook Islands Government welcomed the first reading of the Social Assistance Bill by the New Zealand Parliament earlier this week.
The Bill will, if passed, would allow Cook Islanders who have lived in New Zealand for ten years, at least five after the age of 50, to return to the Cook Islands to work after they've turned 55 but still be able to collect the New Zealand Superannuation or Veteran's fund at age 65. The New Zealand Government have estimated this change will mean 245 people will become newly eligible when the bill is passed, this number likely increasing by an additional 16 people each year.
New Zealand Social Development Minister Anne Tolley, in speaking to the Bill articulated the change was restricted to the Cook Islands, Niue, and Tokelau in recognition of New Zealand's "close constitutional relationship, shared citizenship and unique legal arrangements" with realm countries like the Cook Islands.
The Cook Islands Minister of Finance, the Honourable Mark Brown pointed out the significant efforts that the Government had gone towards requesting New Zealand to improve the accessibility of New Zealand Superannuation to allow Cook Islanders to retire in the Cook Islands.
“It is not a secret that the Government of the Cook Island would like to remove the five year requirement after the age of 55. It would be a fabulous step if people could, at 50 years of age know they can come home while they are still productive and work or get into business with comfort of knowing that they qualify by being resident in one of the realm countries like the Cook Islands.
But this is a significant improvement, and improvements happen incrementally, this is a positive step in the right direction.”
Minister Brown outlined that the Government will make a public submission to the Parliamentary Select Committee and encouraged others in the Cook Islands to do so as well.