The proposed changes directly affect the Cook Islands, Niue and Tokerau which are part of the Realm of New Zealand.
Key is scheduled to arrive on Rarotonga this afternoon with a large contingent from New Zealand. Puna hopes by having ‘bilateral discussions’ with Key during his visit here the Cook Islands government may learn what those reasons were.
The amendment submitted by New Zealand First leader Winston Peters and supported by the Labour Party wanted to remove the requirement for New Zealand citizens from realm countries to be resident in New Zealand for five years after the age of 50. However, the amendment did not go through, meaning Cook Islanders who have lived in New Zealand for 10 years or more still have to return for five years after the age of 50 to qualify for New Zealand superannuation at age 65.
PM Puna says whatever reasons PM Key’s government has, the Cook Islands needs to be ‘respectful of those and engage with New Zealand continuously so that we can achieve the changes we think New Zealand mean’.
Puna says government is mindful of what is best for the Cook Islands, which is to have the five after 50 requirement removed.
“It gives our people the option of coming home early. It’s good for them and it’s very, very good for the country. I think people are at their prime economically when they turn 50.”
Online news agency Pacific Guardians reported New Zealand government officials had estimated the cost of administering the scheme if the ‘five after 50’ clause was removed to be be $9 million to $21 million.
Labour MP, Poto Williams, the first Cook Islands woman to be elected into New Zealand parliament, reportedly told parliament: ‘in terms of the value of the contribution of the people of the Realm to this country, I would say that that is fairly small change—$9 million to $21 million’.