When I’m 65

This time last year, in these pages, I wrote of a landmark life event that had been nicely illustrated by the Beatles, back when the event was so remote that it could never happen to me. But time catches up.

Now, twelve months on, I’ve reached  a new majority. I’m officially a pensioner, on New Zealand Superannuation (aka National Super) and I can retire if I want. I’m not going to, but I’m happy to accept a dividend on my tax contributions.

I was supposed to have the fabled Winston Peters SuperGold Card in my hands by the day I turned 65, so I could start taking free off-peak trips on public transport and claiming discounts in a few shops that offer miserly 10% discounts on specified items few people would want anyway. At my birthday drinks at the office, I would have held up the card and shown the young ones what they could aspire to. That wasn’t to be – but the card has finally turned up.

Apart from an occasional free bus trip to Courtenay Place when it’s raining, I don’t think I’ll be using Winston’s card much. I certainly won’t be voting for him out of gratitude.

The retail concessions are pathetic – New Zealand businesses haven’t got behind the card.

Wellington City Council concessions, other than off-peak bus travel, seem practically non-existent. If you’re crippled, they’ll collect rubbish at your back door and bring library books to you. If you’re on the bones of your financial arse you’ll get a discount on council housing. But though these things are listed on the SuperGold Card website, you can be sure that waving the card won’t guarantee the concession. There’ll still be forms to fill in, interviews, doctors’ certificates, bank statements and more. As there always have been.

To get my national super, I had to fill in a long and complicated form and provide quite a lot of evidence of my authenticity. Also Liz’s authenticity, though it’s two more years before she qualifies for ‘super’. I had a compulsory interview at Work & Income, by a woman who is now my ‘Case Officer’. (I’m now a case?)

My first visit to a Work and Income office was interesting, if dispiriting. A huge room with dozens of clerks at their desks. Some were clerking and some were talking to their beneficiary ‘clients’ – mostly people on unemployment, sickness and DPB benefits.

The sight of all those desks, clerks and beneficiaries was bad enough, but what cranked my cynicism engine were the many huge exhortative propaganda posters spread around the room. I’m not sure whom the posters were aimed at – beneficiaries or clerks – but I couldn’t see either group being impressed. I sneaked a rough photo with my mobile phone of the posters nearest to me. In one, a smiling mailing room worker says, “Giving 100% is easy because I LOVE my job.” In the other, a young bloke says, “I get a BUZZ out of helping people.”

If I worked there and agreed with those statements, I wouldn’t need to be reminded of it. If I were ambivalent about the job, or hated it, the posters would make me livid. And we know, from media reports, that morale in Work & Income offices is often poor. I can’t see those posters making disgruntled staff feel better about their jobs. Quite the opposite. One can only imagine what ‘clients’ think of the posters.

Propaganda posters at the Work & Income office in Wellington. Earlier, the young woman on the desk between me and the wall had been dealing with a stroppy beneficiary and I was impressed by the calm and patient way she handled him. But it was a very public situation, and both case officer and 'client' deserved more privacy. They were only three metres from me and I could hear everything. Open plan architects and HR departments have much to answer for.

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3 Responses to When I’m 65

  1. kutarere says:

    Hmmmm. I was going to wish you Happy Birthday, but the tone of your post hardly warrants that, huh!? I’m approaching a similar milestone having been born a 3rd generation NZ MacGibbon in Kaponga in 1946 (but being an October baby Dad obviously started celebrating the end of the war a wee bit late?) but in view of your post I will creep towards the Big Day rather than galloping eagerly to attain the ‘golden’ number.
    Oh bugger it! Happy birthday anyway!

  2. I’m not unhappy being 65, though I guess I’d rather be 45. Or younger maybe? Dunno. My problem with the big 65 was mainly what I encountered at the Work and Income office when going for my compulsory interview and becoming a Work and Income ‘case’. It was those repulsive ra-ra posters all around the room that did it for me. Orwellian.

    It would seem that you aren’t one of my family of MacGibbons if you are my age and third generation. I’m fifth generation, descended from John and Jane MacGibbon who arrived at Port Chalmers in 1849. They hailed from Glasgow, but the family was earlier in Perthshire, and was a sept of the Buchanan clan. I’ve been our family chronicler, and wrote a book about it all, described at http://www.ngaiopress.com/goabroad.htm.

    The only MacGibbon I know personally who is not from our line is Ian McGibbon, the military historian in Wellington. His family spell their name variously Mc and Mac. Ours were Mc as well until 1858.

    What were your origins in NZ? You can reply by ordinary email if you click the ‘About’ tab on this blog and click the ’email me’ link there.

  3. kutarere says:

    Reference your comment on ‘kutarere’- I think I like your mother!!! I LOVE the irony of the PWMU/atheist connection. Hehe.

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