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.”