Bernard Hickey 's Opinion

Bernard is an economics columnist for the NZ Herald

Bernard Hickey: We care, why don't you?

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John Key will retire comfortably. Photo / Chris Gorman
John Key will retire comfortably. Photo / Chris Gorman

To: Sir John Key (former PM of New Zealand)

Address: Somewhere warm and comfortable

Date: August 6, 2026

From: New Zealanders born from 2002 to 2011, living in New Zealand, Australia, UK, US and Asia.

Subject: Happy 65th birthday

Dear Sir John,

We congratulate you on your 65th birthday.

We hope you are enjoying your retirement after your 24 years of service as an MP and your 12 years as Prime Minister.

We understand you are due to receive the New Zealand Superannuation from the taxpayers which, when combined with your wife Bronagh's pension, still works out at 66 per cent of the average wage.

We also understand you will also be receiving a pension on top of that from the government from your years of service as an MP and Prime Minister.

And we understand you have retained your wealth from your years as a successful foreign exchange trader and investment banker, including the tax-free capital gains made on the various properties you owned.

We had thought of buying you a present to go with your pension, the NZ Super and your own private savings, but we're a bit short of cash at the moment.

In fact, we're not that thrilled with some of the decisions you made 15 years ago, which mean we're not feeling that flush right now.

We are the generation born between 2002, when you became an MP, and 2011, when you won your second of four terms as Prime Minister.

We wonder why you insisted on spending our inheritance to ensure you were voted back in.

We're now either about to graduate, are unemployed or have just started work. Our taxes are about to go up to pay the interest costs on the debt you incurred and to pay for the healthcare and pension costs of your generation.

We understand your government borrowed $20 billion alone in the 2010/11 year. We remember the appalling earthquake, but most of this was to pay for middle-class welfare measures that Labour and National used during the 2000s to get themselves elected.

The tax cuts you delivered to your fellow wealthy New Zealanders had to be paid for with borrowings of $2.8 billion in the 2010/11 year alone. What happened to that money?

All we see now are excruciatingly high house prices in Auckland in particular.

We can't afford to even think about buying a house here.

Those people of your generation that owned property when we started being born in 2002 became fabulously wealthy and paid no tax on those capital gains.

You and your generation then decided to keep the retirement age at 65 and the payment for a couple at 66 per cent of the average wage, even though the Retirement Commission, Treasury and a host of other experts told you that you could not afford to keep doing it, particularly now.

We understand you even said you would resign if you ever increased the retirement age or changed the 66 per cent payout.

We had a look through Hansard and found a quote from October 4, 2011, where you said you weren't concerned about the economic outlook beyond 2025. Why? We care. Why didn't you?

Kind regards,

Bernard.

- Herald on Sunday

Bernard Hickey

Bernard is an economics columnist for the NZ Herald

Bernard Hickey is the publisher of Hive News, a Wellington-based political and economic subscription news email service. He also writes for Interest.co.nz and appears regularly on Radio New Zealand, Radio Live, TVNZ and TV3. He has been a financial journalist for 25 years, having worked for Reuters, the Financial Times Group and Fairfax Media.

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