Senior citizens will be able to get a Super Gold Card offering them discounts and concessions from August after legislation paving its way was passed by Parliament yesterday.
The Social Security (Entitlement Cards) Amendment Bill was given its third reading by 119 votes to two. Only the Act MPs voted against it.
The Super Gold Card was a New Zealand First election pledge and was part of the party's confidence and money supply agreement with the Government.
NZ First leader Winston Peters, who is also Associate Senior Citizens Minister, said that from August the Super Gold Card would be available to around 540,000 people aged 65 and over, or those aged under 65 who received a veteran's pension or otherwise met the eligibility criteria.
"As well as enabling seniors to access commercial discounts from Super Gold Card business partners, it will help them access the wide range of central and local government entitlements, services and concessions already available to them."
Seniors' cards had been available in Australia for about 15 years and had provided benefits.
Mr Peters said cardholders would have the option of a photograph on their card, which would be useful for those who did not have photo ID.
Veterans with war and emergency service might opt to receive a specially branded veterans' version of the card.
There would be a dedicated Super Gold Card website, 0800 phone number and printed directory promoting the range of entitlements, concessions and discounts available from central government, local authorities and businesses.
There is provision in the Social Security (Entitlement Cards) Amendment Bill for microchips to be installed on entitlement cards.
Mr Peters said the new law did enable regulations to be passed providing for barcodes and microchips on entitlement cards.
However, he said misleading claims had been made about microchipping, and this technology would not be part of the Super Gold Card when it was launched in August.
However, the reality had to be faced that in the not-too-distant future banks and retailers would be using microchip technology as a "more secure" medium for storing information.
Mr Peters said that should microchips be introduced, the information stored would remain confined to limited personal details such as the cardholder's name and client number, and the expiry date of the card.
An amendment to the bill last week means the Privacy Commissioner and the State Services Commission must be consulted before microchip technology is introduced. National MP Judith Collins said the legislation applied to all social security entitlement cards, should any be issued, so microchipped details could be installed on entitlement cards including for unemployed and domestic purposes beneficiaries.
"This bill does not just relate to a veterans' card, it doesn't just relate to a Super Gold Card ... it actually relates to any entitlement card for social security beneficiaries," Mrs Collins said.
That was why National, the Maori Party, United Future, independent MP Taito Phillip Field, the Greens and Act had worked together to make sure there was "some overview" from the Privacy Commissioner and the State Services Commission before microchipping was introduced on such cards.
Mrs Collins said veterans had told her the Super Gold Card was a "Clayton's card" but they probably should wait and see what happened because they would get discounts from some commercial entities "and possibly even on rates".
Labour, National, NZ First, the Greens, the Maori Party, United Future, the Progressives and Mr Field voted for the bill.
What's on offer
* Pensioners will have access to commercial discounts from the card's business partners as well as central and local government entitlements, services and concessions already available to them.
* It will replace the community services card for eligible cardholders aged 65 and over, and the Super Card.