Nicholas Jones is a New Zealand Herald political reporter.

Grey Power march on Parliament

Winston Peters and Annette King collected the petition against the changes to SuperGold public transport cards for senior citizens. Photo / Nicholas Jones
Winston Peters and Annette King collected the petition against the changes to SuperGold public transport cards for senior citizens. Photo / Nicholas Jones

Grey Power members have presented a petition against changes to the SuperGold Card scheme to NZ First leader Winston Peters.

Around 60 seniors gathered outside Parliament, chanting "Gold Card, Gold Card" and calling on passers-by to, "join us - you'll need it one day".

Former Tauranga Grey Power president Christina Humphreys started the petition, which had been signed by about 4000 people, six weeks ago.

Ms Humphreys told the Herald she wanted to make clear to the Government undermining of the scheme wouldn't be tolerated.

"We don't want to wait until the whole thing is gone. We don't want to lose the Gold Card, we need our Gold Card. Most of what we do as Grey Power is really for the next generations."

Labour's deputy leader Annette King joined NZ First MPs in accepting the petition.
It requests that the new capped bulk funding model introduced after a review of the scheme last year be examined to ensure adequate funding from central government.

The petitioners also want the SuperGold Card to be a smartcard, with photo identification, because many of those utilising the card no longer had their driver's licence for identification.

May's Budget provided close to $41 million in extra funding over four years for the scheme, which the Government says means cardholders should have certainty in the scheme and continued free off-peak travel.

Despite that pledge, Mr Peters has campaigned on what he says is the Government's desire to reduce the benefits and cover of the card.

The NZ First leader has also been critical of changes that mean SuperGold cardholders will have to buy a smartcard such as the Hop card used around Auckland if they want the free travel they are entitled to.

The Government says the July 1 change will help transport planning, and giving smartcards to the 662,000 SuperGold card users was too costly.

But today Mr Peters said that the cost and inconvenience of buying a smartcard undermined the scheme, particularly for people visiting Auckland and other areas and wanting to use transport.

"If you come in from Invercargill and Kaitia, and you've been told you get free transport in off-peak hours when the seats are empty, you are going to be charged for it. That's the truth."

The scheme has more than 670,000 cardholders, and numbers are increasing by about 29,000 a year.

The SuperGold Card is available to all eligible New Zealanders aged 65 years or over, and those under 65 who receive the New Zealand Superannuation or the Veterans Pension.

Cardholders can travel free on public transport between 9am and 3pm and after 6:30pm Monday to Friday, and all day on Saturday and Sunday.

- NZ Herald

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