Seniors seek voice in running of NZ

By Emily Norman -
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The formation of a new political party which aims to represent older New Zealanders could "inadvertently" work against the interests of Wairarapa's senior citizens, according to New Zealand First deputy leader Ron Mark.

The New Zealand Seniors Party, which was recently formed by a group of "disgruntled pensioners" in Wellington, plans to register as an official party and will run candidates in the 2017 election to fight the "unfair" deduction of overseas pensions from New Zealand Superannuation.

"Today's seniors are tired of being ignored and dictated to by politicians, government departments and their overpaid staff," a party representative said.

"They are not willing to remain invisible. They are educated and bring a lifetime of experience and knowledge to the table, and they are certainly capable of taking an active role in the running of their own country."

But Mr Mark said, like many other single-issue parties that have formed in the past, he does not expect the New Zealand Seniors Party to meet the minimum threshold of votes needed to secure a seat in Parliament.

"It saddens me just a tad," Mr Mark said.

"People fail to realise sometimes that, when they fail to meet the threshold, all the party votes they get are divided up among those parties that do make the threshold. What this does is take some away some votes that could be crucial for a party that acts in their interests.

"The last election, NZ First was only nine votes off getting another MP. So nine party votes lost can make a substantial difference."

Mr Mark said, while the party formation would have "seemed like a good idea at the time", it would have been better to "put their weight behind the party that's always looked after senior citizens".

Masterton district councillor Gary Caffell has confirmed he would be "right behind" a Wairarapa branch of the New Zealand Seniors Party if it was formed.

"The voice of our older folk is too often ignored, not only at national level but at local body level as well," he said.

Age Concern Wairarapa programme co-ordinator Annette Peters, who did not comment specifically on the formation of the new party, said there was "definitely a need for people to listen to the needs of our elderly. There's a growing population of older people - and it's growing rapidly - and I think there's more of a need for services such as ours to be able to help people in the community," she said.

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