One of the first pieces of law the new Government passed this year was a fix to the rates rebate system to ensure those living in retirement villages obtain the rates rebate they're entitled to.

Previously, I know a lot of people were missing out on the rebate because of the way local councils collected rates — but the issue had been put in the too-hard basket.

For a number of years, Labour MP Ruth Dyson has been campaigning to make this fairer, so people who live in retirement villages aren't treated unjustly. I'm proud we've now fixed this issue.

Retirement village residents with Licence to occupy agreements can now apply for a rates rebate from the next rating year, beginning 1 July this year. (Retirement village residents with a licence to occupy do not own the property they live in, but they do have a contractual right to occupy it).

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Fixing this law means more New Zealanders will get the money they're entitled to. You can receive up to $620 per year — depending on your income, your rates and any dependents you look after. Make sure that you apply for the rebate to ensure you don't miss out. You can obtain the form from your local council, or apply online through the Department of Internal Affairs' website www.dia.govt.nz

As a Member of Parliament, I am authorised to witness the signing of your rates rebate application form. My office will be opening next month at 1130 Victoria Street (Cnr Boundary Road), phone: 07 839 6803.

I will be holding a clinic to provide information on this issue and witness the signing of forms.

The rates rebate scheme began in the early 1970s, when Norman Kirk was our Prime Minister. I would like to acknowledge his vision and passion for ensuring our seniors are respected and valued.

Our health is very important and I know it can be difficult to keep warm in winter at times. That's why we have introduced the Winter Energy Payment as part of our Families Package. From July to September this year (and May to September in following years), all superannuitants will receive an extra $20.46 a week if you're single, and $31.82 a week for a couple, to help with energy costs.

You don't need to do anything to start receiving this, it will simply be added to your superannuation payments.

Finally, the previous Government had planned to raise the super age and stopped contributions to the Super Fund. This worried many New Zealanders. Labour and our partners in Government guarantee the super age will stay at 65 and we're planning for the future — that's why we restarted contributions to the Super Fund as soon as we became Government.

This Government is focused on putting people first and ensuring that every New Zealander is treated fairly. I'm proud to be part of a Government that is making positive, practical changes to ensure life is better for all those living in our wonderful country.