I have been asked to be a part of the Expert Advisory Group (EAG) on Superannuation and recently I sent my thoughts to the group.
Hākuia and hākoro, or kaumātua, are the most cherished members of our people alongside newborns.
There is a seamless kin-based matrix of whakapapa that binds them together with the intervening generations executing and operationalising the dreams and experiences of the elders to guide and inspire the babies.
It is a collective community and society based on the nexus to whenua, maunga, awa and moana that drove and still drives tribal economies. Elders continue to be the pinnacle of this relationship. Individual welfare benefit entitlements including superannuation were inconceivable at their introduction.
They gate-crashed the collective tribal structures hence the cohesion of communal-based efforts and energies stripping elders of their mana over these societies and the laws that allowed them to function as they had for hundreds of years.
Today Māori represent 16 per cent of the population but probably less than 5 per cent of those receiving old age benefits. Of those receiving superannuation most of them will still be supporting the wider web of whānau caught in all the negative indices of government failed programmes, policies and strategies for Māori development captured through a pure western lens of seeing the world.
An example of that is the current longevity rate of Māori versus that of Pakeha which for Māori men is 64 years, compared to 74 years for Pakeha. This indicates that most Māori men will never receive super after all those years of contributing wealth to the country but more importantly to their communities.
I'm currently attending the tangi of a family member who was only 64. If the rate of super was calculated for the next 15 years or so, the average age of Pākeha female mortality, then you would get a glimpse of the inequities in the super scheme for Māori as a whole and the massive disinvestment in the hākui and hākoro who are again the most cherished in our societies yet usually die in poverty having invested their personal finances into the wider whānau.
But I'm solution-based so we need to explore innovative and creative ways to achieve equity without going into too much handwringing and teeth grinding. So here are just a couple of ideas I'd like to raise to test any reaction.
1. Paying for funeral services for kaumātua over the age of 55
This would address the heaviest intergenerational debt a whānau undergoes during a traumatic period. Much of the trauma is caused by the inability to pay i.e financial stress. It is a front-end loaded, one-off payment which would go straight to the funeral director or through the iwi for distribution to the whānau or wherever it was needed. If you aggregated the "ghost" super payments that could have accrued if that person had lived to 74, then it is a miniscule amount as opposed to the "savings" from an untimely death in the scheme of things.
2. Investing in kaumātua-oriented housing developments
Working with iwi and government entities to evolve housing developments urban and regional that focus on kaumātua-centric but intergenerational home investment. Housing is an intergenerational, wealth creating investment which restores the collective ambition of whānau to co-locate and exercise whānaungatanga in a cultural setting against the pepper-potting policies of previous housing regimes which isolate whānau from each other.
Whānau financial equity is increased in this process like no other, while other benefits continue to increase, benefits such as health improvement, cultural enhancement, educational advancement and further investment opportunities through the growing equity.
This is a whole of government approach and not just a super or welfare approach and will need input from Kainga Ora, MSD, TPK, NZTE, Callaghan, TEC and other organisations that bring a whole different investment look into an aging population that suffer severe inequities under superannuation entitlements due to early death.
I believe these are relevant issues that sit uppermost with my people. I have an obligation as an iwi chairman, and more importantly as a whānau and hapū member, to pursue these as part of my membership with the Expert Advisory Group on superannuation.
Ngahiwi Tomoana is chairman, Ngāti Kahungunu Iwi Incorporated