NZ should be retirement haven

ROB STOCK
Last updated 14:58 20/12/2013

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The pleas of an American man for MPs to make New Zealand a welcoming retirement haven for financially independent older people from other countries appear to have fallen on deaf ears.

Henry Work lives in Nelson but he's to leave next June as his long-term business visa runs out.

He'd love to stay but New Zealand doesn't have the immigration settings to allow people such as him - older and financially independent - to live out their remaining days here unless they are extremely wealthy.

The Government's main concern is that older people could land New Zealand taxpayers with high health bills.

But Work said that concern is not insurmountable, and that the country's immigration bosses need to be more imaginative in developing policies to contain such problems.

Requiring older immigrants to have health insurance - just as long-term business visa holders must - is one possibility, he says. Another is for each to chip money into a fund to pay for health costs should they arise, a suggestion made by Work's local MP and National Cabinet minister Nick Smith.

But despite such options - and a proper review could throw up many more - Work has been unable to get MPs to act, despite the admission that there were undeniable economic gains for New Zealand should it attract relatively wealthy older retirees.

In a bid to get the Government to apply a little imagination to the issue, Work put a petition to Parliament asking that it "review the economic and social opportunities for New Zealand ... to facilitate the retirement of financially independent overseas persons within New Zealand, and make the necessary changes in Immigration rules and regulations to enable this to occur".

But MPs on the transport and industrial relations select committee, which considered the petition, declined to make any recommendations to Government.

"There are numerous methods to deal with the health issues to insure that New Zealand taxpayers do not fund the retiree's health insurance," Work told supporters this week.

"And Immigration and Parliament certainly have the power to make whatever changes would be considered necessary to meet these requirements."

Work is also dubious about New Zealand's policy of favouring high net-worth applicants.

"It is extremely questionable whether the high net-worth applicants really provide a more positive net benefit to New Zealand than would the retirees; witness the Mr Dotcom fiasco, or the others who just fly in and out, staying in New Zealand for only a few weeks or months," he said.

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Allowing healthy, financially independent retirees into New Zealand could be of significant benefit to New Zealand as they brought in offshore money and spent it directly into the New Zealand communities where they lived, he said.

Individually, this money might not be as much as the wealthy investors, but by allowing in many retirees the total could be huge, flowing uninterrupted into the communities at the rate of $50,000 to $100,000 per couple.

Despite the rebuff from Parliament, Work is not giving up.

"I will, however, continue to take any opportunity to speak to influential people about our issues and our desire to retire in New Zealand for longer periods and without paying exorbitant sums," he said.

- Fairfax Media

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