I was very pleased to be given the role of National’s spokesperson for Seniors earlier this year. It is a challenging and exciting role which has assumed even greater importance as a result of our shared Covid-19 experiences.
While the recent weeks of our nationwide lockdown imposed significant constraints on all New Zealanders, many of those who were hardest hit were our senior citizens, especially those living in retirement villages and care facilities who felt cut off from family and friends, and those who were living independently but discouraged from shopping, or who did not have the computer skills or equipment to shop online. Many of those who did have access to computers reported frustrating delays in receiving their purchases.
Some of our Seniors were prevented from returning to their rest homes after hospital treatment because of the government’s inadequate provision of Covid testing arrangements at those facilities.
Many others endured sometimes-painful deferrals of vital elective surgery, or were unable to consult their doctors, or were separated from partners receiving hospital care. For those living with dementia, the experience was especially bewildering, and distressing for their families.
We must learn from all of these problems and others in considering how we might be better prepared for a future epidemic response in this country – although we all pray that such a plan will never need to be implemented.
While it is too early at the time of writing to be announcing specific new policy proposals for the General Election, National MPs used our time in Opposition over the previous two years to undertake detailed engagement with relevant sectors across all aspects of public policy to ensure we would be well-positioned to implement effective, costed policies on matters of importance to New Zealanders.
We produced a series of detailed policy discussion documents covering health, education, law and order, the economy, our environment and much more, and we welcomed feedback from all New Zealanders on our proposals. That feedback has helped shape our thinking and will be reflected in the policies we will announce in the weeks ahead.
If we are given the privilege of leading our next government, National will be ready to get to work without relying on hundreds of expensive working groups to shape our thinking, which is why the current government was so slow to get started.
I can confirm that we are committed to keeping Government Superannuation at no less than 66% of the average wage, to responding appropriately to the increasing incidence of dementia arising from the fact that we are living longer, to helping Seniors to overcome the problem many experience from “digital exclusion”, and to ensuring that the needs and concerns of older New Zealanders are heard, respected and appropriately responded to in the policies and decisions of a National-led administration.
Best wishes to all Tauranga and Bay of Plenty Grey Power members,
National Party Spokesperson for Seniors