Saturday, July 20, 2024

Highlights report on the 2023 Grey Power Federation AGM

The AGM commenced with a Whakatau led by a Te Ati Awa representative. He reminded members that the environment connects and sustains us, and we are guardians of this. He acknowledged those present and those who have passed away recently.

Pete Matcham acknowledged Te Ati Awa and also our responsibilities as guardians. A waiata was sung, then those present sang the national anthem in Te Reo and English.

The president introduced the new Federation board and it was resolved that the meeting would follow standing orders, meeting protocols and the code of conduct.

The meeting then followed the normal annual general meeting agenda.

The workshop and addresses by the Minister of Seniors, AIL, the Grey Power Electricity CEO and Jane Wrightson, the Retirement Commissioner were very interesting and well-received by those present.

The full draft unconfirmed minutes have just been received from the independent minute secretary and these will be distributed as soon as possible. In the meantime, please find a précis of the workshop brainstorming, the addresses, and the fate of the remits.

1. Membership Survey results and the future direction of Grey Power – presented by D. Marshall

Issues of concern

Membership numbers have been declining for several years with the decline more marked over the last year. Income has also declined, with the loss of KiwiBank funding having a significant effect. Participation is dropping – recruitment of committee members is challenging.

There is lower attendance at member meetings and a lack of quorums at AGMs.

A constitution update is required under the new legislation. However, the Regulations relating to the new Act will not be out until September.

Zones participation varies – some, but not all, find it difficult to encourage positive engagement, so there is a lack of support for regional and national issues.

The Board struggles balancing governance with the management of National Advisory Group Chair roles, many of whom have heavy workloads.

Some members send in rude, aggressive and foul communications. In other contexts, this behaviour would mean police involvement. More respectful behaviour is needed so there is debate without nastiness.

Financial constraints mean we cannot get external help, in contrast to politicians who have advisors. When we raise issues, they ask us for evidence.

We are not alone as other NGOs are struggling with people being less willing to attend meetings and get involved. The Cancer Society CEO is resigning, with the Society facing a funding shortfall.

Essentially, there is greater complexity and more demand for services.

Research insights

The survey methodology was outlined and included members and non-members. Questions included awareness of Grey Power, its role, effectiveness, willingness to join, and priorities for advocacy. Recognition of Grey Power was better than for other organisations, and a significant number of respondents were very interested in joining.

The strongest reasons for joining were access to GPE, including broadband, advocacy, and reasonable fees. Least important were opportunities to volunteer, social activities and involvement in advocacy.

There were positive perceptions of Grey Power lobbying for older NZ, but lowest ratings were for media presence, being future-ready and well-resourced.

Advocacy priorities for all respondents were:

  • Preserve NZ Super
  • Healthcare – accessible and affordable
  • Cost of living concern
  • The meeting broke up into small groups and brainstormed the following questions:
How could the Federation significantly increase annual income by at least $150,000 without greater capitation?

Relevance; Sponsorship – actively seek out corporate, retirement villages and banks; national; membership campaign; double amount from GPE; include broadband; marketing campaign; professional marketing – ‘Grey October’; charge both family members; use database effectively; attract 50 -60-year-olds; reduce magazine to one per household; subsidise AGM; employ a skilled CE accountable to the Board.

What does the Federation need to do to increase national membership from 45,000 to 100,000 by 2027 AGM?

Visibility in all areas, media, promotion for individual associations, promotion, awareness, reduce age limit for joining (the Federation constitution has no set age for joining), gift vouchers, community outreach, publicise, speak out on issues, single purpose – element of cost of living or of healthcare. so, members saw benefit of their efforts, find a wow factor – well known champion, guest speakers, liaise with ethnic groups, link to national website by Associations, increase visibility, demonstrate positive outcomes – improve services for elderly – age friendly spaces.

What can we do to significantly improve the quality and effectiveness of our advocacy?

Work as an organisation, advocate local MP council, communicate more between zones and GPF, gather examples of hardship for use when lobbying, improve information flow and response times, Federation keep Associations updated, Office in Wellington – hotspot office – meet and greet – politicians invited, use skills we have in the Grey Power Federation, public places presence, media time, Grey Power hero in each zone, core objectives, strategic plan.

How can we better support our struggling Associations around the country?

Membership packs; support board, attract younger members, board support, better Zone support, online tool kit, sustainability – survive no matter what circumstances, template for brochure each can personalise, message of hope, what works for us pamphlet, feedback from them so we can offer solutions, groups help their neighbours, may need HR skills, review, and enhance communication – templates, advice, and a different governance management.

NB: The board will work through these suggestions; some are already standard practice; some are association focused but all will be considered as we move forward.

2. VIDEO – The Honourable Ginny Andersen, Minister for Seniors

A video from the Minster for Seniors, the Honourable Ginny Andersen, was played. She informed delegates and observers that the Office of Seniors has funding for teaching essential digital skills to assist in removing barriers to accessing online services. One pilot is supporting senior enterprise and there is a home share pilot where an older home owner shares with another adult.

Age Concern is facilitating these pilots. Retirement villages sector legislation review is being led by her colleague.

Comments from the floor included the hope there is digital access training follow-up although online is not convenient for many as there is a cost barrier, lack of skills and a problem retaining the training.

Some members thought the address was government spin and that the Minister did not face issues for more vulnerable seniors e.g., issues in rest homes, home care, and hospitals due to lack of staff and were disappointed that Minister was not present because we cannot ask her questions; on the positive side it was noted that she now has funding.

3. Grey Power Electricity (GPE) – Sharnie Warren (CEO)

Sharnie told the meeting that it was important to have feedback from customers and reflect on it. The main areas identified are price, service, and

She noted that Pulse Energy has a sustainable focus and long-term commitment to GPF, to which they have made a significant contribution. She drew attention to Pulse being community -owned and having a high net promoter score.

Their promotional actives include regional campaigns, new member packs, and support for GP social media pages if needed.

An innovative programme is their Pay it Forward to support customers who are struggling.

Pulse is continuing to develop new initiatives including access to discounted pet insurance cover. She concluded by thanking all the Associations. Pulse can never claim to be the cheapest but believe they offer fair and transparent schemes and give back to GPF.

Comments from the floor included an issue in getting a refund in a timely manner. Sharnie said that with smooth pay they should have acted faster.

The lines company cost – the response was that they operate in a highly competitive market. Pulse Energy joined other independent retailers and advocate to Minister on your behalf.

Capacity was mentioned and the reply was that Pulse is not a generator but has long term power agreements, and their target customers are residential ones. They will be purchasing power from a solar farm soon. In response to a question on why GPE was not on power switch Sharnie replied that GPE is for members only and we cannot have an influx of non-eligible customers.

Pulse was congratulated on its Pay it Forward initiative and that when the government dropped the lower fixed user charge Pulse picked up slack.
Finally, the comment was made that people do not know how difficult it is to analyse the energy industry in NZ.

Grey Power Federation needs to get on the case and encourage more research. Pulse is taking steps in right direction regarding energy poverty.

4. Steve Friedlander, AIL

The points of difference of his organisation are liberal underwriting, use of testimonials rather than spending money on commercials, a guarantee of renewal and holding the rates. They have the highest rating in their sector, a good solvency ratio and good record of claims benefits, which include a funeral benefit.

NB: In the unfortunate situation of death or dismemberment AIL provide a $2,000 insurance pay out to Grey Power members.

5. Jane Wrightson Retirement Commissioner

Jane, who is also featured on our front cover, informed the delegates and observers that she has taken a broad approach to considering the issues around retirement income policy and has brought together experts. Important aspects are stability, trust, confidence, connection, and dignity. Any changes need to be well considered and evidence-based. Health care, housing and transport are issues affecting older NZers.

  • Triennial reviews are a statutory requirement, with the last one being released last December. There is a particular focus on women, Māori and Pacifica. It is a detailed document which was well researched. The dominant narrative is that older NZers are home owners, living longer, Pakeha and Asian. However, the missing narrative relates to non-home owners whose only income is their pension. This does not mean they have been profligate or stupid. Some have been affected by issues such as divorce, leaky homes and business failure which have derailed plans. Some are still paying off a mortgage. Life expectancies vary depending on the different cohorts.

Superannuation is predicated on recipients owning their own home or being in affordable comfortable social housing. The numbers in these groups will decline.

Women live longer and live alone longer so have higher costs as well as having been affected by the gender pay gap and the consequent effect on Kiwi Saver accounts. Māori are poorer generally and die earlier. They generally are more involved in providing support to their whanau.

Policy responses need to change to recognise different situations including that of multi-generational housing. Bank lending policies are set up for individuals rather than family groups.

The financial services industry is male-predominant and focused on individuals using their services. Several recommendations have been made and she will follow up on these after the election.

  • The accommodation supplement is a useful issue to promote. Housing and rental costs are of concern. Those moving to retirement villages may lose capital and there are also issues when residents move out. The current housing crisis is 30 years in the making.
  • There is an immature debate around the understanding of NZ Super. Politicians take a short-term focus and do what is expedient. She intends to do more work on the lack of affordability argument by challenging assertions and to question Treasury’s work. Australia has compulsory retirement saving and a means tested pension available at 67. She would also like consideration of the benefits of Super. Without voluntary work NZ society would fall apart.
  • Advocacy needs to focus on most important issues, with available advocates showing understanding of different views even if they disagree. Officials are looking for answers so highlight ‘low hanging fruit’ or show them ways to navigate difficult issues.
Why are some penalised if they save too much?

They all discuss it but a Commission of Inquiry would be amazing. We should discuss this with young people and encourage them to vote out those who want to scrap Super. There should be purpose, dignity, and mana in retirement. And we need to make people aware of data. There should be a guaranteed system with additional assistance for those needing it.

Why the teachers’ super scheme which is generous is not replicated in other arenas?

She said there is no private saving scheme which has worked long term. Schemes were predicated on one employer for 40 years and were not portable. KiwiSaver is good but has some problems.

Why is Super a universal payment?

Super is difficult to administer if there is a cut off level. A means-tested system is difficult to administer fairly and a disincentive to save.

What issues should GPF concentrate on for this year’s election candidates’ meetings?

The affordability of Super and on what basis are candidates arguing for a policy which would dent trust and confidence? And the inequity of the accommodation supplement levels.

What is the history of the Retirement Commission?

It was established after the Todd Taskforce and has the role of being a voice for older NZers. She is the first Commissioner for a while to advocate holding the entitlement age for Super at 65. Disagreements are natural, but there needs to be awareness of inbuilt biases and consideration of evidence for particular policies. Her three yearly report provides evidence. She may not be reappointed if National and Act form the next government.

Final comments by members were that plans are predicated on pensioners having savings which, in turn, is based on their savings during working life. The Commissioner responded that we are a low wage economy, and those worse affected tend to be Māori, Pacifica, women and those in regional centres.

Jane’s presentation was very well received by the meeting and she thanked members for the privilege of presenting to them.

President Jan Pentecost (right) presented Sandy Feringa with life membership at the AGM for her service as a Federation Board member – many of them as the Chair of the Legal, Regulations and Remits standing committee. Sandy was elected Zone Representative in February 2015 and then attended the May and subsequent board meetings. Photo/David Porter


Remits carried:
  • The constitutional remit regarding adding clarification of privacy was carried but one removing proxy votes was lost.
  • The administration remit to request that the GPF board to provide a quarterly update on the status of all AGM remits was carried
  • The policy remits regarding:
    – Consideration of venues for AGMs between the North Island and South Island,
    – Especially in new buildings, that a reasonable proportion of ‘standard rooms’ be affordable to those receiving superannuation and limited accommodation supplements as part of the options available for residents going into rest home care,
    – lobbying the current Government and Opposition Parties to fast forward the building of more affordable houses, particularly targeted for seniors, across the whole of New Zealand were all carried. (The latter remit is part of the current advocacy round).
    – Recognition of the Treaty of Waitangi (Te Tiriti o Waitangi) as the founding document of New Zealand and incorporating The Treaty into the Grey Power New Zealand Federation Constitution.
Remits lost:
  • The climate change policy development remit was lost but the board will provide policy when the new National Advisory Groups are appointed.
  • The official language use remit – that GPF acknowledge the fact that New Zealand has two (2) official languages in the form of Te Reo Māori and Sign Language and one (1) predominant but ‘de facto’ official language, that being English and that such an acknowledgment be included in the GPNZF Constitution, and:
    That insofar as it is possible, while conducting the business of the Federation, to give equal status to the use of English as the predominant language of New Zealand, but also to Te Reo Māori and Sign Language, when and where such languages are appropriate to the occasion in which they may be used was also lost.
Remits to support existing or extensions to policies were that GPF advocate for:
  • Government to introduce legislation to govern use of mobility devices on pedestrian walkways or shared public spaces.
  • Government to reinstate the District and City Councils as approved community housing providers, and further; that, once approved, Councils be tasked with; (a) setting their own criteria for the allocation of pensioner and community housing, (b) providing transport options from community housing centres of influence for pensioners, (c) creating health programme options for pensioners living in community/pensioner housing.
  • Central Government and 2023 General Election Party candidates to support senior renters by significantly raising the cash asset threshold for accessing the Accommodation Supplement (AS).

One final comment – Tim Costley, RNZAF Wing Commander, was to be our formal dinner speaker on Wednesday evening June 28. However, when we were informed that he was a candidate in this year’s election we requested comments from the board about whether we should carry on given Grey Power’s non-party political stance. The board were informed that politics would not be mentioned in the address, but a majority decided that it was best not to go ahead.

If you would like more information please contact the Federation president.

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