Saturday, July 20, 2024

How about a new UK OE deal for seniors?

By Bill Rayner, President, Grey Power North Shore

The traditional British OE for young Kiwis was given a boost by a new deal in 2022 between former prime minister Jacinda Ardern and former UK prime minister Boris Johnson just in time to catch him before his ignominious departure.

The Youth Mobility Scheme which has allowed Kiwis between 18 and 30 to live and work in Britain for two years has been expanded to increase the age to 35 and the term to three years.

Not all due to our PM’s charm and skill, as Aussie had a similar agreement in place, but an interesting expansion of rights of access our generation took for granted and lost over the years.

It is time to put an equivalent Senior Mobility Scheme on the table.

Just as the lifestyle and political climate facing young people has dramatically changed in recent times, it has also done so for us older ones.

My first NZ passport obtained as an AFS exchange student to the US in 1958 was as a “British Subject and New Zealand Citizen” which gave me free access to the UK, Australia and other British Commonwealth countries. I had my standard OE for a year and a half along with thousands of Kiwis in the 1960’s.

With the political shifts in the British ‘Empire’ leading to the independence of many African, Asian, and Caribbean colonies, the UK was faced with massive migration, and introduced a visa control based on having a grand-parent born in the UK, and a job to go to. This was for two years.

As many Kiwis at that time had grandparents from the UK, a large number obtained British citizenship through this system. That generation is fading, but continuing British migration to NZ gives that option to more lucky Brit/Kiwis.

The old OE travel patterns of a six-week voyage on the Northern Star of the 50’s and 60’s died with the arrival of the 747 and the explosion of mass tourism, and the recent diversity of immigration.

Most migrants now come from non-European countries with no prior linkage with the traditional Euro/Maori/Polynesian Pacific blended culture of New Zealand, or with the British heritage and cultural, social, and governance systems and values which are a core part of modern New Zealand.

Changing links

Family and ancestral cultural links are now with China, India, South Africa, the Philippines, and many other countries now only a 12-hour flight from Auckland.

We are very much part of the mix of this modern world with a freedom of travel unknown in our younger days.

An associated issue is the growth of multi-citizenship with many Kiwis having dual, or even triple, citizenship and passports. All my own six grandchildren, born in Australia, and the USA, have dual citizenship, and many young Kiwis have British passports. Many recent migrants have this same privileged situation.

Which gets us back to the situation of those of us with a long ancestral link to this country who are just New Zealanders, both pakeha and Maori, with no such advantages. All of us have strong cultural and family links with the UK.

Current Government policy cuts our National Superannuation after six months out of the country, and we can only stay in the UK for six months without a visa.

Senior lifestyles have changed dramatically, and many of us have the time and financial ability to spend time overseas travelling or connecting with family, both current and ancestral in the UK and Europe.

Why can’t there be a Seniors Mobility Scheme alongside the youth one, which allows senior Kiwis an extension to one year eligibility for Superannuation as well as a year visa free access to the UK. New Zealand and the UK have a long-standing reciprocal social security and health benefits scheme, another advantage.

Very simple to do and a major benefit to the senior community and to the UK’s tourist industry.

And to close, the Treaty of Waitangi Article 3 “imparts” to the “Natives of New Zealand”, virtually all of whom now have a UK whakapapa as well as Maori, “all the Rights and Privileges of British Subjects.”

– Reprinted courtesy of Seasons magazine

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