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Indicator 21: The pension

Indicator 21: Existence of universal pension
Indicator is fully reported? Yes.
Type of indicator Instrumental indicator Instrumental indicator
Other relevant indicators NA
Our findings

New Zealand Superannuation (the pension)

All eligible people aged 65 years and older are entitled to receive the pension after their application is approved. A person will get the pension if they:

  • are aged 65 or older;
  • are a NZ citizen or permanent resident;
  • have lived in the country for at least 10 years since age 20 and five of those years have been since age 50;[1] and
  • normally live in NZ at the time that they apply for the pension.

The pension is:

  • paid at a flat rate;
  • taxed at the individual’s marginal tax rate;
  • universal, which means that it is not income or asset tested; and
  • non-contributory, which means that it is paid from general taxation.

The amount an individual receives depends on their circumstances, such as:

  • whether they are single, married, or in a relationship;
  • their living situation if they are single;[2]
  • whether they have a partner who does not qualify for the pension and who they want to include in their pension payment; and
  • any overseas benefit or pension they get.

When a person turns 65 and is receiving ACC weekly compensation, they have to choose between weekly compensation and the pension. They cannot receive both. They can continue with weekly compensation for up to two years. After that, weekly compensation will stop and the pension will be granted.

The Senior Services group in the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) has a performance measure to process 85-90% of applications for the pension within five working days.[3] The pension starts on the date when the applicant is entitled to receive it or the date that MSD receives the application, whichever is the later date.

Information about the pension is available at www.workandincome.govt.nz, www.seniors.msd.govt.nz, and www.veteransaffairs.mil.nz. Other agencies might also link to these websites.

See our report on indicator 11 for information about uptake of the pension.

The Veteran’s Pension

All veterans who reach the qualifying age (and other requirements) are entitled to the pension or the Veteran’s Pension, but not both.[4]

The Veteran’s Pension is paid at the same rate as the pension.[5] As with the pension, it is taxed but not means tested. Unlike the pension, payments are not reduced when the individual needs long-term hospital care.[6] Other differences include that a lump sum is payable on the death of a veteran or their partner, and there is automatic entitlement to a Community Services Card.

Entity responsible for this indicator Ministry of Social Development.

[1] Time spent overseas in certain countries and for certain reasons may be counted for the pension.

[2] For example, people aged 65 and older who are receiving the pension or a Veteran’s Pension must contribute to the cost of their long-term care from their entitlement if they meet the means test for assets and are eligible for the Residential Care Subsidy. They keep a portion of their entitlement as a Personal Allowance; the rest goes to the payment of services. (Go to www.oecd.org/els/health-systems/47877919.pdf for the country report on New Zealand. It is part of the main report – OECD (2011), Help Wanted? Providing and Paying for Long-Term Care, Paris, www.oecd.org/els/health-systems/heldfdfdpwantedprovidingandpayingforlong-termcare.htm).

[3] Ministry of Social Development, Annual Report 2011/12, page 52, www.msd.govt.nz/about-msd-and-our-work/publications-resources/corporate/annual-report/.

[4] The Veteran’s Pension is also available to people younger than 65 years because it is an alternative to an Invalid’s Benefit. It is paid at the same rate as the pension. 

[5] Eligible persons are veterans who (a) have reached the qualify age for the pension, and have served in a recognised war/emergency, and are receiving a War Disablement Pension of 70% or more, or (b) have not reached the qualifying age for the pension, have served in a recognised war/emergency, and are unable to work for a substantial period due to physical or psychological disability.

[6] www.veteransaffairs.mil.nz/pensions/veterans-pension.html.

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