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Grey Power concerned about SuperGold card review

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Wellington, March 12 NZPA - The success of the SuperGold card scheme's transport discount should not be a reason to downgrade it, says senior citizens lobby group Grey Power.

Responding to the Government's announcement yesterday it was reviewing the free off-peak transport scheme for pensioners because of its escalating cost, Grey Power's social services spokeswoman Violet McCowatt said there was total opposition to it being downgraded.

"This was a scheme that was introduced to enable seniors to be mobile and self-sufficient by utilising off-peak public transport, but it now seems that this has been far too successful and used by too many," she said.

"Surely when government schemes are instituted it is with the intention of them being successful. We can see no sense in going back to empty off-peak buses and housebound seniors."

The scheme is set to exceed its $18 million a year budget and a New Zealand Transport Agency discussion document released yesterday said it was not financially sustainable and suggested changes including reducing the rate that providers were reimbursed; capping reimbursement payments; changing what services are eligible and removing or reducing payments for administration costs.

Labour's transport spokesman Darren Hughes said it appeared the elderly could lose some of their travel subsidies and there were concerns the Government would use the situation as an excuse to make cuts rather than improvements.

Ms McCowatt said Grey Power agreed the scheme needed looking at and believed money-saving improvements could be made, but any downgrades would be opposed.

Green Party aged care spokeswoman Sue Kedgley said the Government needed to get its priorities right and encourage the elderly to get out and about by assisting with free public transport.

"If any project is called a motorway the Key Government can't bend over far enough to find an extra billion dollars or so to throw on the tarmac," she said.

"As soon as public transport is involved the Government all of a sudden sees cost blowouts and moves to cut back."

The SuperGold card scheme was introduced by the former Labour government as part of the New Zealand First Party's support agreement.

Transport Minister Steven Joyce said officials would look at how "off peak" should be defined and consider eligibility of certain high cost services -- including the Waiheke ferry and the train service between Wellington and the Wairarapa.

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