As the new coalition government has been moved in, sworn in, and is now working through their policy agenda, we have considered the coalition agreements to gain insights into what we can expect for the aged care sector.
National’s Chris Bishop is now the Minister of Housing, Minister for Infrastructure, the Minister Responsible for RMA Reform as well as the Associate Minister of Finance. National’s Tama Potaka is now the Associate Minister for Housing (Social Housing). New Zealand First’s Casey Costello will be the Minister for Seniors. All of these Ministers will serve inside Cabinet.
National – New Zealand First Agreement
The agreement between National and New Zealand First contains much of the detail as to what can be expected in the sector, including:
Review of the Retirement Villages Act Continues
To progress the review of the Retirement Villages Act being undertaken by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development (MHUD). Submissions on the discussion paper closed on 20 November 2023, and we expect we will hear more from MHUD in the new year as this is progressed.
Superannuation remains at 65
To keep the age of NZ Super at 65 (despite National having campaigned on keeping the NZ Super Age at 65 until 2044 and then gradually lifting the age to 67). Research released by the Retirement Commission shows 40% of people aged 65 and over have little income other than NZ Super, though with the KiwiSaver generations coming through that will hopefully change over time.
Review of funding
To investigate the funding formula for new residential care beds. It was further agreed to work on establishing bipartisan agreement to fund both care and dementia beds needed now, with a focus on long term needs by 2024.
Green light for granny flats
To amend the Building Act and resource consent system to make it easier to build granny flats or other small structures up to 60sqm only requiring an engineer’s report. This may encourage more multi-generational living and make it easier for families to keep their elders at home (rather than transferring into a retirement village or other option).
Select committee inquiry into the aged care
To commence a select committee inquiry into aged care provision, which will include considering how to support people with early onset conditions and what asset thresholds are appropriate for 2023/2024. As there was little discussion of the funding of aged care in the election campaign this is a positive result. The agreement also includes a commitment to engage openly and constructively with the aged care sector.
Changes that will impact the sector
There are a number of other changes being introduced by the new Government in areas which will impact the sector. These include:
- The commitment to expand 90-day trial periods to all business, and reform health and safety legislation;
- The commitment to repeal the Fair Pay Agreements Act by Christmas 2023;
- To consider simplifying personal grievances and in particular removing the eligibility for remedies if the employee is at fault, and setting an income threshold above which a personal grievance could not be pursued;
- To maintain the status quo that contractors who have explicitly signed up for a contracting arrangement can’t challenge their employment status in the Employment Court;
- The commitment to better recognise people with overseas medical qualifications and experience for accreditation in New Zealand;
- Removing the median wage requirements from Skilled Migrant Category visas;
- Requiring Medsafe to approve new pharmaceuticals within 30 days of them being approved by at least two overseas regulatory agencies recognised by New Zealand; and
- The commitment to progress the adoption of digital technology in harder to staff areas and make greater use of Nurse Practitioners.
We will be watching with interest as to how and when these changes progress into legislation when the house sits pre-Christmas and again in the new year.
This article was co-authored by Tom Kennedy, a Solicitor in our Corporate team.
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