Pensions in the Pacific, easing Sydney's rush hour and Burmese migrants to Australia.
Those pensioners in New Zealand who would rather live on a Pacific atoll are in luck: the country has recently changed its rules concerning the “portability” of the country’s superannuation, or pensions, to Niue, Tokelau and the Cook Islands.
The three tiny Pacific nations are members of the Realm of New Zealand, a sort of quasi-colonial hangover from the UK’s presence in the Pacific in the 19th century. Their residents have retained their New Zealand citizenship, despite the Cook Islands and Niue becoming self-governing – and since the 1960s the islands have suffered depopulation as people sought better opportunities abroad. More of their people now live in Auckland than at home and their economies are heavily dependent on aid from New Zealand – though tourism and fishing revenues have increased in recent years.
The law change seeks to address these issues. It encourages senior citizens to move to the islands from the age of 55 by allowing them to still claim a New Zealand “super” when they turn 65; previously pensioners had to stay in New Zealand to claim the benefit. “This change is about recognising the contribution Pacific people make to New Zealand,” says social-development minister Anne Tolley. Portability is available to any eligible pensioner who fancies a warmer climate and a cheaper cost of living, though it’s expected to appeal mostly to Pacific Islanders with connections back home. The inflow of money will be helpful of course but the hope is that those returning will also bring much-needed skills and experience. “They’re still young,” says Cook Islands prime minister Henry Puna, who along with politicians from Niue lobbied for even looser provisions, the first time in a century the premiers of the countries have made submissions to a New Zealand law. “They’re still full of life and can contribute positively to our economic development.”
Tony Abbott’s government has unveiled its latest strategy to draw wealth from the vast expanses of land in the country’s northern plains. An extensive White Paper calls for billions of dollars to be spent developing agriculture, mining and tourism industries, as well as new services markets in Asia.
For this to work the government needs the support of indigenous Australians. They make up around a third of the Northern Territory’s population and own swathes of land in the region. A team of indigenous park rangers, tasked with preserving the region’s natural environment, will receive a financial boost as infrastructure expands.
Sydney commutes in rush hour aren’t fun and billion-dollar transport projects mean things are temporarily getting worse. At least the construction is paving the way for two new public-transport arteries. Work has begun on a au$10.5bn (€7.5bn) tunnel under Sydney Harbour, through which a 30km train line will move 100,000 more people each hour by 2024.
George Street (once an Aboriginal walking track, now Sydney’s sluggish cbd drag) will also undergo reconstruction. Over the next four years, cars will be removed in favour of a 12km light-rail line. If the New South Wales government pulls this off, a commute in Sydney could be a seamless joy – albeit in the next decade.