Once you are full residents, you and your family will enjoy the reassurance of a public welfare system that provides comprehensive support in a range of situations.
You do not see abject poverty or hunger here. Kiwis genuinely care for other people and have always had a strong commitment to social welfare. For example, New Zealand was the first country in the world to introduce pensions for the elderly (1898).
Today, the benefits our welfare system provides include:
- assistance if you lose your job or are unable to work because of illness or an accident
- help with saving for retirement
- support for older people, including New Zealand superannuation (our ‘old age pension’) and other financial and practical assistance
- support for families, including maternity leave when you have a baby and the Working for Families package of benefits
- assistance if you need help with accommodation.
You may not qualify for these benefits until you have been a resident for at least two years.
For full details about the welfare that you may be entitled to, visit the A-Z benefit directory provided by the government’s Work and Income department.
Redundancy, illness, accident
If you are laid off, made redundant or unable to work because of illness, you may qualify for Jobseeker Support, paid by Work and Income.
There are various conditions for qualifying for Jobseeker Support and you must have lived in New Zealand for at least two years at any one time since becoming a citizen or resident.
If you do qualify, you will also receive a Community Services Card (see below) to help with the costs of prescriptions and going to the doctor.
If you are unable to work because of illness or redundancy and have dependent children aged 18 or under, you will also get Inland Revenue’s family tax credit while you are on a benefit.
If you are unable to work because of injury from an accident, ACC (Accident Compensation Corporation) may pay up to 80% of the taxable income you were earning before your injury.
Make sure you have a plan
Make a plan for what you want to happen in case you are unable to make decisions due to accident or illness.
You could get an Enduring Power of Attorney (EPA) - a legal document that allows you to choose someone to make decisions about your property if you can no longer do so. The person you choose can be a trusted relative or friend, or a specialist organisation such as Public Trust.
There are also services available to manage your day-to-day finances and look after your property. The service is useful when you need time to focus on health and well-being.
Retirement saving help
The New Zealand Superannuation scheme - NZ Super - supports a basic standard of living in retirement. But to ensure the sort of lifestyle they want in their older years, many Kiwis are also doing their own retirement saving.
To encourage that, the government offers workers in New Zealand ‘Kiwisaver’.
Basically, you pay in a certain amount from your wages or salary, which is matched by your employer and topped up with an annual bonus from the government. The money is invested for you by approved ‘KiwiSaver providers’ until you are eligible for NZ Super at age 65.
You can access the money earlier in certain circumstances - for example, if you are ill or have financial hardship or if you are buying your first home.
Find out more at the Kiwisaver website, and read more about retirement savings on our Retirement page.
NZ Super and help for the elderly
NZ Super is available for citizens and residents aged 65 and over. It is not means tested and is paid regardless of any other private income you may receive (although ACC benefits for injury from accidents may affect your allowance). You pay tax on NZ Super payments.
If you qualify for NZ Super, you will also receive a SuperGold Card. It gives you discounts and offers from a range of businesses, government concessions (such as free off-peak public transport), and discounted services from your local council.
People over 65 may also qualify for help with housing and living costs and help with retirement home or assisted living costs.
Work and Income’s website has the full details.
Community Services card
People on low incomes, who are citizens or permanent residents, may be eligible for a Community Services Card. This provides higher government subsidies on the cost of visits to a doctor (GP) and buying prescription items.
The Community Services card can also be used to access other health services from public hospitals, including travel and accommodation assistance.
High Use Health cards
If you do not qualify for a Community Services card, but face ongoing doctor’s visits for a particular medical condition, you may be able to get a High Use Health card to help with the costs.
The Ministry of Health website has more information.
Support for families
Many new parents are entitled to up to 22 continuous weeks’ paid parental leave, if they meet the six or 12 month eligibility criteria. Partners may get either one or two weeks' unpaid leave, depending on how long they have been employed.
Read more at the website of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.
Working for Families benefits
Working for Families is a package that can include tax credits, subsidies for pre-school and out-of-school child care, and help with housing costs. Many families with children are eligible for it.
Working for Families is delivered by Work and Income and Inland Revenue.
You must be a New Zealand resident and have been living here continuously for 12 months to be eligible for these credits. The children you are claiming for must be dependent children aged 18 or younger who are both resident and currently living in New Zealand.
If you have transitional tax status, you will not be eligible for Working for Families credits.
For more information about who can get Working for Families Tax Credits, visit Inland Revenue’s website.
Inland Revenue also has fact sheets about Working for Families tax credits.
Depending on how much you earn and other criteria, you may be eligible for Accommodation Supplement payments to help with rent, board, mortgage and other essential housing costs.
Find out more at the website of Work and Income.
Rebates are available to help low income homeowners with paying rates (council tax). You claim the rebate with your local council.
More information is available from the Department of Internal Affairs.
Public housing is provided by the government through the Ministry of Social Development (MSD). It is available for people and families on low incomes who are most in need of housing, for as long as they need it. They may also need to show that they have been looking for a place to live but have not been able to find one that meets their needs.
For more detail see the MSD website.
Housing help for the elderly
Financial and practical assistance is available for New Zealanders over 65 who need medical help at home or may need to move to a rest home or hospital.
Services include home support, caregiver services and 24 hour residential care. The level of government support varies according to individual circumstances.
Read more at Work and Income’s website.