Neither economic growth, migration or even the tooth fairy are going to blunt the eventual impact of our ageing society, says Bernard Hickey

Neither economic growth, migration or even the tooth fairy are going to blunt the eventual impact of our ageing society, says Bernard Hickey
Ignoring it won't make it go away.

By Bernard Hickey

Prime Minister John Key's promise to resign if he ever changed the entitlements to New Zealand Superannuation has cast a giant shadow across New Zealand's long term fiscal outlook.

Back in 2009 the Treasury released its second long term fiscal outlook showing that New Zealand's ageing population and its current superannuation and health settings would drive net government debt to 223% by 2050.

Treasury suggested in the politest of terms that the age of eligibility could be nudged out from 65 in 2017 to 69 by the late 2040s to help avoid the debt blowout.

It also suggested the indexation of NZ Super to consumer price inflation, rather than the higher figure of wage inflation.

Both would significantly reduce the expected rise in the share of GDP going to NZ Super by 2050.

John Key simply said talk to the hand and the debate was stone dead on arrival.

Then Retirement Commissioner Diana Crossan recommended in 2010 that the age of eligibility start rising by 2 months a year, starting in 2020 and ending at 67 by 2033.

Key again rejected the proposal before the 2011 election, saying the government's policy of keeping the age at 65 had been costed and was affordable until 2025. This contrasted with Labour's stance before that election, which was to implement the Crossan plan.

Key's re-election again seemed to shut down the debate for another electoral cycle.

The improvement this year in the government's fiscal outlook thanks to a surge of economic growth from the Christchurch rebuild and the Auckland housing boom has bolstered the government's resolve to stick to 65.

But this debate is not going away.

Treasury is legally obliged to publish its projections for New Zealand's Long Term Fiscal Position every four years and it did that again this week.

The immense demographic force of an ageing population will almost double the share of GDP going to pensions and healthcare to 19% by 2060, Treasury reckons.

Assuming pensions and health policies don't change and the share of GDP being collected in taxes doesn't change, then the Government's net debt will still blow out to 198% of GDP by 2060 from around 25% now, Treasury projects.

So the Treasury is again suggesting a range of options for gradual change that would avoid that blowout if implemented early enough. Surprise, surprise, but they include lifting the retirement age by six months each year to 67 between 2020 and 2024, and indexing NZ Super to price inflation rather than wage inflation from 2020.

Currently NZ Super for couples is indexed at 66% of the average wage after tax.

Yet again, within minutes the government was pooh poohing the need to think beyond the next few years, pointing to how the spending restraints of the last two years are driving debt down to around 20% of GDP by 2020.

But as the Treasury pointed out in its excellent series of papers and reports, neither economic growth, migration or even the tooth fairy are going to blunt the eventual impact of our ageing society.

This is the elephant in the room that won't go away.

It will keep ambling back into the political debate every two or three years until it starts squashing the Government's budget good and proper. Unless and until some politician in government chooses to address it directly.


This piece was first published in the Herald on Sunday. It is used here with permission.

We welcome your help to improve our coverage of this issue. Any examples or experiences to relate? Any links to other news, data or research to shed more light on this? Any insight or views on what might happen next or what should happen next? Any errors to correct?

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BH, I find it curious you get the aging demographic "timebomb" yet its not the biggest or soonest issue, with Peak oil it will be moot.  ie I will be lucky to get any state pension, I will be lucky to get any of my public service pensions and I dont expect to get any of my private pensions and savings they are all unit trusts which are shares.  The thing is, all three rely on is a growing economy and healthy share market and property market to give a pay back. Our economy is going to shrink, ergo we'll lose the "capital" as well as any interest...

Agreed Steven.
Bernard mentions but chooses to ignore the real elephant in the room - the arrogant and incompetent culture of our political 'elite'.

Indeed Colin - The Government Superannuation Fund is a real time pension catastrophe that needs patching up in so many ways - maybe Treasury and it's cheerleaders could apply practical and clear solutions to rectify what are in reality glaring deficits and refine them as templates for the perceived future national inadequacies.

We use fossil energy as if we had 300 slaves apiece, 24/7.
Hickey should know this by now.
So he's addressing 1/300th of a future problem.
Sorry, Bernard Hickey, but you had every chance, and - with all the politeness in the world, you've dropped the ball. This piece is irrelevant to the point of stupidity.

Yes Bernard it is the elephant in the room. Just outside the room is the whale of  70% froeign ownership of the new Zealand sharemarket resulting in dividends going offshore and New Zealanders being the labour only component to the factors of production.
As New Zealand companies do well New Zealand increses it Balance of Payments deficit.
Why does no one but Winston address this issue?

If Shearer and Norman cannot use the Winston initiative to develop some fire power in this area then woe betide us.
This is a real opportunity to get Key and English on the back foot and cane them.

I do not get why it is ok to collect taxes and transfer it to those who can no longer work. But it is not ok to collect taxes and use it build infrastructure. The first case we only do for equity reasons the second we do for economic reasons and if/when PDK's peak oil hits we will be doing it for our survival.
Read more about it here and think about our governments priorities.

Brendon - not quite.
We run a system which Marx rightly suggested, ends with purchasing-power rising to the top. To keep the disenfranchised included in society, requires social intervention. The rise in visible urban homelessness merely tracks our increasing faulure to intervene.
But - you don't build infrastructure for 'economic reasons', not any more. We did, for a blink-of-an-eye period; the planet can no longer support what was esentially an exponential growth of consumption of parts of it. Only the stupid should be surprised that the phase came to an end.
So any infrastructure from here on, has to pass the tests of physical sustainability (carbon neutral, impact neutral/totally-mitigated, carry-on-able more-or-less indefinitely) or it's a waste of time/effort. Not to mention of finite resources.
Motorways cannot be maintained on renewable energy, nor can their need be justified in any holistic (inclusive) appraisal of life in a renewable-energy paradigm. We will be triaging infrastructure, flat-out (assuming continued social coherence). Revertion to gravel roads will be one of the first. Not even the Greens get this.
Have a listed to the Laidlaw/Watson/Laros piece from 10-11 this morning.

PDK you know I like to challenge but not reject your ideas : )
The way I see it is New Zealand is a giant town food supply area of first London and now the big cities of the world. Auckland is our big trading centre for exchanging said food exports for goodies we like. Most of NZs imports come through Auckland. While Wellington is our public sector organiser. Other centres like Nelson, Napier etc are agricultural support towns for their hinterlands. This whole system is as you say run on oil.
What happens to New Zealand when you take away that oil? Well we do not need to export as much food to import that oil firstly. Which is lucky because without oil to run our farms and make fertilsers food production is going to drop.
One option because we have so much renewable electricity is we dramatically drop food production and instead of importing all that stuff, we make it ourselves.
We use that electricity to run factories and to power electric trolley buses (maybe run on motorways), bikes and trains, with a lucky few getting electric cars.
So our Napiers, Hamiltons, Christchurchs become specialist producers of things we need to replace our lost imports and maybe do some exporting too. Their hinterlands produce just the food needed for them, not to expot to London or China etc.
See how this fits in with your and my vision of the future but not with our governments.
See how important it is to decentralise our political process.
Luckily we can get rid of our government and change our political process. We live in an democracy.

Generally yes. The thing is about centralised Govn it consumes energy, energy the wops wops have to provide, how will they collect it in the quantity they need  I wonder?

Haha yes the coercive arm is also fueled by oil with a BP card in every patrol car.

Even if they had say petrol, what do they take?  they cant carry produce/goods en-mass back to wgtn and sell it. That is the problem really we believe in / need fiat script, once we dont, taxation doesnt really work. 
I mean what does or will central govn offer the wop wops?  I guess it would be interesting to go back in time 100 years ago and see how things worked then beacuse in energy terms tahst where we will be.

Brendon @ 12.38
Your argument fails the 'Tragedy of the Commons' test.
A whole lot of individuals striving to outdo each other, trash the Commons. To safeguard the 'Commons' - life-supporting necessities - you need a collective agreement, with physical limits. I agree we will go back down the track, getting local and small, but we'll be forced there. Better we agree first, and halt the degradation. That takes central decree.Probably also the only way to re-take our 'commons' back from the corporates.
And I'm not sure you can both get rid of Government while continuing to live in a democracy. You need to think that one through again, methinks.

I meant we could elect a different sort of government that gives more power to local public entities. Our current government is not allowing us to develop the institutions we need for a good future.

Not many politicians look beyond the next electoral cycle - so with 2014 coming soon National will be wanting to keep calm, not rock any boats , and get in for another 3 years. So John rich boy Key and Bill rich boy English, who have at least 15 years to go until 65, aren't in the foggiest bit interested in the "bigger" issues - can't blame BH for that - maybe PDK you need a regular column on here - as leopards (BH) don't change their spots?

ssh dont frighten the advertisers....
No ones selling solutions to peak oil. Solutions to more pension, well the adverts go on and on.
There is also the aspect of being thought of as a tin foil hatter, just look at JK's attack on the Green's.

The elephant in the room is not just the aging population,why pick on that aspect of government spending.
All govt  spending across all sectors of society  is what needs addressing,not a piecemmeal focus on certain sectors.

Oh maybe mainly because the Govn spending is only part of the issue.  The real issue is the BBs spending habits changing and decreasing numbers signals a big impact on the its not just spending increaes but tax decreases.

Bring back Cullen! If only. 
There seems to be a minor swelling of recognition that carrying on our current path (i.e. constant growth) is dumb economics in the best-case scenario and disastrous for the planet in the worst case scenario. Is this because more people are thinking long-term and paying attention, or am I just paying attention to the people who are paying attention?
It seems as though this "elephant in the room" is part of a herd, standing in the corners of parliaments all over the world: free-market capitalism and unchecked economic growth leads to growing inequality, environmental unsustainability, and eventual collapse. 
But capitalism and democracy have been, so far, the best system we've got. As Quinn Norton recently stated, democracy is really good for some stuff, like rights for women, and really bad for other problems, like climate change. So, we need a model of some sort to follow: regulated capitalism with politicians who are willing and staunch enough to ratify some serious legislation in the interests of the planet and people, rather than in the interests of corporations. Although business is important, it's just part of the whole economic system, so it too needs to serve that system. 
NZ is in th perfect position to capitalise (excuse the pun) on its position, size and resources. We could reasonably easily make systemic changes that show the world how government and business can be run in a sustainable way, with first-world standards. Dreams are free :) 

Keep Dreaming Sarah : )

Cullen did nothing about the overheated housing market, he had the opportunity and appears to easily have the intelligence to see it, instaed he did nothing.
Good riddence.
Capitalism is about expoiting resources for profit and as fast as possible. Post peak oil we need to think on survival and husband whats left.

The trouble with capitalism and democracy is they don't work going backwards. Good to see you are paying attention though.

While I'll agree on capitalism, purely because a large profit margin is needed for it to work, I'll disagree that democracy wont work going backwards.  At least to the extent that with previous civilisations what ever they had definately didnt work. Now looking at the Roman empire it was quasi democractic. I suppose the Q is with decline was democracy a casulty of the decline or of internal rot....

So if todays 20 year old is not going to get a pension until much later and may not get a pension at all. Then surely they should pay lower taxes???

They would have to get a job first and preferably leave home.

Oh no sorry, 3 grey power voters to the one 20 year old guarantee financial slavery for the 20 year old until at least 2 are buried.

The answer lies in what you say. I hope it doesn't take that path but fear it will.

Indeed, the Q is which 2

NZ's universal non-means tested superannuation is one of the best in the world for eliminating poverty problems in the over 65s. And it's uncomplicated to administer.
Do we really want fulltime workers still working in their later 60s & 70s? We already complian about the older generation taking the young peoples jobs.
If we introduce means-testing then we penalise those who save & plane for their retirement.
Maybe extend the age to 67 & lower univeral super to 60% of the minimum wage - but keep it non-means tested to avoid distortions and dis-incentives.

Changes need not be big step changes.  
For a start, the cost of the non-means tested superannuation and the lack of jobs for many could be addressed simply by using the current "Statement of Earnings" generated by the IRD, and cutting back the pension for those with 'earnings' greater than (say) $50,000.       Why should someone holding down a full time job also get the superannuation?
The Statement of Earnings does not include savings interest and similar, so would not penalise those who plan and save for retirement.  It could free up some jobs, and would certainly be a fairer system.    When turning 65 you have a choice to continue with work if you want, but should not get a superannuation bonus as well as the job. 

[edit: I meant this to be in reply to Steven upthread, opps]
Co-incidentally, this week I have been seeing a bunch of Eco-tech articles cropping up on my reading feed. Suggesting that even if the government is going to be silent on the matter, there are plenty of people looking to make money with disruptive technologies. Good on them, even if not all the ideas pan out.

The article is flawed in many ways. First it ignores the density of energy question. Second it overlooks that we are already rapidly decelerating in terms of the rate of growth, the answers were needed 50 years ago at the inflection point on the population graph. What we are facing is the senenca effect, it is well recorded in biological species.

Bernard. Question. Now you are in Wellington will you be standing for Labour in this election as a list MP or electorate candidate?

That's an irrelevant question. Jim Mora will probably stand for National some day, given his slant. Neither will make the slightest bit of difference, nor will either Party, nor the current Greens.
   All will get rolled by the changing paradigm - then we'll have a wee look. Chances are the populace will ask some hard questions, and throw out both the baby and the bath-water. Nobody likes being long-term conned.

Not Labour 28_29. With the demise of the McCillcuddy Serious Party Bernard and his disciples are working feverishly the launch the Kiwi version of the Monster Raving Looney Party to fill that vacuum.

I suspect that Bernard , steven & PDK are going to head up the " Monster Raving Gloomy Party " .....

All a bit pointless BH...JK has locked in the votes of those about to be 65 until the day he departs...which is likely to be post 017.
Today is the start of the welfare cull...the beginning of the end or the end of the beginning..slash and or drop...much screaming from socialists is expected..
Perhaps it will dawn on the rugrats of today that a life living off welfare and snuggling up to the likes of Shearer or Norman, is no life when they could do a good deal better.

I dont see why, 40 somethings are the ones to get put out to 67, 64 year olds wont see a change....
Take whats going on with deposits, I'd hazard a guess that 60 somethings are fearful they'll lose their $s..JK will be seen to have done little...
do better? yeah right.

Our aging population is a huge opportunity for the young in this country.  The baby boomers occupy all the top salaried jobs and own literally thousands of profitable businesses.  As this generation retires on mass there is going to be promotions and opportunities galour.  Not to mention thousands of businesses being sold for whatever they can get, a real buyers market. 
I'm a little dissapointed to see most commentators, again, boil this debate down to peak oil.  Stay on topic. 

Thats because peak oil impacts everything, ignore it at your own cost. 
A business is only worth its income, if someone buys a business and doesnt take the future impact of lack of energy into account then they will over pay. Then there are the indirect impacts on a business from ppl having less money as they spend more on energy. Then there are the impacts of increasing costs to a business from its raw materials increasing its costs that it may not be able to pass on.
A classic is Infratil, Shell sold its NZ forecourts etc for a "good" price" and now infratil finds the rising costs of fuel means ppl are buying its not making the return it expected. 
Have to wonder if there is the potential for some legal actions there at some have the Oil Majors knowingly mislead over peak oil.

See SimonD and my comments below regarding energy.
No matter how long it takes I'll turn that perpetual frown of yours upside down. 

7 years of research has yet to prove the peak oil brigade wrong....
SimonD has no idea what so ever...none, zilch, nada.  Been over his types work here before time and time again. Lack substance and understanding in engineering, math and physics....
PS I'd really like them (ASPO etc) to be proved wrong, because otherwise its real ugly.

DavidC  - its time you changed this sites name to 

... regardless of what topic someone comes up with at , there's two arch gloomsterisers hereabouts who'll shut down the whole argument with their " peak oil " refrain....
Methinks the site is nowadays sponsored by the " Socialists Advancing Doom & Gloom In Terrorific Swathes "  ( S.A.D.G.I.T.S. ) 

65 to 67 ....what about the 60 to 65 move.......maybe a move from 65 to 70 is better!

Hey Wolly ; Treasury usually totally screw up their forecasts for just 1 or 3 years out , so  how is it now that they think they can accurately predict the parlous state of the Kiwi cradle-to-grave welfare system to 2050 ..... 37 years away !
... given medical advances , the average life expectancy may have rocketed up to 150 years or beyond , for all we know now ...
And energy may be so cheap , we all live lives of amazing luxury by today's standards , and for a fraction of the price .....

Doomer comments the lot of you...
Technological progress gets us out of the hole we're in - has done in the past and will in the future. Google "horses manure london" followed by and
When low cost PV, fusion, thorium, high capacity batteries make an appearance I expect all you doomers to be talking scare stories about running out of lithium or the perils of driverless cars.   
The facts are humans are living in the most prosperous era ever, with the capitalist trading system lifting 100's of millions out of poverty. Not only this we're also living in the most peaceful era in all of human history As long as we can continue to walk the tightrope of a fiat money supply i.e. the tradeoff between credit creation and inflation things can only get better.


So while you lot moan and whinge about the world is ending the rest of us will be busy building a better tommorrow. 

Sure technology allowed us to move from horse power to fossil fuel power and then use it to grow our world economy.  In that 100 years we have used 1/2 of the total available.  It will be gone in another 40 years at most, then what?  before that we have to migrate to a something else and do it today.
Technology is an enabler not a fixer...
Looking in the rear view mirror for the future when we have never in 10000 years gone past a peak of energy without an available alternative is un-precidented and un-realistic.
Try and have a look at poverty in the developing world, its increasing ast teh top 1% take more and more..
Somehow I dont see you as a builder...

See that's the problem with you doomers you channel absolutes but all your predicutions are 10 years away so you get away with it (hmm I take this back the club of rome look like a bunch of dorks in retrospect). Of course the problem for me is that alot of the facts you use Steven are incontrovertible but it's the way you use them that I have a problem with. You use them in absolute terms and assume nothing changes. Unfortunately over the longer term, it's the "nothing changes" bit where doomers come unstuck.
Let me use an example, we know that there is a truly massive energy source in Methan Cathdrates but right now it's commercially unviable. To invalidate your claims/projections I would have to make assumptions about technological progress that are simply unknowable right now but in 5 years time who knows what the Japanese might come up with. But of course I can't say looking into my crystal ball that this is going to happen so your facts stand correct in the here and now. The guiding hand of Adam and the power of the price signal to encourage innovation is very powerful but completely unpredictable.
BTW, your comment about using 50% of the total (assume you mean energy here) is bunkum. Energy from the sun, atomic energy make this a falsehood and in all likelihood are all going to be EROI coherent over the next 30 years.
Your comment about poverty increasing in the developing world is frankly preposterous, the third world has never been wealthier in all of human history. 
Also play the ball not the man Steven, you know nothing about my personal position - what do you do out of curiousity?  

Lets start with some truths. You 'always 10 years away' is unreferenced. Here - yet again - are the graphs:
The second is with 'two planets'.
Commercially unavailable? Actually, it's a small problem of EROEI - energy return on energy invested. If a wolf uses more energy in chasing a rabbit, that the eating of it returns, the wolf dies. There can be a  thousand rabbits, a thousand chases; the wolf dies. The wolf can be a billionaire, the wolf dies. It's not a case of 'paying more'. Your other problem at some dwindling-EROEI point, is that the ability to 'pay' requires underwriting by someone else providing goods/services, which require energy to produce.....forget the numbers (it's only a proxy) but there isn't going to be the work done to pay the extra - below an EROEI of perhaps 8, BAU fails.
This fellow is a nuclear physics prof, so presumably no slug:
And your comment about third wealth is incorrect. Wealth is the ability to buy goods/services. There is less chance of them being delivered, daily, than there ever was, and more demand than there ever was. Good luck with that invisible hand - just look around. What do you think Egypt is? What do you think pulled the rug from under growth finance?

Commercially unviable not unavailable - though it matters not.
Neither you nor Steven addressed my point. Your utter certainty that you are right based on the facts you trot out (not disagreeing mind you as per my original point) must cause you both much aggravation that there isn't an outbreak of mass suicide.
Shall we go back to the 70s, the Club of Rome were equally convinced as you are that the world was running out of resources. You know what -  they were right based on the facts and understanding available at the time, unfortunately the passage of time and the massive increases in innovation and technology was where they came unstuck.
Eventually you will be right too but not over any meaningful timeline, the exponential growth curve will do us in eventually but that's a fate reserved for humanity in the distant future.

a) "unstuck" Try looking at their work re-visited, tracks their graphs very well, or that oil is at $105USD and its only going to go higher...if we can pay, or it wont be used.
Here it is in all its glory...
b) Certainty is math, expotential function means the belief that we can grow for ever and must therefore live a on a flat ie infinate earth to do so.  Yes I can be utterly certain on something when I know the laws of thermodynamics cannot be bypassed and some math.
Here is a lecture on basic math for you,
Where would you like me to start on the above? 
eg Doubling time when we have used 1/2 the recoverable fossil fuel oil means there is only one doubling left....its not far into the future.  Morally then you are saying a scorched earth policy (ie nothing left) for our children and grand-children is morally OK? even say a bit later our great grandchildren?
Sorry but I take issue here.
Now sure, in utterly why are you utterly convinced we are wrong?  where is your math? new laws of the universe?
When the engineers, mathematicians, scientists etc who tell you about such laws and math say no and yet you believe these same ppl will find a magic solution, why are you so convinced its gona happen anyway?

5 years ago ppl thought oil at $300, even $500 was possible. What they didnt factor in was a) money is a proxy for energy and b) most ppls inability to pay.
So $300 and $500 oil suggests an EROEI way below the magic 8 to 1 for our "modern" society and its economy to run well.
So take BP Horizon as an example of deep drilling at the limits of technology, that oil was apparantly over $150 a barrel.....and that goes into an existing refinery and distribution system.  Npw consider the depths the methane is at and its doesnt look like oil at $150 is possible for our economy let alone anything higher and that methane is probably higher....
50% of the recoverable crude oil has been used up...
Technological progress is still subject to the laws of thermodynamics, really simple. 
then there is the time scale, lets see such projects need to come on line now and for the next 10 years and with inifinte growth believed in, for ever.
You yourself said you were building a better world, yet from your post it doesnt make sense you understand a) engineering and b) the expotential function in maths....
I was a marine engineer, then I went and worked on subs and their nuclear reactors for some years then went and did an engineering degree in building services and energy management, so a qualified and experienced engineer.
Poverty, maybe you should read up on Saudi sending Egypt 2 tankers of fuel, or Pakistan being almost broke, neither at present have the ability to get food long term...
Conventional nuclear plants like pwr's or bwr's are energy intense to build much of that transport fuel, also take about 8 years....and then there is the red book ie how much uranium is left. then the financail aspect, economically no private business is building new without massive govn subsidies or write off of the waste Govn picks up the tab at the end for 100000 years or so.
Sun is not much of an energy dense transport fuel....biofuels are around 1 to 1, EVs need expensive batteries with limited materials eg lithium.  Sure cheaper batteries will come, trouble is powering them takes infrastructure on the scale of the oil industry.
So really you wont be building a bigger and  better world, not in the context you imply anyway there wont be the energy.

Thank you Simon, very well said. 
There's no reason that technological advancements won't give us cleaner, cheaper and renewable energy sources that will achieve greater prosperity for all. 
Far, far too many doom mongers on this site. 

You must have some great pills. Us doom mongers do understand energy and EROEI. Im sorry but where is your understanding but in make believe ppl (cant be us engineers, we are saying no) who will find and produce make believe energy sources that defy physics for you?
Can you point out a viable technology today that can scale to replace crude oil and start doing it today at 4+mbpd equiv?
just where?
come on show us...

h123 - as requested before, please keep emotions out of it.
Technology, in terms of energy, produces zero. All technology can do (and I've spent a lifetime applying it, in world-beating ways sometimes) is make our use of energy more efficient. The Jevons paradox soaks up a large portion of that.
You can indeed have clean, renewable energy (cheap is a minefield, most conventional thinkers stumbe there) but you won't run a system aiming for unlimited exponential growth on any energy system, nor on a finite planet. If your throwaway 'prosperity' (why didn'y you throw in 'vibrant' too?) means 'the ability to buy more', then I'm sorry, it won't happen.
Nothing to do with emotions - you are indeed the one to associate what we point out with 'doom', and that has to be because you must think you have something to 'lose' in the scenario. I don't see it as 'doom', just as a reality and a challenge.

It appears we've hit a bit of a nerve Happy. How about gloomer then? - its a bit more upbeat than doomer ;-)

Names dont matter, ignorance on your part when you propagate it, does.
Looking forward to data based opinions off you.
PS I think GBH already has copyright on gloomer.

Treasury predictions are allways correct, you could even bet your life savings on their accuracy - Yeah Right
When all the wealth is being transferred from the general population to the elite then of course there will be less money for Health, Education, Pensions,.................

I have a simple answer to all the above problems.
All over sixtyfivers will continue to get the pension but at an increased rate, (do you realise how little it actually is?), but in return will be required to generate electrictity by turning handles with their least impaired limb.
No more reliance on fossil fuels or unemployment beneficaries competing with oldies for jobs at McDonalds and increased warmth and circulation for the handle turners.  

MarkL - it must be a whole equation, sorry. The oldies will be eating something, which is fertilised by, tractor'd by, delivered by, and probably other things by, fossil fuels. That is what turns the handles. Given that they will probably only put out about 50 watts, for 8 hours, that 0.4 of a unit saved. What's that worth? 14cents?
Youth in Asia might be a better idea....                   :)

FYI Comments from an emailer:



Interesting article. 


Maybe there are other aspects which are not getting much traction here – referring to ever increasing deductions in funds for caring for frail elderly in their own homes and the resources (or lack of) going into rest home care.  Also as people age the chances of requiring treatment in our public hospitals increases.


Maybe I am being cynical here but it is much easier to gain easy political traction by headlining no change to super payments whilst stealthily reducing funding for other aspects of aged care.


A few commentators seemed to believe that super payments are less generous than the unemployment benefit (or whatever it is called these days) – they need to do some factual research.


Grey Power has been a most successful voting bloc for the generation which came before baby boomers (most baby boomers are still under 65) and the stark political calculation is that most older people vote and too many younger people don’t vote – see the figures from the last election – so the smart thing is to pander to these interests up to a point.  Grey Power may well have started lobbying on the health and care front by now but methinks that is an elephant in the room too far.  You could cancel every work age benefit we have, further cut funding for education but even so that would not cut it. 


New Zealand is now a poor country, a few sectors gaining mind boggling wealth while the rest are struggling and/or falling by the wayside.  We need a long term plan to rectify this but long term plans do not win elections.


I can see over the years a growing tide of resentment against the one group now exempt from judgement/means testing for their government support which could get very ugly.  Myself?  I sometimes visit family on Waiheke Island and find myself seething whilst seeing all these gold cards waving around whilst not far away in Auckland’s deprived areas charities are struggling to feed the working poor and beneficiaries – starkly showing how skewed NZ Incs priorities have become.



Meebee we could follow the Chinese example , and enact stronger laws to force you visit your old folks ..... as from July 1 , Chinese youngsters can be sued for not caring about the wrinklies !
.... hey Bernard , great photo , but was it your idea to have the lounge of your former house painted pink ?