45th session Human Rights Council - Report of the Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons’ country visit-Delivered by Charlotte Darlow, Acting Permanent Representative

Madam President, 

New Zealand welcomes the Report of the (then) Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons’ country visit to New Zealand in March. 

This visit was in response to New Zealand’s open invitation to all Special Procedure mandate holders to undertake a country visit to New Zealand. This invitation is a strong signal of New Zealand’s support for the international human rights system and the Human Rights Council’s Special Procedures. We reiterate that invitation.

New Zealand approaches these visits in an open and transparent way and uses them as an opportunity to learn and identify areas to improve. We are grateful for the visit by the Independent Expert and her report.

New Zealand is experiencing a significant demographic change. We are living longer than ever before. By 2034, more than 1.2 million New Zealanders, almost a quarter of our total population, will be aged 65 or older. During the next decade there will be more people aged 65 and older than children aged 0 to 14 years. 

The older population in New Zealand is also increasingly diverse, with increasingly diverse needs. By 2034 the number of Māori aged 65 and older will more than double from 2018 figures, as will the senior Pacific population and there will be nearly three times as many Asian New Zealanders aged 65 and older.  

The Government is committed to protecting and enhancing the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons in New Zealand. 

New Zealand has embraced the Decade of Healthy Ageing (2020-2030) and is working at pace to implement our strategy called ‘Better Later Life – He Oranga Kaumātua 2019 to 2034’, which is guided by the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi / The Treaty of Waitangi, the founding document of New Zealand. It is an opportunity to identify and exchange good practices and to share recommendations on the realisation of the rights of older persons. 

The new strategy resonates with human rights principles and is conducive to human rights-based implementation. It has already been helpful in guiding New Zealand’s policy response to the COVID-19 pandemic regarding older persons. COVID poses a particular set of risks to older persons and necessitated a specific set of policies, guided by the strategy and a rights-based perspective. This has included access to wage subsidies, leave subsidies, doubling of the Winter Energy Payment, financial support to community organisations and non-governmental organisations supporting older people, and the provision of information to help older people to make informed decisions about their health and wellbeing.

The new strategy brings together existing dedicated policies and frameworks that impact on  older persons including the Healthy Ageing Strategy  and Priority Actions 2019-2022, the New Zealand Disability Strategy and Disability Action Plan 2019-2023, the New Zealand Carers’ Strategy and the Mahi Aroha – Carers’ Strategy Action Plan (2019–2023) to ensure coherence and build on the good work already achieved. 

This strategy provides a common road map for central and local government, non-government organisations, businesses and communities to achieve better outcomes for older New Zealanders, identifying key issues and trends and areas for action. The Government cannot deliver this strategy alone. We would like to acknowledge the close partnership with local governments, non-government organisations, social enterprises, businesses and community groups. 

A ministerial steering group, comprised of senior ministers representing key portfolios and chaired by the Minister for Seniors, has been formed to ensure the areas of action identified under the strategy are delivered. A particular focus for the Government in the first action plan will be on employment, supporting older people to build and maintain financial security, ensuring older people have a safe and secure place to live as well as diversity of choice and options in housing  and increasing digital inclusion. 

The Government will closely consider the Independent Expert’s recommendations as we formulate our programme of work to fully implement the strategy. We again thank the Indepent Expert, and the supporting staff from the Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights, for their visit and the report.  

We would also, in closing, like to acknowledge that this visit was the final one for the former Independent Expert, Rosa Kornfeld-Matte. We would like to commend the important work she undertook over her six year term. As the first Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons, her efforts in cementing the value of that office are worthy of note. We wish her well into the future.

Thank you Madam President.