Island Life by David Slack

56

See Waiheke before you die.

It costs 32 dollars to ride the ferry to Waiheke Island and back. Even the best discount works out at 20 dollars or so, but this will be of no concern to you if you are more than 65 years old, and you're willing to leave after 9 am. In that case, the price to you will be: nothing. Gratis. Buckshee. Not one single dollar. Just take out your SuperGold Card and wave your way through the boarding gate.

All the age-enriched people we know are talking of it.

The SuperGold Card is bounteous. Free bus rides! 5% off your sirloin steak and your saveloys at the Mad Butcher! Other concessions too numerous to mention!

But never mind that; Waiheke for nothing! All of grey Auckland is going down to the sea today.

How much does a cargo of SuperGold Card-carrying seniors weigh? How much diesel will Fullers be burning up on this? And is it all at their cost? Or is it being worn entirely by ratepayers and or taxpayers?

Like the maxim about shoeshine boys giving stock tips, the sure sign that the end might be near for this marvellous perk came to me in a radio ad. Come visit Waiheke, said the ad. Use your SuperGold card and get a free ferry trip, and free buses when you get here! This is good news for the cafes of Onetangi, but possibly not good news for the future of this splendid treat.

For a long time, the best cheap treat in Auckland was the ham sandwiches at the museum. They were as fat as the ones you get in the United States of America; layer upon layer of succulent ham, almost too big for your gob. Some clown wrote it up in Metro and not long after, it seemed, they had remodelled the cafe, and the two dollar sandwiches with five dollars' worth of ham were no more. Good news for the Auckland museum's budget, and good news for the nation's pigs, but sad for the rest of us.

Who is responsible for the largesse? Winston will tell you it was his doing, and for once, he'll be telling you the whole truth. Go to a Helen Clark meeting, though, and you'll hear her taking her own due credit.

The truth is that it's you and me putting our hand in our pocket.

I can't say I begrudge it. It's a poor person who goes into a polling booth without thinking about other people's grannies, and other people's granddaughters.

This weird election seems to have come down to a reprise of the big issue of the 1975 Muldoon landslide. The Labour government had created a vast savings fund to vouchsafe the superannuation of the nation's elderly. To pay for it, money was compulsorily deducted from your pay and salted away in an investment fund, which stood to grow enormous. Muldoon offered a pay-as-you-go scheme that would give old people a pension that was almost as good as the average wage.

Decisions, decisions. Just to make it easier, a National Party TV ad showed the country turning blood red as the government bought up every last standing dairy, factory, farm and woolshed. Bring on the Dancing Cossacks.

A generation or so later, the notion of a government having a stonking big investment fund is now accepted by both major parties to be a Very Good Thing. But that nice Mr Key thinks it would be a good idea to dial back the amount people will have deducted from their wages. Hey, saving is hard, actually. So we'll change the scheme to make it less hard to save, by, er, not saving much. Good idea! I look forward to seeing this excellent approach being applied to next year's Auckland marathon, which will require that you complete only 10 kilometres. My record time will make those Kenyans look like pikers.

Muldoon's plan was short -term. So is Key's.

In the long run, we are all, sadly, inevitably and undeniably, dead; but we have a habit of leaving granddaughters.

In 1975, my granny said she had decided to vote for the nice Mr Muldoon because he was offering her a very good pension. That worked out very well for her, but not so well for her six great grand-daughters.

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