The structure of New Zealand's population is changing in different ways, but the main change is that it is ageing. In 2006, there were two children for every older person. In 2023 – only 10 years from now – we could have more people aged 65 or older than we have children under 15.
Some regions will have older populations and age more quickly than others. When an increasing proportion of the population is on a fixed income, local authorities with the oldest populations are more likely to be the first to face challenges in paying for community services and maintaining, repairing, and replacing infrastructure.
One way or another, many public resources will be committed to responding to our ageing population. This is important for everybody. We expect that governments will spend more on superannuation, healthcare, and social support care (such as home-based support services and aged residential care). Spending on other services might decrease. The Treasury has considered the effect of New Zealand's ageing population on the country's financial sustainability in its 2013 report Affording Our Future: Statement on New Zealand's Long-term Fiscal Position. My Office's report on the Treasury's Statement is available on our website: www.oag.govt.nz.
There are many uncertainties about the effects of a changing population structure on individuals and on society as a whole. Having the right kind of data available is one component in being prepared for the future. Accurate, relevant data can be used to identify improvements or adverse consequences as the result of changes in society and in government policy, and can help support accountable and transparent decision-making.
New Zealand is not alone in having an ageing population, and worldwide ageing has been a focus of the United Nations. We found an international benchmark in the indicators that the United Nations uses to assess progress in putting into effect the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing (the Madrid indicators).
Because a report on the Madrid indicators had not previously been brought together for New Zealand, we decided to examine whether the data for each of the indicators showed improvements for older people over time. We have published our findings for each indicator online as they became available.
I hope that this report will stimulate discussion and action among public entities, parliamentarians, and the public.