Nelson retirees choosing to give their winter energy payment to those in need - 'An amazing thing'

Pensioners in Nelson are choosing to give away winter payments received from the government to charity.

From July, superannuitants are entitled to additional payments to help heat their homes.

So far, more than 1700 people have chosen to opt out of the scheme, but donators say they would rather see it used for the purpose it was originally given.

"Most of us in the group are in a really fortunate position of actually not needing the extra payments for winter and yet, at the same time, we recognise that a lot of people do need them," explains Community Action Nelson coordinator Susan Hawthorne.

Ms Hawthorne is one of several members of the volunteer group who are donating the extra money to charity instead.

They've chosen two local charities which help support families struggling in the colder month - Nelson Budget Service and the Fifeshire Foundation.

"People can apply to them, so there doesn't have to be any direct connection between the givers and the receivers," she said.

According to Statistics New Zealand's 2017 figures, over 44,000 pensioners are in the country's top personal income bracket, earning more than $93,000 a year.

Based on individual winter payments, the group could collectively have an extra $11.5 millon this year.

"That's an astounding amount of money, and what a difference that could make."

Ms Hawthorne says she does not want to see winter payment means tested in the future, but hopes the actions of Community Action Nelson will catch on in other regions.

Nelson mother Paula Trainor says the donations could make all the difference for her family this winter.

For the past three days, Ms Trainor has had to keep her heat pump running 24/7.

Her daughter has chronic lung disease "so she really needs to keep warm and she gets sick really easily," Ms Trainor said.

She thinks the pensioners' decision is "amazing" and hopes to one day "pay it forward".

"If I could donate my money to someone else, I really would but I'm not in the space to do it, so for them to do it is an amazing thing."

Don't opt out, pass it on, is the advice a group of retired community workers are giving. Source: 1 NEWS