‘A decent home and environment is the right of every New Zealand retiree’ has been the promise of recent governments. For years, owning a home has been too expensive for young people, but NZ FutureSave (a compulsory retirement scheme set up in 2025) means retirees can buy their first living pods when they retire at age 72.
Elder-pods are up to 50 square metres in size and can be changed to meet the needs of each person. They can either stand alone or be joined together to form large pod-communities. Being able to choose where they live is important for the physical, emotional, financial and spiritual wellbeing (hauora) of the retirees.
Seventy-five percent of pod-owners travel from pod-site to pod-site during the year, using pod-transporters to take their homes with them. Other pod-owners settle in one place, often near family. Some pod-owners join more formal communities, paying monthly into saving and investment schemes whose profits are shared among the retirees. These owners work together to lower their chances of financial losses.
Elder-pods solve housing issues for retirees in Aotearoa
The karanga (welcome) echoes out over the still of the South Island countryside. “Haere mai, haere mai, haere mai”, the kuia (Māori female elder) calls as she welcomes another “whare-pod” onto the marae.
There are linked whare-pods all around the wharenui (meeting house), and some have spread into paddocks nearby. The marae is nearly full and the kuia/elder will soon have to put a limit on how long people can stay so that other pods can visit.
Over the past ten years, marae, iwi and hapū around the country have hosted and welcomed New Zealand retirees as their guests. Retirees on the marae take part in communal ways of life, experiencing Māori traditions and values. In exchange, the retirees share their knowledge and expertise.
Kaumātua (Māori leaders/elders) have set this up for future generations. As well as providing communities with extra income by charging the visiting pod owners a rental fee, whare-pod schemes have helped grow new understanding between cultures. Marae visits remain the most popular elder-pod stay for retirees in Aotearoa.
Tāmaki Makaurau (Auckland) has changed greatly in Mara’s lifetime. As a child, he could see green spaces and blue sky when he took the rapid rail to school. Now, as he looks out from his city-pod, all he can see are towers of pod-houses randomly linked together. New city-pods keep popping up in public spaces such as parks, sports fields, gardens and school grounds. The illegal podsters are retirees waiting for spaces to become vacant in official pod areas. These free-podding retirees can’t leave the city because they need the income from part-time jobs that are hard to find elsewhere. They need to work because New Zealand Superannuation (NZ Super) payments don’t always cover the costs of living in a city. Mara sighs. He feels overwhelmed, even though he is one of the lucky ones who can stay in his city-pod for as long as he wants to.
The farm-pods are lined up in careful rows along the length of the farm. All you can see as you look over the valley are white flowers from the mānuka trees that cover the mountains. This bee farm is one of the biggest eco-farms in Aotearoa and makes millions of dollars from both honey and tourism. Retirees apply to get a six-month placement on the farm. They love the living conditions and enjoy meeting people from all over the world who have come to work on the farm during the honey season. The moni/money retirees can earn makes up for the remoteness of the farm on the ‘Road to Nowhere’.
Deep in the ranges of the Te Urewera bush, a permanent community of eco-pods sits amongst the trees. Many retirees have taken up this iwi/hapū scheme and have been given free land rental. In exchange, they track wildlife, get rid of pests, and map hundreds of kilometres of tracks using the Global Positioning System (GPS).
These eco-pods have e-generators, the latest satellite tracking systems, and food and water systems that allow owners to live off the grid for up to a year at a time. Others just stay to enjoy the quiet and beauty of the place.
The water laps the sand without a sound. The once tranquil scenes of Sāmoan villages dotted along the coastline are just a distant memory.
Now, as far as the eye can see, there are groups of ‘fale-pods’ filling the once empty land along the high tide mark. The New Zealand government offers retirees an additional weekly payment (on top of their NZ Super) if they choose to settle on a Pacific Island. Tens of thousands have taken up the offer. The retirees enjoy both the warmer weather and the warmth of Fa’a Sāmoa culture, with its focus on faith, family and music. The retirees work in schools and volunteer in local community projects as a way to enjoy their new Pacific lifestyles.
Working in groups of four:
Step 1: Explore five potential financial issues related to this future brief.
Step 2: Discuss these issues as a group and agree on which issue is likely to have the biggest impact on people.
Step 3: Come up with five ways to respond to this issue. Highlight your most creative solution.
Step 4: Create an annotated drawing that summarises your solution. List one potential risk and write down how you can overcome it.
Step 5: Present your idea to your class.
Each year, the Ministry of E-Learning runs a competition in which year 9-10 students are asked to submit new designs for elder-pods. The winning designs are often used to influence Ministry of Housing designs. Create an elder-pod design. Before you begin, you may like to interview an elderly person in your community to assess their needs so that these can be reflected in your design.
*This future brief for financial sustainability is available as a podcast.
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