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Curly questions on retirement

As recently reported, Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier has tendered his resignation.

What’s somewhat unusual about the move is that he didn’t resign due to being incapable of carrying out his role as government watchdog or because he’s done something immoral or illegal.

Instead, Boshier gave up the position because The Ombudsman Act of 1975 stipulates that the person holding that role “shall so resign his office on attaining the age of 72 years.”

Boshier turns 72 tomorrow.

Highly regarded for the way in which he’s performed the chief ombudsman position since taking it up in 2015, Boshier has shown no inclination to question the retirement requirement, although some – including veteran journalist Bary Soper – have argued that he should be granted as exemption given the obvious ongoing excellence of his work.

The retirement rule was presumably first introduced on the assumption that, at 72, people aren’t as sharp as they once were. If so, Boshier is certainly an exception – and probably an increasingly common one, as the likely length of mental and physical health appears to be increasing along with life expectancy.

Boshier’s personal situation is certainly in stark contrast to that of many leaders and public figures who hold their jobs well into old age without restriction.

Take, for example, New Zealand’s deputy-prime-minister-until-David-Seymour-is Winston Peters, who is currently 78 and showing no signs of stepping down from the political arena anytime soon.

And to be fair, Peters – and Boshier arguably even more so – is full of vim and vigour compared to some of his political counterparts in the United States.

For example, a notorious video clip of 81-year-old President Joe Biden delivering a patriotic speech has been circulating for some time in which he states, “America is a nation that can be defined in one word: Asufutimaehaehfutbw” – and it’s not the appearance in which he’s appeared to be incoherent at times.

There’s also Biden’s documented track record of stumbling and falling over during attempts to walk across stages [or find his way off them], ascend the stairs to his private plane, and dismount his bike.

These ‘senior moments’ have unsurprisingly been seized on by his political opponent Donald Trump [77 years old], whose campaign has released a video mocking Biden’s apparent infirmities in which the White House is presented as an old age home with the motto, “White House senior living – where residents feel like presidents.”

There are also several US senators who hold powerful positions and show clear signs of being past their use-by date.

Mitch McConnell, who is 82 and the Senate Minority Leader, has on several occasions had to be led away from press conferences in which he’s appeared to freeze halfway through a sentence.

There had long been growing concern about Senator Dianne Feinstein’s cognitive abilities before she made her final vote in the Senate on September 28 last year at age 90, passing away at her home only hours later.

But there have been no such concerns about Boshier, so perhaps it’s time to review what appears to be an arbitrary retirement requirement for the chief ombudsman – especially given the debate about the desirability of raising the general retirement age continues to be a live issue.

Especially given that it appears that Boshier will continue to perform the role well past his 72nd birthday while his replacement is found.


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Freddie Wilkie
Freddie Wilkie
Freddie Wilkie is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age; originally moving from Christchurch, he is interested in housing stories and covering emergencies and crime.

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