Will Cathy Taewa get answers from Paula and Nick?

Four years ago, Bay of Plenty meatworker Johnny Taewa tragically died of the occupational disease leptospirosis.

After a lengthy battle, ACC eventually accepted cover for Johnny’s death and agreed to pay weekly compensation to his widow Cathy.  ACC weekly compensation payments upon death can be aggregated into a lump-sum payment – an option that Cathy Taewa chose to take up.  After all, she had lots of debt to clear and only one income coming in.

Shortly after, Cathy herself became ill and attempted to apply for a Work and Income benefit.  She was then told she was not only ineligible for a benefit, but wouldn’t be eligible for five years because the lump sum payment she had received, and largely expended clearing debt, was treated as income.

She has had to struggle on attempting to work when she is not fit to work ever since, and at times has even become suicidal.

The way Cathy has been treated seems to be a particularly cruel and unfair interface between the ACC and benefit systems.  So I have a few questions for ACC Minister Nick Smith and Social Development Minister Paula Bennett:

  • Why was Cathy not told by ACC that future disqualification from receiving a welfare benefit was a potential consequence of her accepting the lump sum payment?
  • Why was Cathy’s aggregated lump sum compensation as low as $35,000 when she could have received weekly compensation at a rate of 48% of her late husband’s pre-injury earnings for five years (or longer if she still had dependent children) had she chosen to not aggregate the payments?
  • Why does a lump sum payment of $35,000, which would likely have been less than one year of her late husband’s wage, disqualify her from benefit for five years?
  • Is it fair and reasonable for Work and Income to penalise Cathy for deprivation of income when, at the time she made the decision to aggregate the compensation payments, she could not possibly have anticipated getting sick herself and requiring benefit assistance?
  • Is it fair and reasonable for Work and Income to penalise Cathy for deprivation of income when she was never told by ACC of the potential consequences for future benefit entitlement of her aggregating the weekly compensation payment?

Even though Paula Bennett was very forthcoming last year in putting personal information about beneficiaries into the public domain when it suited her politically, I’m not holding my breath for answers.

36 Comments Posted

  1. I have read all the messages above and comment as follows. I am a Taewa and am fully aware of the feelings Sianna and Shannon have for the circumstances in which Cathy continually milks her loss. As proud people, I commend Sianna and Shannon for their courage and level of professionalism about this bantering that keeps entering their lives. They loved their father, they gained nothing from his loss nor did they want anything even though they both raise young children and could certainly have done with a little of that lump sum that Cathy took. Shame on you Cathy for still squeezing the system for all you can get. Let John rest, he may not have left anything behind, but as a partner to him for many years, you are as responsible as he was for taking care of your own future finances. Its always the ones who don’t think ahead that we taxpayers will forever have to fork out for. Let Johns children have their memories without you constantly appearing in their lives with this detrimental rubbish. We Taewas all know the truth about you and as far as the well meaning people on this site making valid comments about the holes in the system, there are holes in all the systems when it comes to welfare and Cathy is certainly not a statistic that should be considered welfare. You took your money Cathy, then you spent it and now you want more – perhaps the government should consider training to all beneficiaries on how to manage their money better, this would be money well spent. And for all those doubters about whether ACC informed Cathy, well shes a very shrewd woman who is still trying to find loopholes to make a buck out of. Believe you me, I haven’t met too many career beneficiaries who don’t know exactly what they are entitled to and Cathy would have known everything.

  2. “The reason some quite intelligent comments on this thread have been hidden due to low comment rating is that the thread has been targeted by punters from the sewer following an attack post by Cameron Slater.”

    Yes….just like those evil anti union national standards in education discussion of this issue also must be kept from “the people” least they start to question and…..gasp!…form an opinion of their OWN!

    Horror! :-O

    “An informed populace is a pain in the arse!”

    (Some lefty pollie,some time)

  3. @Mark (the real one) 10:55 AM

    The bogus Mark’s 8:18 comment was in the moderation queue and I approved it without realising the email address was not yours. System is working fine – just a sloppy frog. Off for some self-flagellation now.

  4. The reason some quite intelligent comments on this thread have been hidden due to low comment rating is that the thread has been targeted by punters from the sewer following an attack post by Cameron Slater.

  5. Bob – Catherine is merely asking questions of the current ministers to highlight an issue, and is not blaming them. Hopefully these ministers will ask the questions of their respective ministries and the case will be reviewed with one or more of several possible outcomes:
    – a senior manager will look at an aspect of Cathy’s case and say “Cathy should apply under … as she is elegible for…”;
    – a senior manager will look at an aspect of Cathy’s case and say “this rule wasn’t correctly applied and Cathy is elegible for…”;
    – a senior manager will decide “these rules were applied correctly but the outcome was not that intended by the respective legislations and so I will use my discretion to…”;
    – the ministers will use their discretion;
    – the ministers will conclude that Cathy’s case has exposed an unintended consequence of a piece of legislation (or similar) and will work to correct that legislation, and possibly backdating the fix.


  6. Frog: Above comnet was not made by me – please no not publish anything under tis name until it is sorted – please contact me immediately by phome or e-mail

  7. This sort of behaviour has become quite characteristic of the Kiwi mentality. A huge case of entitlement syndrome. Cathy show a bit of pride in yourself and earn your own money, instead of thinking you can dip your hand into some other hard working person’s back pocket. ACC and benefits are not paid by the government, they are paid by tax payers. It’s high time Kiwis got this simple concept into their thick heads.

  8. Cathy I understand where you are coming from but find it rather strange who you are pointing the finger at. Four years ago the green party was part of the government and niether Nick Smith or Paula Bennet got a word in. The let alone need for a court case is a failing in ACC which was during the last government.

    It is rather amusing though to see the blame shift to current ministers. I though do not believe this shows a lack of awareness of the previous ministers as a single case is would be shrouded in paper work. I do believe that to use it as ammo is a statement of your ignorance.

  9. Cathy was ruled eligible to receive weekly compensation and opted to convert this to a lump sum. We have not been informed of the details of this original weekly compensation, such as the rate of payment or the duration, but surely this is very relevant considering that it was foregoing this weekly compenstion that is being used to justify not paying the sickness benefit to Cathy now? In particular, would that payment have been made for 5 years?

    Had Cathy not opted to receive the compensation as a lump sum but was still receiving it as weekly compensation, would she now be eligible for the sickness benefit (or a portion of it)?

    Given that ACC have accepted cover for Johnny’s death, have they made any payments towards medical costs or funeral expenses etc, or is this considered part of the compensation payment? If the latter, then should it be treated as income to Cathy, or should it be treated as a reimbursement and therefore outside the “view” of Work & Income? If neither, then should they have paid for treatment or funeral expenses?


  10. If John Taewa was not being paid by ACC during his illness, then I presume that he would have been eligible for the sickness benefit (unless Cathy’s income was too high?). Was any such payments made, and if not, is Cathy still eligible to receive any payments for this period?

    Given that John Taewa worked in the food preparation industry, would he have been allowed to work after a diagnosis of leptospirosis? If not, why would any additional assessment by ACC be needed?


  11. I listened to the conversation which Cathy had on Radio NZ. She says she was misinformed by ACC, and counted on getting the widows pension later therefore took the lump sum. I have to ask the question, how do we know that she was not informed? And on what grounds was she denied the widows pension? And was it only six months after my fathers death that she applied for the sickness benefit, why is that? Did all the money dry up by then? She also states that she used the money to pay funeral expenses, bills etc (that is a given) and to ‘help his children’. My brother and I are John Taewas’ only children and never got any ‘help’ and wouldnt even touch any monetary ‘help’ with a ten foot pole! The two children she speaks of are her own. The woman is a liar! I do understand that this shouldnt happen to other people in future and there are valid questions that ACC and WINZ should answer to but, not in this case. Im sorry but, I do not believe anythng this woman says.

  12. There should be a system to mitigate the circumstance of a partner on the lump sum support option – should they later require benefits themselves.

    How is this related to redundancy payments and eligibility to the dole if the person does not move into another job? Don’t people keep their redundancy if they find new work. Once they were denied the dole for awhile, but is that still the case?

    Is there not some comparison here?

    Given the obvious large saving made in paying out the lump sum, surely benefit eligibility should be maintained. Even if not, the $35,000 amount is only 3 years of SB, which speaks to inherent policy weakness in this circumstance.

  13. I appreciate all the constructive comments on this issue and also acknowledge the respect due to the family members who have commented. My ongoing concern is the way both ACC and WINZ fail to inform many people of their rights and entitlements as if people who are sick, bereaved or out of work should not get full information in a form they can readily understand. It is the job of ACC and WINZ to fully inform people and their families and to provide good advice. And the experienced advocates on WINZ and ACC have questioned the way policy was interpreted in this and other cases. The welfare systems and/or how they are applied have an inherent blame and shame bias which is unhealthy for everyone affected by them. Lets work for a fair society and foster a fairness culture in public services as a start.

  14. Trevor, I would presume that it is section 74(1)(d) Social Security Act:

    74 Limitation in certain other cases
    (1) Notwithstanding anything to the contrary in this Act or the Social Welfare (Transitional Provisions) Act 1990 or Part 6 of the War Pensions Act 1954 or the New Zealand Superannuation and Retirement Income Act 2001, the chief executive may, in the chief executive’s discretion, refuse to grant any benefit or may terminate or reduce any benefit already granted or may grant a benefit at a reduced rate in any case where the chief executive is satisfied—
    (a) That the applicant, or the spouse or partner of the applicant or any person in respect of whom the benefit or any part of the benefit is or would be payable, is not ordinarily resident in New Zealand; or
    (b) [Repealed]
    (c) [Repealed]
    (d) That the applicant has directly or indirectly deprived himself of any income or property which results in his qualifying for that or any other benefit or an increased rate of benefit:
    (e) That the applicant has failed to take reasonable steps to obtain any maintenance or has foregone her rights to any maintenance to which she may be entitled in respect of herself under the Family Proceedings Act 1980 or any other Act.

    They will presumably be arguing that in accepting an aggregated payment which she used to clear debt she has deprived herself of income from the spousal weekly compensation that she could otherwise be receiving.

    Pity no-one told her at the time.

  15. “It may be the case that Mr Taewa was informed of his possible entitlement to lump sum compensation and chose not to apply.”

    …Or ACC may have put up too many hoops for a sick man to jump through in order to get the compensation in the first place. “…just pop down to the local ACC office 150 miles away and we will assess you…”

    I get the impression that it wasn’t the lump sum compensation that wasn’t applied for but any compensation.

    I am not familiar with this legislation (and hopefully will never have to be), but I would not be surprised if the “dies before assessment” clause is there because a different part of the legislation covers compensation for death. However this is largely irrelevant here, as ACC have paid out and the problem is that Cathy is not entitled to a sickness benefit even though she is sick because of that payment, or at least that is the claim. I would like to know which piece of legislation is being referred to to block access to the sickness benefit for 5 years, and is it ACC or Work & Income that has made this determination?


  16. Agreed, Trevor, and this raises the question of whether ACC complied with section 50(1) of the Act which states:

    50 Responsibilities of Corporation after claim lodged
    (1) On receiving a claim for cover under section 48 from a person, the Corporation must—
    (a) decide whether or not it accepts that the person has cover; and
    (b) if it accepts that the person has cover,—
    (i) provide information about the entitlements to which it considers the claimant may be entitled; and
    (ii) facilitate the claimant’s access to those entitlements.

    It may be the case that Mr Taewa was informed of his possible entitlement to lump sum compensation and chose not to apply. However, it may also be the case that he was not informed. If the latter, ACC or an accredited employer would have been in breach of their statutory duty, and breach of statutory duty is a cause of action for damages in tort.

    Incidentally, the lump sum compensation that is referred to in District Court decision 199/2009 is a completely different entitlement to the aggregated spousal weekly compensation entitlement that Catherine referred to at the start of this thread.

    I also find the legislative provision prohibiting eligibility for lump sum compensation to the estate of someone who has cover but dies because of their injury before they can be assessed for lump sum compensation somewhat iniquitous. Why is an assessment needed in such instances? If someone dies from their injury, their level of whole person impairment upon which lump sum compensation would be calculated is obviously 100%.

  17. Hi Trevor

    Im sorry I have no idea why that is. That is something only Cathy has the answers to. Whenever we spent time with him he would never talk about things like that. I wish he would have. Maybe I could have helped. Even so I would only be able to do as much as she would allow anyway.

  18. “I believe that my dad was unaware of his entitlements when he was alive therefore never applied for anything as this disease took hold of him quite quickly in the end.”

    The court case decision supports this view. The next question is why wasn’t John Taewa aware of his entitlements and was he badly advised by ACC or other authorities at the time?


  19. I am John Taewas son and i fully support my sister Siannas comments. She is misrepresenting herself by using my fathers name, she received a lump sum payment and isnt that enough. Fair enough she is still greiving over the loss but she should let my father go and concerntrate on getting on with her life other than trying to find sympathy from others.

  20. http://www.acc.co.nz/about-acc/legal/district-court…pdf/PRD_CTRB122314

    Nothing anyone says on here will upset me. What Cathy is doin upsets me. If you follow this link it outlines the court hearing and decision made as Cathy took matters further to get yet another lump sum payment. She also tried to succeed my dads maori land claims as well, as I was notified by another family member. She was unable to because he was still married to my mother. I believe that my dad was unaware of his entitlements when he was alive therefore never applied for anything as this disease took hold of him quite quickly in the end. My dad was a simple man and a chronic asthmatic. Unfortunately for Cathy they never took out a life insurance plan. I’ve been in australia for a bit over two years now and as a taxpayer and fulltime worker myself I am horrified that people go to such lengths to suck every last coin out of a loved one.

  21. Toad

    So what?, the real issue here is that another Kiwi did not take responsibility for their own family.

    Had this man taken our life insurance then he would not have left any debts for his partner to cover.

    I have to ask you Toad, have you not seen the comments of Sianna Taewa? they clearly state that “Cathy” is not much more than a bludger, yet for some reason you continue to push her case.

  22. Toad

    “It was an occupational disease he died from bruv. That would have given rise to a substantial damages claim against the employer pre-ACC.”

    And of course you have proof of this?

    Even if it is, it still should not be my problem, employers have insurance (or should have) and they can battle it out with any affected employee’s, this should not be something that the tax payer has to fork out for over and over again.

    How is saying that this man should have had life insurance benefit bashing Toad?
    Once again you guys jump on the band wagon to suit your own nasty little political gain, even when presented with the truth by a member of the Taewa family you continue pushing this issue.

  23. @big bruv

    It was an occupational disease he died from bruv. That would have given rise to a substantial damages claim against the employer pre-ACC.

    I’m pretty sure the employer AFFCO is an accredited employer that funds and manages its own ACC claims. That, together with the amount of compensation she says she received, makes me very suspicious that she was seriously underpaid.

    I also note that she’s 55, and therefore probably unlikely to have dependent children to qualify for WFF.

    But don’t let the facts get in the way of a bit of good ACC and benefit bashing bro.

  24. This really annoys me.

    Why did Cathy and her late husband not take out life insurance?

    Had he done so Cathy would not have had to stick her hand out for more of my money (no doubt she and her family are already stealing off me by way of WWF) when her late husband lost his life.

    The only answer Cathy should receive from our government is “no more”.

    p.s. Well said Sianna Taewa, but do not expect anything but negative karma from the people here, they are more than happy to use the death of your father for their own selfish political gain, NEVER be conned into thinking that Comrade Delahunty and co actually care.

  25. @Trevor29

    I suspect you are right. The relevant legislation is Schedule 1, Clause 67 of the Injury Prevention, Rehabilitation, and Compensation Act 2001:

    67 Surviving spouse or partner may choose to convert weekly compensation to aggregated payment or payments
    (1) A surviving spouse or partner may choose to convert an entitlement to weekly compensation under clause 66 to 1 or more aggregated payments.
    (2) The Corporation must, if requested by the spouse or partner, provide the spouse or partner with actuarial calculations of any options specified by the spouse or partner for aggregating the spouse’s entitlement under clause 66.
    (3) The spouse or partner must not specify an option under subclause (2) involving 2 or more payments unless the payments are to be made at 6-monthly intervals
    (4) A spouse or partner converts his or her entitlement to weekly compensation under clause 66 to aggregated payments by giving the Corporation notice in writing of the option the spouse or partner has chosen.
    (5) If the Corporation provides aggregated payments to a spouse or partner in accordance with the option chosen by the spouse or partner, the Corporation must not provide weekly compensation to the spouse or partner under clause 66.

    Note subclause 2 – “…if requested by the spouse or partner…”.

    Of course, if a spouse or partner isn’t told they can request the actuarial calculations, they are unlikely to make the request for them so won’t know how the sum offered was calculated.

  26. $35,000 over five years is just $7000 per year. If Cathy were eligible for a sickness benefit, surely this benefit would be significantly more that $7000 per year (under $140 per week)? Something is wrong with either the rules by which this was calculated or the implementation of those rules, or has there simply been a misunderstanding?



    Good on you Catherine, it looks like somebody either in ACC or Work and Income has badly goofed and the ministers should be setting up an enquiry.

    If they don’t answer Cathy’s questions then they (Nick and Paula) are sending out very clear messages that they don’t give a toss about sick people but rather service the profitability of the insurance companies.

    If they ignore this it will be good ammunition for the next election, but that is not going to compensate Cathy Taewa who needs the money now.

  28. John Taewa is my father. Cathy is not legally his wife therefore is not a Taewa, and it annoys me that she is going on about this to get financial gain. She has had a pay out, now why doesnt she just let my dad rest. Fair enough there must be awareness now for what caused his death that I believe is necessary. I understand that she has grief as we all do but, why must she try squeeze more money out of his death. Honestly the woman has being so called ‘dying’ for well over ten years and I refuse to standby and let her do this, constantly vying on everybody’s pity. My brother and I have not interfered in any of her duties as a grieving life long partner and had no part in this greedy fiasco of hers. Like I said before she has had a pay out she does not deserve anything more.

  29. would it be too much to ask how many such ‘deals’ ACC has been responsible for..?

    personally, and from the way this blog reads, the ‘compo advance’ basis looks quite distorting and we should have some kind of extent on which to make valid scrutiny..

  30. If Work and Income don’t have the discretion to pay her (and I think they actually do and should) then shouldn’t ACC offer her an ex gratia payment for failing to properly advise her of the potential consequences of accepting the lump sum payment?

  31. Good on you for bringing this to public notice, Cath.

    The constant tautologies in the MSD between policy statements and over-the-counter delivery cause many to struggle to make sense of their caseworkers’ responses.

    And a hearty kia kaha to Cathy Taewa, for whom the decision to take this into public discourse is also a personal risk. Arohanui e hine, kia manawanui.

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