Kiwis against raising NZ Superannuation age despite claims 65 is unsustainable - 1 NEWS poll

The majority of New Zealanders are against changing the age of New Zealand Superannuation eligibility, despite claims it is unsustainable for future generations. 

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But others say keeping the status quo just doesn’t make sense. Source: 1 NEWS

In the latest 1 NEWS Colmar Brunton Poll, 68 per cent of respondents wanted the current eligibility age of 65 to remain the same, 18 per cent wanted it to rise and 12 per cent wanted it lowered. 

Remain at 65 – 68%
Be higher than 65 – 18%
Be below 65 – 12%
Don’t know – 2%

The groups more likely than average to want eligibility to remain the same were people living in Otago or Southland, people aged 60-69, New Zealand Europeans and women 55 and over. 

The groups more likely than average to want it raised were people aged over 70, Wellingtonians and people with yearly income averages between $100K-$150K. Those more likely to want it lowered below 65 were Asian New Zealanders, Pacific peoples and people aged 40-49. 

Support for the current age of 65 has risen. The 1 NEWS Colmar Brunton Poll back in March 2017 found 59 per cent wanted eligibility to stay the same and 28 per cent wanted it raised. That poll was conducted after the previous National Government proposed raising the age to 67 by 2040. 

The debate over changing the Superannuation age has been ongoing. 

Economist Cameron Bagrie said the Superannuation age "has got to go up". 

"What we’re seeing in the poll, it’s classic self-interest. Turkeys don’t vote for an early Christmas. 

"There’s an inevitability if you look at the numbers… We’re going to see slower growth and more people clipping the New Zealand Superannuation ticket. Healthcare costs are going to keep going up, so at some stage we’re going to have to bite the bullet – the question is, when? The longer we leave it, the bigger those hard choices are going to be."

He said future options may have to be raising taxes, cutting back in areas such as education and policing or raising the retirement age. 

'There are a lot of people out there earning six figure sums through various investments, why should they be entitled to NZ Superannuation? That sort of money should be diverted… we’ve got teachers crying out for better pay conditions."

Former retirement commissioner Diane Maxwell said any alterations to the Superannuation age need to be looked at in the age range between 50 and 70, instead of just raising it from 65 to 67. 

"NZ Super is an important part of who we are. It needs to be sustainable, and to be sustainable we need to be prepared to make some changes. We reach 65 in very different shape physically and financially. Our fifties can be an important time to earn, pay down the mortgage and save hard but we know that ageism in the workplace can impact our ability to do that," she said. 

"We need Government and industry to deliver tailored skills training for those wanting to work where the demand for their skill set has changed. For people in physically demanding jobs who reach 65 unable to work, we need government support." 

Ms Maxwell said means testing was another option but came with complications.

Former MP Peter Dunne unsuccessfully proposed a flexible superannuation in 2013, which would have allowed people aged 60-64 to receive the Super at a reduced rate and people aged 66-70 to received a higher Super than at 65. The rate would have remained unchanged for a person’s lifetime. 

"Super is probably sustainable in the short term," Mr Dunne told 1 NEWS this month. "In the longer term you need to bring in some flexibility into it. Flexi-super, giving people a choice about taking super early or deferring it, gives you more control as a citizen over your future, rather than having the state tell you what to do."

Council of Trade Unions President Richard Wagstaff told TVNZ1’s Q+A in June that the current scheme was affordable, saying calls to raise the age "feels like it’s been swept up into a disaster scenario. We don’t think it stacks up".

Many MPs agree it should remain 65. 

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters on TVNZ's What Next, said that "alarmists make a certain proposition out that we can't afford" the NZ Super. 

"It is affordable, and it’s affordable way into the future. There are a whole lot of people, because of the nature of their work, that aren't going to live longer, they can't hold onto 65… We have the most affordable, retirement programme in the world."

The Labour Party previously had a policy to gradually raise the age of NZ Super to 67. But Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern maintained keeping it at 65, her coalition agreement with NZ First specifying it is to be kept at that age. 

"The most important thing we could do to support making that sustainable was to make sure we reinstated our contributions to the Superannuation fund," Ms Ardern said. "We did that as soon as we came into office, and that’s how we ensure our retirement age is sustainable."

National’s finance spokesperson Paul Goldsmith said they were reviewing all their policies and would tell New Zealanders where they stand before the 2020 election. 

In 2017, then-prime minister Sir Bill English announced the in National's election policy NZ Super would lift to 67 by 2040. 

"Gradually increasing the retirement age from 2037 will more fairly spread the costs and benefits of NZ Super between generations, ensure the scheme remains affordable into the future and give people time to adjust," he said at the time.

Mr Goldsmith said it was a "sensible policy in 2017", but caucus needed to have a discussion on where the party now stands. 

"It wasn’t a huge political drama during the last election period, so I think New Zealanders are up for the discussion and we should have that discussion."

Green Party co-leader James Shaw said any change needed broad input from Parliament and the public to last. 

"I’m not saying we’d never touch it, but we wouldn’t do it without having a broad political consensus. 

"If there are reforms, and it is getting more expensive over time because we do have an ageing population, then you've got to do the work, you've got to take people along with you, and frankly (the previous National Government) hadn’t done that."

A report by the NZ Initiative found the NZ Superannuation model produced low poverty rates for the elderly, was relatively affordable and was simple and efficient.

However, it said this did not necessarily mean the current model was the best redistribution of resources in the future.

It made recommendations such as linking pension age to health expectancy and indexing it to Consumer Price Index (CPI) rather than CPI and wages. 

1 NEWS Colmar Brunton Poll - Between July 20 and 24, 1003 eligible voters were polled via landline and mobile phone. The maximum sampling error is approximately ±3.1%-points at the 95% confidence level.