Bill's 'balls' deserve applause - Retirement Commissioner

Retirement Commissioner Diane Maxwell has praised Bill English's "balls" in putting the superannuation debate back on the political agenda.

Winston Peters, on the other hand, needs to "find a calculator" so he can see how unaffordable super will be, in its current form, when the rest of us reach his advanced age.

Though he won't reveal what changes the Government has in store, the Prime Minister hasn't ruled out raising the age of eligibility - a U-turn from predecessor John Key's stance.

"This needs leadership, it really does," Ms Maxwell told The AM Show on Monday.

"Somebody's got to have the balls, and English has done it. Good on him."

While she has "absolutely no idea" what Mr English has in store, she hopes it includes:

  • gradually raising the age of eligibility to 67, preferably by 2035
  • requiring immigrants to live here for 25 years before they're eligible, not 10
  • investing the savings in helping people in their 50s retrain and upskill.

Super currently costs the country $30 million a day. By 2037 that's expected to rise to $90 million, blowing out to $288 million by 2050.

Ms Maxwell says while it's not sustainable "on its current settings", she's not backing calls to have different ages of retirement for different ethnic groups, as the Maori Party has called for.

"My son's half-Samoan - he gets it early or he doesn't, because he's got a palagi mum? You know, what a message to our young Maori and Pacific. What, I'm supposed to tell him he'll get super early because his life expectancy might be shorter?

"What we're saying to young Maori and Pacific with that is, by the way you've got no chance to change your fate and you've got no ability to change that, so just settle in and expect an early death. When I heard that I got a bit irate."

New Zealand First and Labour want the age kept at 65, the former making it a bottom line in any post-election deals.

Ms Maxwell says NZ First leader Winston Peters is "old enough to know better".

"He needs to find himself a calculator… Treat us like adults who have got brains."

Ms Maxwell is also against means-testing for superannuation.

"Where do you put the threshold? Do you penalise a hard-working family who've lived modestly and have got savings? They should be congratulated and they should get super."

If it only applied to the "mega-wealthy", she says the cost would outweigh the savings.