National, ACT and oil industry slam KiwiSaver's move away from fossil fuels

Oil companies and the Opposition are upset at the Government's move to stop default KiwiSaver providers investing in fossil fuels.

National's suggested the Government's next step will be to make "investing in marijuana compulsory", while ACT says it'll push fuel prices up at the pump.

From July 2021, default providers will be banned from investing in fossil fuel companies, as well as those which produce land mines and cluster bombs. 

Minister of Commerce Kris Faafoi says investors won't notice any hit to their balances, because oil companies "have dragged on global investment returns for at least the last five years", and will help "create a better future for [KiwiSaver investors'] kids and grandkids".

But the Petroleum Exploration and Production Association of New Zealand (PEPANZ) begs to differ, saying it will "make New Zealanders poorer in retirement and do nothing for climate change".

"There are already numerous funds that don’t invest in fossil fuels, and switching to these is a decision that people can and should make themselves without politicians imposing their own preferences," said chief executive John Carnegie. 

"This is especially the case for something as important as retirement savings."

Hundreds of thousands of KiwiSaver investors are in default schemes, meaning they're unlikely to have made any decision at all about where to put their money. 

Carnegie said Kiwis should be "proud" to invest in oil companies,"given that energy makes our lives better and is lifting millions of people out of poverty around the world".

National finance spokesperson Paul Goldsmith called it "nanny state" and "virtue signalling", saying Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern should be focused on shoring up the economy against the coronavirus threat.

"Is Ardern also going to ban New Zealanders from investing in products which contain sugar, or fast food, alcohol and dairy? With this government it wouldn’t surprise me if while they ban investing in these things, they make investing in marijuana compulsory."

ACT's David Seymour called it "gesture politics".

"It is a feel-good decision that will be counterproductive, hurting the economy for no environmental benefit. Labour and the Greens are so badly out of touch with how the real world works and New Zealanders will pay the price."

Neither party mentioned anything about the land mine and cluster bombs ban in their statements. 

The changes have been backed by environmental groups such as Greenpeace and 350 Aotearoa, as well as the Retirement Commissioner.

A recent survey found three-quarters of Kiwis wanted their investments to be used ethically, with 41 percent not wanting anything to do with fossil fuels.