Election 2023: Labour draws 'line in the sand', promises to keep Super age at 65

Labour has given a firm promise the retirement age will remain at 65 if re-elected to power in its first election policy of 2023.

The National Party's policy on superannuation remains unchanged from what former Prime Minister Sir Bill English announced in 2017, that the age of eligibility would be phased from 65 to 67 starting on July 1, 2037. That was to reflect increasing life expectancies and the rising cost of the scheme. 

Since then, current National leader Christopher Luxon had recommitted to lifting the age to 67. 

Prominent economist Shamubeel Eaqub has called for a couple of steps further. He wants the age to be raised to 70 and for it to be means-tested so the wealthy don't get it. 

However, Labour's social development spokesperson Carmel Sepuloni is now "drawing a line in the sand" - giving assurances her party won't touch the age.

"New Zealand has one of the simplest superannuation schemes in the world. It is universal and generous," she said in a statement on Saturday.

Despite arguments New Zealand needed to lift its superannuation age to keep debt levels in check, Sepuloni said it was affordable "as long as we keep paying into the Super Fund".

"This policy ensures settings remain stable and consistent, no one misses out and Kiwis can look forward to retirement now and in the future under a Labour Government.

"Research tells us there is little appetite amongst New Zealanders for a means-testing regime or changing the age of eligibility, which is why we're committed to keeping Super universal from age 65."

After becoming Labour leader earlier this year, Chris Hipkins said raising the super age wasn't something he'd turned his mind to. Labour opposed raising the age before being elected for its first term in 2017.  

"We're drawing a clear distinction between Labour and the coalition of cuts," Sepuloni said, referring to the National and ACT parties. "We will not be toying with the age of eligibility, and superannuation will remain accessible, affordable and equitable."

Sepuloni also revealed on Saturday Labour would keep the winter energy payment in place, which would "support people and whānau" in the colder months "where household budgets are particularly stretched".

Meanwhile, Te Pāti Māori co-leader Rawiri Waititi has previously said his party wanted to lower the retirement age for Māori.

"Many of our whānau are struggling to afford to live day-to-day, let alone looking towards having time to live off their superannuation," he said last year, as reported by the NZ Herald.

"Many Māori work in the trades and heavy lifting workforce and, as people get older, those jobs are harder to maintain... we need to make sure our pakeke [adults] are taken care of and that their health inequities are factored into any policies regarding superannuation."

However, according to the Retirement Commission, the age "must remain the same".

"Any increase to the age of people accessing NZ Super will only further disadvantage women, Māori and Pacific people," Retirement Commissioner Jane Wrightson said in a report last year.