Labour 'can't be trusted' on superannuation: National, ACT fire back over Super age furore

National warns New Zealanders "can't trust Labour to keep their retirement nest egg safe" after the governing party promised to keep the retirement age at 65 if re-elected.

Revealing their first election policy of 2023 on Saturday, Deputy Prime Minister Carmel Sepuloni drew "a line in the sand" by promising not to touch the age Kiwis can get superannuation. She also promised Labour would continue Government contributions to the NZ Super Fund and keep the Winter Energy Payment permanently in place.

"National and ACT superannuation policies are out of touch and put Kiwi's retirement savings at risk," Sepuloni said.

"Those parties' plans to lift the age of eligibility as well as cutting Government contributions to KiwiSaver will reduce New Zealanders' retirement savings, and will have an especially detrimental impact on disadvantaged women, Māori and Pasifika."

The National Party's policy on superannuation is that the age of eligibility would be increased from 65 to 67 - something current National leader Christopher Luxon has committed to.

Responding to Labour's policy release, National's finance spokesperson and deputy leader Nicola Willis said this rise reflects that Kiwis are healthier and living longer.

"Labour's lack of responsible financial planning to safeguard sustainable Super will leave a massive hole in the Government's books. They will no doubt fill that hole by imposing large new taxes on working people and by loading even more debt on young New Zealanders. It's reckless, fiscally irresponsible, and simply dishonest," she said in a statement.

"Our plan will gradually increase the age of eligibility to 67, with adjustments not beginning until 2044 - 20 years after the legislation has passed. This change wouldn't affect anyone born before 1979. Our plan to phase these changes in over time gives people time to plan and is the responsible thing to do."

ACT too took issue with Labour's policies, with leader David Seymour arguing the status quo is unaffordable.

"New Zealanders watching for Labour's vision of a wealthier, safer, more united country will be bitterly disappointed to see its opening gambit this election: a promise to keep everything the same," he said.

"Promising to keep the superannuation age at 65 is not a vision - it's barely a policy. In fact, Super at 65 is National's policy from 33 years and eleven elections ago, in 1990. 33 years later, Labour has turned up to the contest of ideas completely unarmed."

Instead, he said taxpayers would be better off under ACT due to their proposed cuts to tax and government spending, He claimed a 30-year-old on New Zealand's average salary would save $81,265 by the time they're 67 under ACT's tax policy compared to the roughly $52,000 Labour said retirees would save by keeping the superannuation age the same.

"While Labour have Treasury's Debt Management Office borrowing money hand over fist to put into people's KiwiSaver accounts, the real pressure many families face is their mortgage. Mortgage interest is often higher than KiwiSaver returns, so they are going backwards, as is the Government's accounts," ACT Leader David Seymour said.

"Labour wants to keep New Zealanders dependent on them - taking your taxes quietly and giving them back loudly. ACT says it's your money and you should keep more of it.

"What's clear is that cutting government waste, simplifying taxes, and targeting subsidies leaves all people better off over time. That is why ACT is the most credible party on easing the cost of living and growing New Zealanders' wealth. Labour, on the other hand, are either financially illiterate or dishonest."

Labour's policy did garner some support from the Green Party, with its senior citizens spokesperson Ricardo Menéndez March saying the Greens have long supported not raising the age of superannuation. However, he called for Labour to go further than just promising to maintain the status quo.

"We need more accessible, affordable and healthy public housing so that all people relying on super are guaranteed a good life," he tweeted.

"The Greens will also continue advocating for a simplified and more universal income support system so that people have a safety net throughout all stages of their life."

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."