Superannuation debate rages: Economist says raising age 'very blunt instrument', doesn't tackle issue

Superannuation is continuing to cause some heated debate, with political parties divided over it.

And one economist says the issue is a very big ticket item right now. 

Labour has committed to leaving pensions as they are, while National and ACT have said they would raise the age of eligibility. Other commentators have said the system needs to be overhauled completely. 

On Tuesday, economist Cameron Bagrie warned Aotearoa faces Government debt spiralling out of control if the system isn't changed. 

"Treasury's forecasts… they're predicting that if we don't make changes, net-Government is going to 190 percent of GDP," he told AM. "Now, what that number is actually telling is the current system's unsustainable, we need to make changes, the question is what are those changes going to look like over the next few years."

On Wednesday, economist Susan St John said superannuation "right now is a very big ticket item".

"We know that there are choices, if we are spending more on super, there's less to spend on other things, so that's a major major problem we have."

She told AM the other problem is "superannuation is not enough" for many Kiwis. 

"Increasingly we are having people coming into retirement without… a house, they don't have good health and they don't have good prospects, so two major problems."

St John said raising the age of super is a "very blunt instrument" and doesn't actually tackle the issue.

The major issue is "we are spraying an awful lot of money unnecessarily in superannuation at the top end of the distribution", she said.

"People with so much money and wealth that they wouldn't even notice how much New Zealand super was, at the same time that we don't have enough money for our firefighters or our nurses or our teachers."

She told AM co-host Ryan Bridge there's a case for tweaking the tax system for those over 65 years old.

"Our research has been to work on a model where you would pay a grant of the same amount to every supernatant and their other income would be taxed on a separate scale.

"By setting that scale in a particular way you can save a percentage, a very useful percentage of the costs, say 10 percent, 15 percent without hurting anybody."

Watch the full video for more.