KiwiSaver yet to recognise people with chronic illness

By Tema Hemi

Most New Zealanders can expect to retire at 65 and be able to draw their KiwiSaver savings.  However, the current law doesn't recognise Kiwis with a chronic illness or health condition that mean they're unlikely to live until 65.  This could prevent some kiwisavers from accessing the funds they have built-up. 

National's List MP Nicola Willis says, "My concern is that at the moment KiwiSaver just isn't fair for people who have life-shortening conditions.  The rules for KiwiSaver prevent you from accessing your funds until you're 65."

Malcolm Maholland, alongside his wife Wiki who suffers from terminal breast cancer, has seen first-hand the urgency needed to support people with a life threatening illness or condition. 

Maholland says, "I think people who need the funds and when they need them they should be able to access them and if that is not the case then the legislation should change.  So, in our experience with my wife Wiki...she was able to cash in her KiwiSaver because she produced evidence that she had a terminal disease. 

"But when you have somebody with a chronic illness who in all likelihood won't reach the age of 65 then yes absolutely the law should change."

In a written statement to Te Ao Māori News, Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister Kris Faafoi's office says, "We confirmed last year we would make changes because we want KiwiSaver to work for all New Zealanders.  We are looking at changes to ensure New Zealanders born with congenital conditions that are life-shortening can benefit from their KiwiSaver."

The minister's office have not given a timeline as to when the changes will be made. 

"My bill would add a new category, if you have a life shortening condition and I think the same mechanism could be applied," says WIllis, "That's why i'm so disappointed the Minister Kris Faafoi hasn't acted sooner."

Faafoi has also hinted the Labour-led government may reintroduce the $1,000 Kiwi Saver kick-start that National canned.