Christchurch quake to boost KiwiSaver pull outs

By Jamie Gray

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

The Christchurch quake is expected to result in a greater number of people using the hardship provisions of KiwiSaver to get their cash out of the state-sponsored retirement scheme.

There is already a steady trickle of KiwiSaver hardship claims emerging from Canterbury, but the number is expected to increase as the full financial impact of the quake, and the first one in September last year, is felt.

KiwiSaver was never intended as backstop for people in the event of a national disaster, but moves are afoot to streamline the claims process specifically for Cantabrians because of the extreme circumstances.

Guardian Trust, which is one of the main trusts involved in overseeing KiwiSaver, expects the number of hardship claims to climb once the Government's earthquake assistance packages start to run out.

It is up to the trusts to decide who qualifies under KiwiSaver's hardship clause, while the Inland Revenue Department is in charge of contribution "holidays" for when members' employment is interrupted.

In the case of hardship, claimants can seek to withdraw their contributions, plus their employer's contribution, but not the Government's contribution.

"A lot of people have lost their houses, their businesses and their jobs, so anything that comes out of that we will have to look at carefully, but also reasonably favourably as well," said Bryan Connor, Guardian Trust's general manager of corporate client services.

"We expect to see a number of applications for hardship to come out of the earthquake and we will look at that as best we can."

The Trustee Corporations Association, to which all statutory trustee corporations belong, has put forward proposals to the Ministry of Economic Development to streamline the process specifically for Cantabrians.

"KiwiSaver is the last cab off the rank for many people in Christchurch, so that's where we are," the association's executive director David Brown Douglas said.

- NZ Herald

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