People in serious financial hardship took $81 million out of their KiwiSaver accounts in the last year - a 25 per cent rise on 2016.

An annual KiwiSaver report released by the Financial Markets Authority shows nearly 14,000 people hit up their accounts for hardship reasons withdrawing an average of $5786 each in the year to March 31.

That compares with 11,722 people in the prior year who withdrew an average of $5545 each.

Rob Everett, chief executive of the FMA, said the rise may be due to more people becoming aware of the option to take their money out if they get into financial hardship.


But he didn't believe it should be made harder for people to get access to their retirement savings.

"The reality is if you have got a savings mechanism and it is designed to be long term there has to be an escape valve."

Everett says he worried that if it was made harder for people to access their money, people on lower incomes may choose not to save.

Already there have been concerns from some members of the public that it is too hard to get their money out of KiwiSaver.

There are strict criteria to qualify for hardship claims including a person showing they can't meet their day-to-day living expenses or being unable to meet mortgage repayments.

Applications must also go to an independent trustee to be assessed.