The government should bring back the $1000 KiwiSaver kick-start incentive for first time workers says New Zealand's retirement commissioner.

Asked what was one thing she would request from New Zealand's finance minister, Diane Maxwell told attendees at the NZ-OECD Symposium on financial education that she would like to have seen the incentive kept for a sub-set of people.

Finance Minister Bill English scrapped the $1000 incentive in the May 2015 Budget and despite Prime Minister John Key stating that the change would not make a "blind bit of difference" to the number of people who join, it did hit sign-ups.

Analysis by the Herald in March found the average monthly sign up rate dropped from 15,029 in the year to June 2015 to 8996 per month in the wake of the change.


Maxwell said she understood the incentive was removed to save money, but rather than a wholesale removal it would have been good to keep it for some people.

"I would love to have seen the $1000 kick-start stay for a sub-set of people in their first job."

Speaking after the conference Maxwell, who is currently reviewing New Zealand's retirement income policy, said she would like to see the kick-start reinstated for that group.

But a spokesperson for English, who last week declared a $1.8 billion surplus, said it was not considering reinstating the $1000 KiwiSaver kickstart payment.

"New workers are already auto-enrolled into KiwiSaver when starting a new job. This, combined with the 3 per cent employer contribution and the member tax credit of up to $521 each year, means there are still ample incentives to sign-up to KiwiSaver and to keep saving for retirement."

The spokesperson said the government was forecast to spend $728 million on the KiwiSaver member tax credit plus $13 billion on New Zealand Superannuation and removing the kick-start payment had saved over $500 million over four years - money that was reinvested into priority public services.