New Zealand is lagging behind other countries by failing to under take a comprehensive review of its retirement policy, a visiting expert is warning.

David Harris, a global expert in pension policy, visited New Zealand this week as a guest of Auckland University's Retirement Policy and Research Centre, and said the country was getting out of kilter with the rest of the world where many had moved to increase the retirement age and push up savings rates.

"New Zealand needs to grasp the thorny needle of pension reform. It needs to have a comprehensive review."

Harris said the biggest issues facing the country were that the contribution rate for New Zealand 's KiwiSaver scheme was too low while the fees being charged by providers were too high.

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"It is a double whammy. New Zealanders are not putting in enough and charges are very high."

KiwiSaver has a minimum contribution rate of 3 per cent for workers and 3 per cent from employers as well as an annual government subsidy of up to $521 dollars.

But Harris pointed to Ireland which was increasing its rate to 6 per cent from employers, 6 per cent from employees and 2 per cent from the government and Australia where the rate is set to increase from 9.5 per cent to 12 per cent by 2025.

The issues with KiwiSaver were also compounded by people taking their money out to buy a first home when it should be kept aside for retirement, he said.

Millennials were struggling to get on the property ladder and were competing with the baby boomer investment generation who were using housing to generate an income because there was a lack of annuity products available.

The issues with KiwiSaver are also compounded by people taking their money out to buy a first home when it should be kept aside for retirement. Picture / Jason Dorday
The issues with KiwiSaver are also compounded by people taking their money out to buy a first home when it should be kept aside for retirement. Picture / Jason Dorday

Harris said there was a weakness in the system in that nobody appeared to be driving pension policy in New Zealand.

The Retirement Commissioner is charged with reviewing pension policy every three years but the government can pick and choose whether to take on any of the recommendations.

Harris' criticism comes on the back of an OECD report that found New Zealand's state provision for retirement is one of the least generous compared to the average worker's income.

New Zealand needs to grasp the thorny needle of pension reform. It needs to have a comprehensive review.

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The report found retirees in the Netherlands received more than 100 per cent of their country's average working wage but Kiwi superannuitants get just 43 per cent - ranking it 6th worst equal with Australia.

The average across the OECD was 63 per cent.

KiwiSaver customers are about to see the fees they pay their fund managers in dollar figures for the first time, and could be in for a shock. Source: CFFC

Harris questioned whether retirement policy was a priority for the new government.

"There seems to be a lack of confidence in the new coalition government. Is this a priority for the new Prime Minister?"

"I don't see leadership breaking out like [Helen] Clark and [Michael] Cullen."

The Labour-led government has indicated it would like to increase the minimum contribution rate for KiwiSaver but has not said by how much, when or how they would do it.

He said New Zealand's governments had taken a big snooze on retirement policy by saying things were okay.

"When the new PM says she will resign before raising the retirement age how does that foster debate?"

He questioned whether New Zealand could afford to keep kicking the can down the road on the issue of raising the age.

"New Zealand is now lagging and cannot afford to lag."