Business leaders have delivered a blunt message to John Key: Get real and raise the superannuation age. Eighty-eight percent in an exclusive Herald survey say retirement funding should be raised to 67, as the debate rages over the country's future.

The country's top chief executives have delivered Prime Minister John Key a clear message to "get real" about raising the age of eligibility for New Zealand Super.

Eighty-eight per cent of CEOs responding to the Herald's annual "Mood of the Boardroom Survey" said the age should be raised to 67 years from the present 65.

Mr Key has repeatedly refused to raise the age, saying he would resign instead, and again ruled it out on TVNZ's Q&A programme on Sunday.

Speaking from the National Party annual conference at SkyCity in Auckland, he said: "I think that the bond of trust that's built up between a prime minister or politicians in the electorate is very important.


"And I've campaigned on significant issues, and if I go about and change those, then I break my word."

But the CEOs are looking to the Key Government to stake out a bolder vision for New Zealand and tackle big issues, including the eligibility age.

"The only real negative is the failure to address the superannuation debate when the public clearly gets it that something needs to change to maintain affordability," said a CEO speaking under anonymity.

Jade Software chairman Ruth Richardson - a former National Party finance minister - said "New Zealand had flunked the Super debate".

Navman chief executive Andrew Blakey said the post-election period "has been disappointing from Key". He said there had been numerous examples of poor political management pointing to "the complete head-in-the-sand approach to superannuation".

One chief executive suggested the country should introduce a voluntary "opt out" for New Zealand Super. "If the Government doesn't have the balls, let's see if the people do."

Zespri chief executive Lain Jager said he was "disappointed the Government was not fronting up to the age of entitlement".

Not only do the big majority of CEOs surveyed by the Herald believe the age should be raised, 50 per cent want the transition phase completed by 2017.

Twenty-three per cent said the phase-in should be completed by 2020 and 13 per cent opted for 2025.

Have your say on the retirement age debate here in our forum.

This is a much faster timeframe than the Labour Party proposed in its election campaign last year.

Fifty per cent also think that New Zealand Super should be means-tested, and 76.4 per cent thought KiwiSaver should be made compulsory to boost savings.

The Herald survey tested views on a number of "inter-generational" issues - including housing affordability.

Nearly 64 per cent of the chief executives supported expanding urban limits.

Fletcher Building CEO Jonathan Ling said if he had the ability to "make one change to improve New Zealand, it would be to address housing affordability".

Sixty-five per cent thought New Zealand needed a population policy to ensure sufficient future taxpayers to support ageing populations.

The vast Kiwi diaspora is also a concern. Sixty-five per cent of CEOs marked this as an issue, with nearly half saying they were concerned at the lack of New Zealanders to replace the baby-boomers as they retired.

Business NZ chief executive Phil O'Reilly said the Kiwi diaspora was one of key challenges for business, "considering we will increasingly need world-class Kiwi talent to compete".

106 chief executives - including from most of NZ's biggest companies - took part in the Mood of the Boardroom survey. The survey is confidential but a number of CEOs made their comments "on the record".

Read the Financial Services Council report on the stability of the NZ Super.