25 February 2021

Government announces list of life-shortening conditions guaranteeing early KiwiSaver access

  • The Government changed the KiwiSaver rules in 2019 so people with life-shortening congenital conditions can withdraw their savings early
  • The four conditions guaranteed early access are – down syndrome, cerebral palsy, Huntington’s disease and fetal alcohol spectrum disorder
  • An alternative withdrawal process is also in place for those with other congenital life-shortening conditions

“The Government has today announced the list of life-shortening congenital conditions that will guarantee early withdrawal under a new KiwiSaver category created last year,” Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister David Clark said.

The list of life-shortened congenital conditions approved under the new KiwiSaver withdrawal category are:

  • Down syndrome
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Huntington’s disease
  • Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder

“People with these conditions are automatically entitled to apply to withdraw from their fund at a time that is right for them to retire, rather than once they turn 65. The conditions on the list were approved because they are known to shorten a person’s life expectancy below 65 years,” David Clark said.

“For others born with life-shortening congenital conditions – these might be rarer conditions, for example – withdrawal is still available under the new provisions. In this case, the only additional requirement is for a medical practitioner to verify that the person suffers from a life-shortening congenital condition.

“The KiwiSaver scheme helps people to build a financially secure future, and the Government wants to ensure all New Zealanders can benefit from the scheme.  However, the previous requirement for people to be 65 to access their retirement savings puts those born with life-shortening conditions at a significant disadvantage.

“The list of conditions was developed in consultation with health and disability experts. These conditions are expected to form the majority of applications under the new withdrawal category. However, the flexibility exists for the Government to review the list periodically in consultation with experts to ensure it is up-to-date.

“Tim Fairhall and his mother Joan have been fearless advocates for this work, which led to the law change in 2019. The announcement today is a further testament to Tim and Joan’s work. It’s only right that the KiwiSaver scheme is fairer for everyone, and the Government has made changes to ensure that happens,” David Clark said.

The regulations under the KiwiSaver Act 2006 come into effect on 26 March 2021. 

Notes for editors

Application criteria

To apply to make an early withdrawal from their KiwiSaver fund, people with life-shortening conditions need to submit the following to their KiwiSaver provider:

  • a completed statutory declaration that they understand that their KiwiSaver funds are to be released to them as if they had reached the New Zealand superannuation qualification age; and that after withdrawal of funds, they are no longer eligible to receive Crown contributions or compulsory employer contributions in relation to their future contributions, if any.
  • medical evidence that verifies they suffer from either a listed or non-listed life-shortening congenital condition.

They can make this application at any time they feel is right for them to retire. They are not required to provide evidence about the severity of their condition or ability to work. 

Difference between listed and non-listed life-shortening conditions

If the condition is listed, the applicant needs to provide a medical certificate to verify that they have a listed condition. If the condition is not listed, the applicant needs to provide verification from a medical practitioner that they suffer from a life-shortening congenital condition that is expected to reduce life expectancy below 65 for the member or for persons in general with the condition.