New research offers insight into the experiences of Pacific peoples in retirement

A new report reveals better housing solutions and financial education are key to improving the wellbeing of Pacific peoples in retirement. 

The research was commissioned by Te Ara Ahunga Ora Retirement Commission and undertaken by the Ministry of Pacific Peoples in a cross-government collaboration as part of the 2022 Review of Retirement Income Policies.

Pacific matua (elders) from 18 households from nine Pacific ethnic backgrounds opened their doors to researchers for the study to share their experiences of retirement in New Zealand. An online survey was also conducted by Te Ara Ahunga Ora with Pacific people aged 45-64 to understand their future housing preferences.

Pacific matua saw retirement as a time of continued services to family, church, and community, insisting they no longer “worked to earn a living, but rather worked to support their family and wider kāinaga”.

One Kiribati matua said “The best way to live for Pacific people is to live intergenerationally. I like to live with my children and grandchildren in the future, we do not necessarily have to live in the same house, but at least we live close to each other.”

New Zealand’s housing stock is dominated by eurocentric designs, such as the ‘3 x 1’ detached house, and there is a lack of suitable housing to meet the needs of large Pacific families living intergenerationally. Of the families involved in the talanoa, those who were homeowners lived in lower quality housing, with concerns around heating, dampness, and mould.

Overcrowding is also a prevalent problem for Pacific matua, with the 2018 Statistics NZ census finding 27.4% of Pacific peoples aged 70 and over lived in a crowded home, compared to 2.7% of this age group in the total population. The average number of people living in a home was five in the survey conducted by Te Ara Ahunga Ora, with 7.5 the average they considered to be ‘too many’.

Laulu Mac Leauanae, Secretary for Pacific Peoples and Chief Executive, Ministry for Pacific Peoples, acknowledged the impact the research could have on improving outcomes for Pacific matua in New Zealand.

“This report offers rich insight into what retirement looks like for Pacific peoples. We know that the Western conceptualisation of retirement doesn’t resonate with Pacific matua, so with this knowledge, we can build a better system to improve the wellbeing of current and future Pacific retirees.”

Recommendations from the Ministry for Pacific Peoples include developing housing and land to meet the intergenerational living needs of Pacific families, and more education on home ownership, retirement, ageing, and saving.

Te Ara Ahunga Ora, Research Lead Dr Jo Gamble said education would be instrumental in setting younger Pacific generations on a more empowered journey to retirement.

“The benefits of saving and home ownership need to be promoted in our Pacific communities. While better housing solutions will help improve the wellbeing of Pacific matua today, better financial literacy will help improve the wellbeing of Pacific matua tomorrow.”

Work in this space has ramped up over recent years, with the Ministry of Pacific Peoples funding initiatives like Zeducation’s home ownership course and Te Ara Ahunga Ora Retirement Commission’s Pacific Peoples Pathway to Home Ownership.


This research has been conducted as part of the 2022 Review of Retirement Income Policies in response to one of the terms of reference set by the Government. This collation of data will feed into the final report of recommendations from the Retirement Commissioner in response to the work that has been undertaken for the review.


Notes to editors: 

2022 Review of Retirement Income Policies

The Retirement Commissioner is required by law to carry out a Review of Retirement Income Policies (RRIP) every three years in response to terms of reference set by the Government.

For the 2022 RRIP we have been asked to undertake research relating to three broad areas comprising New Zealand Superannuation, housing and private savings including a focus on decumulation and KiwiSaver.


Media contacts:   

For more information, or to arrange any interviews with Te Ara Ahunga Ora contact:  

Georgette Dawbin - Communications Specialist

Te Ara Ahunga Ora Retirement Commission  
Ph: +64 9-954 2974 


To arrange any interviews with the Ministry for Pacific Peoples contact:  

Kristian South - Communications, Media and Marketing Manager

Ministry for Pacific Peoples

Ph: +64 21 519 142