Stop child-support dodgers leaving NZ: Collins

By Claire Trevett

National MP Judith Collins has renewed calls for parents owing child- support money to be stopped from leaving the country, saying if people can be arrested for parking fines the same should apply for child-support payments.

In Parliament yesterday, Ms Collins asked why more was not done to stop parents dodging their payments by leaving the country.

She said Revenue Minister Peter Dunne had sworn to clamp down on child-support debtors in 2005 as United Future leader.

But the debt had increased from $192 million in 2000 to $456 million this year. With penalties and interest, total debt was nearly $1.2 billion.

More than half the debt was owed by about 16,000 parents who were now overseas and parents were able to "come and go from New Zealand as they pleased".

Revenue Minister Peter Dunne said issuing warrants against everyone with child-support debts "would mean we were placing them in a different category for any other person leaving this country with an unpaid debt".

He said parents in such situations were already under pressure and such a measure was "simply escalating a tense situation far beyond what is reasonable to most people".

Ms Collins told the Herald she believed there should be a debt threshold, above which IRD should issue a warrant and prevent that person leaving the country.

"Inland Revenue has the power to seek arrest warrants for bad defaulters and in the past year, they have only issued three. Arrest warrants are issued for people who don't pay their parking fines. I don't understand why we are worried about disrupting the travel plans of people who refuse to make the most basic commitments to their children, but not people who refuse to pay parking fines."

Mr Dunne said an agreement with Australia in March this year meant IRD could now collect child support from about 8000 parents in Australia - so far adding up to $28.4 million

He said data matching would make it easier for IRD to track the movements of those with child-support commitments, and make them meet their liabilities.

"But I point out to the House that we cannot detain New Zealanders at the border ... unless we have a warrant issued for that purpose."

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