Kerre McIvor

Kerre McIvor is a Herald on Sunday columnist

Kerre McIvor: Defaulters catch on to what integrity means - at last

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Photo / Getty Images
Photo / Getty Images

Well, well, well. Just as many of us predicted, student loan defaulters are finally honouring their obligations to repay their loans now that the Government has given up on being reasonable and given the defaulters a metaphorical kick up the butt.

For years, successive governments tried the softly-softly, nice guy approach with little success.

In the wake of the Canterbury quakes, Sir Paul Callaghan, a good man and an honourable one, launched the Heke Appeal on Facebook - Heroic Educated Kiwi Expatriots - asking them to please repay their outstanding debt of $2 billion (that's billion with a "b") because the country could really, really do with the money to help rebuild Christchurch.

Nah. Nothing doing.

Smug graduates took an out-of-sight, out-of-mind approach to their loans and when pressed to repay them, stuck two fingers to the taxpayer and said that if the Government got nasty, they'd stay away from this country, and we'd be deprived of the benefit of their enormous intellects and brilliant experience.

Quite frankly, if these individuals, with their over-inflated ideas of their own genius, can't grasp the terms of their student loan contract, this country is better off without them.

They complained that the IRD was difficult to get hold of when living overseas and that the system wasn't geared up for them to repay their loans easily - and some of their complaints may have a kernel of truth.

But wouldn't you know it? The moment the Government announces that the worst loan defaulters will be arrested at the border if they try to come back to New Zealand, these bludgers magically find a way of getting hold of the IRD.

Within four days of the announcement, more than 350 former students had contacted the IRD stating they wanted to begin making loan repayments.

And we can expect more of that outstanding $2 billion to start trickling back into the country's coffers now that a debt collection agency has been instructed to go after the 10,000 loan defaulters in Australia who have made no attempt to pay off their loans.

These tough and effective measures are about 10 years too late but at least the message is finally getting through to these over-indulged individuals whose sense of entitlement far outstrips their abilities.

Taking money from the taxpayer to further your own interests then reneging on a contract to pay back that money isn't clever.

It's downright criminal behaviour and from now on, you'll be treated as such.

- Herald on Sunday

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