This isn't an argument about student fees - which if it was, given that my age group never had to entertain the idea of paying for tertiary education, could be seen as hypocritical.

But it's about the loans that have been taken out over the years to pay for them.

There were bound to have been some twitching ex-pat Kiwis coming home over the long weekend to see their loved ones, twitching because they have a student loan.

That loan, because they live abroad, attracts interest as a young Kiwi living across the ditch discovered when she called Inland Revenue to talk about her loan. She'd taken it out 21 years ago for $6500 and discovered it'd grown to around thirty grand.


She now clearly sees herself as a student loan refugee. Rather than discussing how she was going to address it with the IRD, she hung up and is probably one of the 20 defaulters on the arrest list if they step foot in the country again.

To have to tell her family she can't come home for a tangi is shameful, she says. If she's incarcerated, how will she pay for her Aussie mortgage? she asks.

Fair suck of the sav, What part of 'loan' didn't she understand when she took it out but got pregnant and failed to finish her polytech course?

She, like many others in Aussie, are now checking in with the authorities here after the arrest at the border in January of a Cook Islands bloke whose unpaid loan had grown from $40,000 to $130,000. Repayments by those living overseas increased by almost a third during the first two months of this year, compared to a year earlier.

Emails to the IRD have increased by 62 per cent and phones calls by 55 per cent. So the message is getting out as the authorities try to claw back the $430m of bad student debt, 80 per cent of which is owed by those living overseas.

Student debt has been something of a political football ever since it was imposed in 1992 with Helen Clark kicking the winning goal during the election campaign in 2005, wiping interest rates for those who live in New Zealand and ensuring a third term on the Treasury benches.

But with the loan mountain now hovering around sixteen billion dollars there's little any Government can now do but collect it.

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