A company roaming Flaxmere in a truck, advertising high-interest cash loans, has drawn the ire of locals and is under Commerce Commission investigation.
For more than a week, a bright green Superloans truck has been advertising "free loans" on Swansea Rd, a tactic described by a councillor as "preying on the vulnerable".
The loans are free for a time frame the borrower and company agree on, and any remaining debt after that time frame is subject to high interest rates.
Second loans are not free, and one lender has told Hawke's Bay Today her $400 loan will cost her $1620 to pay back
On Thursday, the truck had moved.
Last year the Commerce Commission launched an investigation into Superloans after it received 29 complaints against the company. The investigation is ongoing, the commission says. No charges have been laid.
Hastings councillor for Flaxmere and Hastings Ambassador Henare O'Keefe said enough was enough and urged people to stay "well away" from such companies.
"They prey on people who don't see any way out of their predicament, so they get leverage from that."
A contract from Superloans seen by Hawke's Bay Today had an interest rate of 139 per cent.
Superloans declined to comment when contacted.
Resident Brenda Wainohu said she was "concerned" it was targeting those in tough situations.
"I would imagine any opportunity someone in hardship gets, they will apply for a loan. The problem too is that with the younger generation, they want things instantly, whereas it is best to work for what you want and if you can't afford it don't get it."
Budget First Hastings co-ordinator and budget adviser Kristal Leach said high-interest loans were a "poverty trap".
She believed Superloans was "targeting new clients" through the use of a truck.
"Once they have got you and you get near to the end of your loan, whatever that timeframe is, they will then offer a further loan of the same amount.
"Or if you have started to default, they will capitalise the amount defaulted by and offer a new loan for the original loan plus whatever the repayments are."
Leach said once people default on the payments, the interest rates are "crippling".
Leach said Superloans had reduced the interest rate it was charging in line with the proposed changes to the Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance Act (CCCFA) law reform, which initially suggested an interest rate cap but is now looking at introducing a 100 per cent cap on the cost of borrowing.
It used to charge between 300-400 per cent.
Leach urged people in need to instead approach Work & Income to help with food or other essential costs.
Budget First Hastings offered a community finance loan, provided by Nga Tangata Community Finance at no interest, and the Salvation Army offered a similar loan, with a small interest rate.
Hastings District Council group manager planning and regulatory services John O'Shaughnessy said the council has received complaints, which it was addressing "appropriately".
He said the council had similar issues in the past and addresses each one as it arises.
Repaying the debt
In an attempt to have enough money to survive, a Hastings woman borrowed from high-interest lenders. Not once but five times, from several companies, one of them Superloans.
Now, more than a year later, she is struggling to afford the repayments, on top of her weekly living costs.
If she could, the woman, who did not want to be named, says she wouldn't do it again.
"I've learnt my lesson now and I just can't wait to pay it all off."
Last year, she borrowed a $200 "free" loan from Superloans.
The application process was very simple, she said. She only had to provide photo ID.
When she finished the repayments, she borrowed $400 for essential items in her new rental, but will end up paying $1620 once interest is added.
She now has 54 payments of $30 per week to pay off the debt. The amount was reduced as part of a hardship assistance.
On top of that, she has debt with Intercoll Limited for her hire purchase through DTR, Cash Converters ($500) and Pretty Penny Loans ($200).
The single and pregnant mother of a 1-year-old doesn't work and receives a solo parent benefit of $268.99, but the weekly repayments of $75 plus her rent of $300 means she is living in a never-ending cycle of debt.
She has started seeing Budget Advice in Hastings to be able to manage the repayments.
"I just really needed help."