Student loan debt has become so bad for many expat Kiwis - some of whom owe more than $400,000 each - that they are too scared to return home for fear of being arrested at the border.
More than 100,000 student loan borrowers are living overseas. The top 10 outstanding borrowers collectively owe $4.28 million - an average of $428,000 each.
A Herald investigation into the country's $16 billion student loan debt has found many Kiwis, both here and overseas, are struggling to repay the money they borrowed while studying between 1992 and 2017.
And the burden of carrying those loans has become so bad that hundreds of people are declaring themselves bankrupt in order to escape the debt and some have even been arrested at the airport.
Altogether 1.3 million New Zealanders took out student loans in the 16 years until the first year of tertiary study became fees-free last year.
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That generation, now aged mostly between about 20 and 45, are our "Generation Debt" - unique in our history in having to pay significant fees for every year of their tertiary education.
Their loans have helped shape the subjects they studied, the careers they chose, where they lived, how soon they had children, whether they could afford to buy houses - and now whether the 109,000 borrowers who live overseas will ever return.
Economist Shamubeel Eaqub, who famously labelled today's younger adults "Generation Rent", sees student loans as just one more stress for a group that could be called more broadly "Generation Debt".
"It adds an additional pressure on this new generation," he says.
It also adds a fear of returning home for those living abroad.
The Herald's investigation has found Inland Revenue obtained 11 warrants to arrest student loan defaulters since a 2014 law change that allowed it to arrest them at the airports.
Six people aged between 35 and 54 were actually arrested, although only the first, Ngatokotoru Puna, has been named. They have now repaid a total of more than $30,000 between them but that is only believed to be part of the amount they owe.
Brisbane mother Lee Willers said her adult daughter missed her grandmother's funeral because she was scared that she would be arrested for a $15,000 student loan that had blown out with interest to $38,000 in 15 years in Australia.
A former Tauranga student, now 43 and a solo mum also living in Brisbane, is afraid to visit her parents and siblings in New Zealand.
"I live with knowing I have got that $30,000 debt hanging over my head. It just fills me with dread," she said.
"My fear is that my parents will pass away and I won't be able to come home. They put a stop on your passport so you can't exit until you're up to date. It's a known fact."
A former Auckland teacher, now 47 and married with two children in Britain, started borrowing in the year student loans started, 1992.
Unlike the two Brisbane women, she has kept up her payments after an initial six-year gap. But her original $23,000 loan has ballooned with interest to $105,000, even though she has paid back $45,000.
She works only part-time, but repayments from overseas are based on the size of the outstanding debt regardless of income. She took a hardship break when she had her first child, but the interest kept accumulating so she kept paying the minimum $5000 a year when she had her second child.
"I've paid it on my credit card several times because I didn't have the money," she said.
"I've been on antidepressants twice and I still have a $105,000 debt hanging over my head.
"I will never ever live in New Zealand again because of the way they treated that generation. It's a real shame."
The 2014 law change, and other changes giving Inland Revenue access to Customs and passport data, cut the numbers of overseas borrowers with overdue loans by about 6000, from 81,305 in June 2015 to 75,375 in June last year.
But those numbers have crept up again in the past year to 75,822 this June - the first increase since the law change.
Inland Revenue segment manager Geoff Wintle said about 70 per cent of the overseas borrowers with overdue payments were in Australia, and the department has had an information sharing arrangement with the Australian Tax Office to identify them since October 2016.
Reports released to the Herald show that the agency identified 110,567 overseas borrowers through a 2013 agreement with Internal Affairs to share passport information, and were notified of more than 5000 borrowers entering or leaving New Zealand in the first year after a similar deal with Customs started in April 2013.
Wintle said the department had taken bankruptcy proceedings against borrowers living in New Zealand, Australia and Britain.
It wrote off 827 loans of borrowers who went bankrupt in the year to June 2018. Two-thirds of bankruptcies are initiated by the debtors themselves to wipe out their debts.
The 10 people with the biggest loans studied between 1995 and 2009.
National Party tertiary education spokesman Dr Shane Reti said he was still concerned about students who "sign up [for loans] in good faith and then leave not in good faith".
"But that has been tightened up with the border checks and other things," he said.
Education Minister Chris Hipkins has not yet responded to a request for an interview on student loans and his fees-free initiative.
• Today: How student loans have defined a generation.
• Tomorrow: Was the debt worth it?
• Wednesday: Will today's students be any better off?