A Tauranga family who racked up more than half a million dollars of debt last year are making their way back from financial ruin after seeking help.

The husband and wife accumulated massive bills after starting a small business; they took out personal loans, overloaded credit cards, maxed out a business overdraft and were paying off cars on hire purchase.

The couple were among thousands of debt-ridden Tauranga residents who sought budget advice last year. One service dealt with $29 million of bills including mortgage and rent arrears.

Another service's client debt total has jumped from $922,083 in 2017/18 to $1,999,231 so far this financial year.

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Tauranga Budget Advisory Service manager Diane Bruin said there were 2350 clients on the books so far in 2018/19 - an increase of 500 people from 2017/18 - with a collective debt of $29m.

She said when people arrived at the service they were stressed, which often meant they could not think beyond the now, and there was usually no logical thinking which could erupt into anger with loved ones, as there seemed no pathway out.

Bruin said sharing the issue was the most powerful first step, to address what help is available and work through a plan.

"People experience a feeling of shame, not being able to provide for their family, but if they seek help it can be a way forward to better financial wellbeing in the future."

The Tauranga Budget Advisory Service last year assisted a family who had an average mortgage when they bought a small business, which led to a $500,000-plus debt.

Bruin said the business appeared to have a different income to what they had purchased and there was also unforeseen competition.

"Initially additional personal borrowing was accumulated to meet business expenses and was used to supplement the household income. This included cars on hire purchase, business overdraft and various credit cards.

"There was also a high weekly deficit that was unsustainable."

She said a financial mentor assisted the family with contacting all creditors and supported them in applying for hardship.

The creditors and the financial mentor worked on an 18-month plan, where no additional interest charge would be made and minimal payments were made.

"They kept to the arrangement and then both got full-time positions which dramatically changed the household income. They are now repaying debt and feeling much happier with much stress relieved."

Bruin recommended people got the best advice from a variety of sources before going into a business venture, especially when it came to contracts, as the fine print could be different to what they expected.

She highlighted easy-to-access, high-interest debt online, and costly vehicle finance, as two big factors in people getting into debt.

Meanwhile, Papamoa Family Services has seen its total client debt climb from $677,806.25 (130 clients) in 2016/17, to $922,083.15 (150 clients) in 2017/18, to $1,999,231.15 (167 clients) so far in 2018/19.

Financial mentor Josie Takiari said the biggest debt to date for one client was about $49,000.

She said that was personal debt, plus debt to Work and Income New Zealand.

The client received help with filing a No Asset Procedure and Papamoa Family Services also helped with inhouse referrals to social services, counselling, food cupboards and the food bank.

Takiari said the service was dealing with a lot more working couples and families who did not have enough money to buy food or send their children to school.

"They come for food, counselling, budget support, social services support and courses."

She said there were a lot more clients suffering from mental unwellness and health issues and were unable to work.

Takiari said the service had seen a cultural shift in Pāpāmoa. More people were moving into the area thinking it was the best place to live, but could not afford to live there.

"They don't realise how expensive it is for them," she said.

"People don't have enough income as rents are around 70 per cent of their income with 30 per cent left for utilities and food. People are using their food money to pay for basic living costs."

Takiari said many clients were also borrowing from money lenders to buy food.

"For example, $100 borrowed and they have to pay $75 for five weeks, or $200 and they have to pay $110 for five weeks. This is becoming more and more common and yes, they understand what they are signing up to but at the time of doing it, they are desperate."


Tauranga Budget Advisory Service
2016/17 client debt: $20 million (1700 clients)
2017/18 client debt: $30 million (1850 clients)
2018/19 client debt (so far): $29 million (2350 clients)

Papamoa Family Services
2016/17 client debt: $677,806.25 (130 clients)
2017/18 client debt: $922,083.15 (150 clients)
2018/19 client debt (so far): $1,999,231.15 (167 clients)