A new low- and no-interest loan scheme had been launched in Rotorua - and even those with bad credit could be eligible.

The Community Finance Partnership scheme provides loans to New Zealanders who don't meet standard bank criteria, or have exhausted their Work and Income options, aiming to reduce the number of people taking high-interest loans with alternative lenders.

The programme is run by Good Shepherd New Zealand, with the help of the BNZ and the Salvation Army.

Trish Pepper, the micro-finance programme co-ordinator at Good Shepherd New Zealand, said she was excited to see the initiative spread to Rotorua.


"Last year the Ministry of Social Development announced they'd cover operational costs, BNZ are providing the capital, it's a great arrangement," she said.

"Now we've got the money to lend, we just need to find the people to lend it to."

The pilot programme began in two Auckland locations in 2014, and has now spread across 19 New Zealand towns or cities.

The loans are broken down into two categories, a StepUp low-interest loan, or a NILS no-interest loan. Applicants have to be eligible for a Community Services Card and able to repay the loan.

Mrs Pepper said even those with "bad credit" could be eligible, "if they are making efforts to pay that off".

NILS loans will be distributed by the Salvation Army, while StepUp loans will be distributed by the BNZ.

Frances Ronowicz, head of community finance at BNZ, said the scheme was not only about giving out money, but also about starting a financial conversation.

"Before getting any loans people need to take the time to understand what they are borrowing, the conditions, the risks and whether they can afford the lending," she said.


"There have been some great stories. A young girl with alopecia used her loan to purchase a wig, and now she has the confidence to go back to work."

Julia Fonotia, community finance worker for the Salvation Army. PHOTO/STEPHEN PARKER
Julia Fonotia, community finance worker for the Salvation Army. PHOTO/STEPHEN PARKER

Salvation Army community finance worker Julia Fonotia will oversee NILS loans for the Rotorua area.

"We can't give a loan to everyone, and it has been great making connections with other organisations I can send people to."

You can apply if you
Currently qualify for a Community Services Card
Have stable accommodation
Are able to attend a face-to-face interview
Are able to repay the loan

What are the different loans?
Amount - $1000-$5000
Term - 3 months to 3 years
Interest Rate - 6.99% per annum, fixed term
Amount $300-$1000
Term - Maximum 12 months
Interest Rate - No interest

What can the loan be used for?
Essential household items
Second-hand cars (StepUp only)
Car repairs
House rental bonds (StepUp only)
Medical and dental expenses
Vocational education costs