Financial literacy is something that definitely needs to be given a profile in New Zealand school curriculum, according to the founder of Koa Group.

Riria Te Kanawa, founder and director of the Ohakune chartered accountancy business, said that armed with some basic financial knowledge many people would not be caught in the net spread by loan sharks.

Ms Te Kanawa said that, while she was not always dealing with the fallout from loan sharks, she had seen the impact it had had on people.

"I'm dealing mostly with businesses rather than individuals, and businesses tend to seek funding from private sources and banks," she said.


"However, many of these sources are not available to all borrowers, which steers them toward loan sharks. I have seen the extortionate rates of interest charged by loan sharks and witnessed the impact this has had on many of our people," she said.

Driven by these issues, Ms Te Kanawa's company delivered financial and business literacy workshops in Ohakune earlier this month and will be bringing the same workshops to Wanganui after Queen; s Birthday Weekend.

The first will be at the Rangahaua Te Kohanga Reo, 91 Bell St, on June 4 and at Te Puni Kokiri, 357 Victoria Ave, on both June 7 and June 8. The first workshop will cover personal financial literacy, the second (June 7) will look at business literacy, while strategic planning and budgeting will be covered on June 8.

"The material we cover should hopefully lead people to the conclusion that there are far better courses of action to take, so that they never need to go to a loan shark in the first place. In any case, it will be explicitly stated that loan sharks should not be considered.

"They [loan sharks] will market themselves as solving a problem and this is probably true. However, in solving the short-term problem, there is a far greater long-term problem created," she said.

Ms Te Kanawa believes much more needs to be done to give people greater financial literacy.

"I believe that this should be embedded in the curriculum at primary school level and built upon through secondary school level," she said.

"There are some wonderful resources available to help people improve their financial literacy. But it's not just about the acquisition of the knowledge and the what to do. It's also about pairing the knowledge with positive behaviour, good habits and long-term view.


"However, that's the ideal and not the reality. Low levels of financial literacy affect all areas of society and are not limited to the low socio-economic demographic. There isn't a one size fits all.

"Only two weeks ago, I attended a conference where they discussed a real life example of a couple with a combined income of $230,000 who were sinking in a financial sense, as hard as that may be to believe. So until our younger generations have access to financial literacy in their education, it would be a horses for courses approach."

Ms Te Kanawa said there were agencies and services available for people such as the Budget Advice Service, Citizens Advice Bureau and financial professionals, along with the Commission for Financial Literacy and Retirement Income, which she said provided great resources.

She said there were a variety of problems she encountered when it came to people managing and understanding their finances".

She said the main problems included knowing the difference between a need and a want; a lack of household income; poor prioritising, planning and budgeting; low understanding of compound interest and how it worked; and pressure to maintain a particular lifestyle.

After qualifying as a chartered accountant, Ms Te Kanawa moved to the United Kingdom, where she held roles in public and private sectors. Back in New Zealand, she had corporate roles but it was her involvement in Maori land incorporations that sparked an interest in small business and she moved into public practice.