Whanganui District Council has little power to regulate mobile traders and door-to-door sales teams operating in the district.

Instead it will lobby central Government to improve consumer credit regulations.

Last month Bronwyn Rogers from Community Legal Advice Whanganui (CLAW) raised concerns that the industry was financially harming vulnerable people and local businesses, and urged the council to support any regulation.

Rogers said she was aware of at least eight truck shops or door-to-door sales outfits operating in Whanganui.

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She said CLAW and budget advisers were dealing with the fallout which included vulnerable people being given credit they could not afford, locking people into debt cycles, and traders using high-pressure sales tactics.

Thirty-five per cent of the work with its 5000-6000 annual clients was around finance and consumer matters, she said.

The council decided to look at what it could do and policy analyst Justin Walters said in a report to its strategy and finance committee on Tuesday that its powers were limited to amenity, nuisance, environmental and traffic considerations.

"But it's not recognised as council core business or that we have regulatory power around," he said.

"As a result council is significantly constrained in its ability to address the harm to vulnerable customers."

This month the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment announced measures in the Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance Bill which would put a cap on interest rates, introduce clearer responsible lending requirements and tougher enforcement.

Whanganui district councillor Helen Craig says council has a role to advocate for residents.
Whanganui district councillor Helen Craig says council has a role to advocate for residents.

Walters suggested council could submit to that.

Whanganui mayor Hamish McDouall said Rogers' timing in raising the issue was amazing.

"Within a matter of weeks the Government said this is really, really important and I think Bronwyn surfed the zeitgeist successfully," he said.

"The Government is already working on this. Let's submit to it, let's examine our submission when it is presented to us, let's submit actively and get a change at the legislative level.

"That's exciting, I think."

But councillor Rob Vinsen wasn't convinced it was something they shouldn't be part of.

"I think we've got an obligation to resist, at any opportunity, getting into areas where it's not a local authority's responsibility.

"And consumer credit regulation is not a local authority's responsibility."

He said consumer credit legislation was not going to fix the issue of mobile traders and aggressive sales tactics.

Whanganui district councillor Rob Vinsen says consumer credit regulation is not core council business.
Whanganui district councillor Rob Vinsen says consumer credit regulation is not core council business.

"There's thousands of businesses that offer credit," he said. "The consumer regulations aren't the issue, it's the style of trading.

"Unless we can come up with some way of stopping that style of trading there's no point to this."

But Helen Craig said councillors had a role as community representatives to effectively lobby the government.

"And it's a key role that we do take all the time. I think it's proper that we do make a submission when the time is right."