IDLY listening to the news the other day, the ears pricked when I heard an announcement our fair country was to become creditor-free by 2050.

At last, I thought - a truly worthy national goal that would emancipate myriad fellow pilgrims currently struggling through thigh-deep sloughs of debt despondency.

Alas, the remainder of the bulletin soon made it apparent that I had misheard. It was predators, not creditors, they were talking about. Mistake.

But maybe not. Aren't they often the same animal - why not just include feral creditors and predators in the same list? Elimination of both would be equally worthy.


Notwithstanding the financial sector high crimes and misdemeanours that kicked off the 2008 Global Financial Crisis, just recently a major rats' nest of banking shenanigans has been flushed out over the ditch.

These involve parent companies of our own major banks. In other words, very close relatives.

Then again, they might be better described as older siblings. The real parent companies are financial behemoths in the United States or Britain holding substantial, near majority interests in these same Ozzie banks - the same sort of global crisis outfits that nearly brought the whole house of marked cards crashing down 10 years ago until bailed out by the very taxpayers they were screwing.

Interestingly, such little Ozzie bank antics as charging customers for advice they've neither requested nor received, or deducting phantom fees from deceased estates is - for the meantime - simply being labelled as "misconduct", with a few resignations the only casualties.

Of course, these types of activities are more accurately described as fraud or - more accurately still - outright theft. Funny how you don't see someone up before the courts for ripping off a quad bike being charged with mere "misconduct".

Bank staff here have long complained of being pressured into making sales and hawking services they know full well their customers cannot reasonably afford, so let an inquiry lift the bonnet and see what else is lurking.

But the truly depressing aspect is how we have been so complicit in allowing debt molehills turn into mountains.

We are now one of the OECD's most indebted nations - particularly in household debt, with the bulk tied up in a rampant property market The Economist ranked in 2017 as among the most over-valued in the world.

How galling must it be for the average couple trying to pay off their metropolitan New Zealand house knowing that about half their weekly income is not paying off the bricks and mortar, but simply disappears down a hole servicing only the interest on the mega-mortgage.

In other words, when the capital gains curve flattens out, about half of punters' wages go to simply paying off their financiers' heated swimming pools.

Similarly, agricultural debt is now around $60 billion, mostly in the dairy sector. Many farmers authored their own misfortune by borrowing big to fund expansion when milk-solid prices were high, typically thinking those were the new norm.

With lower prices, a greater proportion of farm returns now goes to servicing this debt which, in turn, tempts farmers to overload the land in usually futile attempts to increase net income. Result, trashing of the environmental commons underpinning other major aspects of the wider economy.

A frequent narrative from the sector is that dairy export returns underwrite health, education, vehicles, Smartphones and the like. But tragically, the thick end of the returns simply disappears straight down foreign creditors' gaping maws.

Shamefully, we've been willing players in just another form of colonial servitude. A massive chunk of our energy, sweat, and environmental capital heads offshore for no other reason than to swell the already bloated coffers of an expanding financial industry.

The horse has long bolted, but if "replay" was possible, surely the message would be, avoid debt. It only encourages the predators.