1 Mar 2021

Wellington residents furious after high-cost lender targets critic

11:20 am on 1 March 2021

Some local residents and neighbours are furious a high-cost lender has opened in Wellington near a large social housing complex and next to refugee and migrant support services.

Superloans displayed a photoshopped poster featuring a woman who vandalised their storefront.

Superloans displayed a photoshopped poster featuring a woman who vandalised their storefront. Photo: Supplied

The pay day loan company Superloan opened at the edge of Cuba Street a couple of weeks ago.

It offers loans with interest rates ranging from 0 to just under 50 percent.

Based out of Webb Street off Cuba Street on the edge of the CBD, it is near a large completed social housing complex with another under construction close by.

Refugee support organisation ChangeMakers is one of a number of social support services based right next door

Its acting general manager Sandra McCallum said she was worried vulnerable members of the community would fall into a cycle of debt if they took out high-interest loans with the company.

"By sitting in the middle of the community, it's a recipe for absolute further financial trauma for our community members."

McCallum said she believes Superloans has opened there purposefully to access these vulnerable populations as customers.

A nearby resident unhappy the business was moving in was photographed by a Superloans staff member writing on the store's window "loan sharks are not welcome in this neighbourhood".

The company then put up a large poster of the woman in the storefront photoshopped with a hat saying "I love Superloans" and a gold necklace with a dollar sign.

Below that it read: "Our number 1 fan! We love you too Grandma!"

McCallum said the poster was bullying and derogatory.

"It is bullying that person and people who complain... I don't know how they ethically think that that's okay."

McCallum said she and other organisations based in the building were going to get take their concerns to Superloans, but ultimately she wanted them gone from the neighbourhood.

The chief executive of refugee and migrant education and support organisation KiwiClass, Elizabeth Young, said some migrants found interacting with banks difficult and struggled to get low-interested bank loans without credit history.

She said some did not have the language skills to understand the implications of signing up with Superloans.

Young said its clients were often already struggling with serious debt.

"A lot of the reason they're in debt already is because they're sending money home.

"They're sending money ... overseas where they're still supporting children and family members or they're trying to pay for family members to be brought over to New Zealand on refugee reunification-type visas."

Young said KiwiClass put up signs in their building in multiple languages suggesting clients speak to them before taking out loans with the company so they could explain how they worked.

At a nearby cafe, local contractor John McDonald said Superloans should go.

"We don't like these loan sharks because they prey on the innocent and the vulnerable and we're all God's children, so they need to take a hike.

"Where I come from and Scotland we would set about them - that's what we would do."

Wellington City councillor and Lambton Ward representative Tamatha Paul said she understood the community's concerns but the council could not do anything about it.

"But we can support our communities who aren't happy about them being here, and agitating and saying to central government: 'Look, you really need to have a look at where these types of opportunistic businesses are placing themselves in vulnerable communities."

Superloans owner Paul Ryan said in a statement he chose the store's location because of the price, parking, and high pedestrian and traffic count and did not know what organisations were based next door.

Asked if the poster was appropriate he said it "stopped her from doing it again".

Ryan says while the reception from the community has been good, the reaction from the building next door has been appalling and that if they were interested in speaking with him, calling him a predator and putting up signs warning people off his business was the wrong way to go about it.

Ryan provided RNZ with an image of signage on the business's window which had been half ripped down.

He said it cost $800 to install and was not replaced.

Paul Ryan is listed as a director of Superloans Porirua, which got a warning from the Commerce Commission late last year for likely failing to comply with lender responsibility principles.

ChangeMakers acting general manager Sandra McCallum says an option for those needing low-interest loans is to approach ethical lenders such as Ngā Tāngata, Newtown Ethical Lending Trust and Good Shepherd.

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