27 May 2015

More Maori in need of budget help

9:37 pm on 27 May 2015

More Māori are reaching out for help to deal with the consequences of quick-cash loans, mounting bills and rising rents.

Māori make up 46 percent of the Federation of Family Budgeting Services' client base followed by New Zealand Europeans at 37 percent and Pasifika at 12 percent.

Its chief executive Raewyn Fox said the number of Māori clients had been rising steadily over the past few years.

"About seven or eight years ago the level changed, New Zealand Europeans used to be the highest percentage of clients we saw, but that's dropped back," she said.

Mrs Fox said there were various possible causes for the increase.

"We actually have a lot more Māori providers amongst our members now, Māori social services that are offering budgeting services - that wasn't quite so common five or six years ago," she said.

"But also I think an increasing number of Māori families are struggling financially and needing to get some advice."

Budget advisor Rose Buckley has spent the past 15 years providing financial advice to people in the North Island towns of Taihape, Ohakune and Raetihi.

Mrs Buckley said she regularly sees solo parents, beneficiaries, and many families that are predominantly Māori, trying to juggle overdue bills.

"A lot of the debts at the moment are to do with power and people end up with $2,000 or $3,000 bills [owing]. It also has a lot to do with rent. Just lately we've had quite a few that have had $3,000 or $4,000 in back rent," she said.

But in recent years Mrs Buckley has noticed more vulnerable rangatahi (younger generation) seeking advice after becoming lumbered with high rents they cannot pay and being trapped in easy-finance contracts.

"There's a lot of things the young ones now can go and get, but when it comes to paying for it, they can't figure out how they're going to do that."

In Auckland, budget advisor Grace Gray said rangatahi are now the focus of a Whānau O Waipareira programme.

"It's like the ambulance at the top of the hill instead of the bottom. We want to put them into a position where they're not having to face debt issues as they move into their twenties and become productive in the workforce. [We're] teaching them the financial skills to be able to make some good life decisions."

Ms Gray said reaching people at a young age will have flow on effects through to the next generation and eventually reduce the number of Māori needing help.

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