Govt likened to loan sharks over student loans

By Ripeka Timutimu

A New Zealander in Perth says he regrets getting a student loan and says the government are worse than loan sharks.  John Gemmell of Ngāti Maniapoto has a student loan debt of around $40,000 and hasn't paid a cent back.

John Gemmell has a warning for tertiary students looking at taking out a student loan, "The government are loan sharks don't get a student loan."

Gemmell resides in Perth with his family.  He holds several diplomas in computing from New Zealand which have racked up nearly $40,000 in student loan debt.  He says they're pretty much worthless.

"For one thing you can't use your qualifications in Australia, it's pointless having something that's unusable when you've taken out loans that offer so little.  I never got employment from courses that I did and now I will have this debt for a long time," he says.

This week Ngatokotoru Puna was the first person arrested in this country over excessive student loan arrears.  He is the nephew of Cook Island Prime Minister Henry Puna. Gemmell says he's powerless if it happens to him.

"I get logged up at the airport, it is what it is, there's nothing I can really do to stop that.  I can't afford to pay the government and look after my family at the same time," says Gemmell.

He says he won't be coming back to New Zealand anytime soon.

"If I do come back I could lose my job because the government will hold me back because they just don't care and they just want to make an example out of people that can't pay for things."

A 2014 law change means, those who are well behind on repayments and ignore requests from Inland Revenue may have an arrest warrant issued, stopping them from leaving New Zealand until the issue is resolved.