6 Apr 2009

Call to match Australia on mortgage holidays

8:46 am on 6 April 2009

There have been calls for the Government to match an Australian scheme that gives mortgage repayment holidays to sacked workers.

The Australian Government has reached a deal with that country's main banks to give people who lose their jobs during the global financial crisis a year off from repaying their home loan.

The Financial Services Union says the Government should demand a similar deal in return for its lending guarantees to New Zeland banks, particularly since the main ones were Australian owned.

The Bank Customer Action Collective says a similar scheme should be brought in immediately for the jobless and farmers and small businesses in difficulties.

The Financial Services Union says bank mortgage repayment holidays should be made a condition of government guarantees.

Its campaign director, Andrew Campbell, says the Australian domination of New Zealand's banking scene makes it logical that there should be a matching scheme in this country.

Mr Campbell says the main banks are still making huge profits and can afford to share more of the pain with struggling workers.

But ANZ-National, Westpac and BNZ say they already offer shorter repayment breaks in some cases but have no plans for a broader scheme.

Under the Australian plan, sacked workers will be able to postpone mortgage repayments for up to a year. They will also be eligible for concessions on other debts such as car loans and can apply to have repayment periods extended.

Australian Bankers Association chief executive David Bell says banks do not want to take over someone's house.

Mr Bell says banks still have the power to reject the mortgage postponements for some borrowers if they consider the financial risk too great.