3 Apr 2009

Concern at lending terms of Australian-owned banks

3:09 pm on 3 April 2009

A parliamentary committee has joined a chorus of concern about lending terms being offered by the country's main Australian-owned banks.

It follows the Reserve Bank and Finance Minister Bill English this week questioning rises in fixed-term mortgage rates when the economy is predicted to stay flat for some time.

The finance and expenditure select committee heard on Friday that New Zealand businesses and consumers should have access to fair and reasonable interest rates.

The committee says New Zealand businesses are finding it increasingly difficult to access credit from the main Australian-owned banks.

Green Party co-leader and committee member Russel Norman says the Australian-owned banks are not giving New Zealanders a fair go.

Mr Norman told the select committee taxpayers have a right to expect fair terms - because they are underwritting the banks through the Government's wholesale and deposit guarantee scheme.

More Asian-based lenders tipped

Asian-based lenders may become more active in Australia and New Zealand as the global financial crisis forces big Western banks to retreat home, says a banking specialist.

Prime Minister John Key wrote to G20 leaders urging them to make sure their banks keep lending to heavily indebted countries such as New Zealand whose retail banks draw about a third of their funding from overseas.

Mr Key is concerned that increased government ownership of banks in the United States and Britain will put more pressure on these lenders to do more lending in their home countries and less lending overseas.

A partner at accountancy firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Paul Skillender, says Asian lenders may fill the gap in future as their customers look to buy assets in Australia and New Zealand.

But Mr Skillender says such a development depends on their resiliency in the face of the financial crisis.