New debt figures paint dark picture for Gisborne and Hawke's Bay households

As if Cyclone Gabrielle hadn't hit the people of Gisborne and Hawke's Bay enough, new figures have emerged that paint an even darker picture for them.

They are the two regions where people are struggling the most to pay off their debts, and those working on the frontline fear it's about to get worse.

The numbers are in, and they show consumers in cyclone-battered Hawke's Bay and Gisborne are struggling to pay the bills.

"We've had financial crisis, climate implications and then when the cyclone hit, it's just increased more hardship for many of our families," said Napier Family Centre CEO Kerry Henderson.

Hawke's Bay and Gisborne are struggling the most, with arrears increasing 13.13 and 15.66 percent respectively.

"We were already in significant financial crisis and many families are going to see that more as we move into the recovery phase over the next years," Henderson said.

Data from Centrix shows 430,000 Kiwis are behind on repayments - that's close to one in 10 of us.

"That's across all products be it home lending, credit card, buy now pay later, auto finance - the arrears are trending up quite strongly," Centrix managing director Keith McLaughlin said.

Take mortgages - the number of households behind has risen to the largest number since April 2020.

There are now 18,400 mortgage accounts overdue, a 22 percent year-on-year increase.

"I think we always knew the pressure was coming but when you actually look at the numbers it really does support the fact that things are pretty grim out there for a lot of New Zealanders," McLaughlin said.

On the North Island's east coast, Cyclone Gabrielle could leave more than silt, slash, destroyed homes and families.

"I think the impact of what has happened over the last month in particular will have an influence on the cost of living, which again will squeeze those household budgets," McLaughlin said.

A helluva job for those on the frontline.

"Don't ignore it. We appreciate it's challenging and there's going to be significant stresses ahead, but start dealing with it, start looking at your debt and where it is. The sooner you start looking at it the better your outcomes, and financial outcomes, will be," Henderson said.

The climate - economic and environmental - is a disaster for a growing number of Kiwis.