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AUCKLAND, New Zealand – Kiwi credit unions have won a battle with the Parliamentary Sect Committee on Finance and Expenditure and the right to keep the words “bank” and “banking” in their publicity and informational materials, according to Doug McLaren, CEO of the New Zealand Association of Credit Unions (NZACU). McLaren, who testified three times during hearings, made it clear to Credit Union Times that the government was not attacking credit unions but was after the growing number of loan sharks and finance companies that menace consumers. The use of the “b” word gave these shady operators that do not offer a full range of banking services a credibility that they did not deserve, he said. The first idea by the government was to allow only registered banks to use those words. It would have hit building societies as hard as it would have hit credit unions, McLaren said. Building societies are another type of financial institution that finances homes and other banking services. Had the regulation been finalized, McLaren said it would have put credit unions in a terrible position. “How else can you explain what we do?” he asked. The Select Committee agreed that they never had a problem with either credit unions and building societies. Credit unions in New Zealand are considered as being helpful institutions, according to the Deputy Prime Minister, the Hon. Dr. Michael Cullen. He supported the credit unions’ position and the decision when it was announced that “Credit Unions provide an important service to a large number of New Zealanders, and the Government did not want to disadvantage them, nor to cause them unnecessary disruption.” Cullen, a Labour Party member, was not alone in his support. The Green Party which wants to preserve as much of New Zealand’s culture as possible, also were strong supporters. Rod Donald List Green Co-Leader and Whip, said he told the Select Committee that to penalize credit unions this way would give an unfair advantage to the big overseas banks that now dominate banking in New Zealand. Unlike in the U.S., there are seven political parties in New Zealand, although there are only four major ones. While NZACU pushed to be allowed to use the words bank and banking, the head of the Wine Country Credit Union of Hawkes Bay, New Zealand, gave the Select Committee the opposite message. Guy Wellwood told Credit Union Times he felt that NZACU was pushing an agenda to turn credit unions into banks. Wellwood does not use the words bank or banking in any of his publicity. Wine County has a membership of 7,000 people who live on an east coast island. He felt that credit unions need to offer a limited range of basic services to members and not become banks. Despite his view point, the Select Committee will allow the words “bank” and “banking” to credit unions and building societies properly registered under their respective regulatory agencies and their correct acts of parliament. The decision of the Select Committee was unanimous. [email protected]

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