New Zealand Credit Union History
Savings and credit societies have been in existence in New Zealand for over 100 years. A number of small independent Credit Unions were also established from the turn of the century, but their size and influence was limited.
In the 1950s, Father Marion Ganey, who had been active in promoting Credit Unions in the South Pacific, met with Tom Mitchell, a Catholic layman of Hamilton and Father H. Boyd of Matata. Both were so impressed with his ideas that as a result two sister parish Credit Unions were established: St Joseph’s (Matata) Credit Union in the Bay of Plenty (now known as Credit Union North), and St Mary’s Parish Credit Union in Hamilton (now known as First Credit Union).
In 1959 Colin Smith, a Hamilton chartered accountant, was elected treasurer-manager of St Mary’s Parish Credit Union. In 1961, Father Ganey was brought to this country for a seminar where he talked about the importance of a united Credit Union Movement. Colin Smith set about organising the New Zealand Credit Union League. Trevor Barber was the League’s first President and Colin Smith the first secretary.
In 1964 the League had nine member Credit Unions. Colin Smith held the position of Managing Director until his death in 1986. He travelled around New Zealand, promoting parish and industrial-employee Credit Unions. He also travelled overseas in order to learn more about Credit Unions in other countries, and in 1967 set up direct links with CUNA International Colin Smith (now known as the World Council of Credit Unions).
By the early 1980s New Zealand had several hundred Credit Unions . As the Movement matured, the smaller of these began to amalgamate by merger or transfer of engagements, a process that is ongoing today. In 1989, the New Zealand Credit Union League changed its name to the New Zealand Association of Credit Unions (NZACU). From a peak of over three hundred Credit Unions in New Zealand, there are less than 13 and the majority belong to the New Zealand Association of Credit Unions. The others are either independent or belong to the Manchester Unity Association, the others being Druids, IOOF and Hibernians.
New Zealand Association of Credit Unions
Savings and credit societies have been in existence in New Zealand for over 120 years. A number of small independent Credit Unions were established in the early 19th century and the turn of the century but their size and influence were limited.
In 1961, Father Marion Ganey was brought to this country for a seminar where he talked about the importance of a united Credit Union Movement. Colin Smith, from the St Mary’s Parish Credit Union, set about organising the New Zealand Credit Union League. In 1989 the league changed names to the New Zealand Association of Credit Unions.
By the early 1980s New Zealand had several hundred Credit Unions. As the Movement matured, the smaller of these began to amalgamate by merger or transfer of engagements, a process that is still happening today.
Origin of Credit Unions
From their early origins, Credit Unions were unique depository institutions created not for profit, but to serve members as credit cooperatives. The earliest of these date back to 19th-century England. However it was in mid-1800s Germany that we find the forbears of the Credit Unions as we know them today, being:
- democratically governed;
- granting each member one vote;
- steered by member-elected directors;
- and volunteer-based.
These early Credit Unions were created in 1846 when crop failure and famine struck Germany. Herman Schulze-Delitzsch organised a co-operatively owned mill and bakery which sold bread to its members at substantial savings, and a “people’s bank” that provided credit to farmers.
Friedich Raiffeisen formed the Heddesdorf Credit Union for German farmers in 1864, and the first Credit Union central bank in 1876. The Credit Union idea spread quickly through Europe.
It crossed the Atlantic in 1900. Alphonse Desjardins, a Quebec court reporter, recognised problems caused by loan sharks and organised La Caisse Populaire de Levis, a Credit Union for the working class. In 1908, Alphonse Desjardins helped a group of Franco-American Catholics organise St. Mary’s Cooperative Credit Association, the first Credit Union in the United States.
The US Credit Union Movement became increasingly popular in the 1920s economy. Edward Filene, a wealthy Bostonian, dedicated himself to developing the movement. In 1921 he financed the Credit Union National Extension Bureau and hired a lawyer named Roy F. Bergengren to run it. Bergengren travelled thousands of miles to promote the cause. In 1935 President Roosevelt signed a government charter for Credit Unions into federal law.
Edward Filene and Roy F. Bergengren began providing assistance for Credit Unions outside the United States. With their help, the Movement spread to Nova Scotia, Canada, the Philippines and, in the 1940s, Jamaica and Belize.
Credit Unions were introduced into Fiji in the 1950s by Father Marion Ganey. A Jesuit priest, Father Ganey saw Credit Unions as a method by which poor people could organise their own affairs, by the promotion of thrift and provision for low-cost finance to their mutual advantage. Father Ganey continued to work in Fiji for the next forty years, helping organise hundreds of Credit Unions in the Pacific.
In 1954 the World Extension Department was created to give international direct assistance with Credit Unions, often in collaboration with government programmes. A World Council of Credit Unions was created in 1971 and it now represents 97 national Credit Union Movements with more than 172 million Credit Union members.
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