More New Zealand expats are paying off their student loans in a move that is regarded as a fine example of them wanting to help rebuild earthquake hit Christchurch.

After the earthquakes struck Victoria, University Professor Sir Paul Callaghan launched a campaign to recoup student debt for the rebuild. As a result, the repayments made by overseas expats to the Inland Revenue have increased by 45% compared to a year ago.

‘By paying off their loans these students are not only making life easier for themselves, they are directly helping New Zealand's balance sheet by providing a healthy shot of external funds into the country, something we need desperately in the wake of the devastating Christchurch earthquakes,’ Sir Paul said.

He set up the Heroic Educated Kiwi Expatriate (HEKE) campaign shortly after the second Christchurch earthquake in February.  The campaign urged expat Kiwi graduates to make ‘a significant contribution'’ to the Christchurch earthquake recovery by paying back their student loans.

Sir Paul added that the campaign shows that if a higher level of repayment were sustained, it would represent a significant contribution to New Zealand’s ability to rebuild Christchurch, and shows the things that can be achieved when New Zealanders work together to achieve a goal.

The Government has also run its own campaign to get more from expat students as part of a series of changes designed to restrain the growth of student loan debt, which stands at about $11 billion owed by about 587,000 people.

About 85,000 of all borrowers with outstanding debt are based overseas. Whereas New Zealand based ex-students with debt owe about $10,600 each, those overseas owe about $18,000 each.

The amount overdue held by ex-students, is about $183 million, more than the amount held overdue by New Zealand based ex-students that is $142 million. The overdue amount held by ex-students overseas has increased by 60% in the past three years, while the equivalent figure for ex-students still in New Zealand has decreased by 26%.

The New Zealand government is planning to introduce an annual $40 fee to be charged every year that debt is held. The annual fee will be charged on top of a $60 loan establishment fee.