Sophie Foster and Jackson Gothe-Snape The Courier-Mail April 30, 2013
ONE in every 660 Queenslanders is bankrupt - the worst ratio per head in the country - with three postcodes on the Gold Coast hardest hit, according to new data.
The Insolvency and Trustee Service Australia yesterday released 2011-12 data on personal insolvency by location, showing Queensland had the highest number of bankrupts in postcodes 4211, 4209 and 4217 - all on the Gold Coast and taking in Nerang, Coomera and Surfers Paradise.
ITSA said in the 4211 postcode - which covers Advancetown, Beechmont, Binna Burra, Carrara, Clagiraba, Gaven, Gilston, Highland Park, Latimer, Lower Beechmont, Mount Nathan, Natural Bridge, Nerang, Nerang Bc, Nerang Dc, Numinbah Valley, O'reilly, Pacific Pines, Pindari Hills and Southern Lamington - the ratio of bankrupts to the general population was 1 to every 356 people.
About 23,000 people were declared bankrupt nationally for the period 2011-12, 1000 fewer than the year before, with Mount Druitt in Sydney's western suburbs the bankruptcy capital, with 1 bankrupt to every 349 residents.
Seven of the top-ten bankrupt postcodes were in Queensland.
The number of bankrupts in Queensland rose 2 per cent to 6544 in 2011-12, with a 2.1 per cent rise in Greater Brisbane and 1.9 per cent in the rest of Queensland.
Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate said the area was particularly hard-hit during the global financial crisis, with unemployment putting financial pressure on many families.
"With rates increases at a 12-year low and unemployment lower than the regional average, I expect things have already turned around and that will be reflected in next year's figures," Mr Tate said.
FTI Consulting senior managing director Stefan Dopking said the Gold Coast had always had high numbers of personal bankruptcies, but since the GFC there were more small businesses going broke up and down the coast.
"People are cutting back, trying to pay off their mortgages quicker and not going out and spending as much as they would," he said. "That has a direct impact on the corporate and SME sectors and that's the Gold Coast - small businesses surviving off the tourism market. They're all suffering."
Social analyst David Chalke believed the data highlighted the struggles of self-employed and owner-operators in these regions.
"It's not the high-profile cowboys," he said.
But Prushka Fast Debt Recovery chief executive Roger Mendelson said the situation may not be as bad as the postcode data suggested, given changes to bankruptcy laws (limiting action to debts above $5000) and higher court costs meant it made up a small part of overall unpaid debts.
"The figures are probably not a really accurate depiction of what's happening today, they're only the tip of the iceberg," he said. "Overall, numbers are very low compared to the number of people who don't pay their debts."
He said areas of higher concern than the Gold Coast - where it was harder to get people to pay debts - were Ipswich, Logan, and South Brisbane.