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The road to the bank - Anderton

20 February 2001 Media Statement

The road to the bank

Jim Anderton will celebrate quietly, if at all.

He made a call of congratulations to New Zealand Post, and he expects there to be a quiet feeling of achievement, after nearly three years of work on the proposed kiwi bank.

The Government today announced New Zealand Post would establish a bank this year, offering lower fees, more branches and profits going back to the New Zealand community.

Alliance colleagues will probably toast the success of the campaign for a publicly-owned bank and reflect on an effort that had its genesis in mid-1998. At the time Jim Anderton was campaigning strongly against bank fee increases and large scale branch closures. With almost all of the New Zealand financial sector overseas-owned, the Alliance began to wonder whether there was room for a local initiative.

Talks were held with a range of potential agencies and partners. Options such as the successful Australian Bendigo bank were researched, along with the possibility of using Public Trust, TSB, SBS, credit unions and a wide range of small financial service companies.

At about the same time, Jim Anderton heard that New Zealand Post was exploring a banking arm. Post needed to establish new revenue streams as it faced growing competition in mail services. It was already providing agency services for a cross section of banks and financial institutions and had an extensive branch network with a reputation for excellence. However it faced opposition from the Shipley National Government.

Polling research by the Alliance showed the idea was popular. The New Zealand Post option looked better and better the more it was researched and the Alliance developed it as a high profile policy during the 1999 general election.

Once in government, Jim Anderton consulted his coalition partners and asked New Zealand Post to come up with a formal proposal. In June last year it received Cabinet approval to produce a business case, and finally presented it in January.

Publicly-owned banks have featured strongly in Jim Anderton’s political career. In 1988, he was suspended from the Labour Party parliamentary caucus when he abstained in Parliament from the decision of the Fourth Labour Government to sell the Bank of New Zealand.

Jim Anderton left the Labour Party six months later and established NewLabour. In 1990 he became the first MP ever to hold a parliamentary seat after leaving a party, with a campaign built strongly on opposition to asset sales. Today he says that’s history. The case for a publicly-owned New Zealand bank has been approved on the basis of a strong business plan and the realisation that New Zealanders need to own our own strategic assets.

After all this time, Jim Anderton says he just wants to be the first customer at his local Wigram branch.


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