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Question: How Many Kiwibanks and When?

Question: How Many Kiwibanks and When? (And What is the Exit Strategy?)

Sunday 17 Feb 2002

ACT Finance Spokesman Rodney Hide said today that it was well past time for NZ Post to be upfront with taxpayers and explain how many Kiwibank branches will open, and when.

"This state-owned entity suckered $80 million of taxpayers' cash out of the Government by promising 300 bank branches throughout New Zealand. Elmar Toime and Ross Armstrong repeated the promise to the Finance and Expenditure Select Committee late last year and said the roll-out would start in February and end in May.

"NZ Post scoffed at my suggestions that the roll-out was stymied and that nothing like 300 branches would open. NZ Post's state beneficiaries declared their roll-out was on track and claimed there were only one or two dissenters amongst the franchisees.

"Finally, NZ Post has admitted that there won't be 300 branches, and there may only be up to 250. They have also had to admit that they are at least a month behind in their roll-out.

"We know that Gisborne won't have a Kiwibank, despite Jim Anderton's promises. I think it's time NZ Post told taxpayers which other communities are going to miss out too.

"NZ Post has also been forced to admit bullying franchisees by telling customers that banks were opening in outlets that had resolutely refused to open a Kiwibank. NZ Post has now agreed that they were `over-enthusiastic and not necessarily fair on the franchises'.

"The sticking point is not just the fee structure that would see franchisees losing money on every transaction. These small business owners are also very concerned by the bully-boy tactics that NZ Post has employed.

"I know that one sticking point is NZ Post's exit strategy, should the Bank prove a flop. NZ Post says they can exit banking without consulting the franchisees. That's nuts. NZ Post is expecting franchisees to fund Kiwibank, but is not prepared to even consult them if they cease trading.

"I am recommending to the Finance and Expenditure Select Committee that we recall NZ Post officials to explain their timetable.

"The Kiwibank is not a commercial proposition. It's a political one. Jim Anderton promised Kiwibank on his billboards, in his speeches, and on his party political bumf at the last election. He has collared $80 million of taxpayers' cash to try and deliver at least one political promise. I am afraid that he is not even going to do that," concluded Rodney Hide.


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