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Kiwibank Featherston, first anniversary - Anderton

Hon Jim Anderton
23 March 2003
Speech Notes

Kiwibank Featherston, first anniversary

12:15 pm
Saturday, 22 March 2003
First Birthday celebration
Featherston Postshop

- Jim Bolger
- Georgina Beyer
- Edwin Perry
- Sam Knowles
- Kiwibank staff and customers


I am delighted to be here to celebrate a successful first birthday for Kiwibank in Featherston.

This town shows why Kiwibank is needed.

Not only did the banks close the branches here, there wasn’t even an ATM left behind.

In Featherston, the loss of banking services threatened the viability of the entire town.

Some suggested you could do all of your banking over the Internet.

I never quite worked out how you were meant to deposit the takings from a day’s trading by stuffing it into your hard drive.

Neither did a lot of businesses, who took the message to pack up and leave when banking services left town.

But when you went to see the telecommunications companies and asked them to put high speed Internet into the regions so that people could do their Internet banking – what happened?

They said ‘sorry, high speed Internet is only for the cities.’

And more businesses found they couldn’t compete from a base in the regions without access to modern communications technology.

The private corporate sector is entitled to take those decisions – you can’t make them open a branch, or put in a service.

But that doesn’t mean the problem goes away.

Someone has to do something about it, for the benefit of the people and the communities concerned.

For example, the government didn’t just encourage NZ Post to open a new bank, with 300 new branches.

We are also rolling out high-speed Internet capability into every community in New Zealand by the end of next year.

The relentless trend -- back in the eighties and nineties – was towards regional decline.

Governments actually encouraged it.

They told you that it was inevitable.

‘Towns which couldn’t survive’, they said – ‘would have to accept that their population would simply decline.’

I never accepted that argument.

For a while, I couldn’t find too many people around parliament to agree with me -- But it is amazing how things change, and we need to give credit to those who eventually came round.

I believe – I have always believed -- that there has to be a future for the regions of New Zealand. In fact New Zealand has no decent future unless our regions prosper.

What was needed was a commitment to the regions.

It takes partnerships with industry and central and local government to unlock the advantages of regions and to create opportunities for the people who live here.

About four years ago I was in Opposition and I came to the Wairarapa to make a speech about banking.

I chose to come here because this region has been ravaged by the banking sectors’ decision to withdraw from regional New Zealand.

In the speech I made, I promised that if I was elected into government, I would work to ensure that NZ Post could start a banking service.

It would offer lower fees and more branches for New Zealanders.

And it would retain the profits for New Zealand.

Those promises have been kept.

For the first time in a generation – new branches of a bank are opening up, like flowering native plants, in corners all over New Zealand.

After a generation of closing branches, we are opening them again.

Many of the towns and suburbs that enjoy a new Kiwibank, like Featherston, no longer had a bank at all.

Fees are much lower than the big banks were charging – and the old banks have been forced to cut their fees to compete.

Every time a bank cuts its fees, it insists the decision is nothing to do with Kiwibank.

It is just a coincidence that -- until Kiwibank came along they only put fees up – now they sometimes put them down.

But Kiwibank is about much more than bank fees.

It is about New Zealand ownership.

It is about branches where you live.

Strong, thriving centres that get stronger all the time.

Where kids grow up knowing they have a future in their home town.

Where there is a virtuous cycle of more jobs and services attracting new businesses and thriving new industry – which in turn create still more jobs and services.

Strong vibrant communities go hand-in-hand with jobs.

That’s why Jobs are my top priority – and the top priority for the Progressive Party which I lead.

Jobs are critical for a person's dignity.

The more jobs we create – the safer our communities become from crime, the less demand we have on social services like health, and the fewer families live on benefits.

New Zealanders are welcoming Kiwibank.

I believe it has already paid its way in terms of its total contribution to the New Zealand economy.

Kiwibank is signing up 500 new customers every day. It has been doing so from the day it opened.

That is more than the business case predicted.

Free children’s accounts have returned.

Kiwibank was a good idea. It has created a world record. I can’t find another bank branch anywhere in the world that has opened up as many branches within such a short space of time – 300 in 12 months.

Its success shows that coalition governments are good governments.

They deliver on a wider range of good ideas, and they put decisions under the blowtorch of cross-examination.

That helps to shake out some of the problems before they ever see the light of day.

Featherston is enjoying the results of one very good decision.

So are many more New Zealanders who bank with Kiwibank.

I welcome that and I congratulate Kiwibank for the contribution it is making to creating a stronger Featherston.

And I wish you all the best for the coming year of successful development of your lovely town – and many more to come.


ENDS

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