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Birch wrong: community banks explained

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Bill Birch is wrong to identify Labour's support for community banks with the Alliance's plan to set up a new state bank, says Labour social welfare spokesperson Steve Maharey.

"Mr Birch clearly hasn't read our policy. If he did he would see that community banks are very different from a state-owned bank. One key difference, which even Mr Birch should be able to understand, is that community banks are not owned by the state."

Labour's social security policy, released today, says a Labour Government will explore the feasibility of community banks. The policy recognises the problems caused by the closure of more than 500 bank branches in New Zealand since 1993. Rising fees and charges mean many low-income households find the mainstream banking system too expensive.

"One model we'll look at is the Bendigo Bank in Victoria, Australia, which involves the community creating a trust so local investors become shareholders in their local bank. The bank offers a full range of services including loans, investments, superannuation, and insurances. All profits are split 50-50 between it and the local community."

"Another possibility is to base community banks loosely on credit unions, allowing them to expand the services they offer while ensuring they come under appropriate prudential control."

"Alternatively Labour would support NZ Post expanding its provision of agency services for existing banks, to preserve a much wider spread of banking services."

"Labour is quite simply not proposing to set up a new state bank. We must be thankful Bill Birch is retiring from politics, as his reading skills are clearly failing."

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