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Alliance 'Our Bank' Bill - and Credit Union rules

The prospect of a publicly-owned New Zealand bank came a step closer tonight, with Alliance leader Jim Anderton unveiling a members Bill to set up a bank through NZ Post.

The Bill allows New Zealand Post to provide the banking services of a registered bank. Jim Anderton told the Annual General Meeting of the Credit Union Otago tonight that it would be placed in the ballot of members Bills at Parliament from tomorrow.

The proposal for a publicly-owned bank follows widespread branch closures by overseas-owned banks, very steep and rising bank charges and the loss overseas of around a billion dollars a year in dividends to the overseas owners of banks.

NZ Post has more than a 900 retail outlets. Its 1999 Annual Report foresees continued growth in agency transactions to 50,000 per day.

"Financial agency services have always been part of NZ Post's core business and it is a simple and logical step to extend these into a full-scale banking operation. A publicly-owned bank will mean more jobs, better services in rural communities, lower interest rates, lower bank charges and reduced overseas debt," Jim Anderton said.

The second prong of the Alliance's efforts to improve access to financial services would be new rules covering Credit Unions.

Credit Unions currently face a very low ceiling on the total sum they can accept as a deposit and extraordinarily heavy regulation of their overall operation. The regulations prevent credit unions from offering effective competition to the major overseas-owned banks.

Jim Anderton announced the Alliance would push for an overall review of Credit Union legislation, to improve their ability to compete and to grow.

"The Alliance believes that, as locally-owned co-operative businesses, Credit Unions should be encouraged, not frustrated. We'll work on development of the rules in partnership with the Credit Unions and their local communities. Some will want to retain their existing character, while others will want to grow. The Alliance supports that in the interests of competition, better services for ordinary New Zealanders, and keeping profits in New Zealand," Jim Anderton said.

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