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Westpac urged to reconsider branch closures

Media Release
For immediate release
23 August 2016

Rural Women New Zealand urges Westpac to reconsider branch closures

Westpac have announced the proposed closure of 19 Branches throughout New Zealand. A large number of these are based in rural centres. Rural Women New Zealand (RWNZ) is concerned about these proposed bank closures and the effect on the rural communities they serve.

Westpac has stated that the reasons for closing branches is the increased use of online services. RWNZ's concern is that this may be correct nationally, but what are the statistics in rural areas? For many in these rural areas online banking is not an option due to poor or non-existent internet services or cellphone coverage, the speed does not allow efficient use of internet services.

For elderly people or those not computer savvy, this too creates a problem on how to do day-to-day banking. They prefer to do their business face to face, as sometimes it is part of their social contact.

Businesses in the affected communities will also have the right to be concerned; for example, how do they deposit their cash takings? They certainly do not want to be carrying large quantities of cash, even in this day of mainly Eftpos payments, they still need to have access to secure bank services and facilities.

The distance that will need to be travelled to the next nearest bank branch will be difficult for those who do not have transport, or for businesses having to have staff out of action if they have to travel to that next Branch. If there are no other bank services in town, this could mean businesses moving away or closing. In many cases the nearest branch could be 45 minutes or longer travelling distance one way.

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Rural communities already struggle with other forms of centralisation and having core services shift to larger towns. Once people start travelling out of their rural area to do business, such as banking, they tend to do more of their business out of town, and so the cycle continues.

RWNZ acknowledges that banking has changed markedly over the past number of years and that perhaps rural towns do not offer a high level of commercial opportunities for banks. However, rural residents are often long-standing clients who have remained loyal through the years, and are now being penalised. A large number still prefer face-to-face services.

RWNZ urges Westpac to listen to the concerns of rural residents and consider the needs of those living in isolated, rural areas. Perhaps Westpac could look at other options rather than closure? Even if it is opening less hours or days a week, downsizing to a smaller premises or an agency?

Branches proposed to close are: Kamo, Cherrywood in Tauranga, Broadway Avenue in Palmerston North, Bishopdale in Christchurch, Gardens in Dunedin, Waikanae, Carterton, Raglan, Ranfurly, Te Aroha, Fendalton Mall in Christchurch, Putaruru, Whangamata,Takaka, Stoke, Wainuiomata, Te Anau, Fairlie and Otorohanga.


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