Tuesday, 20 September 2016 06:55

More rural bank closures

Written by  Pam Tipa
Otorohanga mayor Max Baxter. Otorohanga mayor Max Baxter.

A dairy farmer and mayor of a town hit by a double whammy of bank branch closures says the loss of a bank can change the perception of vibrancy and wealth in a rural town.

But the reality is most farmers are now banking online and have mobile managers, Otorohanga mayor Max Baxter told Rural News.

Westpac and ANZ saying within weeks of each other that they will close their branches in the town particularly affects the older people, Baxter says.

Otorohanga and Te Aroha are the two towns scheduled to lose both banks’ branches: ANZ last week announced five closures, and Westpac said a few weeks ago it will close 19.

ANZ is also considering closing branches at Massey University in Palmerston North, Milton (50km south of Dunedin) and Ngaruawahia.

Baxter says having banks in town gives a certain perception of vibrancy and wealth.

“You take banks away from a town and it changes the whole dynamic. It certainly will affect the elderly people in town who enjoy face-to-face interaction with tellers.”

ANZ assures him its remaining ATM will accept deposits of cheques and cash.

“So you will be able to do all the transactions you now do [but without] one-to-one interaction; obviously we will lose the personal edge,” he says.

ANZ is adamant it will close the branch, he says.

“It’s just a sign of the times. Internet banking has changed things so they aren’t getting the foot traffic through the door and don’t deem it viable to stay open.”

And as a farmer he can say in all honesty in the last eight months he has written only one cheque.

“All my transactions are done via internet banking – a sign of the times. It is just unfortunate we get this double whammy in such a short time.”

Most farmers are banking online and have mobile bank managers, “so we’ve got one-on-one interaction with our own personal managers. The closures will really only affect the old people who enjoy the one-on-one.”

The town vibrancy and perception are also two big issues.

“It is very unfortunate and came out of the blue. When Westpac made its decision I didn’t expect another bank to follow straight behind.”

But he says it won’t be the death knell for Otorohanga by any means. “The town is very vibrant; it is always going to be vibrant.”


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