TODAY |

Do you want the right to pay in cash?

Time's running out to have your say on the future of cash in New Zealand with submissions to the Reserve Bank closing this Saturday, August 31.

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As digital payments become increasingly common some stores are now only accepting cards. Source: Seven Sharp

The central bank says it's in the middle of a multi-year programme to establish the future of cash.

But it has already found that despite an increase in cash in circulation, New Zealand is becoming a society that uses little cash.

Seven Sharp reported that for the 34 years since EFTPOS was introduced, the idea of a cashless future has always been a distant possibility.

But that future has finally arrived.

For example they won't accept cash at a Ben and Jerry's ice cream shop opened at Wellington airport less than two weeks ago.

And they are legally allowed to refuse cash, said Assistant Governor of the Reserve Bank, Christian Hawkesby.

"At the moment there is no legal obligation for a retailer to accept cash. The only legal obligation is for the Government to accept cash in the form of taxes and to be able to pay off your debts in New Zealand dollars," Mr Hawkesby said.

At the moment cash costs us money. We pay a Canadian company to make it, we have to move it, store it and distribute it - all with security.

Yet it's increasingly being held overseas in foreign countries, while Kiwis seem to be using it less.

There are still pockets of society that are still quite reliant on cash - Christian Hawkesby, Assistant Governor of the Reserve Bank

But cash is entrenched in our lives. The pre-electronic elderly rely on it, as do the homeless begging, and some members of the disabled community prefer it.

"There are still pockets of society that are still quite reliant on cash - those people who aren't using internet banking, people in rural areas, parts of the Maori community who are more reliant on cash than other parts of society," Mr Hawkesby said.

And cash has cultural significance for many, whether part of the Tongan Tau'olunga, the the Maori koha, or the Italian la borsa.

Then, there are churches, casinos, prostitutes, school raffles - cash is embedded in our system.

So do we have the right to live off the grid without our payments being tracked?

"It's really just something that you take for granted It's part of the fabric of society that you grow up and your parents give you pocket money in notes and coins," Mr Hawkesby said.

"It's been part of their lives their whole time and they've never really thought to step back and go, 'why is it that cash exists? Why is it that people accept these bits of paper or these bits of plastic when I hand them over. And what value sits behind those?'"

But the law telling the Reserve Bank what to do is from the 1980s, just after EFTPOS first came out.

"The Reserve Bank Act is very general. At the moment it's simply put as 'meeting the public's demand for cash'," Mr Hawkesby said.

So the Reserve Bank wants to know, "Do people want to have the right to be able to pay in cash?"

If you've got some thoughts on the future of cash, have you say on the Reserve Bank website