In another blow for small town New Zealand, Kiwibank have announced it will shut up shop in Nelson's Stoke, meaning there will be no banks in the suburb.
Grey Power Nelson president Christine Tuffnell spoke to TVNZ's Breakfast this morning about what the bank’s closure will mean for the local community.
Ms Tuffnell said, "we're devastated with this. Kiwibank is the only bank left in Stoke where you can go and actually talk to people, and a lot of people just don't want to interact with the hole in the wall, I’m afraid".
"Kiwibank's becoming rarer than the kiwi bird, almost. It seems that they don't want to be out in the community."
She said she "is expecting more" from the bank to remain in local communities, adding, "It is a bank of the people, and that's why it's a state-owned enterprise – because it’s there to provide a service".
"There's a lot of elderly people here, and nearly a third is probably over 65, so it's quite an old population. Thirty per cent of them use direct credit, the rest use ATMs, but still – 50 per cent are using cheques, so it's an older population here, as well as the younger population, and they enjoy using the Kiwibank. They enjoy talking to someone at the bank. The personal service is one of the best features of banking, and a lot of banks are forgetting this, including Kiwibank."
Ms Tuffnell said educating the community on internet banking may help, but many "still values personal service".
"We've got 7000 members. Forty per cent of them are here in Stoke, and a large per cent of them – over 50 per cent of our members – are over 75 years of age. There are quite a lot of people in that old age group that really are not using computers. On our database, 50 per cent have email, and 30 per cent, as we say, using direct credit, so I think we have to remember that there is a proportion of the population that still values personal service."
She said yesterday was the first time the community were made aware of the bank's withdrawal from Stoke.
"When Westpac pulled out of Stoke, it did actually consult with the community and give time for people to make comment. Yesterday was the first time we heard of Kiwibank withdrawing. We don't know the business case for it, we haven’t had any details that pertain to Stoke in terms of why this bank is intended to close, so this is a responsibility on Kiwibank to consult with the community – if you look at the government inquiry in March this year – Kiwibank undertook to do its best to consult with the community.
"It hasn’t done that [in this case]. It's simply put out a memo saying, 'We're closing.'"
In a statement, Kiwibank general manager retail distribution Geoff Waller said, "We regularly review our locations, looking at two things: firstly, the number of customers using the services in that location and secondly, other available Kiwibank services in close proximity.
"Based on that, we've made the decision not to continue our physical presence in Stoke."