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'Incredibly disappointing' - Coromandel township will be hit hard by BNZ branch closure, says mayor

Thames-Coromandel District Mayor Sandra Goudie is disappointed BNZ will be shutting its branch in Coromandel township and says it is a let-down for some in the community.

Bank of New Zealand. Source: rnz.co.nz

The Australian-owned bank announced it would shut down eight so-called metro branches and 30 others in the next eight months; among the bricks and mortar locations for the chop are Huntly, Ōpōtiki, Wairoa, Balclutha, Kaikohe, Geraldine, Cromwell and Taumarunui. 

That is despite BNZ two years ago promising to keep all regional branches open until at least 2022. 

The bank is also axing its branch in Coromandel township.

Goudie told Checkpoint the news was "incredibly disappointing", considering they had one of the highest populations of over 65s in the country, and were one of the top five visited destinations. 

"Our population explodes during the summer period, which has now extended quite considerably - prior to Labour weekend and well into March and April."

The township's branch is scheduled to be closed by March 2021. The nearest branch will then be an hour away in Whitianga or Thames.

In its announcement, BNZ said the move to close branches was made because three quarters of customers were digitally active. 

BNZ declined to be interviewed on Checkpoint, but in a statement to RNZ after the programme aired, a spokesperson said: "We did not make this decision lightly. Our customers simply aren’t visiting some of our branches and in Coromandel only 300 customers visited our branch more than once in the last six months.

"Our customers are online and using our Smart ATMS, our contact centre and our app. They have changed the way they bank and we need to change too.

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"We’re supporting our customers to adapt to new ways of banking and have had great success through our branch staff and with our dedicated over 70 year old line, supporting people to get online and be comfortable banking digitally.

"Coromandel will still have access to BNZ banking services. We will have a 24/7 accessible Smart ATM that has a full range of services including note and coin deposits and will be supporting our customers to get comfortable using our ATMS, online and digital tools in the lead up to closing the branch later in 2021."

While Goudie said she did not know the number of people in the district who did online banking, locals still visited the branch.

She said ATMs were not enough, because people went to the bank to get assistance. 

"I don't know how many of the population that is [that physically go to the bank], but I think it's more than we think."

Goudie said a 2022 deadline would have given some time for locals to adjust to using digital services.

"To be shutting down in about February or June of next year, what have they put in place to compensate for ... people to be able to use some sort of facility to be able to do their banking or transactions that they need to do?

"Especially if they're not IT capable and can't do it online. I just fail to understand how they can start doing that without something being put in place to assist people.

"People need lead-in time and they also need some assistance with a process when there's no longer a bank available."

She said she could not recall any correspondence with the bank on the closure, and it was a let-down for some people in the community.

"Because it's been an icon in Coromandel town for so many years, that just the thought of it closing has taken the wind out of my sails... it's been the go-to bank in Coromandel town."

rnz.co.nz