Maniototo to fight for bank
Westpac is like a ‘‘cat on a hot tin roof’’ over the proposed closure of its Ranfurly branch, Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean says.
Dean hosted a public meeting in Ranfurly on Friday, attended by Central Otago mayor Tony Lepper, councillor Stu Duncan and over 100 community members.
‘‘I have had Westpac phoning me three times already...They are a little bit like a cat on a hat tin roof and so they should be. We are going to put up a fight with this.
‘‘I don’t think it’s overly dramatic to suggest that Ranfurly’s future hinges on what happens with this bank, with many business owners, outlining to the meeting their fears that if people are forced to travel to Alexandra for their banking, they will also conduct their other shopping and business needs in that town, leaving Ranfurly in the cold.
‘‘There’s also a safety issue for the elderly. With some older people saying they are unable to transition to electronic banking and will likely have to hand over their banking and signing authority to a family member or caregiver, opening up the risks that that may involve.’’
Mayor Tony Lepper said the council was prepared to lobby at a national level to see if ‘‘they really do have a rural heart’’.
‘‘The council will join the list of people who are disappointed that Westpac who are making millions of dollars out of rural New Zealand are abandoning a town 90km from the nearest bank.’’
Lepper said he was moved by the passion of those who viewed a bank as an essential service and that Westpac was not honouring their own charter that talked about supporting communities.
‘‘Everyone there said they would no longer support Westpac if they were forced to have a 160km round trip to do their banking. One lady said if they got a cheque for $50 they may as well rip it up as it would cost more to bank than it was worth.’’
Maniototo businesswoman Amie Pont told the crowd the bank had offered ‘‘no real justification’’ for shutting the bank.
‘‘It is a bank that is actually very viable...It is corporate streamlining as far as I can see it. From the 19 banks on the list (the bank is proposing to close) there are only two that will lose their only bank in town.’’
A protest is to be held outside the bank on Friday at 1pm.
Councillor Stu Duncan, mayor Tony Lepper, Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean and Maniototo businesswoman Amie Pont with over 100 community members.