Man­iototo to fight for bank

Central Otago Mirror - - FRONT PAGE - JO MCKEN­ZIE-MCLEAN

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.

JAN MCKEN­ZIE

Coun­cil­lor Stu Dun­can, mayor Tony Lep­per, Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean and Man­iototo busi­ness­woman Amie Pont with over 100 com­mu­nity mem­bers.

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