Residents threaten boycott
The Hore family has banked in the Maniototo since the first bank opened in the 1880s. That could soon change.
Stuart Hore, 77, is one of many Maniototo residents threatening to pull his business from Westpac if it closes its Ranfurly branch. The town’s branch is one of 19 Westpac is proposing to close around the country.
The town of 800 only has one bank, and with an ageing popu- lation, many fear how the elderly will cope without a bank. The closest bank is a 180-kilometre round trip to Alexandra, and even further for outlying towns.
Hore said the proposed closure was a ‘‘disgrace’’.
‘‘It is disgrace Westpac should consider closing such an isolated bank...My family has been banking for four generations. I am loathe to take my banking elsewhere but if they shift the bank from Ranfurly, I will surely think about it...they show us no loyalty. We will show them none.’’
Hore and his family stood with about 300 community members in Ranfurly on Friday protesting the proposed closure.
Protest organisers and Maniototo businesswoman Amie Pont said when the bank announced its proposal two weeks ago reactions had ranged from shock, anger, disbelief, despair and there had been emotional outcries from many community members.
‘‘We are invested in this area, and to feel the threat of the undoing of all and many others’ hard work, commitment and investment is heartbreaking. The reality is nobody wants to be gathering here under these circumstances, but as if we were going to sit back and do nothing. We have done the best we possibly can to stick up for ourselves and demand that we deserve a bank.’’
Over 900 people had signed a petition, and ‘‘hundreds’’ of letters and submissions had been written appealing for the bank to stay open, she said.
Central Otago mayor Tony Lepper said he had submitted to Westpac on the community’s behalf and they had declined to meet with him.
‘‘I have been thinking, what can you guys do to stop it...there are a lot of rural customers out there who bank with Westpac and I lived in this area, and I banked with Westpac and they closed my bank, I would change banks, and that is what I think you should do.’’
The Maniototo community rallied together on Friday to protest the proposed closure of Ranfurly’s Westpac bank - the only bank in town.