Power to the people
For the first time this year BNZ opened its ‘Closed for Good’ annual volunteer day to members of the public and other organisations to help out.
“I’m feeling the effects today,” Chris Herbison tells Element magazine the morning after a full day on Rangitoto Island repairing a Scout bach. “The office is just abuzz. The work we did on the island means a better experience for all those Cub Scouts going forward,” says the BNZ chief marketing officer, who joined 3000 colleagues in Closed for Good, an initiative which sees the bank close branches across the country for the day and send employees out into communities to help where it’s needed.
The biggest event of its kind in New Zealand, over 450 projects from rebuilding playgrounds to assisting with animal welfare and beach clean ups were supported by volunteer staff, members of the public and local organisations.
Herbison says the chance to give back was a rewarding experience for staff. “People do feel energised. They really enjoyed getting out into the communities. They feel closer to the communities and that they’ve contributed. Giving back is a buzz.” This was the third time the bank has held Closed for Good, and BNZ’S chief executive, Andrew Thorburn, says while being delighted by the number of projects submitted for assistance, this year over 400 members of the community also came forward to help out.
“There is such a demand for services of these not-for-profit community groups, much of their work goes unheralded, they do such wonderful work in their communities and that’s why we’re out in force supporting them.”
For BNZ customer service consultant Louise Couchman, Closed for Good provided the opportunity to give back to her childhood
community by volunteering to clean up streets in the suburb where she grew up.
“I used to live in Papakura as a little girl. I thought it’d be really nice to go back into the area where I grew up,” says Couchman, who spent the Closed for Good day working as a project leader alongside her colleague Vanessa Wilcox, BNZ staff, members of the Safer Papakura Trust, Police and locals to rejuvenate two adjoining streets.
“It was quite a run down sort of area,” says Couchman. “There was a lot of tagging, unmowed lawns, broken fences. It was quite grubby.” But Couchman says the team got stuck in and was impressed by the enthusiasm of the locals.
“They just rocked on up and we said, ‘Hey, another pair of hands is great.’ We were cutting wood and fixing fence posts. We scraped the gutters, repainted fences. It was a fantastic day.”
And while it was labour intensive compared to their usual office job, Couchman says it was well worth it to see the finished product and the appreciation of the community. “The locals feel so happy about it. They were so stoked that we’d come in.” And the feeling was mutual among the BNZ team. “It was a really good vibe. We were just buzzing at the end of it. We all feel such a sense of pride in our company and empowered by going out into the community.”
Couchman says they were also supported by Bunnings who provided painting supplies and The Mad Butcher who donated sausages for the workers.
“People do feel energised. They really enjoyed getting out into the communities. They feel closer to the communities and that they’ve contributed. Giving back is a buzz.”
BNZ and Genesis Youth Project cleaning up the streets of Papakura for Closed for Good.
Photos: Garry Brandon.