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.

Element - - Eco Hotties - By Re­becca Blithe

“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.

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