Fairlie protests against bank's withdrawal

Fairlie protests against bank's withdrawal

Angry residents of a small South Island town are protesting against the proposed closure of their last bank branch.

Westpac has announced plans to close its Fairlie branch, one of 19 mostly rural locations it's abandoning. The final decision's not expected until the end of September.

Locals took to the streets outside the branch just after lunch on Friday with signs reading 'listen to your loyal customers' and 'how can a town progress without cash?'

Fairlie protests against bank's withdrawal

Demonstrators in Fairlie (Annabelle Tukia / Newshub.)

And a demonstration's also taking place outside the Westpac in Waikanae, on the Kapiti Coast.

Mackenzie District Mayor Claire Barlow, who has been banking with Westpac since she was 17, earlier admitted didn't realise how badly locals wanted to keep the doors of the last bank branch open.

"People like me won't go into a branch, and I was quite casual about this whole affair until I went to a meeting on Monday and realised there's a whole generation of people in New Zealand, particularly in the rural centres, that don't use the internet," she told Paul Henry on Friday morning.

Fairlie protests against bank's withdrawal

Demonstrators in Fairlie (Annabelle Tukia / Newshub.)

Fairlie had only 717 people at the last census, nearly a quarter of them over the age of 65.

"They don't have computers, they don't do online banking."

Westpac is the last bank in the town. If it closes, residents will have to drive to Timaru, 50 minutes away, or Geraldine - 35 minutes.

"Maybe there's an alternative service they can provide that is viable for them and actually works for the people," says Ms Barlow.

Fairlie protests against bank's withdrawal

Signs outside Westpac in Fairlie (Newshub.)

The bank is yet to discuss the situation with her.

"I have spoken to the local bank manager but they couldn't talk to me because they were going through staff consultation until Wednesday this week, so no, I'm still waiting to have a conversation."

She admits not everyone in the town uses Westpac, and the bank can't be forced to keep the branch open if it's not commercially viable, but thinks it has a "duty of care" after so many years.

Newshub.

Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to Email
Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to Viber Share to WhatsApp Share to Email