Farmers welcome regional banking hubs trial

A plan by the Government and the country's banks to trial banking hubs in four regions hit by branch closures has been welcomed by Federated Farmers. 

The hubs will provide basic transaction services during the 12 month trial, such as cash withdrawals, deposits and account transfers. 

The participating banks, Kiwibank, ASB, BNZ, TSB, Westpac and ANZ, would share the costs and have agreed not to close any branches during the trial. 

Federated Farmers said it was a worthwhile initiative.

"It's good to see Kiwibank, BNZ, TSB, ANZ, ASB and Westpac thinking outside the square and co-operating to try and find a cost-effective and customer-useful way of keeping a banking service operating in small rural towns," said Feds economics and commerce spokesperson Andrew Hoggard.

Andrew Hoggard has welcomed the trials.
Andrew Hoggard has welcomed the trials. Photo credit: Newshub

"If a traditional bank branch is deemed no longer economic, then the proposal for a multi-branded Smart ATM, a support person to provide guidance and assistance, and the facilities for basic transactional services such as cash withdrawals, deposits and account transfers is probably the next best thing," he said.

He also welcomed the bank's commitment not close any other rural bank branch during the 12-month trial. 

"We need banks to support rural customers and act responsibly."

Hoggard said Federated Farmers' banking surveys had been showing over the past 18 months to two years a deterioration in farmer satisfaction with banks and an increase in farmers feeling under pressure from banks.

He said farmers were also coming under intense pressure from government policies such as Essential Freshwater and climate change and with RMA reform, winter grazing, and indigenous biodiversity to come. 

"All will have impacts on farm costs and on farm production and incomes.

"As farmers work through these challenges, they need the confidence that their banks will continue to stand by them."

Finance Minister Grant Robertson described the initiative on Monday as "fantastic", and said it would help people in smaller towns left reeling from being cut off as banking moves online. 

"I hope this will provide a solution for both the banks and local communities where it may not be economical for individual banks to maintain a branch," he said.

The regional hubs will be established in Opunake, Martinborough, Stoke and Twizel.