It is a shame that two major banks have announced the closure of local branches, citing the rapid growth of online business and the fall in walk-in customers as the reasons.
These closures - Westpac at Cherrywood and ANZ in Greerton - could well leave a number of elderly customers unable to get to a bank without help. It makes me wonder just how many cannot drive and will therefore not be able to get to the new branches at Tauriko. Some elderly people will be unfamiliar with online banking and probably don't care to be - assuming they have even have a computer or smartphone.
Murray Grimmer, the 87-year-old who sat outside Cherrywood Four Square late last week and gathered 460 signatures protesting the closure of the Westpac branch, put it this way:
"What I'm growling about is that 75 per cent of the people who live around here are 70 years or older and they don't want to go online banking because they don't understand it."
In Greerton, Village Community association manager Sally Benning says, there are a number of elderly residents and people with mobility issues "so they are not really going to be able to get out of Greerton".
These closures are indicative of the journey we are on towards an automated, technology-dependent age.But what will we be losing?
There will be some for whom their brief exchange with the bank teller will be an important interaction with another person. It is possible to now go about your day minimising human interaction if you so wish. You can use self-checkout in supermarkets, you can buy a Big Mac via a touchscreen, and you can even text in your morning coffee order to your local cafe. You can still choose not to do these things, but I fear it will become a choice less and less. For those with limited transport options, these bank branch closures seem to be a case of get online - or nothing.
Stores closing is, perhaps, inevitable, but for the older generation it will be a sharp jolt. Welcome, pensioners of Tauranga, to the new reality. Or unreality.