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Banks not feeling the love in Te Aroha

By Hunter Calder

Te Aroha residents are disappointed to hear the small town of four thousand will lose their Westpac branch and ANZ are considering pulling their branch too.

Noel Hinge is a loyal Westpac customer and has been living in Te Aroha for 17 years.
"The staff are very nice, they know us all by our christian names and that's what I'm going to miss."

Chairman of the Te Aroha Business Association, Shaun O'Neill says the banks have it wrong, considering they are making large profits. He believes the banks are obliged to display corporate responsibility and provide a face to face service for customers. "Our locals need banking services, our older community require the banking services, so we want these banks, and other businesses to invest in our town. Not to pull out of our town."

O'Neill says everyone in the community uses the banks - and as local branches shut, elderly people, sports groups, businesses and other bank users will be inconvenienced by not being able to pop around the corner, and "have that personal relationship" with bank staff.

Both ANZ and Westpac say increasingly transactions with banks are happening outside of a physical branch as online banking services are increasing.

But Te Aroha resident Mary Steiner says she wouldn't bank online as "too many people get hacked into". "I don't want to go internet banking... It's something I don't want to do."

The local Grey Power president, Rod Gibson says the elderly might be forced to take their business to one of the two other banks in the town. "Most Grey Power members don't have an internet connection, they don't have a computer, and they still use cheques a great deal, they need a bank and if there's no bank for them in Te Aroha - they're going to have to go to Morrinsville or Paeroa, and for that they'll often have to get someone else to take them."

Westpac has confirmed it is closing its Te Aroha branch along with 18 other branches across New Zealand. "It is anticipated branches impacted will close in early November, however supporting customers through the change is a priority," it said.

Impacted branches are: Kamo, Raglan, Otorohanga, Putaruru, Te Aroha, Cherrywood, Whangamata, Broadway Ave, Wainuiomata, Waikanae, Carterton, Takaka, Stoke, Fendalton Mall, Bishopdale, Gardens, Fairlie, Ranfurly and Te Anau.ANZ spokesperson Stefan Herrick says if the ANZ did withdraw from Te Aroha, they would leave an ATM nearby for their customers.

ANZ in Ngaruawahia has been confirmed to close on October 21st and the Otorohanga and Te Aroha branches may follow.

A public meeting will be held at Te Aroha Senior Citizens Hall on Thursday evening at 5.30pm for community members to discuss banking prospects for the future.

Made with funding from NZ On Air.

- NZ Herald

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