ANZ confirms closure of Hokitika branch

By Janna Sherman

ANZ staff at the branch were told last Friday. Photo / Dean Purcell
ANZ staff at the branch were told last Friday. Photo / Dean Purcell

ANZ has confirmed the closure of its Hokitika branch next month.

Despite bank representatives agreeing to meet with local stakeholders on the proposed closure two weeks ago, customers have been informed that the closure will go ahead, with the last day set for Friday, November 11.

In a letter, dated just a week after the stakeholder meeting, ANZ retail regional manager Karen Miles said more customers were banking on-line, leading to a significant drop in customers using the branch network.

"We'll be upgrading our ANZ ATM to a Smart ATM, where you can deposit cash and cheques directly into the ATM," Miles said.

Bank staff would also be able to assist people getting set up with a mobile banking app before the doors closed.

Hokitika Grey Power president Colleen Freitas, who has been with the bank for 60 years, said older residents relied on face-to-face banking.

They were among the many long term customers who felt "betrayed" by the decision, which she believed was made before they fronted a closed meeting organised by former mayor Mike Havill.

"They didn't listen to one word we said," Freitas said.

"Several very pertinent questions were put forward as to why the bank should not close. They could not answer most of them and wrote them down. Why, I do not know as they had obviously made up their minds to close and nothing was going to change it," Freitas said.

"I think they are going to be surprised at the number of accounts they are going to lose. Not only from businesses and people, mainly the older person, who need face-to-face banking, but others who feel betrayed," Freitas said.

Staff were told last Friday.

ANZ external communications senior manager Stefan Herrick said yesterday three staff members at Hokitika had been offered roles in Christchurch but none had taken up the offer. The branch manager already also managed the Greymouth branch and he would be relocating there permanently, Herrick said.

"The decision to close the branch wasn't made lightly and we've worked hard to keep it open. However, the way customers choose to do their banking is changing rapidly, with an increasing number accessing day-to-day banking services on-line or on their smartphones, and fewer are using branches."

Only three years ago the bank invested in a fit-out of its Revell Street premises, formerly the Driftwood Cafe. Before that staff had been working out of temporary container offices for over a year behind the former National Bank premises on the corner of Weld and Tancred streets, and closed due to earthquake safety concerns.

The ANZ and National banks merged earlier that year.

At the time of opening in Revell Street, ANZ said the new Revell Street branch was seismically safe and secured the bank's investment in Hokitika.

- NZ Herald

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