Murders put paid to Featherston WINZ

By Gerald Ford gerald.ford@age.co.nz -
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Russell Tully pictured during his murderous attack that left two WINZ workers dead and sparked the closure of 29 satellite offices throughout New Zealand, including a branch in Featherston. PHOTO/FILE
Russell Tully pictured during his murderous attack that left two WINZ workers dead and sparked the closure of 29 satellite offices throughout New Zealand, including a branch in Featherston. PHOTO/FILE

The Work and Income office in Featherston now seems set to close permanently in the aftermath of the Ashburton shootings by convicted murderer Russell John Tully.

The office opened two mornings a week in the Featherston Community Centre but was one of 29 "satellite" offices around New Zealand which closed in a security review after Tully fatally shot two Winz workers on September 1, 2014.

Featherston Community Centre board chairwoman Emily Greenberg has confirmed she had met a regional Winz manager last Wednesday and discussed the future of the tenancy.

"The decision hasn't been finalised yet, so we haven't got anything in writing," Ms Greenberg said.

"It was just a heads up on what was coming."

Ms Greenberg said Featherston has "always provided a Winz office" since the department was first formed from the merger of Social Welfare and employment agencies in 1998.

"They've been there for over 17 years," she said.

"My understanding is (that) they were reviewing the need to have these offices anyway -- that's part of the mix ... It's a real shame we can't offer those sorts of services in Featherston, when there's such a diverse population."

Ms Greenberg said the office has been closed anyway since the shootings and people have adapted, "but that doesn't mean it hasn't affected them personally".

"It really puts South Wairarapa at a disadvantage, having to travel to Masterton."

The closure of Featherston and the other offices happened after Tully shot dead Peggy Noble, 67, and Leigh Cleveland, 55, in the Ashburton Winz offices on September 1, 2014.

Tully was found guilty on March 9, following a jury trial. His sentencing is pending.

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