The Bank of New Zealand has announced it will close down its Kaikohe branch — despite a promise not to axe any more regional branches until 2022.
The Kaikohe BNZ is one of 38 branches due to shut around the country by June next year.
The first eight will be gone by Christmas.
The demise of the Kaikohe branch comes just four years after the bank moved into new, purpose-built premises on Broadway. BNZ quit its historic two-storey building on the corner of Park Rd due to earthquake strengthening costs.
Grey Power has criticised the closures, saying bank cost-cutting and the ''march of modern technology'' will leave many older people without essential services.
BNZ, however, said the move was a result of customers increasingly turning to online banking — a trend which had accelerated during the Covid pandemic.
Paul Carter, BNZ chief customer officer, said the bank had not made the decision lightly to go back on its earlier promise not to close more branches until 2022.
The bank made the commitment in good faith but Covid ''changed everything'', he said.
A majority of customers were now banking online and staff were often waiting in empty branches for customers that did not arrive.
Kaikohe Business Association chairman Mark Anderson said it was disappointing any time a business left town, and disappointing the bank had walked away from newly built premises.
'It's getting harder to find banks that will reciprocate support for the town in the same way their customers support them.''
The closure did, however, open up a potential business opportunity for any bank ready to stick around and open five days a week, Anderson said.
During a half-hour period on Friday, the Advocate saw only a handful of customers enter the Kaikohe branch with a similar number using the ATM.
Most said they were too busy to talk but an 85-year-old, who called into the branch to do some trust banking, was surprised by the move.
''I can't see it doing them any good,'' he said.
The Ōkaihau man, who didn't want to be named, said he was not keen on internet banking. ''I'm too old for that.''
He was not concerned for the town, however, because there would still be four banks left, though all operate with reduced hours.
Grey Power national president Jan Pentecost said the group had been lobbying since 2016 to make sure older people weren't disadvantaged by bank closures.
''Some live in rural areas with only intermittent or no internet coverage, hearing and sight difficulties mean that telephone discussions with banking staff is challenging, access to banking facilities far removed from their home is difficult because many can no longer drive.
"All this requires the growing dependence of the elderly to allow others to manage their finances, potentially leading to elder abuse,'' Pentecost said.
It is not known how many jobs will be lost when the branch closes or whether staff can be deployed elsewhere.
The move comes a little over three years since the BNZ closed its Paihia branch. At that time the bank also cut its hours in Kaikohe and Dargaville so they were only open half the day; hours were further cut after the lockdown.
After June 2021 the only BNZ left in the Mid North will be in Kerikeri.
Kaikohe's purpose-built BNZ branch opened in February 2016. The opening ceremony doubled as a celebration of the bank's centenary in the town.
BNZ's announcement comes just two weeks after the ASB revealed it was closing 23 branches in February — including Paihia — and cutting the opening hours of another 13.
ASB branches with reduced hours will include Kaikohe and Dargaville.
BNZ's exit still leaves Kaikohe with four banks though all have reduced hours.
Kiwibank has the longest opening hours (9.30am-4pm Tuesday to Friday). Westpac is open 10am-2pm Monday, Wednesday and Friday; ANZ 9am-4.30pm Tuesday and Thursday; and ASB 9am-4.30pm Monday, Tuesday and Friday.
Kaikohe's new BNZ branch was built on the site of a movie theatre which was demolished in the 1990s. The site, known to locals as ''the Dress Circle'', served as a small park until it was bought by the bank.
The old BNZ building was bought by Jack Poutsma and Di Maxwell, who have turned it into a successful boutique hotel called Left Bank and a restaurant/cafe called Mint.