Reserve Bank Governor Adrian Orr will look into whether foreign-owned banks can be forced into maintaining services in the regions after meeting Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones today.
Jones sought the meeting with Orr after criticising big Australian-owned banks for making big profits out of New Zealanders but pulling out of the provinces. He was accompanied today by Finance Minister Grant Robertson and Economic Development Minister David Parker.
"He's taken on board my concerns. He has undertaken to go away and do some further work and establish what, if anything, he might be able to do within his statutory responsibilities," Jones told reporters.
"He didn't boost my hopes but I have to say, he gave me a very fair hearing. He just warned me, obviously, against pushing a perspective that would require entities like those banks to operate in a grossly uneconomic, suboptimal manner."
Jones said everyone agreed the long-term future of essential services such as banking in the regions was a key issue and he had strongly lobbied Robertson to have it included in phase two of the Monetary Policy Inquiry.
"I'm sure that my advocacy with Grant Robertson will find some fruit, but at the end of the day it's his call."
Jones, who has already had run-ins with Air New Zealand and The Warehouse for their treatment of regional New Zealand, hit out at the banks last week.
He said Australian banks' profits from their New Zealand operations had grown 75 per cent over the past 10 years to around $5 billion but they were shutting down branches in rural New Zealand.
"My focus is absolutely dedicated towards the amount of capital that is repatriated overseas into the coffers of those international owners and I want them to find innovative ways to maintain their presence in our provinces."
Jones said the four big banks had since sought meetings with him.
"They are welcome to meet with me but their message will fall on barren field."