Banking in regional New Zealand was front and centre for New Zealand First at it annual conference today, with delegates backing its party to push for Kiwibank to bought back by the Government and make it the mandatory bank for central and local government.
The 200 or so attendees at the party's annual conference at Tauranga Racecourse this weekend also voted for a compulsory levy, as part of banking licences, that would provide for full banking services in the provinces.
Passing the remits does not automatically mean they become party policy but there was strong support for the ideas among the party faithful.
Regional banking, and the service the big four Australian-owned banks provide to the provinces has been a hot topic since Regional Development Minister and NZ First MP Shane Jones had a go at them.
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.
An Australian inquiry into its financial industry produced an interim report yesterday which lambasted a runaway culture of greed and poor behaviour.
The wrongdoing was too often driven by greed or "the pursuit of short-term profit at the expense of basic standards of honesty," the inquiry led by Commissioner Kenneth Hayne said in its interim report released in Canberra.
"The banks have gone to the edge of what is permitted, and too often beyond that limit, in pursuit of profit."
NZ First leader Winston Peters said today he had watched the analysis of the report last night.
"The New Zealand system, and the political system as well, will be taking a serious interest in the outcome," he told reporters on the sidelines of the conference.
"I think there are lessons to be learned from this inquiry, even at its interim level, but we'll wait and see how much further it goes."
Peters said there was interest from many in NZ First who had an interest in the area.
"No one should be elite, and beyond scrutiny in that matter."
"It's somebody's idea here that the trading banks leave at least one bank in towns around this country. It might not be the worst idea. We're not saying it's our final conclusion but at least it's worthy of debate," Peters said.
Jones met Reserve Bank Governor Adrian Orr earlier this month to look into whether foreign-owned banks can be forced into maintaining services in the regions.
Jones said at the time that everyone agreed the long-term future of essential services such as banking in the regions was a key issue and he had strongly lobbied Finance Minister Grant Robertson to have it included in phase two of the Monetary Policy Inquiry.
"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."
- With Bloomberg