Parliament last week considered two important Nelson petitions.
Daphne Steven’s petition on the closure of Stoke Kiwibank’s branch was supported by over 2,000 Nelsonians. She highlighted how essential a bank service was to her independence and how unrealistic it was for her to learn internet banking at 93 years of age. She challenged Kiwibank executives to join her with her walking frame for the three hour return bus and walking trip to Kiwibank’s Nelson branch.
Kiwibank advised the closure is to proceed on 15 October and confirmed the Government, who owns Kiwibank, supported it. This is very damaging for Labour’s support in Stoke. Labour promised to expand services in the regions and to put people before profit. They are doing the opposite.
The petitioners were particularly angry at NZ First. Their MP, Shane Jones has publicly lambasted banks like Westpac, ANZ and BNZ for closing regional branches. We asked Kiwibank if Mr Jones, Associate State Owned Enterprises Minister, had raised the issue of Kiwibank closing branches. They said he had not. This hypocrisy is extraordinary.
I am critical of NZ Post and Kiwibank for misleading Parliament. They told the Select Committee last year that they would consult communities over any changes in services. There was no consultation. Kiwibank, NZ Post and MPs from Labour, NZ First and the Greens all refused to attend last November’s huge public meeting in Stoke. My hope is that Parliament requires these state companies to properly consult affected communities in future. National has made that important commitment.
The petition has helped retain NZ Post services. Hardy Street Pharmacy is to take over the Putaitai Street premises and it will include a postal agency. I hope, with Greypower’s support, to find a bank prepared to provide some sort of face to face service in Stoke.
The second Nelson petition was from Karen Dow. She lost her 23 year old son Matthew in the horrific Appleby car crash on New Year’s eve 2017, caused by a drugged driver off her face on methamphetamine and cannabis. I am in awe of Karen’s strength in championing the cause of getting drugged drivers off our roads. She has gained support of many other families around New Zealand who have lost loved ones to drugged drivers.
The annual number of fatalities from drugged driving has soared from 14 to 79 in the last five years. It now exceeds the toll from drunk driving. We could save 50 lives a year if we adopted random roadside drug testing like in Australia and the UK.
The petitioner was angry that Labour, New Zealand First and the Greens voted against a bill introducing a similar system in New Zealand in 2018. Mrs Dow was particularly cross that Green MP and Road Safety Minister Julie Anne Genter rejected official advice recommending it. The Greens argued roadside saliva testing is too intrusive. Mrs Dow also worries that Colorado has seen road fatalities from drugged drivers double since they liberalised cannabis.
I commend these petitioners. My job is to ensure Parliament heeds their message.