Nelson Greypower, Nelson Mayor Rachel Reese and I are doing all we can to save Stoke’s Kiwibank and PostShop. The shock announcement of closure came from NZ Post and Kiwibank without any consultation last week.
My greatest concern is the impact on the 4,500 older residents of Stoke who depend on face to face banking services for their independence. I have been contacted by dozens of seniors, particularly those in their 80s and 90s, who do not use internet banking and are fearful for their future. Some talk of giving Power of Attorney to family members over their banking, others are considering going into homes. These seniors deserve better.
I also worry about the impact on the Stoke shopping precinct. If people have to go to Richmond or the city for banking and other services, they are likely to do their other shopping there too. This undermines the viability of our Stoke Pharmacy, fruit shop, bakery and other retailers.
I appreciate that services may have to close if they are not being used, but the Stoke Kiwibank and PostShop is well used and busy. There is often a queue for services and the Stoke branch’s turnover is similar to city branches in Auckland and Wellington.
Nor can it be argued that Kiwibank or NZ Post is under financial stress. Kiwibank made a profit of $122 million this year, up from $58 million last year. NZ Post has just announced a $13 million profit.
It was poor form for no one from the Coalition Government, Kiwibank or NZ Post to front at last Friday’s public meeting that was packed with over 230 concerned residents. Every Labour, NZ First and Green party MP was invited but none could be bothered turning up to explain this decision.
The star of the meeting was Nelson Greypower President Christine Tuffnell. Her challenge for Government Ministers and Chief Executives to get a walker and try the bus trip to and from Stoke to the Nelson branch said it all. Her statement to PM Jacinda Ardern that this closure decision made a mockery of her government’s pledge to put people before profit was correct and the meeting endorsed Greypower’s pleas “let’s not do this.”
The closure also contradicts the Labour/NZ First Coalition agreement to expand public services in regional New Zealand and the recently launched Government strategy to give older people greater independence.
The greatest hypocrisy is NZ First and Shane Jones who last month were decrying privately owned banks for closing regional branches. He and Winston Peters are Ministers of State Owned Enterprises in charge of NZ Post and Kiwibank. There is no point in the Government owning Kiwibank if it is to mimic the Aussie banks.
The Census disaster earlier this year where 400,000 people were not counted shows the flaw in relying exclusively on the internet. We need to recognise the needs of our older citizens by ensuring face to face services like Stoke’s Kiwibank and PostShop are maintained.