It is good news for Stoke that a new banking hub is to be stablished in the suburb early next year. This is a good outcome after the blow last year that the combined existing Kiwibank/Postshop in Putaitai St would close. This positive outcome is the product of strong advocacy by Grey Power, Mayor Rachel Reese and the hundreds who attended last year’s public meeting and the thousands who signed our petition.
It was an awful shock last November when Kiwibank and NZ Post announced the closure. There had been no consultation despite these publicly owned companies telling Parliament that they did not withdraw services without first talking to the community. It was particularly galling when the Government had promised in its Coalition Agreement that it would be expanding services in the regions. It also made no sense when both Kiwibank and NZ Post Services in Stoke were busy and the population was growing.
My greatest concern was the impact on the 4,500 older residents in Stoke, many of whom depend on face to face banking services for independence. Many older people, particularly those in their 80s and 90s do not use internet banking. Nor is the return trip by bus into the Nelson branch realistic for many of these seniors.
This U-turn is a credit to the united community response. The message from last year’s public meeting was unequivocal in wanting to retain services. I thank Stoke businesses for getting in behind the campaign and petition. Nelson Grey Power President Christine Tuffnell’s presentation to the Select Committee was stunning. She got the message through so effectively that even Government MPs from Labour, NZ First and the Greens found the closure indefensible.
There is still work to ensure we get a good outcome. The existing Post Shop/Kiwibank closes on 16 October. It is to reopen on 21 October as a pharmacy and Post Agency run by Nelson’s Hardy St Pharmacy. The new banking hub in Stoke will provide face to face services for all six banks – ANZ, ASB, BNZ, Kiwibank, TSB and Westpac. It will be a multi-branded smart ATM with online banking facilities with a support person to provide guidance and assistance. The new service may be in the Stoke Library, the Pharmacy or the new Greenmeadows Community Centre. I will be working with the Banking Association to get the service up and running next year in consultation with the Stoke community.
My only disappointment is that if Kiwibank and NZ Post had properly consulted with our community last November we would have avoided the uncertainty and gap in banking services this summer until the new banking hub opens in March.
This positive outcome for banking services in Stoke shows that well organised petitions can make a difference. Two other Nelson petitions are still before Parliament. I will be working to ensure the same success with Karen Dow’s petition for introducing random roadside drug testing and Wendy Hamer’s on improving the rights of victims in cases involving those not guilty by way of insanity.