By Geoff Vause
geoff.vause@age.co.nz
Carterton mayor John Booth “gave Westpac a piece of his mind” when the banking giant rang him to warn him of possible closure of its branch in the town.
More than 70 jobs are at stake with 19 branches under threat of closure, and five jobs would be lost in Carterton.
Mr Booth said his district was one of the fastest growing in the country, and businesses such as Westpac needed to consider that.
“I like to think they will take notice,” Mr Booth said.
He said main street retailing in provincial towns had a good future and he did not like to see rural New Zealand “being dumped on”, especially by a business like Westpac which takes almost a billion dollars in profits each year.
Mr Booth said the closure was not yet decided.
“There’s solid support from lawyers and accountants and bigger businesses around the town for this branch to stay open,” he said.
“People in the town want to convince the bank while they consult over the next two weeks. There’s a petition at TLC Services on High Street with plenty of signatures, including mine.”
Reasons given by Westpac for possible closure include a lack of sales opportunities, and a shift from service delivery to selling debt.
Carterton accountant Moira Robertson-Brown said she had chosen to use Westpac because of the staff, rapport and relationship held with the bank for many years.
“We put a lot of business through them. We have many elderly clients who do not have eftpos, credit card or internet banking so we still have to accept a lot of cheques for payment,” she said.
“Many of our clients also bank with Westpac and quite often we have to go to the bank on the client’s behalf to gather information that the client is either unable to obtain due to them working, being in a location that has poor internet access or their distance from town.
“It is disgusting the bank is looking to close because they don’t have many selling opportunities — what about customer service being a main principle and purpose?”