TDC chief executive Blair King. PHOTO/FILE

BECKIE WILSON
beckie.wilson@age.co.nz

The risk of having thousands of dollars in cash on hand with no security was too high for Tararua District Council chief executive Blair King.

That was the main driver behind his decision to close the Eketahuna Money Exchange in the council service centre two months ago.

The matter was raised last week at an Eketahuna public meeting, run by the community board, where Mr King fronted the public with his decision.

He was asked for the reason behind his decision, and whether a security guard could have been employed to protect the store.

Mr King said under health and safety legislation, the council needed to ensure that there was enough security at the money exchange to guarantee the staff’s safety.

“In this case we could not ensure that,” Mr King said.

“Having an office in that location with a single staff member with access to a safe that had, at times, a larger-than-usual amount of money, I simply couldn’t say that.

“Once something goes wrong we are at fault, and I would rather remove that risk than try and answer it afterwards.”

The council had taken the same approach in its decision to stop staff from walking down the street to the bank with a brown bag holding the day’s takings, he said.

“It’s about the activity of carrying a large amount of money without the same controls as a bank.

“A money exchange is a discretionary activity, not one required by legislation.”

To pay a security guard to stand outside the centre would not have been wise spending of ratepayer’s money, and would not have reduced the risk – “that’s not going to make it safer”.

When people are “turning over dairies for a few hundred”, it becomes a bigger concern.

The council is in discussion with one bank which has a branch in Pahiatua, and a credit union, Mr King said.

It would waive lease fees – a typical cost a bank pays to secure an ATM location – which would probably be in the wall of the existing service centre if a provider was found.

Pahiatua loses ATM

“Westpac will not be putting an ATM into Eketahuna” said Will Hine, spokesman for Westpac.

The bank has confirmed that the Westpac ATM in Pahiatua will be removed later this month, but the money machine won’t be being transferred south to Eketahuna as some had hoped.

The move to remove the Pahiatua machine comes after a Westpac review of the bank’s network which looked at several factors, including the number of people using each ATM and the age of each machine.

“Our Westpac customers are able to use our nearby branch to make over-the-counter transactions,” said spokeswoman Heather Shiels.

“We have also recently dropped the fee charged to Westpac NZ customers who use other major bank ATMs.”

She said there were two other ATMs within 250 metres of the Westpac ATM which their customers were able to use.

“We are also continually investing in new and improved online and mobile banking solutions in response to customer demand.”