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Cash running short in Eketahuna

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Cash is thin on the ground in Eketahuna and the residents are not happy about it.

The surprise closure of the town’s only free money withdrawal system, run out of the Tararua library and service centre, caught some residents off guard.

The money exchange service, allowing free withdrawal of cash via eftpos, closed early last month.

That left only a privately-owned ATM in the Four Square supermarket for residents and tourists to withdraw cash from, with a charge of $2.50 per transaction.

Tararua District Council economic development and communications manager Mark Maxwell said the service’s closure was due to health and safety reasons.

The centre’s staff were storing large quantities of cash on site each day creating a safety risk, he said.

However, the council was exploring options with “financial organisations” to install an ATM in the town.

Eketahuna’s last bank closed more than 20 years ago, with the money exchange service established around 2007.

Eketahuna Community Board member Pauline Wilson said losing the service was a blow to the community.

The board supports the council’s efforts to secure an ATM.

It was not aware of the closure of the exchange service until the day it happened.

There were several elderly people in the town who relied on the exchange system to withdraw their weekly pension, she said.

Many did not have the means to travel to the nearest banks in Pahiatua or Masterton, Mrs Wilson said.

“An ATM would be a huge asset for the town, especially for the elderly,” she said.

The ability to withdraw cash from an ATM in town would also attract travellers to stop in the town, she said.

Eketahuna resident Marge Copestake used the council’s money exchange system almost weekly and was “shocked” it had closed.

She said there had been “no whisper” of the service closing down.

“It was the only way I got my money,” she said.

Mr Maxwell said he could not disclose much more detail on the ATM discussions as they were confidential, and in their early stages.

The council had provided the money exchange usage data to interested parties who were working on viability of installing an ATM in the town, he said.

The exchange system racked up 1454 transactions last year, he said.

He admitted the council could have communicated better with the community ahead of the closure, but it did not want to advertise the fact that the exchange service was storing large amounts of money.

Eketahuna Four Square owner Tanmay Patel supported the council’s bid for an ATM in the town.

The ATM in the supermarket was installed before he took over, and was only intended for customers to check account balances, and for the occasional cash withdrawal, he said.

Mr Patel said the council met him before the money exchange closure.

Since then he has lifted the withdrawal limit to $200, but not everyone was willing to pay the $2.50 transaction fee.

He was more flexible with the limit as it was the only option in town, but Mr Patel said he would need to cap it as the running costs and staff safety were also on his mind.


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