HAYLEY GASTMEIER
hayley.gastmeier@age.co.nz

A last-ditch attempt to save the only remaining bank in South Wairarapa fell on deaf ears on Tuesday, as ANZ announced it would be closing its Martinborough branch.

More than 100 residents held hands in protest around Martinborough’s ANZ chanting “don’t shut the bank”, but the decision was already set in stone.

“Due to declining branch transactions, the difficult decision has been made after consulting with staff to close the ANZ Martinborough branch from October 19,” a statement from ANZ read.

Roger Mills opened his account with ANZ Martinborough 63 years ago when he was just 16.

“It pisses me off,” he said bluntly, referring to the bank’s move to shut up shop in the town.

“We’ve banked there all our lives.”

He said he did not use internet banking and he had never used an automated teller machine [ATM] in his life.

Martinborough councillor Pam Colenso said she was “bitterly disappointed” with the news.

“My thoughts go out to the staff and the impact the closure will have on them, and for us all as a community.

The bank’s action was “ very short-sighted”.

The three Martinborough staff members were not allowed to speak to the media on Tuesday.

Wairarapa Labour list MP Kieran McAnulty said he was “frustrated” that these staff members were offered redeployment, but no option for redundancy.

“No one should be forced into a role that doesn’t suit them, and anyone who has worked for a company for so many years should have the security of redundancy.”

He said it was “deeply disappointing” the bank had not acknowledged the successes of the district.

“This isn’t a dying rural area, it’s a thriving one on the doorstep of Wellington and they have given up on it.”

South Wairarapa Deputy Mayor Brian Jephson said it would be the older generation who would suffer.

“For many of them [banking] is a reason to get out and walk down the road and catch up with mates.”

On top of the closure, ANZ has confirmed it will be removing its ATM in Featherston in January 2019.

In a statement, ANZ said there was another ATM in the area.

“Since the start of the year ANZ bank customers [have been able to] use any other banks’ ATMs without having to pay a fee.

“Our ATM in Greytown will remain however, due to customer usage. It will go from a smart ATM to a regular ATM.”

Resident Tom Bunny sat outside the bank for four days collecting signatures on a petition requesting it remain open.

“I just think it’s so sad, especially for the old people and the distant people, and I’ll be changing my accounts [to another bank] on the 19th when it closes.”

Martinborough councillor Pip Maynard has been leading the fight to save the bank.

“People who don’t live here are making this decision for us, and they have no understanding of what our community needs are anymore – they have lost touch.”

FIRST Union organiser Liz Sayers said bank closures in New Zealand towns were hurting local economies.

ANZ is on track to make almost $2 billion profits this year, she said.