Far North Mayor urges banks to open hubs

Published on 12 May 2021

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Far North Mayor John Carter is calling on the nation’s banks to create banking hubs within the district to provide vital financial services to provincial towns hit by bank branch closures.

Mayor Carter says many Far North residents must now drive significant distances to deposit cash or access other key banking services, something that poses real security risks for customers.

“All of our communities now have reduced banking services, while some of our most popular tourism destinations, such as Paihia, Russell, Coopers Beach and Mangōnui, have no services other than bank machines. Even bank branches in our major centres, Kaitāia and Kaikohe, operate on reduced hours only.”

He says it is not good enough to tell residents to do their banking online. “Many of our communities still have very poor internet and mobile phone links making EFTPOS transactions and online banking almost impossible. With banks phasing out cheques services this year, many small business owners in these towns have no other option but to take cash.”

He says travelling up to two hours to the closest bank to make cash deposits is a significant security risk for these people and wants banks to work together to set up banking hubs like those being trialled in Martinborough, Opunake, Stoke and Twizel.

According to the New Zealand Bankers Association, six New Zealand banks are providing banking services for a 12-month trial period in small regional communities. The hubs provide basic banking services and feature a Smart ATM, support staff and online and technology support. The trial began in November 2020.

Mayor Carter says that he and business leaders have discussed setting up banking hubs in the Far North with the Government and the New Zealand Banking Association, but there has been little support for the idea.

We haven’t given up. We want to see banking hubs established in key towns. Our residents, businesses and the local economy needs to have viable banking options, he says.