Westpac decision to close Ruatorea branch angers community

  • North Island: East Coast

Despite a campaign and a petition signed by over 3000 people, Westpac Bank has confirmed it will close its Ruatorea branch.

Local resident and Westpac customer Manu Caddie says the community will be hit hard by the closure as the branch services over 52 Marae and businesses in the area.

Mr Caddie says,“The reality is this bank has shafted the poorest region in New Zealand and while we work to find an alternative financial service provider we will encourage individuals and organisations across the country to shift their business to New Zealand owned banks. I hope the well paid bank executives can sleep well in their swanky mansions." 

Locals presented the petition to Ruatorea Westpac bank manager Dave Seymour last month in a bid by locals to have their voice heard.

With the impending closure, locals will be left with only two choices, either drive to Ōpōtiki, which for some is nearly a 5-hour round trip, or head to Gisborne. For those living in Te Araroa, that's more than a 300km round trip.

Mr Caddie says it appeared Westpac weren’t even interested in increasing business at the branch. 

“Leaving a couple of machines to replace three skilled staff is an insult, not only to the staff but the whole community. Considering the bank made nearly four billion dollars profit in the first half of the year, this decision is appalling”

FIRST Union national organiser Tali Williams has also slammed the decision of Westpac which justified the closure by citing a steady decline in people using the branch over the past few years.

Williams believes Westpac wasn’t interested in taking a pro-active approach to the Ruatorea branch, “We suggested this as an alternative strategy, the community even offered a co-location proposal with a local business, but Westpac wasn’t interested.”

Manu Caddie says,“The East Coast is resilient and while the Government and multinational corporations see little value investing in the Coast – we will continue backing ourselves and rely less on outsiders to help us.”

Staff of the Ruatorea branch have been informed it will close its doors permanently on the 4th of September.