Bank customers told to drive 30 minutes to the next branch while their hometown location prepares for permanent closure say it is “not good enough”.
The Bank of New Zealand (BNZ) branch in Picton will close permanently in two weeks with the bank to concentrate its services on Blenheim, 25 kilometres away.
BNZ retail regional manager Daniel Barota said a significant decline in transactions in Picton lead to a review of the branch, and customers would need to be prepared to travel to access in-store assistance.
“Consequently, a decision has been made to close Picton and concentrate our in-store banking services at BNZ Blenheim, 30 minutes’ drive away,” he said.
* Bank closure takes suburb by surprise
* Westpac closing 19 branches across New Zealand
* ANZ closing Ngaruawahia branch and has six others in its sights
The closure comes on the back of the Newtown branch, in Wellington, closing its doors and catching customers unaware last December, as well as ANZ closing seven branches nationally last September.
Westpac announced in September last year it would close 19 branches nationwide because customers were changing the way they banked.
Picton Table Tennis Club president Nancy Woolford said she was shocked to hear BNZ would close its doors locally after a lifetime of banking with the company.
With a husband who could not use a computer and friends who were unable to drive, Woolford anticipated some would struggle without the branch.
For Marlborough news straight to your inbox, sign up for our newsletter Marlborough Express Daily
“It’s quite sad really. Many people of my generation like that contact and support,” she said.
“It’s not good enough for them to say that Blenheim is close enough. People older than us can’t drive.
“People feel really let down.”
Woolford, who visited the branch each week to do banking for the club, said the closure would make her reconsider who she held accounts with.
The closure felt like a layer of the small town being peeled away, she said.
“Companies and particularly banks really need to consider there are people who rely on them always being there,” she said.
“We can’t drive over to Blenheim every week.”
Waikawa resident Graham Low said the closure meant Westpac was the last full-service branch standing in Picton, which could be an issue come cruise season.
“There must be demand for more than two banks,” he said.
Grey Power Marlborough president Brian McNamara said he was very disappointed with the decision for seniors in the area.
“If you don’t have a car, you need to be close to services and transport,” he said.
“I think it makes life a little bit harder and more complicated.”
Picton to Blenheim was not a journey people did on a whim and it was a considerable ask for drivers to commute for their banking, McNamara said.
“It’s a half-hour drive, it’s a 50-kilometre round-trip, it’s a cost,” he said.
The bank sent notice of the closure to customers on Friday as well as displaying instore signage.
“We are constantly reviewing the locations of our store network to make sure we are focusing investment in the areas we can best serve the changing needs of our customers,” Barota said.
“Our customers are increasingly choosing BNZ’s digital banking channels to fulfil their everyday banking needs and the decline in demand for in-store banking services at the Picton store reflects this fact.”
The bank would work closely with the four affected staff on redeployment and redundancy options, Barota said.
The bank would keep an ATM in Picton, with the store to close on May 19.