The Ranfurly community will stand together in a rally today to support Westpac workers in the face of closure of the town’s only bank.
“Westpac is consulting on a proposal to close 19 bank branches across the country, including the branch in Ranfurly,” said FIRST Union organiser Ken Young.
Westpac received staff submissions on Wednesday but is not taking community submissions.
“The Ranfurly community is going to send a message to Westpac and its management team. Small communities like Ranfurly need their bank branch,” said Young.
“How are local farmers meant to make major financial decisions without their local banker?
“Will small business owners have to drive to Alexandra to deposit their cash earnings? And where will the Westpac workers themselves go if the bank puts them out of work?”
“Last year Westpac made almost $1 billion in profit. The bank can afford to keep branches open and people in work,” said Young.
Earlier this month First Union said the closure of up to 19 bank branches could lead to 70 job losses.
According to a Fairfax article, the Westpac closures are reflective of a bigger trend impacting rural towns in New Zealand.
Economist Shamubeel Eaqub said in the article that populations in small towns were not large enough to warrant a bank’s presence.
"Do the banks have a particular moral obligation to be there, I don't think so," Eaqub said.
He said it was a challenge to sustain a profit making business in these small communities.
"The reality is banks will be present wherever there is a buck to be made. If there isn't going to be a buck to be made they're going to leave.
"If you want to live in those communities you need to make a choice to essentially live off the grid."
New Zealand Institute of Economic Research senior economist Christina Leung said banks had no reason to keep branches going if it wasn’t commercially viable.
"They're simply responding to demand," Leung said. "The reality is that it does come down to the numbers.
"It's of little comfort to the towns themselves but that's how it works."