Naenae postshop and Kiwibank to close

Naenae in Wellington is to lose its only bank, and NZ Post wants to franchise out its services.

The Kiwibank branch in Hillary Court will close and NZ Post says it has started a search to find another local business to host postal, bill payment and car registration services on its behalf.

MP Chris Hipkins has slammed the decision to pull out the Kiwibank as “heartless” and customers Hutt News spoke to outside the NZ Post branch last week also expressed dismay.

“It’s all very well for NZ Post to say banking services are available online. Many of their customers are elderly residents who aren’t comfortable doing their banking over the internet,” Hipkins said.

“KiwiBank markets itself as ‘ours’ and yet it is increasingly abandoning communities that were forgotten about long ago by the big Aussie banks.”

Naenae lost its New World supermarket last year when it was declared not financially feasible to upgrade the seismic-risk building.

“Some of the residents in Naenae are really struggling financially. Their troubles are only being made worse by the increasing need to travel further afield to meet basic needs like banking and supermarket shopping,” Hipkins said.

With declining mail volumes, NZ Post announced two years ago it was restructuring. There are now more than 130 smaller

communities where it has franchised out postal, courier, PO box and bill payment services.

NZ Post/Kiwibank sold its building in Hillary Court, with its distinctive clock tower, last year. It did not meet the company’s earthquake-strength standards.

NZ Post spokesperson Sarah Austen-Smith said NZ Post still has a three-year lease at the location and there was no big rush to find a suitable franchisee.

“For now, it’s business as usual.”

Franchising out “supports a local business, increases their foot traffic and keeps our services in the local community, but obviously we don’t have the overheads of our own building, particularly one that doesn’t meet our seismic standards, which are more stringent that other businesses.

“These franchise arrangements in smaller communities are working well in many locations.”

Kiwibank still had branches in Queensgate, Petone and Stokes Valley, and Austen-Smith said while she accepted Hipkins’ point that some elderly people aren’t used to online banking, there is good public transport in the Hutt Valley and the over-65s can make use of the Gold Card.

Six people work at the Naenae PostShop and Kiwibank. Some might be hired if a postal services franchisee can be found; for others options include redeployment, retirement or redundancy, Austen-Smith said.

NZ Post announced last July it was looking for a franchisee to operate post and Kiwibank services in Wainuiomata. Austen-Smith said on Friday that “conversations [there] are progresssing and we will have an update for the community before too long”.

Lorraine Lemi, a Naenae resident for 10 years, was dismayed to be told the suburb would lose its Kiwibank.

Banking could be done online or by phone, “but sometimes you want to do things face to face.

“I’ve always come here – I guess not any more.”

Sandra Bailey said she doesn’t drive or use a computer and it will be a nuisance when the Naenae Kiwibank closes.

“I’m a member of Playcentre and we do our banking here too.

“It’s easy and handy.

“They’re also so friendly and helpful in there… it’s a shame.”

Longtime Naenae pharmacist Paul Giles wasn’t too concerned about postal services if a local business took on the franchise but noted that if NZ Post had stricter standards about the seismic risk of buildings, most of the other businesses in Hillary Court were in buildings built at the same time.

However, the loss of Naenae’s last bank would have a “massive impact on the neighbourhood”.

“It’s all very well for the people of the generation used to using keyboards, but A, some people don’t have computers, and B, they don’t have the skills to do banking online. There are health issues, sight issues and so many things that are hard for the older generation to cope with.”

– Hutt News

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