10 Apr 2024

Closure of Mangōnui's only bank leaves elderly residents 'very upset'

10:52 am on 10 April 2024
Mangōnui, in the Far North’s Doubtless Bay, is a busy little town – especially during the annual Waterfront Festival – but it no longer has a bank. Photo: Peter de Graaf

Mangōnui, in the Far North's Doubtless Bay, is a busy little town - especially during the annual Waterfront Festival - but it no longer has a bank. Photo: RNZ / Peter de Graaf

The closure of a Far North town's only bank has left elderly residents without vital services and business owners facing long trips by car to do their banking, locals say.

The Kiwibank counter at the local Four Square was the only bank left in Mangōnui, about 45 minutes east of Kaitāia, when it shut down at the end of March.

Mangōnui is the main service town for Doubtless Bay and a busy tourist destination, noted for its heritage buildings, fish and chips, and a waterfront festival at the end of summer.

Fiona White, owner of Fresh and Tasty takeaways next to the Mangōnui pub, said it was not just businesses she was worried about.

"I'm also thinking about the old people. Now they have to drive all the way to Kaitāia. They're very upset."

That included her 88-year-old father who did not do internet banking or use a smartphone.

White did not even let him take money out of the ATM by himself because she was worried he would be robbed.

When the Kiwibank agent was still open, doing the banking for her business was a matter of walking across the road.

Now she had to drive 45 minutes each way to Kaitāia and queue up in a branch with limited opening days and hours.

The whole exercise took about three hours, twice a week.

As the owner of the shop, White had to put someone else in charge each time she needed to deposit the takings and get change.

She had investigated options such as getting a cash delivery firm to collect the takings, but that cost "an arm and a leg".

Together with another resident she organised a petition calling for the retention of banking services in the town, and gathered 185 signatures in two days.

White said her sister, who had a bakery in nearby Coopers Beach, also had to make regular trips to Kaitāia, while the local butcher was driving to Paihia to do his banking - a trip of well over an hour each way.

A Kiwibank spokeswoman said the owner of Mangōnui's Four Square, which had provided banking services on behalf of Kiwibank, decided it was not possible to continue.

She said Kiwibank was unique in that it partnered with retailers around the country to provide services in more locations.

Partner agents were limited to over-the-counter transactions and simple account and card maintenance.

"Kiwibank works with local agents to provide coverage across Aotearoa, but if a retailer decides it's time to exit the relationship, we respect that," she said.

Kiwibank was not considering replacing its Mangōnui agent, based on customer figures for the area and the way they were choosing to conduct their transactions.

The plight of Far North residents and business owners who depend on physical banks was not just limited to Mangōnui.

Russell lost its last bank, a Westpac branch, in 2013.

ANZ pulled out of Paihia in 2016 followed by ASB in 2021, leaving only a Kiwibank agent at the local bookshop.

BNZ shut down its newly built Kaikohe branch in 2021, despite an earlier promise not to axe any more regional branches until 2022.

Most major banks still have branches in Kerikeri, Kaitāia and Kaikohe, although many operate with limited hours.

Kerikeri's Kiwibank agent closed down in 2021.

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