Nelson mayor Rachel Reese addresses the crowd in Stoke last week. Photo: Jonty Dine.

Stoke vows to fight Kiwibank closure

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The elderly community in Stoke is willing to put up “one hell of a fight” to stop the suburb becoming bankless.

It was revealed last week that Kiwibank intends to close its branch on Neale Ave in Stoke – a decision that has been met with outrage by locals.

About 150 residents attended a community meeting at the Stoke Methodist Church on Friday to protest the decision.

Grey Power Nelson president Christine Tuffnell says invitations were sent to executives at Kiwibank, NZ Post and to the Government, all of whom declined. “No-one responsible for the decision will explain the rationale behind the closure.”

Christine says the closure is a catastrophe for the Stoke community. “There’s a lot of elderly people here, and nearly a third is probably over 65, so it’s quite an old population.”

She says, of the 16,000 Nelson Greypower members, only 50 percent have email and 51 per cent still use cheques.

Of these members, 16 percent rely on public transport and a further 60 percent require the use of mobility scooters or walkers.

“They need services in their own community.”

Christine invited Kiwibank chairwoman Susan Macken to come to Stoke and experience getting to the Nelson branch for a banking transaction while using a walker.

This includes travelling to the bus stop, loading the walker, travelling the 1km from the bus stop to the branch and back again.

“It should take about four hours.”

She showed figures comparing the Stoke branch’s use in comparison to the main centres.

Stoke was just as much if not more used than the likes of the Queen St branch in Auckland.

“It is not about customers not using the service.”

Nelson mayor Rachel Reese says the closure of the branch does not reflect Nelson’s vision of being a smart city.

“While we make this digital transformation, it is important that we don’t leave anyone behind, that is not being a kind, or empathetic community.”

She says she is deeply disappointed by the decision.

“A person’s access to their own banking is critical to wellbeing, self-respect and dignity.”

She says the closure will force a lot of elderly people to hand over this access and control to a family member.

Nelson MP Nick Smith says banking has been in Stoke for over a hundred years and “we aren’t going to let it go without one hell of a fight”.

Nick revealed one elderly Stoke resident told him she might have to move into a home as banking is a huge part of her independence.

“We need to fight and stop this dumb decision.”

Residents in attendance voiced a range of concerns around the closure, however the reoccurring theme was computer illiteracy.

Linda Pike, 74, says she has never protested anything in her life.

“This is a protest well worth my time.”

David Morton says Kiwibank is supposed to be a bank for the people.

“They are forgetting where they came from.”