Moree Plains Shire Council has met with officials from Westpac to urge the banking institution to reconsider the closure of its Moree branch.

In October this year, Westpac announced the closure of the Frome Street branch from February 23, 2023.

The decision to close the branch was met with backlash, with council as well as Member for Northern Tablelands Adam Marshall and federal Member for Parkes Mark Coulton rebuking the banking giant for abandoning the Moree Plains community.

Mayor Mark Johnson and shire general manager Nick Tobin met with state and district managers as well as the head of government relations last week.

Cr Johnson said the closure, with zero community consultation, would leave a big impact on customers and small businesses who are now left without access to the fundamental aspects of banking.

“Although our preferred outcome was to retain our local Westpac branch with full services that will help us grow and support our local community, now and into the future, the reversal on this decision by Westpac doesn’t seem imminent,” he said.

The Moree Westpac branch is among a list of locations facing the axe in the new year. Agribusiness services will remain operational. The parent company, the Westpac Group, announced branch closures across its banks including Westpac, St George, Bank of Melbourne and BankSA. 

Cr Johnson said to meet the needs of future growth, the Moree Plains Shire needs the support of leading banks.

“After the COVID-19 pandemic and droughts, we have exciting opportunities to ensure the growth of the Moree Plains, five years of construction in the pipeline, and $1.5 billion dollars’ worth of infrastructure projects and investment across the shire,” he said.

“Having these financial services removed will greatly impact our community, create implications for businesses needing to retain larger amounts of cash and leaves customers facing an hour’s drive to the nearest Westpac office.

“With the focus on migrating customers to digital banking and automation, older customers and vulnerable members of our community who use bank branch services will be significantly affected by this shutdown.

“I believe that Westpac hasn’t done their due diligence and is showing no consideration for rural Australians who are progressively being disadvantaged by not being able to manage their own finances in a bank branch.”

Mr Marshall, whose state electorate covers the Moree Plains, condemned the decision and has also urged the company to retain its local branch.

“My position has always been clear when it comes to the big four banks maintaining a presence in regional communities; if you have paying local customers, you should offer local services,” Mr Marshall said.

“Country people traditionally have been loyal in how they shop, bank and insure but loyalty is a two-way street and these Westpac shysters haven’t shown much loyalty to its customers in the bush and I believe we no longer owe any to them.

“As one of the largest banks in Australia, Westpac has a responsibility to ensure equitable access to face-to-face banking services for everyone regardless of changes in banking behaviour.
“Too often now rural and regional NSW is falling victim to the prioritisation of shareholder profits, over local customer service and support.”

Mr Coulton addressed the matter in the House of Representatives recently, telling fellow federal parliamentarians Moree deserved to have a branch.

“Moree is one of the most highly productive agricultural shires in Australia, and some of the customers at Westpac have had, through their business, continuous family connections there since the day the branch opened in the 1870s,” Mr Coulton said.

“The Moree people are outraged, not only our elderly and our pensioners but also our businesses who rely on that branch to manage their cash flow and who are now being left out in the cold.”

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