NZ First MP Shane ‘the Provincial Champion’ Jones has taken yet another swing at big corporates, this time taking aim at the Aussie owned banks operating in New Zealand.
Jones, who is also Minister of Regional Economic Development, has taken issue with the banks closing branches in the regions while continuing to make record profits.
“I have been approached by people who are pissed off that the range of banking services in the regions are being dialled back at a time when their profits are stupendous,” he tells Interest.co.nz.
According to the Reserve Bank, the major retail banks, ASB, BNZ, Westpac and ANZ made a combined profit of $4.9 billion in the year-to-December 2017.
Meanwhile, the bank workers’ union says some 50 Westpac, BNZ, and ANZ branches have closed across the country.
Jones is taking this complaint up the chain and has made an appointment to meet with Reserve Bank Governor Adrian Orr within the coming weeks.
“He’s the regulator; I know the banking licence regime largely relates to prudential considerations and I’m going to find out from him ‘is there any scope for bringing forward amendments that require the Australian owned banks to observe the principals that once [the banks] set up, to maintain a level of service.’”
He says MPs are entitled to go and see the Reserve Bank Governor “any time of the day,” adding that former Governor Graeme Wheeler always made time for politicians.
Jones says the banks could “quite easily” meet the costs of the staff and maintain the services in a lot of the regional branches.
He knows this does not fit the banks fiscal model, but he says kiwis should expect the Australian owned banks to offer a certain level of service.
“This is a policy issue and I’m going to bring it forward as the first citizen of the provinces.”
But a spokeswoman for ANZ says the bank continues to have a large presence in rural New Zealand and “provides more banking options to customers than ever before.”
She says more ANZ customers are choosing online banking over visiting a branch.
“From the end of 2010 to the end of 2017 the number of people going into branches has declined by 68% as New Zealanders have chosen to use smart ATMs, phone, internet and our GoMoney smartphone app to do their banking.”
Jones’ comments are the most recent in a series of attacks against big business.
He took aim at Air NZ in March, calling for the sacking of its Chairman Tony Carter after the airline cut some of its services to provincial parts of the country.
A month later, he was attacking The Warehouse and in June he called for the head of Fonterra’s Chairman John Wilson for overseeing the co-op’s investments in China.