DERRINALLUM residents will have travel to up to 30 minutes to visit a bank when the town’s last branch closes later this year.
The ANZ bank announced the closure of its Main Street branch in a letter to customers this week. It remains unclear if an ATM will also be removed.
In a further blow to the community, already hit hard by a four-week closure of the highway in April, the decision could jeopardise the small town’s information centre and Centrelink services.
In a letter to account holders sent on Tuesday, ANZ said all accounts would be transferred to the Mortlake branch, citing a drop in the number of people visiting the branch and an increasing trend towards online banking as reasons for the closure.
The branch was opened in November 2004, after the National Australia Bank closed branches in Mortlake and Lismore. It operates three days a week from a building owned by the town’s progress association and shared with the Derrinallum Information Services Centre (DISC).
Derrinallum Progress Association president Geoff Henderson said the closure would put pressure on the group, eliminating a chunk of its funding.
He said rent payments from the ANZ allowed the association to fund a part-time employee to run the DISC as well as print and distribute a newsletter. “It may also have an impact on a Centrelink service that operates out of the DISC,” Mr Henderson said.
“If we can’t afford to keep DISC open, it will mean that Centrelink service may also have to go. It’s disappointing to say the least. We bent over backwards to make sure they could open in town.”
Mr Henderson said if residents had to travel to do their banking, it could have flow-on effects. “People aren’t going to go to Mortlake. They will go to Camperdown because it’s a bigger centre and do their shopping while they are there. It could have a negative impact on the whole town,” he said.
“It’s not just Derrinallum either. This will affect people in Lismore and the outlying areas. We have an ageing population and most aren’t set up for internet banking and some can’t drive.”
Mr Henderson said the progress association had already held preliminary discussions with the Cobden and District Community Bank about setting up a satellite branch in Derrinallum and was in the process of starting a petition.
He said the most frustrating thing about the closure was when the branch opened, the “ANZ hierarchy” had talked up their commitment to regional areas. “After the regional rationalisation 10 years ago, banks said they wouldn’t be closing any more rural branches, but this makes you wonder if this is the next wave of rural closures,” he said.
ANZ operates full service branches and ATMs in Mortlake, Terang and Camperdown. In May the bank reported half-yearly profits of $3.4 billion.