It's hoped a new regional taskforce will find solutions for keeping banking services in country towns after widespread cutbacks left rural communities questioning the industry's loyalty.
The federal government announced its Regional Banking Taskforce on Friday, which will bring together the big four banks and peak bodies to assess how branch closures have impacted country communities and identify possible solutions.
Federal Member for Parkes, in central west NSW, Mark Coulton said changes to banking had noticeable effects throughout his electorate, and welcomed a commitment from the banking industry to country people.
"The Taskforce will not only look at the impacts of branch closures but also look at what solutions may be available for the residents of towns like Wee Waa which has been left without any banking services," he said.
"I'm proud to have helped to save the NAB branch in Walgett back in 2015, but sadly too many other banks in my electorate have closed down or reduced their hours."
The Taskforce will bring together banks and other key stakeholders who will hold a number of regional round tables to assess how bank branch closures have impacted local businesses, industries and communities and work collaboratively to identify possible solutions.
Minister for Regionalisation Bridget McKenzie said the taskforce would provide a platform to establish how the transformation within the banking industry - particularly branch closures - has affected those living in the regions.
The Taskforce will not only look at the impacts of branch closures but also look at what solutions may be available for the residents of towns like Wee Waa which has been left without any banking services.Federal Member for Parkes Mark Coulton
"Having access to bank branches is vital for every community, particularly for residents who are unable to use online services to conduct their banking," she said.
"As we have heard, bank branch closures in the regions also affect the liveability of towns, and so I am pleased to announce this taskforce will be looking at how we can keep banking services in rural Australia."
Taskforce co-chair senator for NSW Perin Davey said she had been in discussions with banks and financial service providers who share a desire to find ways to service regional communities.
"This is a great opportunity to explore constructive avenues to provide an essential service to our communities and I am excited to be involved," she said.
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In June this year, 90 Commonwealth Bank branches in regional locations such as Bourke, Cobar, Coonabarabran, Coonamble, Nyngan, Warren and Wellington across NSW had their operating hours reduced.
This followed the announcement that the Commonwealth Bank would permanently close it's branch at Orana Mall in Dubbo saying it was due to a drop in transactions over the last five years.
The ANZ bank closed its doors in Narromine in 2018, blaming the closure on a 40 per cent drop in over-the-counter transactions.
Narromine Shire Council mayor Craig Davies said this had impacted the elderly in the town the most.
"The bank has been pretty quick to say it was because of a downturn in people coming in and saying most things can be done over the internet but the elderly don't want to use e-commerce," Cr Davies said.
A number of banking services in regional communities however had been sent to a number of regional post offices.
National Australia Bank and Commonwealth Bank stuck a deal in June with Australia Post to allow licensed post offices to offer the Bank@Post service for the next 10 years.
Locals would be able to conduct a variety of banking transactions in more than 3500 post offices across Australia under the new deal.
Westpac customers will also be able to bank at their local post office after the bank's contract with Australia Post was been extended for another year. Negotiations are under way about a possible longer-term agreement.
The taskforce will be co-chaired by government ministers Michael Sukkar, Bridget McKenzie and Senator Perin Davey and include senior representatives from ANZ; Commonwealth Bank of Australia; NAB; Westpac; Bendigo and Adelaide Bank and Bank of Queensland.
The Taskforce will hold its first meeting in early November and will release an issues paper for public consultation.