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Patricia Gill, Denmark Bulletin

Denmark’s Westpac Bank is among eight regional Westpac banks Australia-wide whose closure has been postponed.

The closures, seen as a stay of execution, are pending the Westpac Bank Inquiry into regional banking services.

The closure of Westpac would leave the town with one bank operating, BankWest.

Denmark’s NAB branch closed on February 9 after scaled-back opening hours and the bank citing a ‘new model’ affecting 114 small regional Australian branches.

In August, 2020 Denmark NAB branch opening hours were cut on weekdays, outside of which bankers would support customers by phone and online chat, as well as application processing.

Westpac says no further decisions on regional closures will be made while they engage with the inquiry.

Bankwest in Denmark is open two days a week from 9.30am- 4pm, plus from 9.30am-5pm on Friday.

A spokesperson for the bank said there were no plans for further reduction of opening the hours or of a closure.

When NAB announced the closure last year, Denmark Chamber of Commerce president Chris Langslow called it disappointing, particularly for small businesses and retailers/hospitality businesses which required cash and cheques.

NAB said the branch closure was due to the changes in the way customers were banking which guided branch locations and services.

More and more customers were banking online, over the phone or by secure video conference.

Mr Langslow had said cash and cheque transactions were not possible online or via video conference.

He said customers should support the-then two remaining bank branches in Denmark to prevent a ‘revolving door’ of branch closures.

Denmark was the only West Australian bank among the eight Westpac branches in Victoria, Queensland and South Australia which were due to close this month.

A Westpac spokesperson said the bank would, however, continue a previously announced branch colocation program.

This involves bringing two branches and customer service teams together under one roof.

Closure delayed

“These co-located branches allow us to invest and stay in communities, and have been well received by customers in more than 30 locations,” the spokesperson said.

Westpac’s pause on closures while the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Committee’s inquiry into regional bank closures follows the closure or slated for closure of 92 bank branches since September.

O’Connor MHR Rick Wilson said towns like Denmark relied heavily on their banks.

“The face-to-face services of a bricks-and-mortar bank are irreplaceable in small regional communities, especially ones such as Denmark that have an older age profile,” he said.

“Banks are also major generators of business activity in country towns, and their departure often leaves an economic black hole.”

Mr Wilson urged Westpac to commit to maintaining the bank in Denmark over the longer term.

Submissions to the inquiry are open until March 31.

Information, including how to make a submission, can be found on the Rural and Regional Affairs Committee website. 

Denmark Bulletin 23 February 2023

This article appeared in the Denmark Bulletin, 23 February 2023.


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