Wellington ANZ bank branch closure 'disappointing' for customers, businesses

ANZ Molesworth Street, Wellington has been closed since the November earthquake.
KEVIN STENT/FAIRFAX NZ

ANZ Molesworth Street, Wellington has been closed since the November earthquake.

The closure of an ANZ bank branch on one of Wellington's busiest streets "feels like another nail in the coffin", a retailer says.

ANZ closed its Molesworth Street branch the day the 7.8 magnitude Kaikoura earthquake hit last November.

The demolition of an earthquake-damaged high-rise at 61 Molesworth St forced the closure of a number of surrounding buildings.

The windows have been boarded up and there is a sign on the door saying: "We've moved".
KEVIN STENT/FAIRFAX NZ

The windows have been boarded up and there is a sign on the door saying: "We've moved".

However, most businesses on the street have since reopened, though some are struggling to stay afloat.

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But ANZ said its branch would not reopen.

First Retail Group managing director Chris Wilkinson says the bank's closure "looks very bad for an area most in need of ...
MAARTEN HOLL/FAIRFAX NZ

First Retail Group managing director Chris Wilkinson says the bank's closure "looks very bad for an area most in need of recovery".

Freeman's Bookshop co-owner Lorraine Freeman said the earthquake had an "enormous effect" on business and the bank's closure felt like another disaster.

"It feels like another nail in the coffin. This is just another disaster for us. It's getting to the point of, what do we do now?," she said.

"We are already living on the smell of an oily rag. It's very very difficult."

However, Westpac's  branch on Molesworth Street reopened about three weeks ago.
SUPPLIED

However, Westpac's branch on Molesworth Street reopened about three weeks ago.

Freeman said she felt "a bit stuck".

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"We can't leave. We can't just shut the door and walk away. It certainly doesn't help that the bank has walked away.

"We know we aren't the only ones. It's really really hard."

Staff were often "twiddling our thumbs" because of the lack of people coming into the shop, she said.

"We were definitely benefiting from the foot traffic [from the bank], so we've taken a hit. We are just taking it day by day."

ANZ Bank spokeswoman Emma Mellow said the Molesworth St branch had been closed since the quake, and it would not reopen.

"When the branch was closed due to nearby earthquake damage, most customers moved to ANZ North Lambton Quay just 500 metres away, so the decision was made to consolidate the branches."

The closure came at a time when foot traffic for the branches was dropping, which was a reflection of a global trend, Mellow said.

The five staff members working at the Molesworth St branch were relocated to other branches within the Wellington region, she said.

To cater for the growth in customers to the North Lambton Quay branch, the office would be upgraded this year. An ATM would remain on Molesworth St.

First Retail Group managing director Chris Wilkinson said the bank's closure "looks very bad for an area most in need of recovery".

Wilkinson was disappointed the bank had taken three months to communicate its intentions to the surrounding businesses and the wider community.

"ANZ hasn't taken a leadership role in the recovery as part of the commercial community in this area."

The closure was "disappointing" for the businesses and community which relied and benefited from its presence, he said.

"This simply doesn't look good. When everyone else has made such an effort, this major site sits darkened and deserted."

"Businesses certainly benefited from those that used the bank, so with a reduced audience, this is a double whammy for many of the independent traders in that precinct.

"The bank had served a wide catchment, bringing a diverse and valued customer group into the area. It will be hard to replace that."

Meanwhile, the Westpac branch on Molesworth St reopened about three weeks ago.

 - Stuff

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