Ironic turn after man's Westpac protest

Last updated 13:06 24/07/2009

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$190,000 withdrawn in $20 bills

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In an ironic twist on Mapua artist Roger Griffiths' protest withdrawal of his $190,000 savings in $20 notes from Westpac yesterday, the money was today back with Westpac.

Mr Griffiths deposited the cash at the Nelson Building Society in Richmond, but because NBS banks with Westpac, it has deposited the money there.

NBS general manager Ken Beams said today it did not hold huge amounts of cash.

"Westpac clears our cash for us. It is better to sit in an account earning interest, and that's where it will be now."

He appreciated the irony. "It's ridiculous, really."

Mr Griffiths said today he had no idea that would happen next. "It's just a little merry-go-round."

However, he would not move the money again, and did not think his protest had been a waste of time, because of the support he had received.

Westpac declined to comment on the return of the money to its coffers.

Mr Griffiths withdrew the money yesterday in protest at not being given an $80,000 mortgage on a $385,000 Mapua property because as an artist he did not have a regular income.

Westpac said it had required Mr Griffiths to provide evidence of his ability to meet regular repayments, but the information was not provided for it to assess.

After nationwide publicity, Mr Griffiths has been overwhelmed with support through hundreds of emails, phone calls and comments posted online. He rated it the best day of his life.

"It's nothing against Westpac, it's the principle of the thing. I felt badly treated," he said today.

He estimated that 90 per cent of the comments he received were positive towards his stand.

"Hopefully, Westpac will take that on board and change their customer relations," Mr Griffiths said.

Comments on stuff.co.nz included "Shame on you Westpac" and "This guy is my hero", while others called it bank-bashing.

Westpac media relations manager Craig Dowling said today: "We are extremely sensitive in this environment to the attention banks are getting and the need for us to do things appropriately and work with our customers, and we intend to ensure we take that approach."

Mr Griffiths has not closed his Westpac account. Mr Dowling said the bank was still open to lending to him if he wanted to work with the bank in providing the information required.

Mr Griffiths said he was no longer seeking to buy the property, which was a private sale, as it had now been sold.

Mr Beams said that if Mr Griffiths applied for a mortgage from NBS, he would be treated like any other customer.

Mr Griffiths said he just wanted to get back to painting.

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- By LAURA BASHAM, Nelson Mail

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