With a number of urban canopies recently installed by Cootamundra-Gundagai Regional Council as part of The Parker Street Beautification Project, the same main street is slowly losing major businesses. 

Residents were shocked last week to hear that ANZ will be closing its Cootamundra Branch on September 29.

The news follows on from Wesfarmers’ closure of Target Cootamundra just less than a month ago. 

ANZ General Manager for NSW Michael Wake said one reason for the closure is a 50 per cent decline with in-branch transactions over the past four years.

“Customers are not using branches like they used to,” Mr Wake said.

“In recent years we’ve seen a major increase in the number of people who have moved to online options to do everything, from grocery shopping and watching films, to managing their Medicare and banking, which is convenient and secure.”

Earlier this week, The Times asked how local residents felt about the closure and one said they will be changing banks so their children can access their money when needed.

“Unfortunately for me, I have a savings account for my children that the money can only be accessed by going into an ANZ branch to sign the money out,” they said.

Another highlighted that Cootamundra will soon have nothing available, that it will soon turn into a “ghost town”. 

ANZ Customers in Cootamundra will soon have to travel around 49km to Young for their next closest branch. 

Besides the Cootamundra branch, Cooma, Leeton, Ulladulla, Cowra, Forster, Kempsey, Casino and Salamander Bay will also close down at the end of September 2021. 

This adds to the total closure of 146 branches since the beginning of last year. 

Additionally, ANZ said redeployment opportunities within the bank will be provided to employees who wished to stay with the organisation.

Those who choose to leave will be provided access to career coaching and outplacement support, as well as access to ANZ’s career training fund.

In a CGRC statement on Monday, Council said they are doing their best to persuade ANZ to reconsider their decision to close its Cootamundra branch.

“Mayor Cr Abb McAlister has spoken at length with ANZ Bank representatives to reiterate the concerns of the community and portray enormous impact this closure will have on our town,” the statement reads.

According to ANZ GM Michael Wake, of customers who call Cootamundra their home branch, 79 per cent prefers internet and home banking, and this compares to 8 per cent who walk into the branch. 

Mr Wake added that customers have been notified of alternatives that are available and that ANZ recognises the transition “will be more challenging for some customers, particularly in rural or remote locations”. 

A closure period of five months has been provided to allow time for ANZ to work with existing customers on other banking methods, including online banking, mobile lenders and mobile banking. 

Meanwhile, CGRC Councillor Leigh Bowden has recently been under fire for her comments made on an ABC Riverina Breakfast Radio Program.

Cr Bowden suggested that “it’s a sign of the times” and that she was “not concerned” with the closure of the branch, as unlike the closure of Target there are other banks available, as well as ANZ branches available in Young and Wagga.

When asked about suggestions for the older demographic who will be most vulnerable with the closure, Cr Bowden suggested looking at alternatives.

“I’d go in the branch and say that you are concerned. I’d research other banks in the regions,” she said on the program.

“It could even be seen as a protest, I’d withdraw funds from the bank. It’s not like there won’t be any banking, it’s just one bank.

“There is South West Slopes Credit Union available which supports local enterprises. Additionally they are active in the community as the big banks aren’t.”

Cr Gil Kelly disagreed with her comments and expressed his views on a local Facebook noticeboard that has since, taken off.

Cr Kelly said Cr Bowden’s views “certainly do not reflect the views of Council”. 

Christopher Tan