WIMMERA councils have supported Sea Lake’s fight to keep the town’s only bank open.
Nanjing Night Net

Westpac announced earlier this month it planned to close its branch in the small Buloke Shire town in November.

North-West Municipalities Association chairman Reid Mather said the announcement sent shockwaves through small rural communities in the region.

Cr Mather, a Buloke Shire councillor, said it was astonishing that at the time farming communities were finally recovering from drought, Westpac decided to withdraw its services.

“It’s more than just a kick in the guts to the Sea Lake community,” Cr Mather said.

“It shows a complete disrespect for a community that has battled its way through tough times only to now be told of a bank closure with no consultation, and no ability to influence the decision.”

Cr Mather said nearly every Sea Lake resident attended a community meeting on Wednesday, determined to fight the closure.

A delegation was formed to meet with Westpac officials to discuss how the decision to close the branch could be reversed.

“This is a positive step,” Cr Mather said.

“Sea Lake wants to work with the bank to keep it in the town, not just to condemn it for its decision.

Hindmarsh Shire Council chief executive Dean Miller said the Nhill Westpac agency was also under threat of closure.

“Westpac and the other big three banks have made huge profits from Australia’s agriculture sector for well over a hundred years, and when the going gets tough, they disappear,” he said.

“Westpac values loyalty from its customers, but where is the loyalty shown in return?

“They continue to make huge profits, so surely they can afford to keep small rural agencies open. These closures indicate just how greedy the banks really are. This could be the thin edge of the wedge in terms of future branch closures, and Hindmarsh Shire encourages all Westpac rural customers to consider sending a very strong message to Westpac. One way to do this is to vote with their feet.”

Horsham Mayor Mandi Stewart said Westpac’s lack of consultation before making the decision was disappointing.

“The Sea Lake community will be deeply affected by their decision.

“We would like to submit our opposition to the impending closure of 40 agencies and branches nationwide,” she said.

West Wimmera Mayor Eveline Van Breugel said the bank’s closure further exacerbated the decline in rural services and populations.

“Once agencies are closed down in the manner being undertaken, small rural shires are being impacted by a death of a thousand cuts,” she said.

“West Wimmera Shire’s concern is that if this trend gathers pace, similar agency and other small scale but vital services in other small rural areas will be threatened.”

Northern Grampians and Yarriambiack shires also threw their support behind Buloke Shire and Sea Lake’s campaign.

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