RESIDENTS and local councillors remain divided over the sudden closure of Queenscliff’s only bank late last year.
While some argue it didn’t impact this summer’s tourist season, others say the loss of personalised service and the bank’s community contribution scheme has been a blow for the seaside town.
Bendigo Bank closed its doors in Queenscliff on November 30 after an operating services review found the branch wasn’t financially viable.
Borough of Queenscliffe Mayor Ross Ebbels acknowledges that both residents and councillors are disappointed by the bank’s abrupt closure, especially as it had serviced the community for close to two decades.
“Local residents called me and also one of our former councillors and former mayor Bob Merriman,” Cr Ebbels said.
“Bob was encouraging people to bank with the Bendigo Bank locally and then the Bendigo Bank would give a certain amount back to the community; $200,000 went back into the community.”
Local residents and businesses who had spent years investing in the bank, felt let down by the closure of the branch, he said.
“They were really upset and disappointed from that community enterprise point of view about not giving back to the community,” Cr Ebbels said.
However, he said the financial impact of the loss of the bank and its ATMs on the town’s first post-lockdown tourist season had been minor, saying it had had little to no impact on a somewhat muted tourist season.
“It’s an interesting year this year. You know a lot of people are not travelling overseas and less people travelling interstate, then a lot more people staying at home. But certainly, all reports are everyone is having a bumper season, so at this stage I would say no (it hasn’t impacted the tourist season).”
Local resident Sue Kelly said not enough had been done by the bank to keep the branch viable, and that the global pandemic was a weak excuse for closing it.
“During the pandemic no one anywhere was going out and doing very much face to face because that was the directive we were given, particularly anyone vulnerable or older, so I think it was just unfair to base their decision on the pandemic,” she said.
She said bank staff had provided the community with unique, personalised care that the next closest branch, in Ocean Grove, would not be able to fulfill.
“Bank staff know the community, they used people’s names, they remember the important things happening in their life,” Kelly said.
“We didn’t have to say these things, they knew that about us.”
The Borough of Queenscliffe has the oldest population in Australia, with more than 40.6 per cent of residents over the age of 65, and 18.8 per cent over 75, according to a report by population experts .id.
Cr Ebbels hopes the town’s older residents will be able to adapt to the change.
“My father is 89 years old,” Cr Ebbels said. “Obviously he is disappointed as he liked coming to the Queenscliffe branch because he didn’t do internet banking,” he said.
“But he’s said he has been able to do the same thing in Ocean Grove.”