5 Dec 2017

Kiwibank closure: 'I feel as if I've been issued a death sentence'

9:48 am on 5 December 2017

Dozens of locals turned out last night to protest Kiwibank's decision to close its services at an Auckland post shop after three armed robberies.

Bhaskar Desai (second from left) and some of his supporters at the protest against Kiwibank removing its services from his shop.

Bhaskar Desai (second from left) and some of his supporters at the protest against Kiwibank removing its services from his shop. Photo: RNZ / Jessie Chiang

The owner of the post shop says the decision feels like a death knell for his store.

Bhaskar Desai has been robbed at gunpoint three times at the Owairaka Post Shop in Mount Roskill, which he has owned for 12 years.

He was recently told the banking services would shut due to safety concerns.

But locals and local MP Michael Wood were hoping their support will help reverse the decision.

Nearly 100 people turned up last night to protest the closure, all chanting and waving placards.

Naila Fanene and her grandson at the protest.

Naila Fanene and her grandson at the protest. Photo: RNZ / Jessie Chiang

Naila Fanene - who was there with her grandson - said she was concerned the entire store could end up closing.

"I walk here every morning, it saves petrol, I don't have to use the car and I'm sure that's the same for many parents," she said.

"I think it's so important that we keep the Kiwibank and post services open."

Suia Simi, 69, said she opened up a Kiwibank account because of Mr Desai's great customer service.

"If it closes now, I may have to close the account because it's too far to go elsewhere," she said.

"I can't drive and it's taking away something I need."

A petition against Kiwibank pulling out of the shop now had about 1400 signatures.

Mr Desai hoped that number would continue to rise, and he said he was humbled by the support shown.

"It's really heartening to have support [from] as many people as possible," he said.

"I'm always positive so I would definitely like things to change."

But Mr Desai said the past two weeks had been extremely hard for him, knowing the deadline was nearing.

He said Kiwibank had not been in contact with him since RNZ first ran the story last week.

"I feel as if I've been issued a death sentence and my heart starts squeezing every day, till the D-day comes," he said.

"That's the day my heart will stop beating, that's how I feel."

The crowd at the protest.

The crowd at the protest. Photo: RNZ / Jessie Chiang

A statement of support for Mr Desai on behalf of the local MP Michael Wood was read out at yesterday's protest.

"It is he who had to bear the brunt of past robberies, and it seems perverse to me that he will be have to suffer again if Kiwibank proceed with this decision," the statement said.

"It seems additionally harsh to give Bhaskar and the community just 30 days' notice of this decision, immediately before Christmas."

Mr Wood, who joined Kiwibank a week after it was first established in 2002, said he has asked to meet with the bank to talk about changing its position.

He said a part of its appeal was that it had continued to provide services to local communities when other banks walked away.

Kiwibank would not comment on the protest.

In a statement provided to RNZ last week it said its decision to stop banking in post shops in Mount Roskill, Otara and Rotorua is final.

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