By Michael Giles
THE business community of Korumburra has been left reeling today after the news from Bendigo Bank that they will be closing the last remaining bank branch in the town on Friday, May 14, 2021.
It follows the Commonwealth Bank closing its branch in Korumburra in December 2020 and the National Australia Bank in February 2017.
But, it’s especially galling this time, according to Korumburra Business Association Secretary Noelene Cosson, because it’s the last.
“How can they leave a town this size without banking services?” Mrs Cosson asked.
“It’s not as if Korumburra is contracting, it’s actually growing and growing strongly.
“It’s devastating for the business operators, but not just business. There wouldn’t be too many towns this size that don’t have any sort of bank.
“Inverloch has two banks and Leongatha has the full range of banks.
“We’ve got two ATMs left, NAB and ANZ, and I don’t believe Bendigo Bank will be leaving theirs.
“They’re not one of the major banks, so surely there’s a bit more compassion for regional towns like Korumburra.”
Mrs Cosson said the KBA would be pursuing all options to try to keep banking services in the town.
“We want Bendigo Bank to talk to us. If it’s a matter of moving all busines banking over to Bendigo and trying to get everyone to get their loans from Bendigo. Maybe we could try to do that.
“There’s no chance we’re told that they would agree to us opening a Community Bank Branch here. They don’t do that anymore because they don’t believe it’s viable but surely it makes good business to be the only bank in town.”
Mrs Cosson said it was hoped that the town might be able to attract banking services to the Korumburra Community Hub but that was still a year or more away.
“I understand the staff were told about it on Wednesday and that they have sent a notice around to customers today, so we haven’t decided what we’ll do but we’ll certainly be doing something.”
Mrs Cosson said the KBA would meet as a group to discuss a response to the announcement, but she acknowledged that the closure of the last bank was a town-wide issue, not just affecting the business community.
She said that the COVID-19 pandemic had had an impact on business, and in particular the use of cash, but as things settled again, she said she could see a role for face-to-face banking returning.
“We want to talk to the bank to see if anything can be done, however if it’s a matter of flogging a dead horse, we’ll be looking at our options.
“The town is growing strongly, especially where new housing is concerned, and we believe Korumburra has a really bright future but you’ve got to have a good level of services located locally.”
As customers of the Bendigo Bank in Korumburra learn of the branches fate, calls of devastation, anger and disgust are growing.
Joy Huson, representing the South Gippsland Owners Corporate group, delivering services to dozens of body corporates in the area is “devastated”.
“We do all our business through Bendigo Bank at Korumburra and were just in the process of swinging all our accounts over to them because they’re located in Korumburra and now this.
“To do this without any public or customer consultation and to say that you can just go to Leongatha or Wonthaggi is a disgrace,” Mrs Huson said.
“We should have a public meeting and call Bendigo to account for this,” she said.
“If the KBA organises a meeting I’ll be there but we should also be demanding an explanation from Bendigo Bank.”