Commonwealth Bank at the Alstonville Plaza.
Commonwealth Bank at the Alstonville Plaza. Marc Stapelberg

Alstonville's last bank set to shut its doors

NEWS that the last bank in Alstonville is preparing to shut its doors for good just before Christmas has sent the community into a buzz of confusion and outrage.

The impending closure of Commonwealth Bank's Alstonville branch on December 6 also spells the end of physical banking in the village other than at the local Post Office, "forcing" some customers, business owners and community members to try to save it themselves.

Branch customers Shirley Johnston and husband Neville McTernan, both 85, moved to the Seven Day Adventists (SDA) Retirement Village because of Alstonville's good accessibility of services, like a bank.

"It's going to affect a lot of people," Ms Johnston said.

"As far as I know most of the SDA residents have accounts with Commonwealth Bank. A lot of them are housebound - for them to have to go as far as Ballina or Lismore instead of just being able to pop into town - is just wrong."

Ms Johnston said the sentiment of needing a bank in the village was echoed around the community, with many signing a petition launched yesterday to try to keep it open.

"The trouble with online banking online is that it doesn't align with older people.

"If they keep closing things at Alstonville, we are not going to have anything here. There were many banks here back in the day, a town this size should have a bank."

Long-time bank customer and resident Heather Green said she was "particularly upset" because when the Summerland Credit Union closed soon after the National Bank a few years ago, the Commonwealth Bank was "very quick to put up signs saying they would not going anywhere".

"There were a lot of elderly people and businesses who swapped over to them," Ms Green said.

"I even changed from the credit union to Commonwealth when it moved to Ballina.

"It's not good enough."

With her daughter in local business, Ms Green a lot of business owners were wondering where they will go to get change for their everyday trading and how will fit in doing their daily banking having to drive to Ballina and Lismore.

Summerland Pools owner Natalie Wallin was so upset over the bank closing she has started a petition to try to halt its closure yesterday and plans to put it into as many Alstonville businesses to get as many people on board as possible and present it to local councillors and Page MP Kevin Hogan.

Summerland Pools owner Natalie Wallin was so upset over the Alstonville Commonwealth bank closing in December, she started a petition to save it yesterday and plans to put it into as many businesses to get as many people on board as possible.
Summerland Pools owner Natalie Wallin was so upset over the Alstonville Commonwealth bank closing in December, she started a petition to save it yesterday and plans to put it into as many businesses to get as many people on board as possible. Francis Witsenhuysen

"I think it's so wrong," Ms Wallin said.

"They've planned this and have been quite sneaky about it, only starting to tell people yesterday and just before Christmas.

"It will affect a lot of elderly, disabled (people) and businesses here."

She said her petition was already beginning to gain traction, with hundreds of signatures.

"I want to try and stop them, we probably don't have a chance but we have to try," she said.

"At least the quantity of signatures can go towards proving how many people want a bank and need and go towards lobbying for another bank in the future."

Commonwealth Bank Regional General Manager, Sara Sutton said following a recent review, the difficult decision to close the Alstonville branch on December 6 was made.

"Transactions at this branch have declined by 33 per cent over the past five years, with customers increasingly choosing other banking channels such as our mobile, online and phone banking services," she said.

"We understand some customers may be concerned, so want to assure them that during the six week transition period, our branch staff are on hand to help familiarise them with all the existing banking options available.

"Closing a branch is never an easy decision. We only do so after careful consideration of customer demand and the availability of alternative services."

She said branch customers would have to travel to nearby branches at Lismore and Ballina.

"The Australia Post outlet down the road in Alstonville is also available for customers to conduct personal and business banking transactions such as withdrawals, deposits and bill payments, including passbooks, during normal business hours."