LONG-TIME Morwell resident Arie Van Der Stoep has spoken up in opposition to the impending closure of the town’s Bank Australia branch.
Mr Van Der Stoep, who has carried the nickname ‘Harry’ since his younger days for reasons of simplicity, felt compelled to say something after seeing a letter in The Express urging Bank Australia to reconsider its decision.
Bank Australia plans to close the branch at the end of the month, amid what it has described as “changing needs and expectations of customers”.
Mr Van Der Stoep however believes the needs of many that use the bank have not changed at all, and said the closure of the branch will be a cruel blow for the community.
“There are still a lot of people I know that are going to that bank,” he said.
“That is the only bank, there are no other banks in Morwell.”
Having been in Morwell since 1954, Mr Van Der Stoep has seen the customer-owned Bank Australia branch grow from humble beginnings.
The bank also holds a special place in the former SEC worker’s heart, as he played a role in helping establish what was to become Morwell’s Bank Australia.
“The SEC guys initially started it, then it became the co-op and it grew from there,” he explained.
“Now a Johnny-come-lately comes to town and says ‘shut it down’ – no way (can that happen).”
Bank Australia was formed in 1957 which over time merged credit unions and co-ops such as the one formed in Morwell.
Mr Van Der Stoep said it was unreasonable to expect other pensioners to travel to Bank Australia branches in Moe and Traralgon just to “get their pocket money”.
“It is a crazy thing to go to Moe or Traralgon,” he said.
“I know a lot of people pay by card, but we are old fashioned – we pay by cash.”
With calls within the community for Bank Australia to reverse its decision, the sprightly
Mr Van Der Stoep said he was up for the fight.
“I’m 91, but you don’t walk over me,” he said defiantly.
“We have to make noise.”
The Morwell central business district has already lost three bank branches in the past 12 months.
The ANZ on Commercial Road and Bendigo Bank on Tarwin Street closed, while the Commonwealth Bank relocated to Mid Valley.
Bank Australia was contacted for comment.