WINTON'S last remaining bank will have its branch hours severely restricted in a move Mayor Gavin Baskett believes is the final death-kneel for banking services in the town.
NAB this week announced it was adapting the way it does banking in small regional branches and would only open to customers from 9.30am to 12.30pm from Monday to Friday.
NAB group executive personal banking Rachel Slade said bankers would support customers by phone and online chat, as well as application processing, outside of those hours.
A total of 114 regional branches will be impacted nationwide, with 23 Queensland branches affected.
Ms Slade said more than 90 per cent of NAB's customer interactions took place online or by phone, with over-the-counter transactions reducing by a quarter in the last year.
She said a quarter of transactions took place between 9.30am and 10.30am and NAB was 'striking a balance' to ensure doors could be kept open, while providing an opportunity for 300 bank staff to learn new skills.
But Cr Baskett called out the financial institution, saying they were out of touch with the needs of regional communities.
"The banks in our regions from Longreach to Townsville to Mount Isa have some of the highest over the counter transactions and are well patronaged," Cr Baskett said.
He said NAB was the last remaining bank in Winton after Westpac moved its service to the Waltzing Matilda Centre, and never reopened after the fire in 2015.
He believes the reduced hours is the first step before the branch is closed entirely.
"It's usually just the start to do that first, the next stage is closure.
"Nearly all of our residents and I'd say 90 per cent of businesses bank with NAB."
Cr Baskett said the reduced opening hours would make it tough for businesses and those on properties.
"It makes it tough for businesses, who do their banking in the afternoon and get their change for the next day.
"For people out of town it makes it very difficult, for farm workers who come into town and do their banking its generally in the afternoon.
"Making them be a call centre in the afternoon means they will still have staff on, so why not stay open and even have one person serving customers."
Cr Baskett said it was another kick in the guts for small communities.
"We are trying to make our towns prosperous, we're battling population decline after the monsoon last year, eight years of drought and now a pandemic, we're struggling to keep our heads above water and this is just another kick in the guts.
"We struggle to get people out here to fill positions and part of that is livability, it's just one more thing that will discourage people from moving here if there's no bank.
"The aging and vulnerable are the ones affected the most. Winton is forecast in the next 10 years to be the second oldest in the state for population with over 65s.
"It is part of the social fabric to go down town to the newsagency, the bank, the bakery, and they want us to disconnect and do everything online."
But Ms Slade insists NAB will support regional communities.
"We are there for our regional customers and communities - and we will continue to invest in our colleagues to give them the skills they need to do their jobs into the future," Ms Slade said.
The new hours come into affect on Monday, August 17.
Impacted Queensland branches include Bargara agency, Biggenden, Blackwater, Capella, Clifton, Cloncurry, Cunnamulla, Dysart, Esk, Inglewood agency, Injune agency, Miles, Millmerran, Mitchell agency, Monto Mundubera, Murgon, Oakey Pittsworth, Proserpine, Quilpie, Richmond, Texas, Tin Can Bay and Winton.