The Hinchinbrook community will decide if there is sufficient demand to establish a Community Bank in Ingham after the closure of three local banks since 2018 sparked outrage across the district.
An Expression of Interest will be released, calling for applications from interested parties to form a Steering Committee that will determine whether the appetite to invest, manage and control a community banking branch exists in the Hinchinbrook Shire.
The Hinchinbrook Shire Council, Herbert River Canegrowers and Hinchinbrook Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Tourism engaged in preliminary discussions to better understand the community banking model.
But each party has expressed that it will not be taking a lead role in the initiative while other banks continue to provide services and employment opportunities in the shire.
While Hinchinbrook Shire Mayor Ramon Jayo said he would be prepared to attend any community meetings that may be organised to explore options and discuss the feasibility of a community bank, he has declined to be directly involved in the process.
Mayor Jayo said it was up to the community, not council, to decide whether there was “sufficient interest” for a community bank as it was critical that it be “generated and driven by the community and not by any particular industry or organisation within the community.”
Hinchinbrook Chamber of Commerce President Rachael Coco agreed, saying that any decision to form a community bank could only be made following extensive consultation which carefully considered community needs, customer banking habits and other local stakeholder requirements.
She said: “Chamber was approached to investigate the community banking model following the closure of Bendigo Bank in June, however it was identified that community driven demand and support were fundamental to the success of this model”.
“Chamber itself was impacted by the closure of Suncorp in 2018 and again when Bendigo closed in June this year, so we’re empathetic to the community’s concerns, but we recognise that community engagement is critical to assess the level of community support required for commercial viability”.
“We realise that the closure of three local banks in four years is devastating, especially with our aging demographic, and we know that the decision to reduce hours at other local banks is challenging, but we won’t be spearheading this type of initiative, rather facilitating the process so that the community can make up its own mind.”
Ms Coco said that Chamber would be releasing an expression of interest in the very near future, inviting local residents to come forward and take the necessary steps to complete community consultation before progressing further.
Anyone who is interested in becoming part of the steering committee is encouraged to keep an eye of chamber’s website and Facebook page or contact President Rachael Coco on 0414 698 610 or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.