It came as no surprise that the recent floods and power outages on the east coast caused major disruptions, leaving communities without access to power and the internet to pay for essential goods like food and water. On Friday afternoon we were contacted to provide relief and assistance for the Civil Defence and Police, and by Sunday we had a team from Christchurch on the ground, supporting all of the major banks in the Gisborne region.

Getting local and nearby staff to the affected areas was more challenging than usual, with roads closed and nearby Napier still without power. Communications were also limited, so touching base with the site Bank Managers, Civil Defence and the Police on the ground was crucial for our team in understanding what was needed of them.

Our CEO, Ben Wooding, understood how important it was to deploy an outside team to the region, after being contacted by two of our banking customers.

“The banking services in the area were in high demand as the community were operating entirely with cash due to power, internet and phone outages. There were large queues at the ATM’s, growing tensions in the community, and business customers needing to deposit cash. Looting was also a major concern for authorities, so we needed to ensure our team were equipped well and had undertaken thorough risk assessments.” he said.

“Ultimately our staff were crucial in managing the crowds and queues at the ATM’s and bank branches, keeping people aware of wait times to minimise disruption, monitoring suspicious behaviour, and de-escalating conflict to help the banking staff and customers feel safe”.

Our Christchurch team didn’t know what to expect when stepping off the plane on Sunday, but they came prepared, stocking their suitcases with everything they needed to avoid being a burden on the local supplies.

Our Christchurch Operations Manager Amy Roberts, who was part of the team, said,

“We knew that this community was doing it really tough, so we needed to take a different approach to security and be there to support them and be as empathetic as possible. By us just being personable and positively engaging with them, it really helped with the anxiousness people were facing.”

“We were overwhelmed with how appreciative people were and how thankful they were that they could access their banking service. It really reminded us of our own team’s experience with the Christchurch Earthquakes, and how everyone came together to support each other with a great sense of community”. Today marks the 12th anniversary of the Christchurch earthquakes.

By Tuesday afternoon the Christchurch team were called upon again to provide further support to the retail banking sites in the Hawkes Bay after further reports of looting, and staff who were experiencing an increase in verbal abuse. Within 24 hours the team were on a chartered helicopter on their way to the Hawkes Bay to help manage the situation.

Amy commented “Our team’s willingness to assist wherever needed has been inspiring. Whether that was shovelling silt or feeding those displaced, it makes me proud to work alongside them. Several of our team were even put on a Helicopter this morning to assist in Napier, not knowing when they would even get home”.

The fast-paced and unpredictable environment posed a challenge for our team, but their dedication to the community and our customers, and their ability to adapt to any situation has made a significant impact. Ben Wooding echoed this sentiment, stating,

“I’m just incredibly proud of the support our team have shown to our customers and the community. They have gone above and beyond, and their actions are a true testament to the remarkable people we have here at Red Badge.”