Narooma nabs victory from jaws of defeat

An excited phone call from Narooma businessman Phil Constable on Monday to the Narooma News brought welcome news indeed.

Mr Constable had just been informed that NAB had reconsidered its decision to close its Princes Highway branch.

The closure would have been the third in a steady haemorrhage of major banks away from Narooma.

Tradesman and fast food retailer Jason Hextell was spitting chips. Forced to change banks after a previous exit, he was not in the mood to repeat the process. He joined forces with Mr Constable and others to call the bank to account.

They organised a public meeting for August and invited NAB corporate representatives.

To NAB’s credit, it sent representatives from Melbourne to Club Narooma. They fielded questions and soaked up the very obvious distress the decision to close had caused.

Everyone from ageing customers to large businesses, such as host Club Narooma, attended in a show of solidarity. Eurobodalla Shire Councillor Rob Pollock chaired the meeting two days after having a stent inserted following a heart attack six weeks earlier.

Bega MP Andrew Constance drove from an earlier event in Batemans Bay and, without displaying personal rancour to those NAB representatives brave enough to attend, asked them to take a clear message back to head office.

Closing the Narooma branch was not only bad for the town, it was a bad corporate move.

Tony McDonald, the landlord of the building the bank leases made it clear NAB was signed up until 2020, raising a telling question: “Why not stay until the lease is up?”

Laurelle Pacey asked the question on everyone’s mind: was there any chance the bank would change its mind?

At the time, few would have been optimistic, but that meeting proved a game changer.

The community deserves to feel justifiably crowd for sticking to its guns.

Just how long NAB will keep its doors open in Narooma remains to be seen.

It has asked for the community’s backing to ensure the business case can be made well beyond January 2020.