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BANKING

Front End

Edited: Antony Currie

Too late to save the day

New Zealand's new deputy prime minister has a harsh message for his Australian cousins across the Tasman Sea. Foreign ownership of banks - the Aussies have bought up virtually all the Kiwis' institutions - is not welcome.

"We are in danger of re-colonization if we are not careful," says John Anderton. "The irony is that 100 years ago the Bank of New Zealand was opened up to get away from the control of Australian bankers not interested in New Zealand. Now we have sold practically every one of our banks to Australia."

This could cause some conflict within the government: Anderton is leader of the Alliance party which is the minority partner in the coalition with the Labour party. And it was Labour, specifically its former finance minister Roger Douglas, which encouraged banking consolidation and selling out to foreigners in the 1980s. Bank of New Zealand is owned by National Australia Bank, Trust Bank of New Zealand has been subsumed by a merger with Westpac, and Aussie bank ANZ is the third member of New Zealand's big four. Only National Bank of New Zealand escaped the clutches of the Aussies, and that's because it's owned by the whingeing poms at Lloyds TSB, which has also bought Countrywide Bank.

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