Cash in circulation increased by $1 billion dollars ahead of the covid-19 imposed lockdown in New Zealand, demonstrating that Kiwis are far from ready to live in a cashless society.
By March this year, there were $7.32 billion of notes in circulation in the country. The “very significant uplift”, compared to an increase of $175 million in the previous 12 months, serves as a reminder that cash withdrawals increase in a crisis.
The trust in cash following the outbreak of the pandemic echoes the people of New Zealand’s opposition to the potential future of a cashless society. In December last year, the Reserve Bank published a summary of findings from the ”The Future of Cash Use” open consultation which revealed Kiwis consensus on cash:
"While nearly 90 per cent "preferred" to pay for things electronically, three-quarters recalled using cash at least once or twice in the week before they were surveyed. The same proportion – three-quarters – said they had some cash in their wallet, purse or pocket."
Reserve Bank governor Adrian Orr has relayed the message from their public feedback survey in light of this news:
“It really touched the heart and soul of an enormous amount of people. They really wanted the right … to have access to, and or, to use cash.”
The cashless debate speculation in New Zealand comes after reports of the rising adoption of cashless transactions in neighbouring Australia. However, those pushing anti-cash agendas stand to isolate vulnerable individuals and the unbanked, as evidenced by nearly cashless Sweden where laws to protect access to cash were proposed in November 2019.
Speaking to Stuff, Orr highlighted that cash promotes financial inclusivity, stating “if you can’t get a bank account, or a credit card, or access to power, or anything, you are excluded.”
While those who are likely to gain profit from non-cash transactions are exploiting coronavirus fears to push New Zealand towards a cashless society, New Zealanders demand for cash is undeniable.