NZ Post considers cutting deliveries

BY VERNON SMALL
Last updated 05:00 09/06/2010
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FULL STOP: Saturday postal deliveries may be axed or posties may call only every second day as NZ Post looks to keep its mail business profitable.

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Saturday postal deliveries may be axed or posties may call only every second day as NZ Post looks to keep its mail business profitable in the face of people switching to email.

In a letter to State Owned Enterprises Minister Simon Power, obtained under the Official Information Act, chairman Jim Bolger said the NZ Post board was looking at several options, including "reducing the number of days that mail is delivered".

Mr Bolger said yesterday that deliveries every second day were an option. "Personally I don't think you could rule that out", but that was not a NZ Post position. "There is only one message – mail volumes are going down worldwide. Digital technology is replacing hard copy."

However, a spokeswoman for Communications Minister Steven Joyce, who must approve a change in delivery days, said no option had yet been presented to him. "He would take a lot of convincing."

Mr Bolger said if the business was to be set up today, with current mail volumes, it would not include a postie walking past every house and apartment in every street six days a week. "The traditional letter in technology terms is on the wrong side of history."

Most houses did not receive a piece of mail every day and some got only one letter a week.

He said the options should not be seen as alarming but as a natural evolution of NZ Post's business as it tried to remove costs.

Cutting delivery days was one option. Others could include combining courier and mail deliveries.

"We continue to seek value-for-money solutions before resorting to a price increase, albeit that this must continue to be an option," Mr Bolger said in the February letter to Mr Power.

There could also be "a clearer delineation between standard and premium postal services, as well as new pricing options that could lead to cheaper options for customers".

The NZ Post board would work through with ministers in coming months where the business was heading and come to a conclusion. It was doing what ministers had asked of state-owned enterprises – to look at ways to improve performance.

Australia has already dropped Saturday deliveries and the United States is heading the same way – a move some see as hitting older people hardest because they rely more heavily on "snail mail" than other groups.

But Grey Power national president Les Howard said while he would like to see six-day-a-week deliveries continue, many older people used email and even talked on Skype because it was cheaper. "You'll find a lot of our members are computer literate."

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Postal Workers Union advocate Graeme Clarke said an end to Saturday deliveries would be popular among the 1200 posties he represented – provided they were paid the same. "It would certainly be news to us and it would make many posties' day."

Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing secretary Andrew Little, representing 4500 NZ Post workers including 2000 posties, was not opposed to five-day-a-week deliveries in principle. Deliveries every second day would be another matter.

Issues of bag weights and pay would need to be discussed.

Many countries had abandoned Saturday deliveries and others had dropped Mondays because it was the lowest-volume day, Mr Little said.

Last year, Mr Joyce allowed NZ Post to drop deliveries on Saturday, December 26, 2009, and Saturday, January 2, 2010, to give posties a long weekend break.

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