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"They're absolutely shocked, they're bewildered, scared and numb."
That was the reaction from Waikato Mail Centre union delegate Robyn Conning after hearing New Zealand Post was to axe 129 jobs in Hamilton.
Conning - an Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union member who represents about 90 workers at the centre - described the news as "a bombshell".
"To be honest I didn't give it any thought. As things chug along you just keep hoping, you're optimistic, you just keep hoping that things will be OK.
"But they're not."
NZ Post chief executive Brian Roche said the rapid decline of mail delivery was "no great secret" and the business had continued to suffer with 200 million fewer items of mail processed in the past decade, declining yearly by 8 per cent.
The figures had forced a decision to centralise NZ Post's northern operations in Auckland.
NZ Post will cut about 500 part-time and fulltime jobs with losses in three centres - Hamilton (129), Wellington (163) and Dunedin (73) and about 133 in smaller centres.
Expansion at the three remaining centres would create about 380 new jobs, with Palmerston North gaining about 180 new jobs, Auckland 121 and Christchurch 75.
Hamilton Mayor Julie Hardaker hit out at the decision to cut city jobs in favour of Auckland.
"It's disappointing that NZ Post has not seen the value of locating the upper North Island's processing centre in Hamilton, which is in the centre of that region, has excellent transport connections and provides a far closer reach down the North Island than Auckland does."
Conning said many staff had worked for the company for more than 30 years. They were still trying to come to terms with the news, including the impact on family if they needed to move for a job.
It is the biggest shakeup since the number of processing centres was reduced from 26 to six a decade ago.
But the "difficult decisions" would help the business remain viable, according to Roche.
"We just want to acknowledge that this is a big decision for us.
"It has been a difficult decision and it affects a number of our staff who have given very loyal service."
The Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union (EPMU) said New Zealand Post had indicated the potential for 250 new fulltime jobs at its three remaining centres, but the union predicted fewer than 5 per cent of workers affected by the cuts would relocate.
"There are a lot of people deeply fearful for their futures today," EPMU postal industry organiser Joe Gallagher said.
"This is not a good time to find yourself on the dole queue and in the current environment it's going to be very hard to get another job with secure hours and good rates of pay."
Mail processed in Rotorua, Taupo, Tauranga and Bay of Plenty would be moved to the Waikato Mail Centre by early next year and then all operations would cease in Hamilton later next year as the transfer to Auckland was finalised.
Jobs from the 54 satellite centres around the country would be lost but no regional figures for Waikato were available, and New Zealand Post spokesman John Tulloch said it was "a very inexact situation".
"It might be part of somebody's job, so the ultimate situation might be that they might have reduced hours or they might drop into another role."
Last week, the Fairfax Media reported that a new processing system at the Waikato Mail Centre, trialled over a two-month period, would streamline the business and Tulloch said the centre would cope with the increased capacity from the regions.
Waikato posties and post office box holders were not affected by the announcement and Tulloch said the mail delivery would remain as normal.
- © Fairfax NZ News