The daily postal delivery is about to go the way of home-delivered milk in bottles and copper coins.
The Government is poised to accept a recommendation to slash the current six-day-a-week regime to just three days a week as mail volumes fall.
A move to three days of postal deliveries could come earlier than the proposed 2014-15 if mail volumes fall much faster than expected, NZ Post chief executive Brian Roche has warned.
Communications Minister Amy Adams will decide on any changes after six weeks of public consultation.
She said she would look to balance the interests of postal users with the need to ensure a financially-viable postal service.
"We will be wanting to talk particularly to rural communities, particularly to the elderly - people who do find it harder to communicate in other ways."
But Prime Minister John Key signalled an end to daily letter deliveries was inevitable.
"We live in a world that's evolving and changing and fundamentally people are sending less mail and therefore less mail's delivered," he said.
"A hell of a lot more is being done by text message and email these days."
Roche said the fall in volumes was irreversible.
Christmas card deliveries were down by up to 20 per cent in December compared with 2011.
If mail volumes declined much faster than the forecast 6 per cent to 8 per cent a year - what he called the "cliff scenario" - cuts could come sooner than 2014.
NZ Post did not have a specific number of job losses in mind but it would be in the hundreds. Cost savings would be in the hundreds of millions.
Three-day-a-week deliveries would allow posties to cover two rounds on alternate days.
The proposal included a move to more self-service kiosks, which would affect post office staff. There were other options, such as a subsidy from the Government, but NZ Post was not seeking that.
Roche said NZ Post accepted rural customers would be the worst affected and it would work with rural contractors, who delivered other products as well, to see what could be done.
The EPMU, representing postal workers, said a three-day mail delivery service was not sustainable or justified by current volumes, but the union recognised the commercial pressures facing NZ Post.
Federated Farmers said farmers would resist any separate "rural delivery fee".
- © Fairfax NZ News
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