Postal cuts a hardship, says Grey Power

Last updated 13:00 30/01/2013

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NZ Post's moves to cut postal deliveries to as few as three days a week will disadvantage older residents, Grey Power Nelson president Neville Male says.

The Government is poised to accept a recommendation to slash the six-day-a-week regime for standard letter mail to three days a week as mail volumes plummet.

NZ Post has 60 staff in the Nelson region and has 42 rounds delivering six days a week. Rural Post rounds range from three days a week at St Arnaud to six days at the Glen.

Mr Male said older people, especially those living by themselves, did not want to have lines of communication reduced or cut off.

"This is a step along that pathway."

While more emphasis was being put on email and Facebook, a lot of Grey Power's older membership were reliant on mail and it was not a positive step, he said.

To suggest that it would not matter receiving mail a day or two later was a bureaucratic approach, and it would make a big difference to some, he said.

However, Mr Male said that while some individuals would be quite upset, he doubted it was an issue that would have a big impact at the ballot box.

Nelson Tasman Chamber of Commerce chief executive Dot Kettle said that while the move did not come as a surprise, businesses would want some clarity around expectations so they had some certainty.

There was still a need for postal services and people were finding they were being bombarded with so many emails that getting something by post attracted attention.

"It will be interesting to see how that pans out in the fullness of time," Ms Kettle said.

NZ Post chief executive Brian Roche has warned that a move to three-day-a-week postal deliveries could come earlier then 2014/15 if mail volumes fell much faster than expected.

Communications Minister Amy Adams will decide on any changes after six weeks for 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."

Prime Minister John Key signalled an end to daily letter deliveries is inevitable.

"We live in a world that's evolving and changing and fundamentally people are sending less mail and therefore less mail's delivered," Mr Key said.

"A hell of a lot more is being done by text message and email these days."

Mr Roche said the fall in volumes was irreversible. Christmas card deliveries were down by up to 20 per cent in December compared with 2011.

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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 of dollars.

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.

Mr 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 Post.

Federated Farmers said the proposal would not come as a great shock.

"What we do know is that change is coming and what service level will be acceptable will be member driven."

Farmers would resist any separate "rural delivery fee".

- © Fairfax NZ News

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