Editorial: The last post

Last updated 05:00 04/02/2013

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OPINION: Some Southlanders have very real reasons to be worried by the proposed mail cuts.

Because news that New Zealand Post hopes to slash postal deliveries from the existing six-day-a-week set-up to just three days a week, will be especially concerning for rurally-based Southlanders and many of our elderly folk.

Goodness knows what effect mail cuts will have on the elderly, who are yet to embrace the online world that is making postal mail redundant. True, they would still get their mail but not every day. And what about the disruption any cuts would cause to rural customers and rural contractors, who deliver mail and other products around the province?

Farmers and all rural residents rely on regular mail deliveries and not all of them have access to fast and reliable internet connections, like broadband, to switch easily to the digital world. So where would mail cuts leave them? Getting parcels and mail by courier is an option but an expensive one that few would use regularly.

Farmers and rural dwellers would naturally be quick to resist any separate rural delivery fee and NZ Post has promised that it won't make rural customers second class citizens. How they avoid that happening is not quite so clear.

Of course, no-one can blame NZ Post with its approach because chief executive Brian Roche is well aware that the fall in mail volumes is irreversible.

"We cannot stand still and simply hope the problems will go away," he said.

The state-owned organisation is a business in serious decline. And it's a business, which like so many in these tough times, needs to change and take drastic measures to survive.

It can't keep pace with the changing world and ways of instant communication that most of us expect and demand. Email, social media and online dealings are not the way of the future. They're here now, making mail deliveries, and the role of our posties, almost unnecessary. Gone are the days when we got excited by the sight of the postie heading down our street. When was the last time you ran to the mailbox? People seldom write and post letters, and getting bills and statements is hardly a mailbox drawcard.

Simply, there's less mail being delivered, which is why NZ Post is losing so much money and is having to make some very tough decisions about its future. And its future, quite clearly, isn't about retaining mail deliveries six days a week because the numbers just don't stack up. Postal deliveries are in massive decline and the expectation is that they will keep falling. Within five years, mail volumes are predicted to plummet 600 million items annually. Christmas card deliveries were down about 20 per cent in December, compared to 2011. If mail volumes drop much faster than the predicted 6 to 8 per cent a year, then the planned cuts could come in next year.

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Those cuts would mean big job losses - in the hundreds it's predicted - but NZ Post believes it would save them hundreds of millions of dollars.

So now it's up to Communications Minister Amy Adams to decide on any changes after six weeks for public consultation. At least you can have your say on the proposal by making a submission to the Government. A word of advice, though. Best to make your submission by email. Snail mail, as it's been dubbed, is thing of the past. Well, it's heading that way. And fast.

- The Southland Times

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