Taranaki farmers are "gutted" at the prospect of losing their daily mail delivery.
Yesterday Communications Minister Amy Adams released a proposal from New Zealand Post which suggests cutting mail deliveries to as little as three days a week to cope with falling volumes.
Ms Adams said mail volumes had dropped considerably in the past decade. She said 265 million fewer items were posted each year compared to 2002.
"Within five years, mail volumes are forecast to be nearly half what they were in 2002."
The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment is calling for public submissions on the proposal, and an accompanying discussion document recognises the problems decreased mail delivery may pose for those living rurally, especially those without easy access to the internet.
Tarata sheep and beef farmer Bryan Hocken said he was not happy with the thought of losing his main source of news.
"It's another stab in the back to the rural community. Getting the paper every day is one of the few luxuries we have left.
"Once it's down to three days a week, that's it. It'll never go back."
If the newspaper stopped arriving in the letterbox daily, farmers would be cut off from one of their primary sources of communication with the outside world, he said.
"The paper gives us that connection between rural and urban. It's where you get the livestock sales and buy and sell things and hear about things that are happening."
He said many farmers did not have the time or inclination to get their news online or on television.
"I know lots of them don't watch the news. They're too busy. I like to sit down in the lazy boy with the paper, not with a screen flashing in my face," he said.
Federated Farmers president Bruce Wills said NZ Post had been working with farmers and the changes were hardly a shock.
"We are living through a fundamental shift in technology. The decline in physical mail is offset by the rise of electronic mail."
He said the proposed changes would be most felt by communities who had few technological options available.
"Even if we take the most optimistic assumptions about rural broadband, it still leaves some 86,000 people offline, more than the population of Palmerston North."
Many farmers rely on Rural Post contractors for not only mail and newspapers, but also courier items and even groceries, he said.
"There is also an unquantifiable socialisation element too."
Taranaki Daily News editor Roy Pilott said getting the news to readers, on a variety of platforms to suit customers, would always be a priority. He agreed with Mr Wills' view that changes could drive innovation in delivery.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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