NZ Post to silence audio recordings on delivery vehicles, which union says were made in secret

Kavinda Herath / Fairfax NZ

NZ Post are introducing electric vehicles for their posties in Invercargill.

NZ Post will stop recording audio of people chatting to their postie at the letterbox.

The continuous audio recordings allowed for eavesdropping and had amounted to a "serious breach of the privacy", the Postal Workers Union says.

NZ Post's new delivery vehicle fleet - four wheel electric Paxsters - have high-resolution, forward-facing cameras with GPS.

NZ Post's Paxter electric vehicle.
RACHEL THOMAS/STUFF

NZ Post's Paxter electric vehicle.

NZ Post had said the camera would be used to record incidents or accidents, but made no mention of audio recordings, union spokesman John Maynard said.

READ MORE:
New Zealand Post plans to roll-out electric delivery buggies in Marlborough
*  NZ Post mails legal demand to union over safety claims
NZ Post introduces 'Paxster' postal buggies to Auckland - starting with the North Shore

There are currently 170 Paxster vehicles in use across the country with more due to be rolled out.

The union said the continuous audio recordings were not necessary for the safety and security of postal workers and breached privacy of members of the public.

After being contacted by Stuff on Sunday night, a spokesperson for NZ Post said they would switch off the sound of the audio recording devices while the issue was discussed.

The recordings were wiped from the Paxsters after a few days, and copies were not kept, the spokesperson said.

"The Paxster recording devices are there for health and safety reasons, to help NZ Post understand what has happened in the case of an incident.".

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"Whilst we work with [the union] and the Privacy Commissioner, all team leaders must seek the permission of the Acting General Manager of Operations before accessing any Paxster camera recordings for any purpose."

"I think it is a really good thing if they turn the audio off," Maynard said on Sunday night.

"[We are] really disturbed that it was going on for such a long time before anyone found out." 

A 2005 CASE

In February 2005 The Dominion Post reported that NZ Post ended a trial program that got posties to 'snoop' on the public.

The trial had posties record through lapel microphones whether houses on their routes needed repainting and the information was to be used in a marketing campaign.

Intense public pressure ended the trial.

NZ Post had not foreseen the backlash, then Chief Executive of NZ Post John Allen said at the time.

"I suppose what it has done is reinforced for us the very high trust with which the community views the postie and it's a fairly clear signal to us that we have got to be careful how we deploy our postie workforce in the community." 

 - Stuff

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