28 Nov 2018

Government urged to act over Post Shops closures: 'It's worth preserving'

6:46 am on 28 November 2018

Small towns battling to keep their Post Shops open say they should not have to fundraise to keep their towns running, and want the government to step in.

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New Zealand Post is proposing to close its remaining 79 branches, and shift the services to supermarkets and pharmacy counters. Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

Yesterday, RNZ revealed New Zealand Post was proposing to close its remaining 79 branches, and shift the services to supermarkets and pharmacy counters.

In response, the government said it was considering funding regional hubs to provide banking and mail services.

Unhappiness at the closure of Post Shops stretched from small town New Zealand, to the top of the Beehive.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she was worried, and so the government was brainstorming ways to fill the gaps left by the closures.

One idea being investigated were so-called 'regional hubs', housing postal, banking and bill-payment services.

The suggestion came as towns around the country fought to keep their banking and postal services

Karen Summerhays, a resident in Te Puke, is part of a group trying to raise $50,000 to purchase the local postal service off New Zealand Post.

"This is really the people buying their post office," she said.

"I guess it's a little bit annoying that they most probably have paid for it before in their taxes and now they're buying it again. But we really believe that it's such a hub and it's such a neutral place in town where anybody can bump into anybody, that it's worth preserving."

If they could crowd-fund the money for the franchise, they would keep Te Puke's Post Shop open - but would run it as a co-working space, and take on council contracts to help pay rent.

Ms Summerhays said in a perfect world the town wouldn't be seeking donations to keep itself running.

So she liked the sound of government-owned "regional hubs."

"Sounds great, I'll have to have a chat to Grant [Robertson]," she said.

"That type of social infrastructure is the key."

News that South Dunedin was losing its Post Shop and the attached Kiwibank rattled residents when it was announced in June.

Like in Te Puke, locals had come up with a plan. They wanted the services put into a new 'hub' being developed by the City Council - but someone had to buy the postal contract.

South Dunedin Business Association chairperson Craig Waterhouse said it would be good if the government paid for it.

"I think that's a great idea," he said.

Mr Waterhouse said communities should not have to battle for their front-line services - especially taxpayer funded ones.

"The idea of Jim Anderton setting up Kiwibank and New Zealand Post originally - I think he would be horrified at what they're doing with the two organisations now."

The Union representing Post Shop workers was worried about what New Zealand Post's plans to shut its branches meant for staff.

E Tu's postal and logistics organiser, Joe Gallagher, said it was hard to say if jobs were at risk - or if they were, how many.

"Those numbers will have to be worked through," he said.

"New Zealand Post still has people in what we call the box lobby ... so there will be people in that, but we just need to work with New Zealand Post."

"I expect that there will be a consultation process around that."

New Zealand Post said any closures would be handled on a case-by-case basis - and staff would be the first to hear.

It said running postal services from supermarkets and pharmacies was a better deal for customers, and allowed it to keep running as mail volumes continued to plummet.

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