Going postal

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    More than a few people gathered to gape in dismay on Monday after finding Oneroa’s PostShop had exited the building it has shared with Kiwibank for several decades. The doors of its twinned bank branch are now only open from 10am to 3pm.

    The purpose-built government building has been one of Waiheke’s many notably hospitable enterprises.  

    We’ve queued there, offered up weird and wonderful parcels, talked about mail to and from long-lost friends, been shepherded through vehicle registration problems and, in recent years, queued out the door to use the services which NZ Post − crying poor in the face of changing mail patterns  − has heaped on its indefatigably cheerful, patient and helpful staff.

    Oneroa’s PostShop services have moved a hundred yards up Oneroa’s main street to stationery shop Take Note, itself with a pretty cheerful and helpful crew. Details like disability access and delivery parking for postal pickups on Ocean View Road have yet to be tackled, although, online, it is as if the red-branded Weka Road PostShop with its giant pōhutukawa and its Jan Nigro mural − our only purpose-built public service building in decades − never existed.

    “This is a model that works well for New Zealand Post, in the climate of rapidly declining mail volumes as it comes with less fixed costs, and allows us to maintain a retail network to service our customers across the country,” a spokesperson said some years ago. 

    “This is not a new strategy for us, we have been working in this way in many communities across New Zealand for a number of years now,” she said. 

    The current retrenchment was mandated by Government in 2013 and the underlying ruthless corporatisation in 1986 when then the State-Owned Enterprises Act required New Zealand Post to operate as a successful business and to be “as profitable and efficient as comparable businesses not owned by the Crown”. 

    Two years later, 432 post offices were closed  and 560 jobs were cut while the SOE announced a first-year after-tax profit of $72 million and a 25 percent cut in recurring costs. The other requirements, that the SOE be “a good employer” and “an organisation that exhibits a sense of social responsibility by having regard to the interests of the community in which it operates and by endeavouring to accommodate or encourage these when it is able to do so”,  not so much.

    The conflicting rhetoric in the 1987 bill is plain to see; the devil in the detail is an opportunity for top-of-the-heap decisionmakers to literally talk past each other in the bureaucratic dogfights  where “expert” corporate high fliers are parachuted in to push even discredited theories in pursuit of  personal ambition and the dictates of moneymaking. 

    Unfortunately, what PostShop’s website describes as “successful commercial entities competing in local and global markets”, aren’t necessarily the best service providers for long-suffering and resource-starved citizens and we have hardly been unaware of the ideological mayhem  that has emptied small-town New Zealand of their time-honoured public post offices and sometimes almost the last people there on government wages.

    Mental hospitals and services, country hospitals and rail links have likewise vanished, breaking local industries like food production for the giant Auckland market and imposing uncountable road-transport and other infrastructural costs on citizens and businesses.

    The scandal of Fonterra bonuses is breath-taking. New Zealand’s health service is one of the cheapest per head in the world  and ranked one of the worst in its service to its population. 

    Some years ago, Gulf News ran a Totally Locally campaign for Waiheke. A couple of clever young designers in Yorkshire released it as freeware to enable declining market towns to keep their distinctive character and compete with malls and chains dominated by global players.

    In that model, even a modest but intentional amount of spending in local shops each week goes round the community in an entirely different way: from coffee shop to bike shop to fitness trainer, adding millions to the local economy until it is syphoned off to banks and big business. 

    Local is not some impediment to profit and we owe many thanks to the generous spirit of our Kiwibank and post office teams who have been glue in our community and much loved over generations. • Liz Waters

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