Missing mail: love letters and birthday cards opened

Detective Grant Miller (left), Detective Matt Jones (centre)  and Senior Constable Julian Cahill  count  mail not delivered to Fernhill residents, which will be both returned to  its rightful owners and produced as evidence in court on Monday. Photo by Olivia Caldwell.
Detective Grant Miller (left), Detective Matt Jones (centre) and Senior Constable Julian Cahill count mail not delivered to Fernhill residents, which will be both returned to its rightful owners and produced as evidence in court on Monday. Photo by Olivia Caldwell.

More Wakatipu residents than first believed have been affected by the recently discovered case of undelivered mail as police have found mail addressed to Arrowtown and Lake Hayes Estate residents.

Love letters, bank statements, bills and birthday cards were allegedly opened by a Queenstown postie, who had stored up to 20,000 items between her home in Frankton and an Arrowtown storage unit instead of delivering it.

While the original 12,000 pieces of mail found at the woman's Frankton address on Friday were addressed to Fernhill residents, a further 7000-plus items were found in Arrowtown this week as the accused had been contracted to Arrowtown and Lake Hayes Estate within the past 12 months, Detective Grant Miller, of Queenstown, said.

He estimated 2%-3% of that mail had been opened.

Fernhill residents are still coming to grips with the fact their mail went missing and are calling for accountability from New Zealand Post.

A 32-year-old woman was arrested last Friday after police discovered more than 12,000 pieces of mail throughout the Frankton property where she lived.

Queenstown detectives have spent days counting tens of thousands of envelopes and packages the contracted New Zealand Post delivery woman had allegedly stolen and stored since September last year.

"Bills, banks statements, cards, love letters ... photos have all been found opened," Senior Constable Julian Cahill said.

Police were unsure whether this was the last of the missing mail.

"We can't be sure she hasn't disposed some of the mail somewhere else."

Alison and Bill Metherel, of Fernhill, who were among the 101 residents who laid complaints with NZ Post over the past 12 months, said their complaint had been dismissed.

"My husband called NZ Post a couple of weeks ago and he said they were unconcerned and it was like they had never received a complaint about missing mail in Fernhill," Mrs Metherel said.

"Our credit card statements for the last five months have never arrived, which could have meant financial penalties to us if we hadn't called the bank."

The couple have also had Christmas cards, birthday cards and car registrations go missing in the last year.

"We are really quite taken aback that it has taken so long to discover the thefts of mail, " Mrs Metherel said.

"We are not sure what else is missing, and will wait and see what turns up in our mailbox in the next few weeks."

Police are counting the mail so they can provide an exact number to the Queenstown District Court on Monday, where the woman will appear on one charge of theft by a person in a special relationship.

If found guilty, she will face a maximum of seven years' imprisonment.

NZ Post media communications manager Michael Tull said the company hoped to redistribute the mail early next week with an apology letter.

He said the company would investigate its delivery processes and try to identify whether the incident could have been avoided.