Queenstown mail undelivered amid NZ Post dispute

File photo: RNZ
File photo: RNZ
By Leonard Powell of RNZ

Residents of a new Queenstown development have lost contact with family members, while other homeowners have court dates for overdue fines, all because NZ Post will not deliver mail to their letterboxes.

The Hanley's Farm housing development began in 2019. Many residents have since moved in, and once completed, the development will have 1500 properties.

However, NZ Post is refusing to give the area urban delivery status, and will not deliver mail to properties' individual letterboxes.

It is not the only new development in this situation. North of Auckland city, the Ara Hills development is still considered a rural delivery zone by NZ Post, despite plans for it to have 3000 properties.

Residents there also do not receive letters to their mailboxes, meaning fines have gone unpaid and important medical information has not been received.

Residents of Hanley's Farm are facing a two-year wait for a PO Box.

Ann McClure moved in three years ago. She told First Up she did not expect it would mean losing contact with her 90-year-old sister.

"She didn't have any forms other than writing to me. She doesn't have internet or anything at her age, and I normally get letters or Christmas cards, but I couldn't get one."

The reason was because Hanley's Farm, which is about 15 minutes' drive from Queenstown, is considered a rural delivery area and only receives parcels by courier.

McClure followed instructions and tried to get a PO Box in Frankton near the airport.

"I waited 10 months to get a post office box, which I eventually got. Unfortunately, my sister's now got dementia and gone into a home. So I'll never hear from her again," McClure told First Up.

She also missed a hospital appointment because she did not receive the notification letter, and her new credit card was lost in the mail.

Another recent resident, Michael Allen, could be waiting much longer for a PO Box.

"I was told that they have no PO Boxes and was put on a waiting list in a book and was told it could be up to two years," he said.

The only other option was a PO Box in central Queenstown, but as fellow resident Rachel Primrose said, that was far less convenient.

"That's around about a 12 kilometre drive, takes about 25 minutes and it's also quite difficult for parking and access at various times of the day due to the business of our town."

NZ Post declined to be interviewed, but in a statement said the rapid decline of letters being sent meant it was not economically viable to expand its delivery zone.

It said it had tried to meet with the developers, RCL Group, to discuss a solution.

The developers had declined to provide a cluster mailbox solution for all residents as it was not on their original resource consent, NZ Post said.

"This is still NZ Post's preferred option, to deliver to a cluster of mailboxes. We have offered Hanley's Farm residents free PO Boxes to the extent available at either our Frankton, Wakatipu or Queenstown box lobbies.

"This was always meant to be a temporary solution."

In a statement, RCL Group said it felt clustered mailboxes were an impractical suggestion for a development the size of Hanley's Farm.

"Clustered mailboxes at this scale would require large and costly structures which risk being unsightly and creating litter problems."

The developer was "incredibly disappointed to learn that some residents have received communications from NZ Post that place blame on our team for the lack of postal service", the statement said.

"The postal delivery service has always - and remains to be - the responsibility of NZ Post."

RCL Group had offered at one stage to build PO Box facilities closer to Hanley's Farm, but the offer was not taken up, it said.

"RCL would still like to see a resolution, whether that be through the commencement of mail delivery to houses or through the provision of sufficient PO Boxes closer to Hanleys Farm and Homestead Bay. RCL is willing to discuss and work with other parties to see a practical resolution emerge."

In the meantime, homeowners said they were facing serious repercussions for not receiving mail.

Georgia Annan had a standoff with a police officer after being pulled over for speeding. The police officer demanded a postal address to deliver the fine to, but Annan could not give one.

She told First Up the fine tripled because she did not receive it, and now it had gone to court.

"What if there's a speeding ticket that you get? And they post it out, that's done through an automatic system. Who gets that?

"Then all of a sudden it's with the courts. And you get a ring from them."

McClure, meanwhile, said she had been forced to travel into Frankton to check her mail, and she worried that would get more difficult as she got older.

"I'm approaching 80 now. The time may come where I might not be able to drive. I might not pass. You have to have two-yearly tests once you get to 80. I might not pass the next one and then I can't drive.

"I could get the bus, but with the bus again, I've got to walk to the bus stop. Depends on how mobile I'm going to be, whether I can do it."