The review of New Zealand Post's 1998 Deed of Understanding with the Government, and the possible changes to postal delivery, is an emotive issue for many Federated Farmers members.
The proposed changes may see postal delivery reduced in both urban and rural areas along with changes to New Zealand Post's over-the-counter services.
There is a common perception among farmers responding to the Federation's consultation that only rural areas will be affected by this review, with no changes in urban areas.
A significant proportion of respondents also have little faith that New Zealand Post and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) will take the unique challenges they face into consideration when making changes to postal delivery frequency.
These members do not see broadband as a viable alternative to post. While satellite, dial-up and broadband has reached many rural areas in New Zealand, the internet is not available in a significant number of places or, if available, is either very expensive, very slow, or both.
People living in rural areas with no internet connection rely on daily newspapers for current events and their local rural delivery contractor is their main source of communication with the outside world.
This is exacerbated by a low level of computer literacy, especially amongst sheep and beef farmers, many of whom are over 60.
Rural delivery contractors often also deliver extremely important items to rural communities including urgent medical supplies, newspapers, farm equipment and groceries, as well as postal items. For extremely remote box-holders, driving to the nearest town to pick up these items every time they need it is not a viable option.
The contractors also provide isolated rural areas with a level of security. It is often the rural delivery contractor who notices suspicious vehicles or an overflowing letterbox and alerts the authorities.
New Zealand Post put forward four possible options, which the Government released for consultation, including; retaining the status quo, reducing postal delivery in some areas from six to five days per week, gradually reducing most areas to three days delivery per week and getting rid of the deed of understanding, opening up New Zealand Post to market controls.
Federated Farmers submitted on the consultation last month based on the feedback we received from our members, asking MBIE and New Zealand Post to conduct further consultation with rural communities before making any changes to the current postal delivery frequency.
Rural specific options need to be developed to address the unique circumstances rural communities face.