18 months later, 16,000 letters find their homes

By James Beech

Queenstown police still possess several hundred items of opened mail which are retained as part of the investigation. Photo / NZPA
Queenstown police still possess several hundred items of opened mail which are retained as part of the investigation. Photo / NZPA

The start yesterday of the delivery of more than 16,000 letters and parcels by New Zealand Post was better late than never for hundreds of Wakatipu residents affected by the alleged hoarding of mail by a former postal worker due to appear in the Queenstown District Court today.

Queenstown police released 16,611 pieces of mail which were allegedly recovered unopened from the home and commercial storage of the 32-year-old postal worker who faces criminal charges, but has name suppression.

Queenstown police still possess several hundred items of opened mail which are retained as part of the investigation.

The Otago Daily Times accompanied uniformed and experienced contract postal worker Terri Oakden, of Queenstown, as she made her deliveries in Arrowtown yesterday.

Ms Oakden was one of 20 postal workers with one of 10 support workers, driving vehicles carrying boxes of sorted mail, who were tasked with delivering mail overdue by up to 18 months.

They began to serve most of the 730 addresses in the Queenstown suburb of Fernhill, plus 397 in Lake Hayes Estate and 236 in Arrowtown.

An official letter from NZ Post apologising for any inconvenience or distress caused by undelivered mail was also given to recipients.

Arrowtown resident Peter Crum answered Ms Oakden's knock on his door. He presented his identification for security and signed for the delivery of his letter, the same procedure for all recipients.

Mr Crum said he was "happy to have it" as he had a feeling post was not being delivered.

He spoke for many when he said: "I was surprised so much mail went undelivered without being noticed."

NZ Post spokesman Michael Tull, of Wellington, who joined staff on rounds in the Wakatipu basin, said other recipients felt "a sense of closing an unfortunate chapter and some are relieved they're getting the mail where it belongs".

There was also an anti-climax for some, as undelivered post revealed itself to be bills and junk mail.

If occupants were not at home, postal workers left a card with NZ Post's contact details to arrange another time for delivery, in an operation which is expected to take weeks to complete.

Households which were not reached in time yesterday were notified by a new mail drop their delivery will resume this Sunday.

NZ Post said it would use all available resources to locate the intended recipients, including any who no longer live in Queenstown, Lake Hayes Estate and Arrowtown.

This will prove a logistical test for the 172-year-old organisation, especially with mail addresses to Fernhill residents, because of the suburb's status as a virtual dormitory for Queenstown's overseas and seasonal workers.

- Otago Daily Times

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