Stratford man reflects on half a century of a job

By Erika Venter

The postal service in Stratford has seen numerous changes over the last few decades, but a constant behind the service has been Peter Hartley, who this month is looking back on a half century of ensuring Stratford residents get their post delivered in a timely fashion.

Stratford born and bred, he started his career in the post office aged 15 as a mail sorter and later as postal assistant.

He says he was "looking into mechanics", but a position at the post office came up and he took it.

Having done a paper run for six years, he adds that he was used to biking and knew most people in town.

"On the postie run, we biked around 27km a day. I enjoyed it. Rain? You just got used to it. As with everything, you take the good with the bad."

He says a bonus was the afternoons off.

"The faster you peddled, the faster you got home."

It was only in 1963 when they got their first van to help with deliveries in town. He remembers having to collect the post from the railway at the back of the old post office (where Video Ezy is now).

The service however, was not just about post, but also had the role as savings bank and telephone exchange, which Peter says he found very exciting.

"It was so interesting and there were much to learn. We had such diversity of work."

That made for a difficult decision, says Peter, when in 1987, the New Zealand Post Office was corporatised and its core businesses split into three separate companies - Telecom, Post Bank and New Zealand Post. Peter says he chose the postal service, as he saw it as the best career option.

"I liked them all. It was not an easy decision." He adds though that the wheel has "gone right around" with New Zealand Post launching Kiwibank in 2002 and acting as agent for various companies and government departments.

Apart from working on the relieve team at various smaller branches and a few years in Eltham, he spend most of his career in Stratford. It was in Eltham where he met his wife, Lyn.

"I met her as a customer. She then joined the staff and it went from there."

Peter stepped up to a supervisor position in 1987 and was appointed to the position of manager in Stratford 16 years ago, a position he still holds.

He remembers the post office having employed close to a 100 people in Stratford up until the late 80s. Computerisation made work easier, but cost a lot of jobs, says Peter, who recalls that 33 people lost their employment at one time.

"It had an effect on people's lives and the town, because that was income lost."

Currently, there are three full-time and one part-time employees on the retail side and three part-time employees in the mail room.

"But," he adds, "Statford is a good country town which stuck together and survived."

He says he has enjoyed meeting people and working with customers, but that at 65 he is looking to retire this year.

"Life is short and there are other interests. I want to be involved in the community in a more voluntary way."

- Stratford Press

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