The following opinion piece appeared in the Otago Daily Times on 17 May 2011 as part of a campaign to prevent the closure of the Dunedin Central post office. The closure by NZ Post management proceeded, despite the collection of thousands of petition signatures, protest actions at local post offices including a rally and a stamp protest, and a television appearance by the Mayor.
On Friday 13 May 2011 it was announced by New Zealand Post that the Dunedin Metro Postshop and Kiwibank in the Exchange would be closed.
The bad effects of such a closure are obvious. Dunedin Metro should be kept open with the full range of current services.
Local people should take this decision by NZ Post management and “return to sender.”
The current Post Shop provides an excellent one stop service, providing multiple services and helpful staff in one convenient location.
As a regular user of Dunedin Metro, I use a PO Box, Kiwibank facilities, bill payment facilities, car registration, collection and postage of parcels, purchase of stationary and stamps, and inquiries on postage and related matters on a regular basis, for both business and personal requirements.
So do many other businesses, retailers, and Government and private sector organizations that are located in the vicinity.
Dunedin Metro is the location of PO Boxes for a large number of businesses who find the extra services of the Post Shop and Kiwibank most useful.
The location of Dunedin Metro is important. It is situated in the business end of the City close by to many offices, retailers and commercial operations. It is easy to find and has convenient parking.
The nearest other Post Shop is in Moray Place, jammed between two major intersections, and with heavy traffic and pedestrian flows.
The Moray Place Post Shop is often busy and crowded, servicing the main retail area in Dunedin.
Parking is a nightmare at Moray Place and obviously no thought has been given to the effect on congestion and traffic and pedestrian safety by forcing more customers to this outlet.
Another important group of customers for Dunedin Metro are tourists and business visitors.
Three of Dunedin’s major hotels are within a short distance of Dunedin Metro, as is the development of a major new hotel, in addition to numerous bars, cafes, and other accommodation.
Any one who uses Dunedin Metro will know that this is an easy to find and accessible service for tourists and visitors.
Since Dunedin is now promoting itself as a destination for its natural wonders, and the new Stadium with its music and high profile sports events, can we afford to remove such a useful facility for our guests?
Dunedin has struggled to maintain a thriving downtown area.
We have seen a turnaround in recent years with the opening of new accommodation, hospitality and entertainment business in the Exchange area, large retailers opening nearby, the continued presence of public sector organizations and local Government, and diverse new operations such as the Business Incubator and the organic food shop in High Street (and at least one MP’s office!)
A basic facility in such a strategic part of the city is a Post Shop and Kiwibank.
It is important to Dunedin that such a vital service such as the Post Shop is not ripped out of the mix, leaving the Exchange a forlorn and empty advertisement for a city on the way down.
Then there is the social and community function of a post office and Kiwibank.
Let’s not forget that not everyone has a computer with broadband, not everyone is comfortable with high tech kiosks, and not everyone can easily decode the complicated forms and procedures of our bureaucratic world.
The presence of sympathetic and helpful staff members to assist more vulnerable members of the community must not be underestimated.
Dunedin Metro’s customers include a diverse range of local residents from inner city areas that range from well-heeled apartment dwellers to beneficiaries, the elderly and the disabled.
It is also easily accessible from main bus routes from many parts of Dunedin without post or Kiwibank services.
NZ Post is a state owned enterprise and has a social responsibility as a high profile business.
It has an effective monopoly and provides a non-optional service that most people are required to use on a regular basis.
Keeping Dunedin Metro open may involve less profit on the balance sheet in the short term, but it will maintain and build the respect and public profile required for a successful enterprise in the long term.
Dunedin Metro is more than a business. It is a public service. Remember that concept?
It is important to have real people behind the counter.
The latest technology and the “human touch” are not mutually exclusive concepts. Replacing experienced staff with robots may sound attractive in boardroom presentations, but the reality for the customer may be quite different.
Dunedin Metro frontline staff are ambassadors for NZ Post.
If NZ Post is serious about maintaining its credibility and brand, it would do well to sack the management responsible for the attack on our Post Shop rather than the loyal, respected and hard working staff who are appreciated by all of us who use Dunedin Metro.
In nearly ten years of using Dunedin Metro most days of the week, I have found these staff to be consistently approachable, knowledgeable and efficient.
It is increasingly rare these days to be greeted by a staff member who you will be on first name terms with, who will ask after your family, and have a smile and a friendly word or laugh with you.
These workers are an essential part of our community, and they do more for NZ Post than is obviously understood by the head office bean counters and public relations gurus.
I want to see Dunedin Metro Post Shop and Kiwibank remain open, retain all staff members, and keep its current services intact.
NZ Post management should listen to their customers and revise their decision. If this decision is reversed, NZ Post will be thought of as an organization that is prepared to put its customers first, and is seen as listening and acting with integrity.
I hope they make the right decision.