‘Jason is well known’: Napier man’s Chatham Islands letter returned to him four times

Napier man Art Hooper figured everyone would know everyone on the Chatham Islands when he sent his friend Jason a letter without an address on it.

But NZ Post wasn’t as confident. It sent it back to him four times.

Hooper, who writes dozens of letters a year, says it’s a sign that the era of posties knowing their local area, and NZ Post trusting that local knowledge, is over.

In late January, Hooper first sent a letter off to his friend, one of four families on a rural road on the Chatham Islands, which lie about 770 kilometres south-east of Napier and have a population of about 660.

He didn’t know Jason’s address or PO Box number, but Hooper thought his friend’s name, plus ‘Owenga’ and ‘Chatham Islands’, would be enough to get it there.

“Few live at Owenga and Jason is well known,” he said.

A few weeks later the letter was returned to Hooper, with a green stamp on it saying it did not have a deliverable address, and advice on how to correct it.

Hooper then sent it off with the Owenga postal code included before it was returned.

He rang Jason, got his PO Box number and included it, but without the ‘PO Box’ in front. The letter was again returned.

He then added the word ‘PO Box’ and sent it a fourth time and was frustrated when it came back about two weeks ago.

With a new, paid envelope offered by the team at Kennedy Road Post, he put the undeliverable letter inside and sent it off for a final time. He’s still not sure if it has reached its destination.

Hooper said mail was an important way for older people to keep in touch with friends.

“Years ago one knew their postie and that person knew his round,” he said.

“So if a child wrote to Santa or grandma in the green house, it got there.

“I think there is a plan by NZ Post to phase out letters that are delivered.”

A spokesperson for NZ Post said this was not the case.

She was sorry to hear of the trouble Hooper had experienced, but emphasised the group was committed to “doing everything we can” to ensure a sustainable mail service.

She acknowledged mail volumes were dropping substantially – 2021 half-year results showed there were 32.2 million fewer letters sent this period compared to the same period last year.

This meant NZ Post had adopted new methods to be more efficient, including automated processing and sorting machines which rely on correct address formats being used, she said.

“When misaddressed letters arrive in our network, in some instances local knowledge is employed by our people to deliver insufficiently addressed mail.

“However, this is not always possible or practical, so we rely on the sender to use the correct postal address to enable delivery.”

She said standards and guides of how to properly address letters were available on its website.

Staff had also been in touch with Hooper and offered to help show him how to address mail correctly.

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