Queenstown mail theft victim wants NZ Post heads to roll

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Frustrated Fernhill residents say senior heads should roll at New Zealand Post after a postie was charged with stealing mail – for two years. 

Alan Cooke, 80 (below), was one of the residents whose mail was among about 3000 pieces allegedly stolen.
The retired teacher complained to NZ Post after tax forms, rates invoices, credit card and bank statements failed to arrive. 

Last Friday, Queens­town police arrested a 32-year-old woman who has been charged with theft. The NZ Post contractor has been remanded on bail and granted interim name suppression before her court date on Monday.
Cooke, of Thorn Crescent, says: “The people who are actually responsible for not acting are protected by these pathetic PR people. 

“I’ve never seen such feeble excuses. They said they may have had an opportunity to do something about it sooner. 

“They had more than 100 complaints from one small suburb – so they had more than 100 opportunities. 

“Somebody in security or middle or senior management must go.”

Police allegedly found scores of bundles of mail – more than 30 boxes with up to 100 items in each – scattered around the woman’s home and garden on Friday. Some had been opened. 

NZ Post communications boss Michael Tull says the problem escalated in August this year after 18 months of low-level complaints prior to that. 

Tull confirms an initial investigation, which began a year ago, failed because the worker who now faces charges was one of those investigating the missing mail. 

“First of all we understand the level of frustration,” Tull says. 

“We feel profound frustration by an alleged betrayal by someone who was trusted to perform a role. 

“We tried to fix a problem we believed was external with our internal resources, which includes the person who is now facing charges. The point was we had taken steps over the past year.” 

NZ Post received an average of one complaint a month from Fernhill during 2010 – which is within the boundaries of what NZ Post would normally expect. 

That increased to an average of two complaints last year and early 2012 before spiking from August, averaging 11 a month. There were 101 total complaints and a further 21 since Monday. 

NZ Post sent its national security team to Queenstown to conduct a clandestine operation once it became apparent in August the problem could be internal. 

They concluded their investigation on Friday and informed police. 

When asked whether a senior staff member will take responsibility, Tull says: “We need to review first before we find whether that is the case. 

“Any organisation where you have a large number of people, remember we have 2000 people delivering mail in NZ, in there you will have the occasional bad egg.” 

Dart Place resident Mike Legge, 52, complained to NZ Post just two weeks ago about missing mail – a business cheque, doctors’ appointment notice and a power bill – and says he was told by NZ Post staff the organisations were not sending the mail. 

“If they were having an investigation surely the phone operators should have known about that and been taking an interest rather than telling me people weren’t sending me mail,” Legge says. 

“If you don’t pay your power bill on time you can lose a massive discount – up to $90.” 

Queenstown detective Grant Miller says the postie could face further charges once the mail has been examined and police determine whether any items such as credit cards have been used. 

NZ Post sent a team of four people to sort through the mail yesterday with police, aiming to deliver it as soon as possible. 

Cooke says: “In those two years, a lot of people have come and gone. 

“It’s a very transient area and I wonder how many people have missed out on letters from their family, money from overseas, Christmas mail, wedding invitations and goodness knows what,” he says. 

“I can detail stuff over the last year – at least half a dozen items, but the problem is how do we know what hasn’t arrived?” 

In September, an Auckland 38-year-old woman postie admitted burying 28,000 items of mail in her back garden over three years. Her case has been adjourned until December. 

Fernhill residents affected should call NZ Post customer service on 0800 501501.