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NZ Post refusing to deliver to mailboxes of new Auckland development

May 27, 2024

By Leonard Powell of RNZ

Many residents of a new Auckland housing development have not received any mail for a year due to a misunderstanding over zoning.

The Ara Hills development near Orewa, 31km north of the Auckland CBD, is a mix of terraced houses, standalone homes and apartments.

There were about 360 residents in May, with plans to expand to 3000 by 2030.

Matt Ward moved in last July.

"We had a letterbox out the front and didn't really think anything of it for the first few weeks, but sort of realised that we weren't receiving any residential mail."

Ward, who lives with his partner and two young children, got in touch with the residents' association to find out why their brand-new mailbox was empty.

"They said that they were in back and forth with NZ Post at the moment, because NZ Post considers this new development still as a rural area.

"We hit up the developers and said 'this is ridiculous, you sold us this house and we didn't know we wouldn't be getting any mail'."

The rural delivery status means NZ Post will only deliver mail to a designated nest - or cluster - of mailboxes, rather than individual households.

Ward said he thought that was crazy.

"It's a very densely populated little, brand-new suburb. We're 30 seconds from the Northern Motorway Orewa exit, five minutes from the Orewa Town Centre, probably five to 10 minutes from Milldale, Millwater, we're very central."

NZ Post would not be interviewed, but in a statement said it had a pre-arranged agreement with developers AV Jennings, because Ara Hills was located on an existing rural delivery route.

Ward said buyers like him were totally blindsided.

"There was no real mention of that when we bought the place. I guess the developers might have been assuming that NZ Post would eventually relent since you've got thousands of houses going in, but yeah, they're holding strong on not delivering it."

Ward's partner Deb said the only people receiving mail in Ara Hills now were those who had taken matters into their own hands.

"No one's getting letters to their letter box unless they have signed up for a PO Box in our local area, which is Orewa, which is an additional cost. So yeah, no one's getting letters here."

She said the lack of mail had led to people's fines being unpaid and important medical documents not being received.

Katelyn Orton, a project director for AV Jennings, the Australian-owned company behind the Ara Hills development, said the situation had been an oversight.

The company was subsidising the cost of a PO Box for residents in the meantime.

"We just thought having the rural classification was growing pains, so to speak, and that once the development proceeded that we would enter into a constructive relationship with NZ Post to have the mail delivered, just like what has happened at Milldale, which is less than 4km away from us.

"In fact, I can stand on site and see the postman deliver mail at Milldale."

Orton said Ara Hills was in a future urban zone and consented for residential development, and AV Jennings had assumed the postal status would soon follow suit.

But NZ Post was holding firm on the clustered letterbox plan - much to AV Jennings' frustration.

"We're not a small retirement village. You know, we're an area that's going to house up to 3000 people. It's very impractical to say that amount of people gets served by cluster mailboxes throughout a development."

The proposed spot for the nested letterboxes is less than 50 metres from Ward's house, and he is sceptical they would even fit in the earmarked space.

"It's only going to get bigger, and there's going to be over 1000 houses once the development is complete.

"You're not going to get a nest of 1000 little boxes for one area, that's just a little bit ridiculous."

Ward said the conflict in Ara Hills highlighted the struggles of suburban communities with outdated postal service classifications.

And Orton had concerns for future housing developments on the outskirts of cities.

"We're concerned that NZ Post is foreshadowing that all new residential developments in growth areas will have to have cluster mailboxes so they can get their mail by courier."

Main image (RNZ/Leonard Powell): Ara Hills is zoned as rural by NZ Post, so mail is not delivered to residents' letterboxes. 

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