THE public has rallied to support the licensees of the Toora Post Office, since, in a move which slashes their income by more than a half, Australia Post deprived them of their town mail delivery contract last week and gave it to a Melbourne-based company.
“It’s been incredible. People clearly don’t want to lose their post office,” said Maree Stewart, who runs the post office with husband Greg and son Chris.
The Stewarts were given three business days’ notice that Australia Post would not be renewing the ‘primary sort and town mail delivery’ contract they have held for the past 15 years. They alerted their customers, warning them that the loss of the contract to sort and deliver the mail for Toora could force them to close the doors of the post office altogether. Already three staff have been laid off.
Outraged customers have leapt to the defence of the Stewarts. They have collected signatures on a petition in support of the post office, set up a Facebook page with a link to change.org under ‘Save Toora Post Office’ and besieged local MPs with letters, phone calls and emails. One local has even made a film to go on YouTube.
“People have been very supportive. It’s heart warming,” said Ms Stewart, humbled by the response from the people of Toora – and even further afield.
Lynda Fromhold from Meeniyan Post Office is among those who have rallied to the cause. She is urging people to sign the online petition, saying: “If this can happen to our friends it could happen to us.”
‘The Mirror’ sought an explanation from Australia Post, curious as to why it would act as it did when its mission statement proclaims, in part: “Our commercial success ensures we can reinvest in the communities we serve and continue to improve the products and services we provide”.
An Australia Post spokesperson issued the following statement: “Our 2,895 licensed post offices make up around two thirds of Australia Post’s retail network and they are critical to providing key services in local communities, particularly in regional and remote areas. We work closely with our licensees to support them in the operation of their businesses with a particular focus on introducing new sources of revenue.
“Australia Post has a rigorous tender process when reviewing mail and parcel delivery contracts. We provide all applicants with the full service requirements and specifications for each tender. We are satisfied that the new contractor can fulfil the terms and conditions of their agreement. If customers have any concerns with their mail delivery, we encourage them to contact us directly on 13 13 18.”
Toora resident and South Gippsland Shire Councillor Jeanette Harding is among the community members angry with Australia Post’s decision.
“I’m absolutely appalled at the loss of the contract,” she said. “I have contacted our federal member, Russell Broadbent. He said a lot of people have contacted him already, raising their concerns, and he will be looking into it, in particular why the Stewarts were only told at the last minute that they had lost the contract.”
The move comes, Cr Harding pointed out, just as Toora was starting to get back on its feet, with new management at the local pharmacy, a new owner promising a bright future for the local pub, a newly renovated and reopened supermarket in the town and new owners with an exciting menu at the Toora Motel.
She urged people to sign the petition – there are copies in many local businesses – and to continue to do business at the post office if they want the doors to stay open. People can pay their bills or do their banking at the post office, and there is quite a range of items that can be purchased at the post office – it all helps.
Some of the services provided by the post office cannot be measured in dollars and cents.
There’s the care taken by a local postie who knows his clients. If the mail piles up in a letterbox, Greg Stewart feels a responsibility to check that the householder is OK. “Many of our regulars trust us to help with their banking and bills,” added Maree Stewart. “Many of the elderly, in particular, need the face-to-face service. They can’t cope with the internet. A local post office like ours provides a valuable community service. It would be a huge loss to the community if we were to close.”