'Challenging times': 79 New Zealand Post shops to close amid Kiwibank changes

State-owned New Zealand Post will soon shut its final 79 shops as Kiwibank proceeds with plans to establish standalone branches across New Zealand. 

Kiwibank branches in Petone, Stoke and Johnsonville have been earmarked for closure, the state-owned bank said on Wednesday. That's left those communities wondering who will take care of their banking and postal needs.  

"These are challenging times," says E tū communications industry coordinator Joe Gallagher. "What's happening is [New Zealand Post] is repositioning its business."

The standalone model Kiwibank announced last week means New Zealand Post's PostShop services will not be available at the same location. Instead, New Zealand Post plans to partner with other business to have their services offered in place of Kiwibank. 

New Zealand Post general manager of channels, Janet Selwood, says the model is about "partnering with third parties or other business to host our postal services so that we can remain in communities for many years to come". 

"We have a retail network which I believe is one of the biggest retail footprints in New Zealand, and of our 880 odd outlets, already about 800 of them have services offered through this model," she told Newshub on Tuesday. 

"It isn't new and it's something that's been part of our retail network for many years."

Mr Gallagher said the changes go back to amendments made in 2013 under the National government to the New Zealand Post Deed of Understanding. New Zealand Post was required to maintain services but was "not required to maintain corporate shops". 

"Nothing in this deed precludes New Zealand Post from time to time, offering other products or services from any service point within its network, including services provided on behalf of another organisation or entity," the legislation says. 

However, New Zealand Post is required to maintain throughout New Zealand a network of at least 880 service points at which consumers can purchase basic postal services. It must also maintain at least 240 service points where personal assistance is available to consumers. 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Tuesday New Zealand Post had indicated to the Government that "they are looking for co-hosting opportunities".

"There are changes afoot that I have had concerns about; it is because the environment's changing and people aren't using those postal services in the same way," she said. "We are looking at how communities can still have banking services and postal services."

"But with some of the changes we're seeing, we do have some concern over loss of service and banking services as well."

Mr Gallagher says New Zealanders are witnessing the "structural separation of New Zealand Post", telling Newshub E tū will be "working with Kiwibank to minimise the amount of redundancies and look to maximise the job opportunities".

"There is certainly going to be an impact on jobs, but we need to work through what that looks like," he said. "Nelson is going to get a Kiwibank branch and we need to know how many full-time and part-time positions that will mean."

As for New Zealand Post, Ms Selwood says the organisation is currently seeking a suitable business to partner with in place of Kiwibank where its postal services will be provided. 

"In terms of the new outlet, we certainly provide a lot of training to our new partners and then on-going support for them," she said. "It's not just about providing stamps - it's about providing all the services that are currently provided."

"This has only just been announced in the last week so it's very early days. At the moment we are evaluating or seeking interest from local businesses and will go through a process, which can take quite a few months to play out."

Johnsonville Community Association president Simon Pleasants has slammed Kiwibank and New Zealand Post for the plans, and called on local businesses to reject New Zealand Post's franchise offer. 

But Ms Selwood says the same services that are offered in the post shop in Johnsonville will be offered in a new outlet, and that there's nothing to be concerned about. 

"I do appreciate that it's a change for the community but I'd like to assure those customers that the services they currently receive, they will still be able to receive those services albeit in a different location."

New Zealand Post reported an annual decline of $14 million in its financial results released in August, hence the need for changes.  

The core business reported a net loss of $39 million, resulting from on-going and significant letter volume decline.