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Monday, 27 February 2012
Page: 1979

Mrs ANDREWS (McPherson) (21:31): Today I rise to speak about an important issue that is of concern to residents and businesses in the Robina area. That is the unilateral decision by Australia Post to close the mail delivery centre adjacent to Robina Village and relocate over 1,000 post office boxes approximately four kilometres to Robina Town Centre.

Australia Post has already closed one retail post office on the southern Gold Coast, the local post office at Palm Beach. Australia Post took this action despite an outcry from local businesses and residents, many of whom were older citizens and/or had a disability. Australia Post plans to close the Robina delivery centre and relocate post offices over the weekend of 2 and 3 June this year. Post office box holders were advised of this plan on 14 July this year via a customer notice placed into their post office boxes by Australia Post. I was subsequently advised by Australia Post officially the following day, 15 February, by letter, after my office had contacted Australia Post after being alerted to the pending closure by a local shop owner. Local businesses in the area had heard rumours for some time that changes were to be made, but I understand that there was no advice from Australia Post until 14 February. As you can imagine, this was very unsettling for local businesses and post office box holders as they were dependent on rumour to try and make decisions about mail delivery and services.

There will be approximately 727 customers who will be directly affected by the relocation of the post office boxes. However, there are over 1,000 postboxes in total that will be relocated. Australia Post has indicated that the proposed new location of these post office boxes is 2.5 kilometres away from the current location. That may be so as the crow flies, but if you are driving or walking the distance is more like four kilometres.

The closure of the Robina delivery centre and relocation of post office boxes will affect the local community in three significant ways. Firstly, it will mean post office box holders will most likely have to travel a greater distance to pick up their mail, including seniors who prefer the current convenient location of the boxes. Secondly, people who receive larger mail items and parcels will have to pick these up from another delivery centre. I am advised that this will be at Bundall, which is almost 10 kilometres from the current location. Thirdly, there will be flow-on effects to local businesses in the Robina Village Shopping Centre area. Seven hundred-plus people who collected their mail from the delivery centre will now be going to a different location, a different shopping centre, to clear their postboxes. They will no longer be picking up a newspaper or a coffee at the Robina Village shops.

Last week, on 21 February, Gold Coast City Council Division 11 Councillor Jan Grew and I met with local small businesses to discuss their concerns about Australia Post's planned closure of the Robina delivery centre. Businesses in the nearby Robina Village Shopping Centre fear the closure will reduce the number of shoppers at the village, and clearly it will. This is yet another direct hit to small businesses which have already been hit by the economic downturn. In fact one of the small businesses notified me of this closure before Australia Post even informed me of their decision.

Tony Keilar, the owner of the nearby newsagency, is very concerned about how this closure will affect his business as well as the other businesses in the Robina Village area. Mr Keilar has owned the Robina Village newsagency for 7½ years. His newsagency currently sells stamps and overnight postal packages which he obtains from Australia Post on a commission basis. He would happily extend the service and would welcome the opportunity to discuss this with Australia Post. Unfortunately, Australia Post is proceeding to implement its closure decision without consultation and without giving affected residents the opportunity to offer alternatives. Mr Keilar believes there should be a full postal service in the village. He voiced concerns to me about the inconvenience of having to go to Bundall for the collection of parcels and mail from a postbox at Robina Town Centre.

I am very supportive of Robina Town Centre, which has recently undergone a very major refurbishment. I shop at the town centre regularly—in most weeks, in fact. Parking is terrific when you go to the centre to shop, but it is not easy to park close to the post office if you just need to pop in and pick up your mail. A two-minute stop at the current delivery centre at Robina Village could easily become a 10- to 15-minute stop at Robina Town Centre. For a business, 10 minutes to pick up your mail per week has just blown out to the best part of an hour—maybe longer. If it is necessary to drive to Bundall to pick up a parcel, then, depending on traffic, that could be another 40 minutes. All of this just adds to the burden of a small business and is a significant inconvenience to residents.

As a potential solution, local newsagent Tony Keilar has suggested that an arrangement could be reached between his newsagency and Australia Post. Mr Keilar is willing to establish a retail post office in conjunction with his newsagency, at his expense. It remains to be seen whether this is an option Australia Post is willing to accept; however, it demonstrates a business which is attempting to come up with an alternative solution to the one currently proposed by Australia Post. The Robina Village newsagency is one of many local businesses which do not want this service to leave the area. Rhonda Fosbeary and Leanne Nunnick, who work at Robina Village shops, were also very vocal in their opposition to the closure. They made it clear that they want proper consultation to take place and a solution to be found.

I am disappointed that there has been very little consultation by Australia Post with the post-office box holders and the local community. Unfortunately, this is not the first time that Australia Post has not adequately consulted and has chosen to ignore the community. A number of years ago, Australia Post ignored the community and local businesses and closed the local post office that used to be in the same area, leaving only a mail distribution centre and post-office boxes. Some of the businesses and locals advise me that, when this retail post office closed, there was a decline in business at the stores in the village. It is because they have seen what happens when a postal service is removed that the local community is so concerned about what will happen if the entire postal service is removed from the area. Having seen firsthand what happened when the entire postal facility was removed from Palm Beach, I know that the community will be hurt.

I believe post offices are the lifeblood of local shopping centres. They attract customers and provide the necessary community service. As I said earlier, I have seen firsthand what happens to a community of people and businesses who have their local post-office outlet closed, as was the case in Palm Beach. The Palm Beach post office may have been a retail shop, while this issue relates to a delivery centre and post-office boxes. However, postal services of all kinds provide a necessary community service. Australia Post should be mindful of the needs of the community as they make business decisions for the future. Their actions may well result in a further downturn of their own business as people look for alternatives to postal services, including scanning and emailing letters and using couriers for parcel delivery, which is already competitive and becoming even more so. Australia Post need to start listening to the community that they are supposed to service.

I mentioned earlier that Australia Post abruptly closed the Palm Beach post office at the end of 2010. When this occurred, there were other interested parties, including local residents and businesses, who were unable to properly pursue opportunities in the short time frame provided by Australia Post. Now Australia Post has the opportunity to consult with the community and key stakeholders, as is being suggested by Mr Keilar. I hope they do.

Along with Councillor Grew, I will seek further discussions with Australia Post with a view to at least keeping the post office boxes at Robina Village. I have already briefly visited many of the businesses in the Robina Village shopping centre. I have encouraged these businesses to contact me and my office with details outlining their concerns about the mail distribution centre closure and post office box relocations. My office contact details have also been given to these businesses to pass on to their customers and local residents, who also share concerns about this issue.

I will continue to lobby Australia Post to ensure that local Robina residents and surrounding businesses have appropriate access to a delivery centre and post office boxes. I am very concerned about the impact that the decisions that Australia Post is making—many times in isolation from the community and businesses—have on our local community, and I would like the opportunity to discuss this fully with Australia Post in conjunction with the affected residents and businesses.