Te Puke’s linger longer place

Up and running – Denise Boswell being tended by teller Sharon Gourlay. Photo: Daniel Hines.

Times change, things change, but nothing changes.

Like at the Te Puke Post Office where locals have taken over running the business. Things have changed radically there. Some things.

But not PO Box 1 Te Puke. The first ever mail box in the rural service town has been in the same family hands since 1948. And despite the subsidiary company of a local charitable trust taking over the post office service in the town on Monday, PO Box 1 Te Puke will stay front and foremost in the box lobby.

Nothing changes there.

“And there will continue to be discussions every year as to who pays?” laughs Karen Summerhays, chair of the Te Puke Centre Charitable Trust whose company now runs the postal services in the town.

And did you know they have been licking stamps and posting letters on this site in Te Puke’s main drag for 125 years – through a couple of world wars, a depression and other calamities. The building changed but the site didn’t.

Change was forced on Te Puke. When Kiwibank, a subsidiary of the SOE New Zealand Post, pulled out of town, it looked like postal and payment services would be dispersed. Then two years ago six local women set up a trust, did their homework and decided that wouldn’t be good for the town. They crowd funded, bought the business and this Monday threw open the doors. Business as usual, and on the same site. No change. They even retained the Kiwibank ATM.

“Day one was very exciting,” says Karen Summerhays. “We watched people pouring in.” When The Weekend Sun dropped in mid-morning Tuesday, there were queues, people chatting and a couple of policemen doing whatever policemen do in a post office. 

Eventually Te Puke Centre incorporating the PostCentrePlus will offer its postal and payment services alongside a new information and visitor centre and co-working space. They will be developed as funding is secured over the next year.

On opening day, they were the victim of their own success. “A person came in with a picture of an orchid off Trade Me. It said: ‘pick up in Te Puke.’ She asked if we knew where the orchid man lived. We said no.” The information said of the business has yet to be developed.

But they were able to steer the woman across the road to the florists who sells locally grown orchids. So the information centre is sort of working before it is even up and running.

The Weekend Sun met Unice Williams, a post office customer, she probably qualifies as a ‘bumper’ – they’re the people who drop by the post office a couple of times a week to do their business and use the ‘bumping’ space.

“The post office was always an important place for people to bump into each other,” says Karen. “So there is furniture for people to stop and chat and engage. They don’t have to rush off even when the place is busy. It’s a linger longer place.”

Denise Boswell’s a Te Puke import who works part-time around Bayfair. “Doesn’t matter. If you shop local you keep the shops open,” says Denise. “Even if I am heading out of town I always post my mail and parcels first here in Te Puke.”

And she says she is quite proud of the women who’ve made the post office work. “Lots of post offices have disappeared. I hope this one will be with us for a long time.”

There’s also a nice feeling that whenever a stamp is sold or a letter is posted, all the money made from those transactions goes back into the business and growing the business for the benefit of locals. “None of that money is privatised, which could have happened,” says Karen.

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