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New Zealand Post reviewing postcode system

Wednesday, August 4th, 2004

New Zealand Post is reviewing the future of the country’s postcodes — used to help with the computer-assisted sorting of mail.

It is evaluating “two or three options” for the future of the addressing system and aims to consult widely over the next few months, spokesman Iain Long said.

NZ Post has asked companies involved in the GIS (geographical information systems) business for their views but was reluctant to discuss possible options.

Address manager Stuart McKenzie said NZ Post didn’t exploit the potential of postcodes as heavily as some overseas postal operators.

In Britain, the Royal Mail uses six-digit alphanumeric postcodes to identify addresses down to about 16 delivery addresses per postcode, in a system which has been running for 45 years.

However, Mr McKenzie said Royal Mail had about 100 staff maintaining the system. NZ Post has just one — senior address specialist Eoin Gibb — and it is not clear that New Zealand has a large enough population to justify a similar system to Britain’s.

“Some postal authorities put in a huge effort. I can’t imagine NZ Post putting in a dozen or 100 people,” Mr Gibb said.

Mr Long confirmed NZ Post was unlikely to adopt a scheme similar to Britain’s but didn’t rule it out.

NZ Post has recently updated postcodes to ensure every delivery address registered as of July 1 has a valid code.

Until recently, no clear boundaries separated postcode areas. NZ Post is now making these available on disk to businesses that want them.

It has also updated its website to let people search for their postcode.

Mr Long accepted there was no advantage for consumers in using a postcode on regular mail.

Bulk mailers get a discount on postal charges if they put postcodes on the direct mail they send, so long as more than 90 per cent of the codes are accurate.

Steve Chritchlow, managing director of Wellington business mapping company Chritchlow Associates, said New Zealand’s postcode system was “a bit flaky”.

Businesses overseas sometimes use postcode boundaries to display market penetration in different regions. But New Zealand’s postcode zones weren’t suitable for that because the areas they covered were too large, he said.

Overseas firms sometimes approach Chritchlow Associates in a bid to buy a database of New Zealand postcodes. That’s a product that no one is able to supply.

Source: Waikato Times

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