Postal delays hurt businesses emerging from the drought

Australia Post's cuts hurt a bush online fashion label

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Bush customers say they are being treated as second-class citizens by Australia Post's delivery policies and service.

Bush customers say they are being treated as second-class citizens by Australia Post's delivery policies and service.

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Four weeks for a letter to arrive

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It was the thick of the drought, the dams were low and her husband was finding it difficult to get contract work, as Cowra's Heidi Castleden pursued her online fashion business.

With the Buy from the Bush campaign helping, her business took off helping pay the house bills and she even employed an extra person at her Boorowa office to help meet demand.

Things were looking incredibly rosy for CastledenCo, but it was all based on delivery and service - and she relied on Australia Post to keep faith with her customers.

And then COVID-19 hit and as Australia Post was overwhelmed with online orders and deliveries she suddenly found her business was under threat, packages taking six weeks to get to a simple destination. In the end there were almost four to six weeks of backlogs of deliveries.

Heidi Castleden's fashion business was almost sent to the wall by Australia Post delivery delays. Some of her CastledenCo fashion line shown here.

Heidi Castleden's fashion business was almost sent to the wall by Australia Post delivery delays. Some of her CastledenCo fashion line shown here.

"The only reply I got was 'it's just a backlog' but deliveries were so important to me, from receiving fabrics to getting designs sent," Heidi says.

"Even letters were taking weeks to show up."

She blames Australia Post's inability to see demand coming up and adapt and also its minimum service rule that is leaving regional businesses hamstrung.

"We really do rely on Australia Post and there really isn't much option but to use them, hopefully the right people will listen to what their bush customers are saying."

Related: Australia Post defends service cuts

She said services had improved recently and the backlog had gone, but she couldn't be confident that the same problems won't arise again.

"The other big issue for me is tracking, we get no information on where our packages are at in the system. If we just knew it would save a lot of trouble.

"I recently sent several thousands of dollars worth of stock from Sydney to Gosford, express, it took several weeks to arrive."

The Land received a lot of reaction to its online story on Australia Post services from around Australia.

Amanda Lock from Naracoorte, South Australia, wrote: "The practice of sending local letters to Adelaide for sorting and returning happens across the south east in almost every town.

"I'm not sure that I'm the most qualified to speak about it, but it's common knowledge in our town and yes, frustrating for business. The turnaround time for posting and receiving invoices is up to 10 days within your own town."

Raymond Spencer in Queensland wrote: "Being rural we do not get mail delivered. Since lockdown service is snail mail. We are now experiencing worst service yet.

"We do not have a mail delivery. We pick up via a post box at p.o. The workers in post office are great, The post letter service Is a disgrace, express delivery from takes 4 working days. Our main city is 50km away an ordinary post letter can take 10 days.

"This has cost me a $670 fine for late slashing an allotment.

"Council gave us a 5 month extension on our large rate bill, The letter for this arrived 4 days after we paid our rates. This is unacceptable."

Heidi Castleden has built up a very successful online business despite many personal challenges, with additional staff put on.

A Castleden Co outfit. Buy from the Bush campaign has helped the business grow substantially.

A Castleden Co outfit. Buy from the Bush campaign has helped the business grow substantially.

"We are a small collective of women producing high quality women's clothing with a strong focus on ethical practice and sustainable production," she said.

"Every piece is designed, cut, sewn and finished in our workshop in Boorowa NSW. Our custom fabric prints are designed exclusively for us by our in-house graphic designer."

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