Testing Australian postal delivery times during the 2020 pandemic

As the coronavirus pandemic began to disrupt business activities in 2020, the Federal Government announced temporary changes to Australia Post’s Performance Standards that would have an big impact on the frequency of mail deliveries.

Terrigal post office — A letter was sent to Adelaide from here for the Postal Challenge

The announcement revealed that laws would be temporarily changed to allow Australia Post to deliver mail every second day in metropolitan areas instead of every business day — The changes would begin on the 21st April 2020 and end on the 30th June 2021.

In a statement, Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts, the Hon Paul Fletcher, made these further announcements at the time:

  • its required delivery time for regular intrastate letters will be extended to five days after the day of posting;

At the time of the announcement, it was not known that the pandemic would extend into the middle of 2021 — so, an announcement stating that the reduced mail service would last for 14 months was a bit of a surprise to most customers.

In October I posted an item on my Facebook about mail services, and the response from my family and friends inspired me to create a ‘Postal Challenge’ to see how long letters would take to arrive if they were sent from Sydney.

The 2020 Postal Challenge

Half way into the 14 month period of reduced mail service I created the ‘Postal Challenge’ and sent eight letters from a suburb north of Sydney, Brooklyn.

How long would the letters take to travel across Sydney and across Australia?

For simplicity of the challenge, ‘Day Zero’ was a Monday and was the day that the letters were sent from Brooklyn and Terrigal in NSW.

Day 0

Six letters sent from the mail box located outside the post office in Brooklyn.

One letter sent from the mail box located outside the post office in Terrigal.

Day 1

No letters arrived.

Day 2

The first letter arrived at my personal post office box located at a suburban post office near Parramatta. Prior to the coronavirus pandemic changes this letter would have arrived overnight. This letter was sent on a Monday, and arrived on a Wednesday.

Day 4

The second letter arrived at a home address in Bathurst. Four days to travel from Brooklyn to Bathurst. Pre-COVID-19 changes this letter would normally have taken three days to arrive.

Day 5

Five days after being posted at Brooklyn on ‘Day Zero’, a letter arrived at my home address near Parramatta. In normal times, a letter that had to travel across Sydney would arrive the next day — this letter arrived five days after being posted. Complicating the delivery was the new arrangement allowing posties to deliver mail every second day in capital city areas.

Day 6

This is a Saturday — There are no mail deliveries on this day of the week.

Day 7

This is a Sunday — There are no mail deliveries on this day of the week.

Day 8

A letter arrives in Adelaide after being sent from the Sydney suburb of Brooklyn. Letters sent from Sydney to Adelaide would normally take 3–4 days to be delivered. Thank you to ‘Radelaide’ friend Mikey Nicholson for allowing me to use his personal letter box for the ‘Postal Challenge.’

Day 9

A letter arrives in Brisbane. Two letters have yet to arrive at houses in Melbourne and Sydney’s east.

Day 10

Thursday 5th November 2020. A letter arrived in Melbourne. Sent from the Sydney suburb of Brooklyn. During normal times, this letter would have arrived three days after being sent. Thank you to my friend CrouchGJ for participating in the 2020 Postal Challenge.

Day 11

The final letter arrived at my brother’s house — located not far from Sydney’s CBD. Before Australia Post had implemented their coronavirus pandemic workflow, a letter sent from one Sydney suburb to another would normally have arrived the next day. Instead, this letter, which was sent from Brooklyn on Monday 26th October, arrived on Friday 6th November! 11 days to travel about 50kms.

The Postal Challenge has revealed that Australia Post has strictly imposed their slower delivery times.

In response, Australia Post offered this updated statement on their website on Friday 6th November 2020:

Our business is adapting to the challenges presented by the pandemic, which means our normal practice of delivery has been impacted. As a result, we’re experiencing substantial delays in our network.

These delays are due to:
- a reduction in air freight capacity and passenger flights (which also carry our parcels)
- a significant increase in parcels volumes, many of which require manual sorting
- health and safety requirements in our network (such as social distancing through zoning, and dedicated shift start times to reduce cross-over of workers)

We know these delays are frustrating, and we’re doing everything we can to keep delivering as safely and quickly as possible.

Interestingly, after I started the Postal Challenge, I sent a letter to school friend in Perth, Julia Sawyer. The letter took 9 days to arrive from Sydney. And like the letters involved in the Postal Challenge, her letter was postmarked the day AFTER I mailed it. I wonder if Australia Post are now picking up the mail, and then not processing it with postmarks until the next day — possibly slowing-down the delivery process by one day.

A letter, featuring a Magda Szubanski AO stamp, took 9 days to travel from Sydney to Perth

At the time of our Postal Challenge, the disgraced boss of Australia Post resigned from her job.

In some positive news, Australia Post re-opened their main Sydney GPO post office in October 2020 after closing it on Thursday 9th April 2020. Closed for approximately 186 days.

#PostalChallenge #AustraliaPost

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