Beechworth’s struggle – you can help
Beechworth Chamber of Commerce, Beechworth residents and visitors and Indigo Shire are working together to try to get Australia Post to reconsider their decision to convert the local postal service from a corporate Australia Post operation (Australia Post operated by Aust. Post employees) to a licensed postal outlet.
The town?s main concerns are that once it becomes a licensed postal outlet the 7 locally employed staff will be relocated to other towns. With the loss of these people goes a wealth of local knowledge which has been handed down for generations of postal employees. This knowledge will not just be something a new operator will have handed to them in a file.
The delivery side of the postal service will be contracted to Wodonga. Obviously contractors are less well paid and have to keep minimising their costs to make their contract viable. Any contract is only valid for 5 years and is normally offered to the two lowest tenderers. This process diminishes service and security and makes it even more difficult for contractors to make a living.
On the retail side of the operation any new licensee may amalgamate the postal activities with their existing business but not necessarily in the heritage post office building. If this were to happen it would diminish the authenticity of doing your postal business in a Post Office which has been operating on that same site for more than 140 years. So what, some may say, but this is Beechworth. Victoria?s best preserved gold town with a streetscape which is locally, state and nationally heritage listed. The Beechworth community see themselves as custodians of a National Heritage Treasure.
Tourism is the major focus for this town with estimated 700,000 tourists visiting Beechworth annually. The heritage buildings are the main attraction and in recent years the Shire has restored many other government buildings to become its historic precinct. Among these is the Court House where Ned Kelly was committed for trial, the police cells, and the gold office. The old Telegraph Office is now restored as Australia?s most active (probably only) operating telegraph. The Chinese Protectors Office is now the Chinese cultural centre. So you can see, as a community, they are very concerned that the authenticity of their heritage buildings and their uses.
Unfortunately, Australia Post sold its post office building in 1990 and currently leases the premises. Their decision to convert the operation from corporate to licensed is probably about stage 2 of a three stage process to divest themselves of a responsibility. Stage 3 will be when the new licensee decides that they can operate the business from a different premises. This is nothing new. About 80% of Aust. Post outlets are now licensed.
As a community what Beechworth would like Australia Post to do is to consider that this particular post office as an exceptional circumstance. If it is not viable as far as Australia Post is concerned maybe their expectations are unrealistic for a small rural community. Perhaps they need to consider their social and heritage obligations and cross subsidise. In their Annual Reports they pride themselves on their art collection and philatelic collection. Surely being a contributor to the authentic heritage listed streetscape of Beechworth is equally important.
The Chamber of Commerce has circulated a petition to all business owners to gather signatures until Sunday 18th June. The petition will be presented to Federal Member for Indi Mrs Sophie Mirabella (nee Panopoulos). The Indigo Shire has endorsed the petition and in their press releases have urged people to sign the petition so that the town?s concerns may be heard. Apart from all business owners various community groups have been seeking petition forms to collect signatures. There have been many letters written by individuals both to Aust. Post and the State and Federal politicians. Various residents have been interviewed on radio and there has been good local media coverage.
All this community activity was generated by just one business person being advised by the Communication and Postal Workers Union that their members were in dispute with Australia Post. Some days later, after publicity in the local newspapers, all mail deliveries included a photocopied announcement by Australia Post that they were converting the Beechworth Post Office to a licensed postal outlet. No consultation, no reasons. Just a fait accompli.
If anyone would like to support Beechworth?s struggle to maintain Australia Post as a corporate entity in the historic Beechworth Post Office, the most loved, most photographed landmark in the town then write to Beechworth Chamber of Commerce, PO Box 172, Beechworth Vic 3747 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org