Community care … the residents of Lightning Ridge are battling to retain their discounted post boxes in the face of proposed Australia Post changes.IT’S the biggest scandal to hit Lightning Ridge since the great rear-end parking fiasco of the 1990s.
The rough-and-tumble opal-mining town in the far north-west of NSW, where population statistics are murky at best, is in the midst of a furious battle with Australia Post over plans to introduce street mail delivery.
The townsfolk, along with an unknown number of mining camp-dwellers scattered around the Ridge’s dusty fringes, are determined to retain their 1863 discounted post boxes and the ask-no-questions over-the-counter postal service.
”I always say our population is 5000, give or take a few,” said Barbara Moritz, from the Lightning Ridge Historical Society. ”There’s somebody behind every bush.”
Ms Moritz said residents see the main street post office as a social hub. ”We often have queues at the post office,” she said.
”Funeral notices go up there. We have our notices for what’s going on in the town and it’s a great meeting place.”
About 1500 people still collect their mail over the counter – and up to 600 of those refuse to provide identification when they come to town to pick it up.
But the Herald has been told Australia Post wants to reduce funding to the post office as there are only 700 or so official households in the town. This would mean reducing staff from four to two and could mark the end of over-the-counter mail delivery.
Under the proposed changes, each of those householders would have to acquire a letterbox or pay for individual post boxes at the post office at a vastly increased rate.
But Ridge locals have no desire to pay for letterboxes at the front of their homes and want to maintain their freedom from official records, Ms Moritz said.
”It’s like when we went through rear-end parking here.” After a three-month trial, the proposal was knocked on the head.
The national postal service has sent a letter to town members asking for their views. They have until Friday to respond.
But people living ”in the field” on mining camps are excluded, as a letter stuck to the community notice board explained: ”How is this poll fair to our town when the majority of our residents live on the field?”
”SAY NO,” the hand-written note concludes.
”There are so many at Lightning Ridge who are off the beaten track, don’t want to be known,” the post office licensee, Angela Cramp, said. ”Lightning Ridge is such a unique community, but Australia Post has determined it’s just like Haberfield in Sydney.”
An Australia Post spokeswoman said more than 50 per cent of the town living on paved roads must agree to the changes before they can proceed – a small portion of Lightning Ridge’s population.
”The Lightning Ridge opal camps are not part of the polling process and there will be no change to current mail arrangements for camps where mail is collected over the counter at the Lightning Ridge post office or from a reduced rate post office box,” the spokeswoman said.
”When street mail delivery is not available in a community, we provide a reduced rate post office box or residents can collect their mail over the counter at no charge. However, if street mail delivery is implemented and residents choose to retain their post office box, they will be charged the full post office box rate.”
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.