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Some Interesting Occurrences in Early Auckland: City and Provinces

Chapter 20 — The Post Office

Chapter 20
The Post Office

Postals facilities in Auckland' earliest days were poor, and the charges high and various. Each place had a separate rate, which was payable by the recipient. In July 1855 adhesive stamps were introduced, and postage became payable by the sender. In the earliest days mails were carried by Maoris as far as Wellington. The pace averaged 17 miles a day.

On 18th September 1840 the Post Office was opened in a long native hut which was then the only public building in Auckland. Mr. E. M. Williams was appointed Postmaster. In August 1843 the New Zealand post offices came under the control of the British Postmaster–General. In 1853 the Provincial Governments were established, and took over the postal service. In 1859 the General Government assumed control of the postal business and instituted a universal flat rate of twopence on inland letters. In 1855 a post office was erected in High Street, but only three years afterwards a new building was placed in Princes Street, where the Museum afterwards stood. This site proved inconvenient for the public, and the Post Office was moved to the foot of Shortland Street in 1865, but was destroyed in 1872. A new building was then erected on the same site, and completed in December 1874. The foundation stone of the present building at the foot of Queen Street was laid by Sir Joseph Ward in 1910, and the Post Office was opened by the Right Hon. W. F. Massey, Prime Minister, on 20th November 1912.

Universal penny postage came in on 1st January 1901. The Post Office Savings Bank was established in 1867. The postal note business was introduced in 1886, and parcel post in 1887, page 45 but overseas parcel post was not instituted till 1888. Telephone service had been started in 1881; penny in the slot 'phones were installed in 1911. The Post Office took over the Telegraph Department in 1881.

In 1863 there were less than 40 miles of telegraph lines in New Zealand, and half of that was between Auckland and the military camp at Drury.

Cable communication with Australia was established in 1876.

In the sailing ship days the European mails would take up to six months. The advent of auxiliary steamers in the late 'ixties cut this down to three months. Then came the 'Frisco mail once a month. By this route fast steamers sailed from Auckland to San Francisco. Special fast trains carried the mails to Halifax, and then the speediest boats carried them to Liverpool. This journey took about thirty days, and was so vast an improvement that all European correspondence was saved up for it. The advent of universal penny postage was a great and very beneficial event. Though the rates of postage were cut down so drastically, the Post Office paid its way. Now–a–days by air mail the time is cut down to between five and six days and the postage made 1s. 6d. per half oz, or 3d. per oz for surface mails, taking about thirty days in transit.

The first girls employed at the public counter in the Post Office were subjected to some badinage. On one occasion a man came in with a bag said to contain 240 pennies, and demanded a pound' worth of penny stamps. The girl refused to take the bag, saying she was not bound to accept more than twenty–four pennies. “All right” said the man producing one penny. “Penny stamp please Miss”, and the game went on till a crowd of waiting customers got annoyed, and the girl gave in. On another occasion a girl had kept a customer waiting for some time. When she produced his stamp he said with an American drawl “Would you mind licking it, Miss?” She did not oblige him.