Millions of Australians will have to wait longer for letters as posties cut delivery to a few times a week to help cope with record demand amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Australia Post said its parcel deliveries had doubled in the past month – and were up 80 per cent in a year.
But volumes of letters – already a revenue drain – have fallen even further during the virus outbreak.
On Tuesday, the federal government agreed to an Australia Post request to suspend its delivery standards. That will allow it to suspend priority letter services, let posties in metropolitan areas deliver letters every second day and allow five days for intrastate posting.
Australia Post will also retrain 2000 motorbike posties across the country. They will trade their bikes for vans or move into warehouses to help cope with the demand of the 1.8 million parcels being sent each day.
The changes take effect immediately. They will be reviewed after June 30, 2021.
Chief executive Christine Holgate said the changes would help posties carry more and ease the pressure on van delivery drivers.
“[Posties] have been swamped with huge volumes,” she said.
“Our people want to serve our country at this difficult and challenging time.”
Online shopping purchases have surged as Australians endure the coronavirus lockdown.
The biggest jumps have come in online retail and subscription services, food delivery and pet care.
Post offices will remain open under the regulatory changes. They will be allowed to close if they need to protect the health and safety of staff and customers.
Delivery frequency in regional, rural and remote Australia will not change. Australia Post is often the only operator in these areas.
“It is imperative we act fast to ensure parcels can be delivered promptly and we can support our country,” Ms Holgate said.
“We ask for communities to understand as we roll out these changes.”
Australia Post said the enormous downturn in air travel, which has already led Virgin Australia into voluntary administration, had brought the biggest delays for postal delivery.
Finance Minister Mathias Cormann and Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said the changes would help posties keep up with demand, largely driven by Australians shopping and doing business online.