Story: Mail and couriers
Page 5 – Couriers
First couriers, 1960s–1970s
Courier services began in the 1960s, responding to a need for quicker movement of postal items than the Post Office was able to provide.
The country’s first courier service, New Zealand Couriers, was established in Auckland in 1964, after one of its founders saw courier services in other countries. Much of the firm’s early work was driving mail from businesses to the central post office in Auckland. Its earliest delivery vehicle was a Morris J van. Customers placed orders at a central office, which communicated orders to drivers by radio.
In 1966 New Zealand Couriers formed a partnership with the Wellington-based Mercury Couriers to transport bank documentation around the country. In 1969 New Zealand Couriers established the first nationwide courier service. Branches in Hamilton and Christchurch soon followed, and by the late 1970s the firm had chartered aircraft carrying packages between the main centres.
Couriers go international, 1970s–1980s
Many courier companies sprang up in the 1970s, mostly to service the larger cities and their surrounding districts. Nationwide services became more common, though most companies focused on serving business in the larger centres. From around 1980 courier services were allowed to compete with the government-owned Post Office.
Courier services to international destinations started in the 1980s. New Zealand Couriers, which dominated the courier market during the 1970s, was purchased by the Freightways Group in 1977. Freightways continued to buy up its competition during the 1980s, and its dominance made it difficult for new players to get established after road transport was deregulated in 1982–83.
New Zealand Post joined the courier market in August 1989 as CourierPost, and later introduced ‘track and trace’ technology.
Couriers on bikes were ideal in busy city streets, with their ability to weave between traffic and pedestrians. Although they sped up inner-city deliveries, they were regarded by many as a hazard on the road, and on the footpath.
Couriers in cyberspace, 1980s–2000s
Customer demand for faster service created new opportunities in the courier market. The 1980s saw the introduction of bicycles and motorcycles into the courier business in the larger centres. From the late 1980s customers could place orders over the telephone, using a PIN-number. In the early 2000s couriers began using portable bar-code scanners, which allowed them to scan packages on pick up and delivery. This technology enabled customers to trace the progress of their packages on the internet.