Rural postie clocks a million km

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It’s taken 20 years but Balclutha Rural Post contractor Jocelyn Carson has just clicked over one million kilometres of driving.

That’s the equivalent of motoring 25 times around the earth, or driving to the moon and back and then getting almost two thirds of the way back there again.

Along the way Jocelyn (or Jos to all her friends and customers) has worn out eight
vehicles.

“We have to replace them when they reach 200,000km so I’ve used a few of them over the years, ranging from Ford cars to Nissan SUV’s and Mitsubishi utes,” she said.

As a New Zealand Post rural post contractor, Mrs Carson’s day usually starts around 7am, rain or shine at Balclutha’s post office.

Then, after navigating her way to 280 delivery points along 250km of gravel and sealed back country roads, she finishes around 3pm in the afternoon.

Try stopping up to 280 times on a drive from Balclutha to Otaio, south of Timaru, and see
how long it takes you. Now repeat that five times a week and then factor in the weather.

“In the early days I would have gone past road barriers toget the mail through to clients,
even when there was snow around; but no more, it’s a health and safety issue now.

“I somehow always manage to get through to deliver people’s mail and packages but
it often requires me to back-track and find another way around the blockages,” she added.

The snows were a lot worse in the early days, but now not so much of a problem.

“I’ve been flooded out a few times but only trapped once when I skidded off the road on
a steep hill section after the car didn’t engage four-wheel-
drive correctly and I got stuck.

“My cell phone battery died so I had get out and walk back to the farm house and get them to pull me out,” she said.

Mrs Carson continues a long family tradition of rural mail delivery services.

She took over the rural delivery two (RD2) Balclutha run 20 years ago from her father Mick McLaren, who 38 years earlier had assumed the role of postie to farmers in the Hillend
area from his father-in-law George Davis, who in turn had delivered mail to the same rural
area for over 20 years.

In those early days Mrs Carson said the rural posties were more than just mailmen.

“I used to travel with Dad on his runs, and he always had a roof rack on the old Holdens to
hold all the bread, groceries and shopping people had ordered.

“I remember that the milk would go in the boot to keep it cool while the empties would
travel up on top and rattle all the way.”

“Rural posties then delivered all the necessary supplies, mail, freight and newspapers that farmers wives couldn’t get into town to pick up as easily as they can now,” she said.

“But even today, closer to Christmas I often get so loaded up with packages that I have to go back and refill the truck because I have so much to deliver,” she added,

But she agrees that despite modern communications, posties still are a critical part of the rural infrastructure.

“Everywhere I go people know me. For many of my customers I can be the only person they talk to some days,” she said.

Mrs Carson has an established route, one that has grown a lot longer in recent years as NZ Post consolidated minor routes.

“People know you and they know when I am due, they can be very particular if I am late because of road conditions or breakdowns.

“For a while there I was getting two to three punctures a week because of the large sharp chip on newly graded roads, so I became very adept at changing tires quickly just to keep myself on time,” she said.

“I love it as when you are driving along you often see many wonderful things.

“My route takes me along the coast road behind Kai and it’s great, but sometimes you also see some stupid driving by tourists or come across live rabbits or possums stuffed in letter boxes just to annoy you,” she said.

After 20 years Mrs Carson said she has no plans to retire and give up the road.

“My two daughters all relieve for me when I need a break, and one is even interested in carrying on the family tradition and becoming a postie,” she added.