Five years ago, I relocated to Tāmaki Makaurau. Every year since then, I have moved flats.

From not being able to renew a tenancy agreement to having a desire to live in a house that doesn’t have mould growing on every wall (God forbid) – I’ve somehow always found a reason to pack up and move my shit every 12 months. 

Obviously, everything about moving house is a pain in the ass, but the one thing that grinds my gears the most is ✨changing your postal address✨. 

Nothing gives me more anxiety than the feeling that I’ve forgotten to update one of the many organisations or businesses that uses my postal address to send me important documents. 

For example, your council sends you local election voting papers every three years, the Ministry of Justice will write to you if you get called for jury duty and your bank will probably update you with any fee increases via a letter in the post.

And although I love the thrill of receiving an envelope with my name on it, I do have one question for these mail-obsessed senders: why not just fucking email me?  

I know I’m not alone in my frustration. Re: News’ head of content Anna Harcourt almost missed out on a university scholarship because the letter asking her to accept the money was delayed and arrived one day before the deadline.

Another friend of Re: News, who would prefer not to be named, lost $5000 after missing a letter that was sent to him by his investor that said he needed to provide proof of where his invested money had come from, otherwise they would sell his stocks – and sell his stocks they did!

I almost missed out on getting a medical procedure

Recently, my GP put me forward for a gastroscopy (that’s where they put a camera down your throat) to help find the cause of my indigestion. 

He told me that Te Toka Tumai Auckland (previously Auckland District Health Board) will get in contact with me to book in this straightforward procedure. 

Months went by before I got a message from one of my old flatmates saying “omg Liam, I keep forgetting to tell you. There’s a letter here for you”. 

The letter she was referring to was from Te Toka Tumai Auckland and had the date, time, location and other important information about the procedure. 

Had I not still been in contact with the people who lived at my old address, I would have completely missed this notification, and subsequently, the gastroscopy. 

Now before you comment “It’s your own fault for not updating your address”, please let me re-emphasise the point that changing your address when you’re regularly moving from flat to flat is time consuming and confusing.

At the time, I had assumed that because I had already updated my GP with my new address, then Te Toka Tumai Auckland would be in the know with where I was living. 

But, no! That would be too simple, of course. 

My GP’s office and local district health board work from two separate databases and each one needs to be updated separately.

And to make matters more complicated, Te Toka Tumai Auckland has no way of updating your address on their website – you have to call or email them. 

What went wrong?

Feeling frustrated that I almost missed the opportunity to have a camera stuck down my throat, I asked Te Toka Tumai Auckland why they chose to notify me by letter only.

A Health New Zealand spokesperson for Auckland City Hospital, Te Toka Tumai came back to me and said surgery appointments are confirmed in writing either by post or via the patient’s verified email address.

It’s still unclear why Te Toka Tumai Auckland chose to write me a letter instead of emailing me, but anyway, I’ll pick my battles. 

The spokesperson also said the hospital is looking to improve its patient administration system in mid 2024, which involves making sure they are contacting patients with their preferred method of communication.

This is great to hear, however, I’m still left wondering why post tends to be the default for the delivery of important documents.

Are emails risky?

Are there any legitimate reasons why important documents aren’t sent via email? Do emails pose security and privacy risks?

I spoke to Dr Farkhondeh Hassandoust, a senior lecturer at the University of Auckland who specialises in information security in business. 

She told me that as someone who has a background in security and privacy, email is her preferred method of communication.

“Postal mail is susceptible to being lost, theft or some kind of damage during transit.

“And digital delivery through email can provide encryption and authentications and that can help to improve security and privacy.”

There are some risks with sending sensitive information via email, but they can be mitigated with protection measures.

“Email can be vulnerable to different kinds of hackings and phishing attacks if proper security measures are not in place … this can cause privacy breaches and identity theft,” Hassandoust says.

“[But emails] can be encrypted to protect the content from unauthorised access and different kinds of cyber attacks, while postal mail doesn't have this safety feature.”

We should be given the option between post and email

Hassandoust makes the point that having postal mail as an option is still important for people who have limited access to technology, like elderly people. 

“It's very important to keep in mind that older people may not have access to proper digital tools, and prefer postal mail. 

“But at the same time, sending important documents exclusively through the postal mail system to young people is not appropriate at all.

“I believe both options – digital and postal mail – should be available to all people so that they can choose their preference.”

My final thoughts

Young people are moving houses more frequently than previous generations. 

It’s time society realised that sending letters through the post has become an unreliable way to reach younger generations.

I hope that there will come a day where businesses come to their senses and prioritise digitising their communications. 

In the meantime, I’ll just lie awake at night and think of all the important letters that are probably sitting at my previous four Auckland addresses 🤡

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