Seanad debates

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Proposed Postcodes: Statements


3:00 pm

Photo of Joe O'ReillyJoe O'Reilly (Fine Gael)

Tá fáilte romhat, a Aire. My party fully agrees with the introduction of a new postcode system. We believe it should be done as a necessary part of a modern economy and as cost efficiently as possible. It would speed up the post's delivery and increase efficiency. At this stage, it would be remiss of me not to acknowledge the tangible improvements achieved by An Post in recent years in its delivery of the postal services. An Post is constantly working on increasing the speed of its delivery.

In the interests of greater efficiency and speed, we support the introduction of a postal code system, which forms part of a modern economy and is of extraordinary importance in the context of opening the postal services to international competition during the coming years. It is important that competitors and An Post have a new system that improves efficiency, provides necessary information and a good service delivery and increases the service's use.

We have a difficulty with the Government's position in that we believe a GPS system should be used to pinpoint addresses rather than the proposed numbers system, which will be less efficient and more cumbersome. PON codes were designed by GPS Ireland Consultants to allow road users, particularly those in the logistics and service industries, to get better and more efficient use out of their SatNavs. PON codes help to resolve the ambiguity of Ireland's property addressing system, which causes even locals confusion. They can also be used by postal services and any service that involves navigating to somewhere at any time of the day or night.

They are position orientated navigation codes, PONC, meaning a dot or point. It is a seven-character alphanumeric code that defines a geographic position to within plus or minus 600 centimetres of the equivalent latitudinal and longitudinal Irish grid co-ordinates for the same location. As a pinpoint, it is extraordinarily accurate and easy to use. PON codes are easier to remember and work with than latitudes and longitudes on grids and, therefore, can be widely used and accepted as a postal code-type system. The code's structure is simple to understand. For this reason, we recommend it.

There are more than 500,000 GPS users in Ireland,60% of whom are SatNav users. It is conservatively predicted that there will be more than 1 million SatNav users in Ireland by the end of 2010. They already share positional information widely for tourist attractions, hotels, restaurants, accommodation, sports events, petrol stations, personal addresses and business customer locations. These are widely distributed by e-mail or telephone or over the Internet in written reports.

The easiest way to define location is by means of co-ordinates, which SatNav manufacturers already inherently support. However, geographic co-ordinates in their natural form are cumbersome to handle and easily misunderstood or misinterpreted. They also have too many characters and cannot be easily memorised. While geographic co-ordinates are desirable, they must be modified to make them user friendly. PON codes are user friendly and can be memorised more easily and our party recommends them to the Government for an alternative delivery system.

PON codes could be of use to people who are trying to seek out addresses, including those involved in the courier trade, food and flower delivery services, mail documentation collection and delivery services, which are what we are discussing, construction vehicles, car hire businesses, shop deliveries, mail orders and, more importantly, the emergency services, those being the fire service, ambulances, doctors, police, Civil Defence, Order of Malta etc. The list of services that could be more readily developed with this system is large.

The codes' unique feature is that, unlike traditional postcode systems, they do not need to be allocated by someone on high. One can create one's own. It adds significant value to data and is a more efficient operating system. It would be more accurate and cost effective in the delivery of the postal services.

A GPS system is the modification to the postal system that we in the Fine Gael Party are proposing. We fully accept the principle of a postal code system that is in the interests of competition, the efficient delivery of the postal service and a modern economy. It is worthy of note that this is one of the last countries to adopt a postcode system. It is necessary that we do so. When speaking in general on this proposal it is worthy of mention that we want to preserve the social dimension, particularly in a new competitive environment and in a new evolved postal system open to international competition and other domestic competition. We want to preserve the social dimension or the social factor of this element of the postal delivery system. There should be no dearth of service to isolated places and no dearth of service to people who live in isolation and in locations which are difficult to access. We want to ensure that in the interests of profit and greed there would not be an unequally balanced postal delivery system in this country. It is incumbent on Government to ensure that as competition comes into the postal services and the postal delivery market the delivery of services is maintained on a similar basis so that the constitutional rights of every citizen are preserved. If this involves positive discrimination in financial terms to An Post in order for it to deliver that service - to maintain its social mandate - then this must be the case. An Post must remain obliged and enabled to deliver post to all areas of the country.

Fine Gael supports the introduction of a postal code system; therefore, there is no disagreement on this matter. We believe the number system, the concept of Dublin 2, area one, two, three, is not the best system to use because it is not the most efficient system nor in the long term the best system in a modern context. We propose the GPS system as an alternative. We do not argue the principle or the policy position because this policy position has been advocated by Fine Gael for some time but we argue the methodology, the delivery of it. We do not regard this proposal as being the best way to go about it.

I recommend a rethink in this area. The system can be achieved at no greater cost and with ultimately greater efficiency and providing a better service for the people. I make the general observation in the style of a Second Stage discussion that the social dimension or the social service dimension of our postal services should not be lost in any new competitive environment or in any new configuration.


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