Lost in transit . . . Tapanui resident Richard Cook holds the letter he received from the Otago Regional Council last month advising him the cheque he paid his rates with in Sept ember last year had gone missing. PHOTO: SANDY EGGLESTON

Lost, stolen or strayed, 354 cheques made out to the Otago Regional Council (ORC) for rate payments have been mislaid.

ORC wrote to ratepayers last month advising them a batch of cheques sent to the Bank of New Zealand (BNZ) had gone missing.

Tapanui resident Richard Cook said he found the situation more and more intriguing the longer he thought about it.

“It’s dangerous because they’re out there somewhere.”

He had written the cheque in September and it had taken the ORC four months to tell him the cheque was missing.

He had checked his account and the cheque had not been cashed.

It was “very unusual” for a bank to admit it had lost cheques, he said.

In the 60 years he had a bank account he could not remember any cheques going missing.

An ORC representative said the cheques were received and receipted and sent to BNZ’s cheque processing centre in Wellington where they were mislaid, and as a result the payment process had not been completed.

“ORC have notified all the affected ratepayers, who will need to re-send their rates payment.

“We regret the inconvenience to those affected, and want to emphasise that they will not face any additional costs.”

The last day for paying rates to the council is October 30 each year.

BNZ, NZ Post and their courier provider have not established where the cheques were mislaid, the ORC said.

A NZ Post representative said it had been working with ORC and the BNZ to determine what happened.

“Our investigation has shown that although NZ Post has successfully completed its part in the delivery process ready for the next courier company, it appears the cheques have been mis-located at some point after this and have not arrived at their final destination.

“Investigations from all parties have not been able to locate the cheques.”

A BNZ spokesman said in September last year ORC informed the bank a batch of cheques sent to it to process went missing.

“At the time we did a thorough audit of our mail system and can categorically say the cheques never arrived at BNZ,” the spokesman said.

The bank understood the situation could be concerning for those people who had missing cheques.

“[We] want to assure them that their money is safe.

“The cheques are non-transferable, meaning no-one else can bank them. ”

If the cheques did show up at the bank, the system would filter them out.

“In the unlikely case that one of the cheques in question were processed, customers would be refunded.”