Fairfax investing $20m in Petone upgrade

HANK SCHOUTEN
Last updated 09:28 22/03/2014

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Fairfax Media is investing $20 million on a major upgrade of its printing plant in Petone.

The project will increase the capacity of the plant, which prints The Dominion Post, Manawatu Standard, Sunday Star-Times, Sunday News and a string of community papers including The Hutt News, Upper Hutt Leader, Kapi- Mana News and Kapiti Observer.

Fairfax Media central region general manager Gerard Watt said about $20 million was being spent buying, transporting and installing near-new presses from the company's soon-to-be-closed Tullamarine plant near Melbourne.

Another $2m was being spent on alterations at the Petone plant, including raising part of the roof to install four Manroland Geoman printer towers.

The project also includes the installation of new publishing and mailroom equipment to collate and bundle the papers.

Beca has been commissioned to do engineering work, including earthquake bracing of the heavy units.

The equipment should be in place by the end of the year and fully commissioned by March.

The old Goss press, installed when the Petone plant opened 30 years ago, will be removed once the new towers are running.

Watt said the additional capacity would mean the plant could print two papers simultaneously.

"We're expecting some huge benefits out of this investment, with better quality of product."

Registration and print quality would be improved and there should be less spoilage at the start of print runs.

Press speeds will be greatly increased and there should be fewer delays caused by equipment breakdowns.

Plant manager Ricky Baker said print run times for the biggest paper - The Dominion Post Saturday edition - which now takes up to seven hours could be done in about four hours.

The present presses were run hard and the extra capacity would give more time for maintenance.

Watt said the plant would also be able to produce a wider variety of products for advertisers and readers.

Options could include enhanced property and motoring magazine sections.

At present Your Weekend magazine is printed in Christchurch and trucked to Wellington for insertion in the Saturday paper.

The magazine and other regional publications now printed in Christchurch would also be printed in Petone.

Expansion would also allow the plant to take on more work for other publishers, including independent community newspapers.

The upgrade had been a long time in the planning and before the commitment was made to stay at Petone Fairfax considered building a new plant at Grenada.

Watt said that while media companies were putting a lot of effort into online publication, this investment showed a confidence in the future of print.

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While there has been debate worldwide, including Australia, about the long-term future of printed newspapers, New Zealand and Australia were different markets, he said.

A key difference was that subscribers in this country had a direct relationship with the papers, while in Australia papers were sold through newsagents.

Fairfax NZ had a healthy base of 270,000 print subscribers.

"So will print be around in five or 10 years? Most definitely but in what format and shape and changes in content - we've just got to keep evolving around reader needs.

"We understand there is a long and healthy future in our print publication . . . and this is a signal to the market that The Dominion Post in its print format will be here for a very long time."

- The Dominion Post

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