The press hall that became a paper’s heart

The press hall that became a paper’s heart

In the tumultuous wake of the Christchurch earthquake of February 2011, Fairfax New Zealand’s Harewood print site 11km from the city centre became the heart and soul, not only of daily newspaper, The Press, but the city – connecting the community through a lifeline of essential stories and information.

Both the heritage Press Building, which was at the time home to Christchurch Fairfax metro, and the newly constructed Press Building, where the paper was planning to move just prior to the earthquake, were destroyed, but the print site was relatively undamaged.

This led to the press site being transformed into the fully-functioning base of the newspaper’s operations for the next 15 months.Harewood Print site setup

Kirk Martin has been the manager of the printing press at Logistics Drive, Harewood, since its establishment in August 2009, and described the postearthquake experience as wholly unique, particularly the cohesion of the newspaper and the way that employees from disparate sections of the business worked together.

“Staff were key, staff were paramount,” he said. “Through all this adversity what really shone through was positive attitudes and getting on with life and having a sense of purpose.”

The Harewood site began operations in 2009, employing 84 permanent staff, 32 full-time and 52 part-time.

Mr Martin said about 20 per cent of his staff are printers, 8 per cent work in maintenance, 5 per cent in management and the rest work in the mailroom or in post-press.

“We’re a six-and-a-half-day operation and we operate three eight hour shifts, so we’re around the clock for six-and-ahalf days a week” he said. “Each day’s different, some days we’re printing up to 10 publications and then other days we’re printing as little as four.”

The press prints two daily papers – The Press and The Timaru Herald – and local and community papers for much of New Zealand’s South Island; “more or less from Nelson to Invercargill”.

Over the course of a single week in March, the press printed a total of 1,971,000 papers. This was made up of 435,000 copies of The Press; 117,000 combined copies of The Timaru Herald and three weekly community papers for Timaru; 94,000 combined copies of five weekly Southland Times community papers; 610,000 Christchurch community papers (six weeklies); 45,000 Sunday papers; and 670,000 of assorted feature pre-prints and publications for Fairfax regional and metropolitan papers throughout NZ.

Inside the purpose-built Harewood press hall

Inside the purpose-built Harewood press hall

During his time managing presses, Mr Martin has experienced various changes and noticed trends evolve, both in basic practice and also customer and company expectations.

“[I‘ve seen] the change from the old traditional photo litho to computer-to-plate or CTP,” he said. “Overall we’ve seen customers be more specific about what they want out of a newspaper and by that I mean quality and value-add products.

“We’ve also seen a cultural change and a need for staff to change and go with the times.”

On the future of print he is adamant on its survival, but recognises the challenges.

“The key thing is that our industry, like a lot of other industries, is changing. And you’ve got to embrace this change and not be scared of it,” he said.

“Everything now has to be more efficient than it was 10 years ago. Everything. From how we make a paper to how we deliver the paper, and that impacts on us all. But if it’s embraced positively it can be achieved.”

For a feature on The Press newspaper and their community’s recovery from the 2011 Christchurch earthquake, click here.

For more news from The Newspaper Works, click here.

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