Fairfax Media has confirmed daily print editions of the Newcastle Herald will continue to be distributed throughout Newcastle and the Hunter Region despite plans to close the company’s printing press at Beresfield.
In an announcement to the Australian Stock Exchange and briefings to affected staff on Wednesday morning, Fairfax said it would shut its newspaper printing plant at Beresfield as part of a “rational approach to the complex issues facing the industry”.
Fairfax chief executive officer Greg Hywood said the company had entered into agreements with News Corp Australia that would result in the publishers using each other’s printing networks.
Mr Hywood said these agreements would enable Fairfax to “produce newspapers well into the future”.
“The printing arrangements make the production of newspapers more efficient for both publishers,” he said.
“These are landmark initiatives … Better utilisation of existing print assets makes sense and will deliver economic benefits to Fairfax Media.”
The proposed changes at Beresfield are believed to affect about 70 employees, including casuals, with the possibility of redeployment being considered.
Under the plan, printing of the Newcastle Herald and a number of other Newcastle and Hunter Valley newspapers, including The Maitland Mercury, Newcastle & Lake Macquarie Star and Port Stephens Examiner, would shift to Fairfax’s print site at North Richmond, north-west of Sydney.
Other publications would have their printing moved from Beresfield to Tamworth.
Fairfax said there would be no change to the availability of any newspapers currently printed at Beresfield, which also include the Dungog Chronicle, Maitland & Lower Hunter Star, Lakes Mail and Cessnock’s The Advertiser.
The Newcastle Herald’s weekday and Saturday editions would continue to be sold at newsagents and other retail outlets around Newcastle and the Hunter, and continue to be home-delivered to subscribers.
The changes would not affect the Herald’s commercial and editorial staff, who operate from the masthead’s headquarters at 28 Honeysuckle Drive, Newcastle.
The newspaper’s editors and journalists have been based at Honeysuckle, writing and producing the print editions and the website theherald.com.au, since 2015.
Mr Hywood said the News Corp agreements and the rationalisation of printing assets – which also included the closure of the Fairfax press at Ormiston in Queensland – would result in an annualised full-year benefit of around $15million.
“From today we are consulting with staff at our printing centres affected by the new arrangements,” he said. “Fairfax is committed to providing comprehensive assistance and support, and will meet all our employment obligations.”
Printing of the Herald shifted from printing presses in Bolton Street, Newcastle, to the purpose-built, $20million Beresfield plant in 1998.
The Herald’s editorial and sales staff moved from Bolton Street to the Honeysuckle offices three years ago.
The Herald traces its heritage back to The Newcastle Chronicle and Hunter River District News, which was launched in 1858 – a time when many locals could neither read nor write.
In 1876, the Chronicle was incorporated into The Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate. The Miners’ Advocate originally started in suburban Wallsend before moving into Newcastle.
The Herald operated for half a century out of the same Bolton Street building originally occupied by the Chronicle. It was demolished in 1929 to make way for the sandstone facade building that housed the Herald until late 2015.
Construction of the 116-apartment Herald Apartments development on the newspaper’s former site fronting Bolton and King streets is expected to be completed at the end of this year.
When Fairfax moved its regional print operations to Beresfield in 1998, the apartment block built where the printing presses once stood was named City Extra in homage to the site’s newspaper heritage.