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Wairoa Star closure: Community paper ceases publication after all options exhausted

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A northern Hawke’s Bay community newspaper with more than a century of history is the latest casualty in a string of shutdowns and cuts sweeping through the New Zealand media sector.

The Wairoa Star, a paid-for publication published twice weekly on Tuesday and Thursday morning, told shareholders on Tuesday that this Thursday’s paper would be its last.

Wairoa Star chairman Matt Wilson said a mix of inflationary pressures and high interest rates contributed to a tough economic environment and the board had “exhausted all options” trying to keep the paper afloat.

“Despite best efforts to control costs wherever possible, business revenue continued to decline over the last 12 months. We therefore had to make the very difficult decision to close The Wairoa Star, having exhausted all options available to us in our attempts to retain it,” he said.

In March, shareholders were told that the paper suffered a $74,000 loss in 2023. They were also informed of some of the challenges facing the business, such as the “changing media landscape” that is seeing readers and advertisers shift to social media or search-based technology like Facebook and Google.

The business will cease trading, pay creditors, pay employee entitlements, and refund subscribers who have paid in advance. Assets, including The Wairoa Star building, will also be sold. Net proceeds after costs will be returned to shareholders based on their holdings.

“On behalf of The Wairoa Star board, I’d like to say a heartfelt thank you to The Wairoa Star team for their significant contribution, acknowledging their huge efforts in keeping the business operating in what has been a very challenging economic environment,” Wilson said.

The Wairoa Star has proudly served its local community for more than 100 years, and its closure is extremely sad for the team, our board, our readers, subscribers, advertisers, and the local community. We thank you all for your support.”

The Wairoa Star newspaper will publish its final issue this week after the business became unsustainable. Photo / NZME
The Wairoa Star newspaper will publish its final issue this week after the business became unsustainable. Photo / NZME

The Wairoa Star was first published on September 23, 1921, and covers local news from the Wairoa region.

NZ Herald owners NZME own a 40 per cent stake in the paper. The company also recently purchased the nearby Gisborne Herald as it looked to bolster its regional network.

The final edition of The Wairoa Star will be this Thursday, May 2, and the retail store at 176 Marine Parade will close in the coming weeks.

It’s been a turbulent time for the NZ media sector, as closures and cuts have continued to sweep the country, leaving many publications and outlets facing uncertain futures.

The Health Media – which publishes New Zealand Doctor and Pharmacy Today and employs a team of 23 fulltime and part-time staff, as well as a stable of contributors, will cease trading later this year.

Government-owned broadcaster TVNZ has announced plans to cut more than 60 jobs, and at the end of February, Warner Brothers Discovery, owner of Newshub, revealed it will close its NZ newsroom in July.

Paul Goldsmith, who recently took over as Minister of Media and Communications from Melissa Lee, told RNZ the media industry is currently “under pressure”.

Mitchell Hageman joined Hawke’s Bay Today in January 2023. From his Napier base, he writes regularly on social issues, arts and culture, and the community. He has a particular love for stories about ordinary people doing extraordinary things.

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