Stuff pulls plug on Northland community papers


By Peter de Graaf

Media company Stuff is closing the last of its Northland community newspapers with immediate effect.

The Northern News, which circulates in the Bay of Islands through to Kaikohe, and The Whangārei Leader will cease publication this week, along with Far North Real Estate, the company's weekly property lift-out.

Stuff's Kerikeri-based Bay Chronicle closed in March this year.

Advertisers were informed of the closure by email last Thursday.

All three weekly papers have been edited from Auckland since 2018, when the company's remaining Northland staff were laid off.

One reporter was subsequently hired to cover Northland events for, but that role was discontinued last year.

The closure of Stuff's last weekly papers in the North comes as its rival NZME is consulting on cuts to its Whangārei-based daily newspaper, The Northern Advocate.

NZME said it was cutting staff at most of its regional newspapers so it could divert resources to major centres, such as Wellington and Christchurch, where competition with Stuff was fiercest.

The only other surviving newspapers in Northland are the biweekly, Kaitāia-based Northland Age, also owned by NZME, and the Dargaville-based weekly Kaipara Lifestyler, which is independently owned.

A spokesperson for Stuff told RNZ the group had been reviewing its community and regional mastheads since the beginning of the year "to ensure a cohesive network of titles aligned to community and local business needs".

That had resulted in the launch of new mastheads the acquisition of others, including The Wairarapa Times-Age; the merger of some community newspapers; and the closure of titles such as The Whangārei Leader and The Northern News.

The spokesperson said Stuff had "a strong Northland audience of people choosing to consume their news digitally".

The Northern News in particular has a long and rich history. It was founded in Kaikohe in 1919 by the Berry brothers, and was later owned and edited for many years by journalism great Jim Eagles.

The newspaper was bought by Independent News Limited in 1985 and became a free weekly in 2002.

The paper was then bought by Fairfax NZ, now Stuff, which closed down its Kaikohe office in 2015.

It was run from the Bay Chronicle office in Kerikeri until Christmas 2018, when Stuff laid off all remaining Northern News, Bay Chronicle and Whangārei Leader staff, though the company continued to publish all three papers.

The final editions will be distributed this week.