Auckland or NSW? Fairfax readies Sydney presses for move

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Only weeks before the expected deadline for the announcement of changes to Fairfax Media’s Sydney printing arrangements, the Australian newspaper giant has started making plans to redeploy plant from its Chullora print site.

Staff have been told that the two newest presses in the manroland Colorman S line at Chullora are being decommissioned before Christmas, so that they can be moved to another site.

In advance of that, printing of a string of NSW country titles is being moved back to the group’s Dubbo print centre, where the Goss Community press has been upgraded with the addition of extra colour capacity.

Community towers have become available within Fairfax’s Rural Press Printing division following reorganisation and the closure of the Port Macquarie print centre.

The newspapers affected are understood to include the ‘Lithgow Mercury’, ‘Western Advocate’, ‘Western Times’, ‘Bathurst Domain’, ‘Oberon Review’ and ‘Blayney Chronicle’, printing of which was moved to Chullora from Dubbo in September.

Fairfax group chief executive for printing and logistics Bob Lockley told GXpress the moves were “simply … the transfer of products around while additional colour was added to (the) Dubbo press” but did not respond to our enquiry about the Chullora plant.

The two presses – identified as C2 and D – are part of a upgrade to the 1995 Colorman S line aimed at increasing back-to-back colour capacity, and completed around the turn of the century

Staff have been told the presses will be decommissioned by December 24, a couple of weeks after the regional NSW papers go back to Dubbo. A statement says no staff will be “directly affected” by the equipment shift.

As Fairfax moves closer to a decision on sharing printing facilities with News Limited – which this week reported a $300 million net loss for the year, mostly as a result of write-downs on the value of its print titles and goodwill – there is speculation about where the Chullora Colorman S presses will be moved to.

One option – and the subject of a “strong, strong” rumour, according to one New Zealand observer – is to install them at Auckland Community Print, Fairfax NZ’s printing facility in Wiri, South Auckland.

A new pressroom would be needed to house the high-speed double-width pressline.

An alternative would be to reserve the presses for the new project in NSW Fairfax says it will need if talks on shared printing fail.

Or even if they don’t, given it might still be desirable for the group to print as much of the insert/preprint content of its metropolitan daily ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ and national ‘Australian Financial Review’ as possible.

Fairfax has committed to install Baldwin Technology’s high-end QuadCure UV printing system – which delivers heatset-like print quality on coldset presses – at its Capital Fine Print in Canberra and a site in NSW understood to be the former Rural Press headquarters in North Richmond.

The watercooled QuadCure UV units are designed for large high-speed presses such as the manroland Geoman at Canberra and the displaced Colorman S line. Baldwin introduced an aircooled system for smaller presses, called TowerCure, at IfraExpo this year.

According to an internal memo leaked to online site ‘Crikey’ in August, a decision whether to print the ‘Herald’ at News Limited or develop a “smaller Fairfax-owned new site” will be made by the end of this month, with either option to be implemented within two years.

In New Zealand, where print sharing – this time with APN and/or Allied Press – has also been on the agenda, installed press capacity also exceeds the demands of newspapers there although there is scope for the updating and upgrading of equipment to improve productivity and colour capacity.

That said, there’s a view that moving the two Sydney presses to Auckland would be “akin to taking rice to China”. It would however, be likely to make possible the closure of Fairfax’s Hamilton site, which is a couple of hours away and prints the 40,000 daily ‘Waikato Times’ and 57,000 weekly ‘Hamilton Times’.

Fairfax is also understood to have had talks with Allied Press, the New Zealand-owned publisher of the ‘Otago Daily Times’, raising the possibility of the closure of their Southland print site in Invercargill.

Pictured: Part of the existing five-folder Colorman S line at Chullora (Photo Fairfax Media)

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