NZ next as Fairfax gives Lockley group print responsibility

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Leadership: This photomontage featuring Lockley was part of Damian Balkin's SWUG presentation
Changes which were being whispered about at the weekend Single Width Users Group conference in Albury, NSW, were confirmed today when the association’s president, Bob Lockley was handed responsibility for all of Fairfax Media’s printing and logistics activities.

It’s the second promotion for Lockley in less than two years, following his elevation to chief executive Australian printing soon after Rural Press – of which he was general manager printing – merged with Fairfax.

The appointment is one of a raft announced this afternoon following the resignation of New Zealand chief executive Joan Withers last week. Withers is succeeded by Allen Williams, currently chief executive/publisher for Fairfax’s Illawarra and Hunter community and regional newspapers.

Fairfax’s website reports the appointment as a surprise, suggesting that an internal New Zealand appointment was widely expected. Passed over is NZ group head of publishing, Rodger Shepherd who joined Fairfax a year ago with a background background in printing group PMP.

However, the moves – which extends the influence of Rural Press team members under new chief executive Brain McCarthy – has been welcomed by investors. Fairfax share rose seven-and-a-half per cent.

Putting Lockley in charge of NZ as well as Australian print operations is hardly a surprise: With print sites in Australia “in good shape”, NZ is the next area for attention.

Since the Fairfax merger, Lockley has overseen a number of Australian print site consolidations and closures – in Wagga Wagga, Nowra, Burnie and Warrnambool – as well as continuing a programme of upgrades.

Now it’s New Zealand’s turn, and Lockley is the obvious choice: Influential in the deals which provided an identical new Goss Uniliner press for the Christchurch ‘Star’ as was chosen for the Rural Press site at Ormiston, Queensland, and steered Christchurch towards a Ferag mailroon, he is also clearly ready for the challenge.

Some recent upgrades have also taken place at other NZ sites, including an extra tower in Petone (Wellington) and installation of QI automatic colour registration at the ‘Waikato Times’. But Fairfax opted to sell the redundant manroland Uniset press from Burnie to a Spanish buyer rather than move it across the Tasman.

What is moving across the sea however, is the Rural Press culture: Former RPP Ballarat production manager Paul Kelly recently moved to the Petone print site, and at the SWUG conference, Lockley quizzed him about attitudes to management and change there. “They’re as different as chalk and cheese,” Kelly replied.
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