News AU briefs staff on move to greenfield print site

Staff at News Corp Australia's Westgate Park print centre have been given details of the project that will see new all-colour presses and mailroom equipment installed at a new greenfield site in the city.

Executive general manager for production and property operations Marcus Hooke briefed staff at an informal meeting just over a week ago following GXpress's exclusive report of the sale of the Westgate Park site and acquisition of key equipment.

A tender is out for construction of the new building and News is talking to developers about the project, which should see newspapers being produced by early 2021.

Central are presses from the former Fairfax Media print centre at Ormiston - acquired from Antony Catalano's Australian Community Media - and News' Chullora print site, and mailroom equipment from The Guardian in the UK.

manroland Australasia - the Australian sales and service subsidiary of manroland Goss web systems - will relocate the Goss Uniliner press from Ormiston and one of the four manroland Geoman presses installed in Sydney as part of an upgrade in 2008.

Both print 160 pages tabloid in full colour.

With manroland and Goss now part of the same German-headquartered company, it is possible News will take the opportunity to match control systems so that operators have an identical "look and feel" on both presses.

More than 100 of the 150 staff who work at Westgate Park were given an update on the project, which will future-proof what is considered News' most significant Australian print publishing business.

No major announcement is being made about he closely-costed project, which brings together carefully-selected and well-loved equipment under the supervision of original manufacturers manroland Goss and Ferag. However, it is likely to be a talking point when Herald & Weekly Times chairman Penny Fowler - who is Rupert Murdoch's niece - presides over a prestige event to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Weekly Times tomorrow (Wednesday) night.

Bringing together lightly-used existing equipment for the project not only saves money; it will mean News is likely to be in production earlier than might be the case if it was installing new equipment from original press manufacturers which, following consolidation, now have waiting lists.

The new presses will deliver increased colour capacity for papers produced in Melbourne including dailies the Herald-Sun, The Australian and the Geelong Advertiser, plus the Weekly Times and community titles including the Leader.

The Melbourne project addresses the "brightest red" risk hot-spot in News Corp Australia's production firmament, leaving Adelaide still earmarked for an upgrade.

The project has been a long time coming: Marcus Hooke floated the possibility of a new print site for Melbourne during an address to ASEAN Newspaper Printers conference in Manila, the Philippines, in 2015. Explaining how presses in Brisbane had been rejuvenated then with state-of-the art drive and control gear, he added, "we're not sure we want to do the same in Melbourne."

Peter Coleman

Pictured: News could use the opportunity to match control systems so that operators have an identical "look and feel" on both the manroland and Goss presses

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