Rare Kiwi Cossars win stay of execution, thanks to NZME

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With a stay of execution on its present location, there are hopes for a new future for two Cossar presses in Pahiatua, New Zealand, with the formation of an action committee to make plans and raise funds.

There were fears that the presses - which are among perhaps only four in the world - might be scrapped followed a deadline for their removal from the former Bush Telegraph premises.

Wellington's Printing Museum has given up hopes of accommodating the presses - which are the size of a large room - at new premises, and ownership is now likely to pass to the Pahiatua committee.

But Steve Carle, who is leading efforts to save the presses reports that NZME - which owns the building in which they are currently located - has decided they can stay where they are for a further three years.

Although they were manufactured in the UK, one of the two presses - dating to 1924 - is listed on New Zealand's 'protected objects' register.

They were donated by NZME (then APN New Zealand) to the Printing Museum in 2008 with hopes that they would find a home when the museum relocated, but remained in Pahiatua. When those hopes fell through, a deadline had been set for their removal. With the news that they can stay a little longer in their present location, an appeal was launched to secure them a permanent home.

Carle, who is managing editor of the NZME-owned Pahiatua Bush Telegraph, says the three-year stay is great news: "Fortune has favoured the Cossars," he says.

"I have had a meeting with the Pahiatua Museum committee which would be keen to jointly buy the building it is in, and this would cement the Cossars' future as they wouldn't ever need to be moved."

A trust deed is being written up in preparation for taking ownership of the presses, and a bank account for Cossar Restoration donations has been opened. A Pahiatua pensioner has donated $300, and there have been further enquiries, but so far no more cash. Anyone interested in helping in any way, or making a financial contribution to preserve this piece of newspaper heritage should contact Carle on +6421 153 1917 or email steve.carle@bushtele.co.nz

The older of the two presses printed the last Labour Party-owned newspaper, the Grey River Argus, in Greymouth, while the newer 1970 one printed the Kapi Mana Argus and Thames Star. The Bush Telegraph was the last publication printed on the press.

Developed from the Wharfedale flatbed letterpress, the reel-fed Cossar transformed production for small newspapers because it automated the production and collation of printed pages into a complete newspaper. For country newspapers too small to invest in faster rotary letterpress machines - and the related plate-casting equipment - used by their big-city cousins, it was a way to print bigger editions faster.

Despite having been built in Yorkshire, England, to the design of a Scotsman, the Cossar had a special place in the hearts of New Zealand newspaper publishers, one of whom bought the first press in 1903.

Museum secretary Bill Nairn says the Cossar design was very popular in New Zealand: "More than 20 provincial newspapers used these presses over the next 80 or so years, the last one in use in 1993 at the Northland Age in Kaitaia."

Other New Zealand users included Franklin Press (Pukekohe), Hawera Star, Bay of Plenty Times (Tauranga), Wairoa Star, Martinborough Star, Wairarapa Times-Age (Masterton), Viscount Press (Palmerston North), Hutt News (Lower Hutt), Sentinel Newspapers (Wellington), Marlborough Express (Blenheim), Evening Star (Greymouth), Timaru Herald and the Oamaru Mail.

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