PAEROA GAZETTE 1891 - 1991

Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 36, September 1992

The first newspaper under the name, "The Ohinemuri Gazette", was published on Saturday, 19 December, 1891, and with four name changes has continued since.

When Edwin Edwards, the publisher, and Robert Henry, the printer, put the first Ohinemuri Gazette, which incorporated the Upper Thames Warden, on to the streets of Paeroa there was already another publication in the district, the "Hauraki Tribute", a paper which commenced in about 1881 and finally was taken over by the Ohinemuri Gazette in 1896. The Ohinemuri Gazette was published from a building in Wharf Street and in those days the whole paper, eight-page tabloid, was handset, i.e. each letter in the page was picked from typecases, even the news items - a time-consuming exercise. Edwards had a long family connection with Paeroa, the most notable being Edwin Edwards who, in the 1940's and 1950's served as a Paeroa Borough Councillor and Mayor.

With the decline in the goldfields at Karangahake and through to Waihi, Paeroa had a downturn in its economy, but the Gazette, printed on Wednesday and Saturday mornings, maintained its place in the community. In the time just before the turn of the century it is not clear just what happened with the ownership of the Gazette. A Richard Jenkins and then Robert Henry were publishers of the paper from April 1899 through to May 1900, when a Mr J H Claridge purchased the paper. However, his term was short-lived. He received a Government appointment in Wellington and in July 1900 William D Nicholas and Henry Lyes, his father-in-law, took over the publication and remained printing it in Edwards' Wharf Street building. Lyes lasted a few months and Nicholas became the sole owner.

Nicholas immediately changed the Ohinemuri Gazette from a bi-weekly morning issue to a triweekly evening paper and from that point it started to move ahead again. W D Nicholas Limited continued to develop the Gazette, and on his take-over in 1900 he made it known he was working towards a daily evening paper. But this did not eventuate and no doubt the events in 1908 had an impact on the Gazette's future. In February of that year the Gazette office in Wharf Street was destroyed by fire, with a heavy loss of plant and equipment, but the Gazette never missed a publication day; it was printed by W G Beckett, who owned the Waihi Times.

In May 1908 Mr Nicholas re-established his printing plant in Princes Street in a new building with the latest printing machinery - a Wharfedale flatbed which was used to print the Gazette right up until 1961. In December 1908 Mr Nicholas established himself in his own premises in Belmont Road, the present site of the Gazette office. Mr Nicholas continued to develop his publication and also a thriving commercial printing business. As the Hauraki Plains was drained and developed into very rich farmland and settled, he expanded the circulation into that area.

By 1920 he had met with such success that he made a name change, the tri-weekly became known as the Hauraki Plains Gazette, and this name was to stay for the next 57 years. In 1932 it was increased to eight pages per issue. In 1931 the Coromandel newspaper, published by a Mr R Rhodes, was closed, and Mr Nicholas immediately supplied the Coromandel Peninsula with its own paper, the Coromandel and Mercury Bay Gazette. This four-page weekly, on Tuesdays, was well received and the circulation soon built up to a viable level.

The third major change in the life of the Gazette came in 1939 when Mr Rei Darley, the youngest member of a well-known newspaper family in Pahiatua, purchased the Gazette, commercial printing business and buildings from Mr Nicholas and called his company Thames Valley Newspapers Limited.

No sooner had Mr Darley taken over the reins of the Gazette than the Second World War commenced and from 1940 the Coromandel and Mercury Bay Gazette was combined with the Hauraki Plains Gazette for economic reasons. Mr Darley and his wife Marion were soon working as a team, and with a close-knit staff overcame the vagaries of the war and its impact on the community. Mr Darley handled all the reporting and he soon became involved in the community, assisting in the administration of most of the local sports clubs and organisations.

The Hauraki Plains Gazette continued to flourish and with the gradual expansion had its first editor appointed - the late Mr Walter (Walde) Waldergrave, this being in 1947.

In 1951 Mr Darley developed a weekly publication in Waihi, the Waihi Gazette, taking over from the Waihi Telegraph, a publication which had served the town through its golden era the Martha Mine was closing down at this time. The Waihi Gazette was based in the old Telegraph building in association with the town's well known respected printer, Clem Callaghan.

The Gazette office in Paeroa was a busy place, especially in 1956, when Mr Darley recommenced as a separate publication the Coromandel and Mercury Bay Gazette. There was a paper a day -the Hauraki Plains Gazette on Monday, Wednesday and Friday; the Coromandel and Mercury Bay Gazette on Tuesday and the Waihi Gazette on Thursday. It was quite common those days to have the Hauraki Plains Gazette average 12 broadsheet pages per issue, the Peninsula Gazette four pages and the Waihi Gazette 16 pages.

With such pressure being put on staff and machinery and factory - this had not changed since 1908 - Mr Darley decided to expand. The whole operation in those days, plus a thriving commercial printing section, was housed in the area later occupied by Trust Bank Waikato and the passageway into the Gazette office.

Late in the 1950's a building programme was embarked on, under the direction of the late Jack Chamberlain. First, the section on the Willoughby Street entrance was erected and a two unit flat-bed Cossar newspaper printing machine installed. It printed 16 broadsheet pages at 5000 per hour. It had come from the Rotorua Post and was completely overhauled by the late Alex Rogers, a well-known general engineer in Paeroa. Progressively the new building, one of the largest blocks to be built in Paeroa for many years, was completed and all the printing works, editorial and management offices moved into it.

By 1961 the new printing press was in operation and with new type-setting and commercial printing machinery Thames Valley Newspapers Ltd became one of the foremost printing firms in rural New Zealand. The second change in that year came when Mr Darley entered an association with the Waikato and King Country Press Limited - the owners of the Waikato Times. He and this firm were shareholders in the East Waikato Publishing Company, which published the Morrinsville Star, Putaruru News and Taupo Times.

The partnership was for five years, at the end of which there was to be a reappraisal of the association and either party could withdraw. Mr Darley exercised this right in 1972, at about the time the other firm merged with the newly-formed Independent Newspapers Limited.

During this period the firm was known as Thames Valley News (1967) Limited and when Mr Darley took over control again it became Thames Valley Newspapers Limited and appointed Messrs Graham Watton and Lionel Preece as working directors. Almost immediately, in July 1973, Mr Darley expanded into Thames where there was an indication of strong support.

The Coromandel and Mercury Bay Gazette had a name change to Thames and Peninsula Gazette and the weekly paper, still on a Tuesday, was circulated in Thames and on the Coromandel Peninsula. An office was opened in Thames with Bob Morrison in charge. The paper was doing well but then rising costs forced Thames Valley News to rethink its involvement in Thames and in January 1977 a new publication was produced, the Thames Valley Gazette, which incorporated the Hauraki Plains and Thames and Peninsula Gazettes.

It is interesting to note that many Thames Valley residents still call the paper the Hauraki Plains Gazette. In the meantime the Waihi Gazette was still progressing, claiming a blanket coverage for a subscription paper, something of a record for such a paper.

When the new printing works was completed the old building was completely stripped out and an arcade of shops with mezzanine floors and a top floor for office space was constructed. This was in 1970 and Thames Valley News Limited opened a stationery shop and this continued until 1979 when it was closed and the area again remodelled and leased to Trust Bank Waikato.

When the Waihi Borough Council finally condemned the old Waihi printing office building in 1970 the Waihi Gazette and printer Clem Callaghan lost their home. Thames Valley Newspapers opened a new office which included a stationery shop. This closed in 1986.

With the fierce competition from new publications using the latest technological printing systems, the Gazette took another major change in 1980 when it went from hot metal - all type set in lead - to offset or photosetting. This meant new machinery and also the printing of the Gazette's publications on a modem offset rotary machine at Te Awamutu. The Gazettes were holding their own against all opposition and just when further plans were being proposed Mr Darley, who was the oldest active newspaper owner in New Zealand, passed away in March 1986. With Mr Darley's passing, long-time family friend, Mr Norm McMillan, became chairman of directors to ensure the firm's continuance.

In May 1986 a major decision was made by the directors to have the Waihi Gazette circulated as a free paper. This would have been a little against the late Mr Rei Darley's policies, but with the changing circumstances and demands from the advertisers - the lifeblood of any newspaper - the decision was made.

After careful analysis of their future involvement, a close assessment of the ever-changing trends in the newspaper field, especially in production, the directors decided to accept an offer from Independent Newspapers Limited, and this brought to a close 47 years association between the Darley family and the Gazette. In fact, between the Nicholas and Darley families they had control of the Gazette for 86 years.

Hauraki Publishers took over the Thames Valley Gazette and Waihi Gazette on 1 December, 1986, and in August 1988 the Gazette had its latest name change, to the Paeroa Gazette, and with this the publication changed from a broadsheet format, which it had been since 1963, to the tabloid size.

It would be impossible to produce the names of all the staff, many of whom served their working lifetime in the production of the paper. Current staff gives a good indication of the length of service experienced by the staff: Editor Graham Watton 37 years; advertising representative Terry Radford 22 years; compositor Harry Sampson 16 years; typesetter Dick Berendt 15 years; distribution Elaine Lally 14 years; reporter Anne Glogowski 11 years; office manager Bev Sharp 3 years.

Then there was Wally Bellamy who retired in 1983 after 40 years and then continued on part-time until December 1986, and Lionel Preece who had 34 years service when the Gazette changed hands in 1986 and then he purchased the commercial printing department from Thames Valley News Limited and continued in this field until November 1991.

This article appeared in the special Gazette supplement and is reproduced with the permission of the Editor.

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