New Zealand’s first newspaper, the New Zealand Gazette, was printed in London in 1839 by the New Zealand Company for settlers migrating to Wellington. Further issues were published in 1840 after they arrived, and newspapers were produced in other European settlements as they were established. A government paper was published at Russell, the capital, from June 1840.
Production of newspapers was a long, slow process. Most appeared just once or twice a week. Transport was difficult, so each paper served only its local community. Overseas news was reprinted from three-month-old papers arriving from Europe by ship.
The gold rush and growing population in the 1860s made newspapers more viable. Several papers from this period are still published today, including the New Zealand Herald and the Evening Post (now the Dominion Post). The Otago Daily Times was the first daily paper. Aspiring politicians, including Julius Vogel and John Ballance (both later premiers), started papers to further their political ambitions.
Printing technology improved, making it quicker to produce papers. Illustrations were often included. The telegraph made it possible to report on national and international events. In 1879 the United Press Association (later the New Zealand Press Association) was set up to share news among the main papers.
Early 20th century
Newspapers grew in the early 20th century, and by 1911 there were 64 daily papers in New Zealand. Press agencies supplied international news, papers published poems, stories and essays, and some journalists became nationally or internationally known. An increasing number were women, but they were often confined to covering ‘women’s issues’.
Later 20th century
In the mid-20th century, due to competition from radio, the number of papers fell.
Newspapers were produced more quickly using offset printing and huge rolls of newsprint, and from about 1990 they included colour photos. Computers also speeded up newspaper production. However, evening daily papers closed and staff numbers were cut as people chose to watch television instead. Daily papers produced large weekend editions with magazine supplements.
By 2007 almost all New Zealand papers were owned by two Australian companies, Fairfax and APN. Papers faced competition from the internet, but the decline in readership slowed. Newspapers remained important to local communities, providing all sorts of local information.