The Greymouth Evening Star Company Ltd is the principal media publisher on the West Coast of the South Island, with two daily newspapers and the region’s only community newspaper, servicing from Karamea in the north to Jackson Bay in the south.
The flagship is the Greymouth Star, an evening daily (Monday-Saturday) circulating throughout the West Coast with an audited daily circulation of 4300 and a readership of almost three times that. The Greymouth Star is the largest daily newspaper on the West Coast.
In 1998 the company acquired the assets of the Hokitika-based morning daily (Monday-Friday), the West Coast Times, with an audited daily circulation of 1400, principally in Hokitika and South Westland.
Completing the stable is the weekly West Coast Messenger, published every Wednesday and delivered free to 14,000 households and businesses the length of the Coast.
“Born on the goldfields” – NZ’s 6th oldest newspaper
As the Irish settlers celebrated St Patrick’s Day, 1866, in the usual manner, Synder Browne was busy hand-setting the type in rough premises in Waite Street, for the first edition of the Greymouth Evening Star. It was an ambitious enterprise for a town that was just 12 months old and not two years before had been an isolated Maori pa visited by only a few stray white men. Yet Browne – fresh from having set up the Hokitika Evening Star in 1865 – obviously gambled that the gold rushes were big enough to justify a second newspaper in the then smaller town of Greymouth. (The Grey River Argus was first, in November 1865, but for its first six years published only tri-weekly, whereas the Greymouth Evening Star started as a four-page daily from day one).
No sooner had Browne established his Greymouth paper than he sold the going concern to pioneer Hokitika newspaperman and Irishman John Tyrrell, founder of the Coast’s oldest paper the West Coast Times. Tyrrell, who was only 35, brought with him a young Joseph Petrie. Tyrrell did not last but Petrie did – his name was to be associated with the Greymouth Evening Star for an incredible 42 years, 33 of them as editor. Like many early newspapermen, Petrie was a political beast and the Greymouth Evening Star was his mouthpiece; during his career he was mayor and also chaired the harbour board, education board and the hospital. Four years before Petrie died, in 1908, he oversaw the huge advancement from the quick-fingered, hand-setting of type to the mechanised linotypes that produced lines of type from molten lead. Every edition from then until the next ‘revolution’ in 1979 with the introduction of offset printing, was produced by the ‘hot type’ generated on linotype machines.
The printing of the Greymouth Evening Star has moved full circle since 1864. It started off in makeshift premises close to the corner of Waite Street and Mawhera Quay – about where the Star’s newsprint storage shed sits today. Bigger premises followed in Tainui Street, near where the BNZ bank is today, then a move around the corner to two-storeyed premises in Mackay Street (near Toyworld) and finally, in 1940, to the present building in Werita Street through to Waite Street. The first reel-fed, flatbed Cossar press was commissioned in 1927 and the second in 1940. It was from the impressions left by these two machines that generations of West Coasters read the news – until the Cossar was finally retired in 1979.
Originally privately-owned, the Greymouth Evening Star Company Limited was floated in 1891 with 75 local shareholders, 15 of them Greymouth publicans and including five shareholders from the now ghost town of Dunganville. The Grey River Argus was Greymouth’s morning paper and from 1919 it was owned and controlled by the Labour movement. For years, the socialist Argus and the conservative Star sparred with tit-for-tat editorials. Famously last century, the Argus editor Michael Daly and the Star editor Archibald Kibble would meet just one day a year – on Christmas Eve – for a respectful drink and exchange of opinions, before continuing their sniping through the columns of their newspapers for the remaining 364 days of the year. In the end, the Star outlived the Argus, which folded in November 1966 and a number of the Argus staff transferred up the road to Werita Street to join their ‘friendly foe’ at the Star.
In 1995, Dunedin-based Allied Press, which prints the Otago Daily Times, bought 51% of The Greymouth Evening Star Company Limited and has provided the means for the paper to upgrade further and to keep pace with modern newspaper standards. Although the larger shareholder is in Dunedin, 49% of the shareholding is still in West Coast hands and the Greymouth Evening Star remains one of the larger employers in the district with a fulltime staff of 61.