APN to close Toowoomba printing

More than 40 print staff will be affected when APN shuts down its Toowoomba printing plant this year, as circulation for its regional newspapers continues to fall.

The company says the closure will occur as a ‘phased approach’ throughout 2015 as work on newspapers such as the Toowoomba Chronicle is shifted to the Warwick and Yandina plants.

Toowoomba is the fourth plant to close in as many years, and only began production seven years ago as part of a $100m upgrade of APN’s Australian Regional Media (ARM) print sites in Queensland and NSW.

[Related: Newspapers in flux]

Consistent falling circulation is to blame, with advertising revenue down seven per cent in 2014 and 15 per cent in 2013, according to APN’s annual report.

“This has been a very difficult decision for ARM to make, but is necessary due to the commercial realities that the print industry faces today,” ARM group services director David Power says.

“The closure of the facility will result in some redundancies and ARM will provide support to those affected. Where the opportunity exists, some employees may be redeployed to other APN sites.”

APN’s annual report says the closure ‘will deliver further production efficiencies and cost savings’.

The company refused to say how many staff work at Toowoomba, but multiple published sources put the number at more than 40 as of two years ago.

Warwick is by far the closest plant staff could be redeployed to, but even it is 82km away, an hour’s drive to the south. Yandina is on the Sunshine Coast and Rockhampton is in North Queensland.

Powers says Warwick will get a Manugraph press formerly used at the Ballina, NSW plant that closed in 2013, to handle the added work and to print coldset titles.

Toowoomba also has a Manugraph Cityline coldset press and with circulation much more likely to go down than up it is likely to be sold off, like the Bundaberg press when that site closed in 2011.

The press can print 48 pages of high quality process colour in one run at a speed of 35,000 copies an hour and is complemented with a Muller Martini SLS inserting line.

The major 2006-7 ARM print site upgrade program saw five greenfield sites built, in Lismore-Ballina ($9.5m), Yandina ($64m), Rockhampton ($9m), Bundaberg ($8m), along with Toowoomba for a similar amount, plus a $2m upgrade at Mackay.

The project was billed as ‘a massive vote of confidence in the future of the daily newspaper as a medium’ and was designed to ‘future-proof’ the business and provide a platform for growth and expansion. Mackay and Bundaberg closed in 2011 and Ballina in 2013.

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