• Tony Bosworth

Rural Press print site in North Richmond to close next month with loss of 100 jobs

In a major blow to the Hawkesbury, as many as 100 employees will lose their jobs next month when Rural Press - one of North Richmond’s long-term employers - shuts down on June 25.

The Rural Press print works at the top of North Richmond on Bells Line of Road is a world-class print operation, but its current owner, Australian Community Media, (ACM) has been steadily shifting print to its Tamworth site, as well as shuttering most of its other print presses nationwide.

"This decision, while difficult, is critical in establishing a streamlined, capital-light business that can compete in this rapidly changing media landscape,” a statement from ACM says.

The North Richmond print site is also a prime piece of real estate just above North Richmond and we have been told it is already up for sale.

ACM owns the site and also owns the Hawkesbury Gazette, the hard-copy version of which is printed at the North Richmond works. There is no news yet on what the print closure means for the Gazette – but other ACM regional titles have or are transitioning to online only models behind a paywall.

We have asked for a comment on this – though it is likely most of the print work from North Richmond – including the Gazette - will be transferred to ACM’s Tamworth print plant.

At it height the North Richmond print site was running 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 364 days a year, producing newspapers, magazines and brochures for distribution nationwide.

It was one of the largest employers in the Hawkesbury, though full and part-time numbers have slumped in the last four or five years from almost 200 to today’s 100.

The company has been winding down printing at North Richmond and moving it to other company plants since the beginning of the year, and the move - while a shock - is hardly a surprise to those working there because North Richmond will be the seventh printing plant closed by ACM since it bought the print and newspaper business in April 2019 from Fairfax/Nine for $125m.

The media industry – and especially print – has been decimated by the rise of digital news sites which have made it hard for publishers to make money as they used to in the so-called ‘rivers of gold’ days when print made a fortune thanks to paid-for print advertising.

The North Richmond site is equipped with the latest presses, but a large part of the print operation, and the most modern – the heatset part - was sold off last year. ACM will switch production of some of the titles it prints at North Richmond to its Tamworth plant. The company also operates a print plant in Tasmania, which is the only other print operation remaining in the ACM stable.

The biggest paper printed at North Richmond is the long-running agricultural title The Land.

There is no news yet on what the print plant closure might mean for the editorial and advertising operations based at North Richmond - including those of the Gazette - but with the large printing press shuttered it is very unlikely the company will keep its sprawling site. It is hard to see how it could be cost-effective with the print plant closed.

More as we get it – we are waiting to hear from the union involved – the AMWU – and ACM, who we have put more questions to.

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