Lake Macquarie News Closure

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SpeakersPiper Mr Greg
BusinessPrivate Members Statements, PRIV

Page: 9532

Mr GREG PIPER (Lake Macquarie) [6.25 p.m.]: The closure of the local newspaper, Lake Macquarie News, is an important issue in my electorate. On Tuesday this week the editor of the Lake Macquarie News undertook the sad task of calling many people in the Lake Macquarie community to report that the newspaper was to close. She had been informed on Monday afternoon that the edition just finalised would be the newspaper's last. I raise this matter in the House today not at anyone's request but because of my concern that this decision will lead to the electorate and the city losing a vital part of its fabric. No other weekly or free newspaper has succeeded in linking, or even attempted to link, the lake's communities through such a thorough presentation of local news, advertising and reader opinions.

Last week's edition of the newspaper reported on a feature film being shot at Blacksmiths Beach; a major regional shopping centre under construction at Charlestown; the importance of Swansea bridge, in the electorate of the member for Swansea; the Glendale transport interchange and State funding for a new police station at Glendale, both of which are in the electorate of the member for Wallsend; improvements to Morisset railway station; and criticism of the State's planning reforms and the Minister's explanation of how they should work. Today's issue, as well as carrying a brief front-page eulogy for the newspaper, includes other matters important to the local community, such as a balanced review of the recent changes to planning legislation, an article on increased public transport usage that quotes the Minister for Transport extensively, a letter to the editor from the Minister for Tourism—it is a wonderful contribution—and, most importantly, a weekly column by the mayor of the city.

No other local weekly newspaper covers this breadth of topics across the entire local government area of almost 200,000 people. The Lake Macquarie News enabled reader involvement through its opinions section, and at times fostered healthy debate on contentious issues. The newspaper, through its articles, editorials and letters, has been an important forum for information and debate. On its website, the Lake Macquarie News modestly details a significant history of more than 50 years. It started life as the Belmont-Swansea Gazette in the late 1940s and merged with the Toronto-based Lake Macquarie Advocate in 1992 to become the Lake Macquarie News—the only newspaper in the region that dedicates its coverage entirely to the City of Lake Macquarie. The newspaper publishes opinions and stories on news, sport, motoring, real estate, and entertainment that are backed up with frequent specialised features. It includes full coverage of local council news, police reports and all the nitty-gritty news items that tie a community together.

The newspaper fully supports several community-based events throughout the year, from the arts and sport to the annual Lake Macquarie News Business Achiever Awards. The web page that gives a description of the newspaper also proudly details Lake Macquarie's development into a major hub for business and employment, and boasts that the lake is one of the State's most important sailing venues and a fast-growing tourism attraction. I have had the opportunity to discuss the newspaper's closure with the member for Swansea, who is similarly shocked and disappointed. With the Lake Macquarie News having been distributed within five State electorates and two Federal electorates, I am confident that other members, as well as councillors, will have the same sense of loss.

The Lake Macquarie News helped maintain a sense of community throughout a widely distributed population over a large and diverse geographical area. I have written to Mr John Webster, General Manager of Cumberland Newspapers, stating my disappointment and requesting that the decision be reviewed. I understand that this has been a difficult commercial decision and therefore I understand that there would be resistance to reversing it. Lake Macquarie is a large city with strong growth projections and, from my perspective, continuing the paper would constitute a good long-term investment. It is appropriate for me to at least comment on the loss of a much-appreciated community newspaper and to voice an objection on behalf of the community. The final edition of the newspaper was published yesterday. Its demise will leave a void that no other newspaper will fill without considerable effort.

While other reputable weekly newspapers cover parts of the city, at this stage none of them fulfils the role that has been carried by the Lake Macquarie News. Perhaps the demise of the Lake Macquarie News will, in time, result in an extension of coverage, with other weeklies picking up the important role of linking communities throughout the city. There is clearly an opportunity and I hope that the lost broad geographical coverage is taken up by either a reborn Lake Macquarie News or by expansion of one of our other weeklies, the Post, the Lakes Mail or the Newcastle Star. I acknowledge and thank the editor, Terry Collins, the manager, Scott Dibben, and all the staff whose professionalism has provided an objective and informative newspaper.