Print works, anyone? Murarrie, Brisbane, the fourth of News Corp’s original groundbreaking “colour newspaper” plants is still looking for a new owner, many months after production was moved to regional sites.
The four coldset newspaper presses, inserting and mailroom equipment have been removed, but the new owner of 724 Lytton Road, Murarrie is offered “embedded infrastructure including large power supply, temperature controlled warehousing and gantry cranes”.
Queensland copies of The Australian and metro daily the Courier-Mail are now printed in Yandina – on the Sunshine Coast – and in Townsville following an announcement in July 2020 of plans to rationalise production after News closed suburban and other print mastheads.
Closure of the iconic, cathedral-like building – which overlooks the Brisbane river, Gateway Bridge and docks – was described by Craig Johnstone in InQueensland as “one of the most visible signs that the golden age of newspaper publishing has come to an end”.
Its 1995 opening had been delayed when a cash crisis threatened the survival of News in 1990; the “we are where we are, nobody gets out” moment which saw Citibank’s Ann Lane – fresh from restructuring Donald Trump – reportedly guiding Rupert Murdoch through a near financial disaster.
Murdoch’s billion-dollar 1987 order with German press maker manroland – covering print sites in Australia and the UK – had been one of the first stories I had covered after landing in Melbourne as a trade magazine editor. Progressively and carefully, the new print centres were built – and new colour print editions opened – in Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and finally Brisbane. Carefully because of the attention the project attracted, and complications such as the introduction of reverse-osmosis filtration of the sometimes barely potable water required for dampening in the litho process.
With memories of News’ Wapping dispute still raw, I was urged not to reference the proximity of the Westgate Park, Melbourne site to the city’s docklands.
Like those in the other centres – some of which have been replaced altogether – the four manroland Newsman (Colorman) double-width presses in Brisbane were modified, reconfigured and upgraded during their lifetime, with new control automation introduced in 2014 and Ferag mailroom replaced. Originally, they had been designed to print four-colour on only one side of the web, with spot on the other.
Plans had also been made to install inkjet web printing at Murarrie to produce – among other things – copies of Melbourne and Sydney metros which were then being airfreighted to Brisbane, with Kodak named as “preferred supplier”.
Now the 25,645 m2 building stands vacant, despite calls for expressions of interest by the end of March, and an ongoing marketing campaign. A Vimeo video offers a glimpse of the building when it was vacated, with presses, mailroom equipment and newsprint stocks still in place.
Agents Jones Lang LaSalle emphasise the “prime infill opportunity” in one of Queensland’s most highly constrained land markets with significant underlying value in the 56,680 m2 site.
One more reminder, as Johnstone put it, of the end of a golden age.
Pictures: Jones Lang LaSalle and GXpress