Having announced last year that it would get out of heatset printing, Australian Community Media has told staff it wants to shut its last-remaining heatset-capable print site.
Staff were told on April 20 of a proposal to close the former Fairfax Media print facility in North Richmond, NSW, having “explored all alternative options”.
ACM closed its Ballarat, Victoria print site last year, and sold “selected assets” at its heatset-capable Mandurah, WA site to Ive Group last October. Ive’s five-year print and distribution contract, covering "publications currently published and managed by ACM" was said to be worth more than $100 million.
In its statement, the company said plans to close North Richmond were in their early stages, and “as such a closing date is yet to be set.
“However if it proceeds it will impact all print employees at North Richmond.”
ACM said it wanted to let all impacted employees know “as soon as it became clear that the site closure was a real possibility”, and would be in contact with all affected employees and assist them “as much as possible through this difficult period”.
ACM said that since taking over the business in 2019, executive chairman Antony Catalano and his executive team had been considering “ways to take onerous cost out of the business and set it up for future success.
“The decision, while difficult, is critical in establishing a streamlined, capital light business that can compete in this rapidly changing media landscape. A more streamlined and sustainable ACM will enable us to invest in the high-quality journalism that will continue to keep our communities strong, informed and connected.”
The statement said all options had been “fully explored” to avoid the closure, but none of these had proved viable.
The North Richmond site had been the headquarters of John B. Fairfax’s Rural Press, and equipped with a flexible twin-web manroland Uniset heatset pressline, later upgraded with UV towers. Its capacity was further expanded by Fairfax Media in 2013 to bulk-print copies of the Sydney Morning Herald and other group titles – see Thought we could: Bob Lockley on transformation on GXpress.net – until a decision to move printing to News Corp Australia’s Chullora site rendered this irrelevant. The $42 million cost of upgrading both Ballarat and North Richmond had been returned in a year.
Pictured: The long North Richmond pressline includes both single and double-width, coldset, heatset and UV capability;
A page from GXpress in 2014 featured the upgrades