For the first time in more than 60 years, a small-town New Zealand newspaper could not print.

Westport's The News was struck by the 'perfect storm' of both of its plate-making machines breaking down yesterday afternoon. The motor had burnt out on one while a laser had burnt out on the other.

Editor-at-large Colin Warren said he believed the last time The News had failed to print was in the late 1950s.

He said it had not missed a day following the 1968 Inangahua earthquake, or after he took over the paper from the Nelson Evening Mail in 1978 and introduced digital technology to print The News in Westport.


From 1961 until 1978 the newspaper was printed in Nelson and flown to Westport.

The Screen PTR 8000 MK II machines transfer the page images produced on our graphic designer's computer onto plates used by our printing machines. Despite heroic efforts by various staff members yesterday, nothing could be done to get either plate maker to work.

Expert technical help was needed so FujiFilm field service technician Andi Frey was summoned from Christchurch. He is one of just three technicians in the country who can service and fix the machines.

Mr Frey got up at 3.45am today to drive from his home to come to the aid of The News. He said it was most unusual to have both machines break down at the same time.

This morning he was trying to swap parts between the two to get at least one working to print today's issue.