Ratepayer support for a planned "hyper-local" website in Mt Albert illustrates the changing landscape for community media.

The Albert-Eden local board has paid the Mt Albert Residents Association $6600 in set-up costs for the new website, to be written by local journalism veterans Bruce Morris and Michael Field.

Fairfax community newspapers have questioned the spending of ratepayer money, but Morris has responded by saying that when the Mt Albert website opens this year, it will aim to be a focus for the community, and is unlikely to eat into Fairfax advertising revenue.

The growth of hyper-local media appears to be a trend, with some people believing that small scale local media have a more buoyant future than traditional news outlets - albeit at a different scale.


Morris says the new webpage will be distinct from Facebook: more curated and aiming to cover community issues, not lost cats.

One clear advantage is that independent hyper-local sites have relatively low overheads. The most direct saving is that there are no printing costs, and there is no corporate structure to support.

In my opinion, ratepayer support raises two issues. The first is the degree to which that support - which is not enjoyed by established community papers - ends up subsidising commercial operations.

The second issue is whether local bodies which support hyper-local media will effectively be protected from negative coverage.

Morris rejects that idea, and says scandals are unlikely to play a big part in the site's coverage.

If the Residents Association had an objection to the site's coverage, he would stand up to it.

Albert-Eden board chair Peter Haynes Haynes said it had no interest in becoming involved in editorial matters, and its contribution was not intended to be for ongoing costs.

However, he does acknowledge that he sees a lot of current media coverage of the area as overly negative, and thinks a new hyper-local outlet would be a good alternative.


Back in the picture

Four years after the ill-fated export of its photo archive to Arkansas, Fairfax New Zealand is claiming a victory, of sorts.

What began as a low-cost way to get the archive digitised has started to feel like an offbeat movie, replete with FBI investigators and scandals over stolen sports memorabilia.

Fairfax's former partner in the venture, John Rogers, founder of Rogers Photo Archive in Little Rock, is serving jail time over other activities at the company.

And there appear to be ongoing issues with Australian sporting pictures. The Nine Network this week reported that significant Fairfax archive photos had been sold on eBay and were on show at a Santa Monica gallery.

However, Fairfax reports that New Zealand pictures sent to the company in 2013 have been digitised as agreed.

Under a recent order from an Arkansas court, hard copies of New Zealand photos will remain owned by RPA. However, they will be returned and stored in this country while the Ministry for Culture and Heritage decides if they are taonga under the terms of the Protected Objects Act.

The debacle over the New Zealand photos was revealed by the Herald in April 2015. Under the deal with Fairfax, RPA would digitise photos and - after checking their historical importance under the act - they could sell the hard copies.

It was a cheap way to digitise pictures - something that could otherwise cost tens of millions of dollars. Some US media firms were doing the same.

Now, it seems that registration of the NZ photos under the act has ensured their safety.

A Fairfax spokeswoman said RPA had "erroneously" consigned some NZ photos, which had been sent to photo agencies, outside the agreed deal. The ministry's involvement had ensured steps were taken to protect the pictures.

Receivers at RPA are still trying to sort through millions of photos from several major newspaper chains.

Film boss leaves legacy of growth

Dave Gibson, NZ Film Commission chief executive, will be stepping down at the end of this year.

His legacy can be judged through the commission's role in the growth of the industry. In particular, Gibson brought a producer's insight to the commission, which had traditionally been run by arts administrators.

Some aspects of the commission's new philosophy were already in progress when Gibson left the Gibson Group studios and took on the CEO role at the end of 2013. He has had the benefit of a supportive Government, which extended film incentives to TV productions.

During his reign, the commission has taken over the industry-controlled locations office, NZ Film. And the closure of the commission's sales operation tightened the focus on funding and the development of infrastructure.

Gibson has played a big role in closer ties with China, allied with the signing of an NZ-China co-production agreement. That has meant more Chinese projects being filmed here, and provided access to China for NZ films.