Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has criticised Bauer Media for refusing Government support and choosing to shut down.
"They should have taken it up, they should have kept going," she said at a press conference this afternoon.
The New Zealand office of the German-owned company abruptly closed its doors permanently as a result of the Covid-19 crisis, bringing an end to long-running publications including Woman's Day, New Zealand Woman's Weekly, the Australian Women's Weekly, the Listener, North & South, Next, Metro, Kia Ora, Home NZ and Your Home & Garden.
Ardern said she was "gutted" to see Bauer close its doors, saying its magazines were part of New Zealand's history.
In a parting shot at its owners, she questioned claims that the company shut in New Zealand because of Covid-19.
The company not only refused to take up the wage subsidy, it proactively came to the Government and said it would not be using it.
"The wage subsidy could and should have made a difference to those staff," Ardern said.
She said the Government wanted to see the company continue to operate, maybe with more of an online presence.
The Government was aware that long-form journalism was under pressure and knew how important it was. It is looking into options to helping media, Ardern said.
Finance Minister Grant Robertson said the Government understood the "plurality of media".
But he said there needed to be more players than just the state-owned companies.
The Bauer closure brings to an end many decades of publishing in New Zealand, with about 300 staff out of jobs.
A staffer spoken to by the Herald said they were "devastated" and "didn't see it coming".
"There were plenty of tears shed. It's certainly a very grey day for New Zealand media.
"It's a big blow for magazines in New Zealand as they hold a special place in our country. Magazines have been in New Zealand for generations, they are a trusted friend and give comfort to many households."
The staffer said that though magazines were deemed non-essential by the Government, staff had still been working at home preparing to put out their next publication.
"This is a total shock. This is the end, it's awful."
She said the finer details such as redundancy payouts had yet to be confirmed.
"There are a lot of journalists out there who are really good at their job ... We are going to have to ride this crisis through and hope and wait for an economic upturn and wait for things to get back to normal."
Freelance photographer Tessa Burrows - who has worked for Bauer Media NZ for more than 10 years - said a lot of people were very upset and there had been a lot of crying.
"This is going to have a huge impact on my life as Bauer are my main source of income.
"A lot of us are freelance so there will be no redundancy packages unfortunately, even if we have worked a considerable time for them."
The New Zealand Woman's Weekly was first published on December 8, 1932. Its circulation peaked in the mid-1980s when it sold about 250,000 copies a week.
New Zealand's Woman's Day was established in 1932 and had a readership of about 525,000. Online it reached a further 65,000 people.
North & South was founded in 1986.
Chief executive Brendon Hill told staff the news this morning in a company-wide Zoom meeting.
Bauer said the closure was because of the "severe economic impact of Covid-19".
EY has been appointed to work alongside Bauer New Zealand to facilitate an orderly wind-down of the business.
"This is a devastating blow for our committed and talented team who have worked tirelessly to inform and entertain New Zealanders, through some of the country's best-loved and most-read magazines," Hill said.
"We understand the New Zealand Government's decision to move to Covid-19 level 4, but it has put our business in an untenable position. Publishing in New Zealand is very dependent on advertising revenue and it is highly unlikely that demand will ever return to pre-crisis levels."
Bauer urgently reviewed its New Zealand operations and considered all options to keep part or all the business open, including engaging with the New Zealand Government, Hill said.
"An active search is under way to find buyers for our New Zealand assets, including our many iconic titles, however, so far an alternative owner has not been found."
Funding would be provided to enable all staff to be paid their full redundancy and leave entitlements.
"I would like to recognise the impact that this decision will have on our suppliers, customers and the wider publishing industry. This is a very difficult time for the entire media industry," Hill said.
Michael Boggs, the CEO of NZME (publisher of the Herald) said the closure of Bauer was "undoubtedly a blow for New Zealand media and for New Zealand".
"Firstly, we are devastated for the talented, hardworking and passionate people impacted by Bauer's closure. Media is a small industry in New Zealand and we have close relationships with many of their team. In many ways they are part of the NZME family both figuratively and literally.
"New Zealanders have been blessed with a rich and colourful tapestry of media with which to engage. The loss of Bauer and the publications it supported has taken some of that colour away," Boggs said.
"The closure of Bauer highlights the challenges facing all commercial media in New Zealand. As has been reported, NZME continues to work proactively to adapt the business to help mitigate the impact of Covid-19."
Former Metro magazine editor Simon Wilson said it was devastating news. Magazines had a valuable role in building communities and bringing people together, he said.
"They also hold a place for investigative journalism and putting the important issues before the public.
"I would be surprised if Bauer are the only ones to close their doors. This has signalled that it is not lack of readers that is causing this; we know people are craving media at the moment and media is on the whole really proving its worth at the moment.
"It is not well understood that commercial media needs advertisers to survive, we can't do it just on sales."
Wilson said the Bauer titles were cultural treasures - especially the Listener.
Listener columnist and media commentator Bill Ralston was shocked by the news.
He told Newstalk ZB's Chris Lynch it stems from the Government's decision not to count magazines as essential services during the lockdown.
"It's a bloody tragedy really. It's magazines, your Home and Garden, Australian Women's Weekly.
"I've argued against the idea of shutting down the magazines [during the lockdown]. The magazines were being run basically at home.
"The printers were already printing the daily newspapers, so they were already there. You weren't putting them at risk."
Ralston said German-owned Bauer has decided to take a "bunker mentality".
"They've decided to take their money, whatever they had left, and they weren't prepared to run on any extra cost.
"You can't sell advertising, you can't sell magazines, so they've decided pretty obviously that they don't want to sustain the loss."
Sally Ridge, who used to write columns for Woman's Day, said it was "incredibly sad" and "the end of a era".
"Woman's Day have been a huge part of my life since I was 21. Working with the Woman's Day crew was fantastic, they were always so easy and fun to work with," Ridge said.