The average cost per issue of Rotorua's Tatau Tatau magazine has risen $6020 since 2018.
Rotorua Lakes Council has spent more than $79,000 printing and distributing four editions of its magazine Tatau Tatau from September 2020 to August 2021.
Information released by the council under official information law also shows the reach of the magazine dropped slightly over that time – from 27,248 households in September 2020 to 25,483 in August 2021.
In 2018, the Rotorua Daily Post reported the council had spent $72,000 before GST printing and distributing six editions of the magazine, with a reach of between 26,000 and 27,000 properties.
The council says the cost rose due to an increase in the number of pages in the magazine when it moved to a quarterly edition in November 2018.
Massey University public relations and journalism expert Dr Catherine Strong said it was important for councils to conduct surveys to assess whether its magazines are a "nice-to-have or a need-to-have".
Strong, based in Wellington, said it was common for councils to produce their own magazines and she thought the cost of Rotorua's was "not too bad".
She said it was a question of whether a council magazine was "a feel-good, or ... effective".
"How many people read it? Do they even bother doing surveys and evaluations of it?"
In a statement via the council communications team, district leadership and democracy deputy chief executive Oonagh Hopkins said the magazine moved to a new "weight class" for printing in November 2018, due to increased page numbers when it changed to quarterly editions.
She said the cost of distribution depended on the number of addresses the magazine was delivered to, which in turn was dependent on the number of addresses registered with NZ Post at any given time.
Hopkins said there was a survey on the magazine in late 2019 which received 514 responses, having been promoted via social media, the council's weekly e-pānui and the magazine.
The survey results, provided to Local Democracy Reporting, showed while five per cent of respondents threw the magazine in the bin without reading it, 32 per cent said they would read one or two articles and 37 per cent said they would read all or most of it.
However, there were some detractors, including one respondent who said the magazine should be replaced "with a single A5 flyer in the letterbox, saying 'the latest propaganda is available on our website'".
Some said the "glossy magazine" was a "waste of money", or that they had never received it, but 23 per cent said the magazine was good and should not be changed.
Hopkins said the council's work and decisions affected everyone in the district and the council needed to use various ways to communicate with them. It had made "considerable efforts" to increase engagement, said Hopkins.
"The magazine celebrates people and work in our community, as well as providing details about upcoming events, and information and updates about council services, projects and partnerships."
She said Tatau Tatau was also available at the library and was provided to about 60 local organisations and businesses at their request.
"We're always happy to receive constructive feedback and suggestions that help us improve the provision of information to our community."
Hopkins said allocated budget that was previously used for things such as print media advertising was reallocated to the magazine.
The allocation was part of the annual communications team budget, she said.
Issue production had been impacted by Covid-19 alert levels. The next issue is due out in December this year.
It was written by existing communications staff but $750 was paid to a contributor in the August issue.
Hopkins confirmed the magazine, which has produced 15 issues since September 2017, was recyclable, printed on uncoated paper from responsible forestry. It was printed with solvent-free ink, which eliminated environmental pollutants.
The phrase "tatau tatau" means "we together" and is the Te Arawa-preferred spelling of the words, according to the council.
THE COST OF TATAU TATAU MAGAZINE
September 2020 issue
Reach: 27,248 households
Copies printed: 27,500
December 2020 issue
Reach: 27,267 households
April 2021 issue
Reach: 27,256 households
Copies printed: 27,500
August 2021 issue
Contributing writer: $750
Copies printed: 25,800
SOURCE: ROTORUA LAKES COUNCIL