|Region||Bay of Plenty|
From the 1840s there was a good early relationship between the Ngati Awa tribe and the slowly growing number of Europeans living in the Whakatane area. This had changed by the mid-1860s. There was widespread Maori adoption of the new Pai Maire religion and the teachings of prophet Te Ua Haumene were peaceful, but the murder of Europeans in the Bay of Plenty by Hau Hau followers resulted in the confiscation of Ngati Awa’s lands. Following Te Kooti’s raid on Whakatane in 1869, there was a determined effort by European settlers and local Maori to re-establish community and economic life in the township.
Whakatane had a population of a little over 200 when the first attempt was made to establish a newspaper. The Whakatane Times and Opouriao Advocate began its short life in 1899 but there were not sufficient readers or advertisers for it to survive beyond its first two months. The paper edited by H G Walmsley, was backed by Daniel McGarvey, a one-time compositor on Auckland’s Southern Cross.
In 1901 there were 781 Europeans and between 3-4,000 Maori in Whakatane County. The township’s population had risen sufficiently by 1907 for the Whakatane County Press, using the Times plant, to have more sustained success. The owner, Charles Gibbs Beckett, was well-known for starting newspapers.
According to the Thames Star in January 1907: ‘Mr C G Beckett bids fair to rival the fame of Mr Joseph Ivess as a newspaper ‘planter’. He is the proprietor of the Northern Wairoa Times, the Whangarei Morning Press and the Waihi Times, and he is now establishing a fourth at Whakatane, to be known as the Whakatane County Press. Years ago Mr Beckett established several papers in the Wairarapa district, and for some time he owned the Inglewood Record.’
Following the paper’s first issue on 14 January Wellington’s Evening Post reported that it ‘is a double-demy sheet, and claims to be the first penny paper in the Bay of Plenty. As befits a county paper, it gives full prominence to local news and local requirements.’ It appeared three times a week and was published in the morning. It may have been a daily for a time in 1916.
One newspaper, at least, was less welcoming. In December 1907 the Bay of Plenty Times commented: ‘We notice that the Whakatane County Press makes very free with the articles in this paper by publishing them in its leading columns as original matter. We have no objection to incompetent papers copying our articles, provided they acknowledge their source instead of stealing them.’
During the period 1916-1921 Whakatane was the fastest growing town in New Zealand, contributing factors being the congenial climate, fertile alluvial plains and lower hill country and the increasing importance of the port at Whakatane. Forestry, fishing, and dairying were all important.
In 1919 the Whakatane County Press was bought by the Bay of Plenty Printing Company and in 1923 changed back to evening publication. In 1935, it absorbed the East Coast Guardian from Opotiki and the paper’s title was changed to Bay of Plenty Press. The Bay of Plenty Press stopped publication at the beginning of 1939 and two months later F J Reynolds formed the Beacon Printing and Publishing Company and took over the Press’s machinery. The first issue of the Bay of Plenty Beacon, a tri-weekly, appeared in April 1939.
The Whakatane Beacon, as the paper is now called, is a broadsheet publication printed three times a week, on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and on Fridays. It has a circulation of about 8,400. The Beacon Printing and Publishing Company also publishes the Bay Weekend, a tabloid newspaper delivered free every Saturday to every home in the greater Eastern Bay area.
Beacon Printing and Publishing Company is the copyright owner for the Bay of Plenty Beacon. You can reproduce in-copyright material from this newspaper for non-commercial use under a Creative Commons New Zealand BY-NC-SA licence . This newspaper is not available for commercial use without the consent of Beacon Printing and Publishing Company. For advice on reproduction of out-of-copyright material from this newspaper, please refer to the Copyright guide.
The National Library would like to thank Whakatāne District Museum & Gallery, The Whakatāne Beacon, and The Whakatāne District Historical Society for their assistance in the digitisation of this title.