|Region||Bay of Plenty|
In early June 1885 the New Zealand Herald’s Rotorua correspondent wrote: ‘The first copy of our local paper, appropriately styled the Hot Lakes Chronicle, will probably be issued on Saturday first [6 June], as a weekly production. The proprietor, Mr Lechuer, says he has met with every encouragement and is sanguine of its success.’
Little is known about the original owner of Rotorua’s first newspaper, but the first months of publication were not without drama. In November the New Zealand Herald ran this item: ‘On behalf of the Hot Lakes Chronicle, a notice was posted at Ohinemutu stating that the paper will not be printed this morning, nor probably for a week, as the printer is drunk.’
An early part-owner, Peter A Crawford, was later proprietor and editor of the Opotiki Herald from 1903 until his death in 1928.
Francis F Watt from Montrose in Scotland, the son of the owner of several Glasgow newspapers, spent time in Australia and America before arriving in Rotorua in 1895 and purchasing an interest in the Hot Lakes Chronicle. He was sole owner when he died in 1900, his wife continuing to run the paper for a period.
The Cyclopedia of New Zealand (Auckland Provincial District) noted: ‘During the tourist season of 1901 it was published as a bi-weekly, on Wednesdays and Saturdays, but reverted to the Saturday issue for the winter months. It is double demy, and has eight columns of reading matter, apart from advertisements. The paper is now edited and the business conducted by Mr. Watt's widow, who has a jobbing plant and does the local printing trade, besides carrying on the business of general stationer and news agent.’
David Gardner, also a Scotsman, owned the Hot Lakes Chronicle from 1902 to his death in 1918. Two years earlier he merged the Hot Lakes Chronicle and the Rotorua Times which had begun as the bi-weekly Wonderland Gazette and Rotorua Times in 1906 and had been a daily since 1910.
R A Gardner managed the merged evening daily, now the Rotorua Chronicle, after his father’s death. Oswald Walter Exall edited the newspaper from 1918 until his death in 1925; he was followed by C H Worthington until 1931.
In 1931, the Rotorua and Bay of Plenty Publishing Company paid £10,000 (just over $1 million today) for the Rotorua Chronicle, changed publication to mornings, and renamed the paper the Rotorua Morning Post. First editor of the renamed paper was, albeit briefly, Lyonel George Ashton.
E G Webber was editor from 1932 until 1940. He spent the next five years as editor of the NZEF Times and as a war correspondent and had a distinguished post-war newspaper career. In 1947, when H Lawson Smith, previously a reporter on the Otago Daily Times and Manawatu Standard, was editor, the paper changed back to evening publication as the Rotorua Post.
In 1953 it was one of the first New Zealand newspapers to carry front page news. As of 2014, the Rotorua Post was a morning daily owned by the APN Group.