Following the discovery of gold on the banks of the Shotover River in November 1862, the town of Queenstown appeared almost overnight and the first issue of the Lake Wakatip Mail followed soon after on 2 May 1863. The Otago Daily Times of 18 May 1863 commented about the Mail that ‘it seems difficult to realise ... that such a paper should be published in Queenstown, a place which six months ago was the head station of a runholder, and nothing more’.
James Bradshaw, who later achieved prominence as a Member of Parliament and as an important early advocate of labour law reform, worked as an editor of the Mail. However, the key figure in the early life of the paper was William Warren, who became part owner of the paper in 1864 and sole owner in 1867.
When gold was discovered on the West Coast, many miners moved on, and the Mail struggled to survive in the severe slump that followed. In April 1867 the Mail announced it would cease publication but was revived after missing only one issue. In its early years, flood and fire also added to the Mail’s difficulties. In 1878 the lower part of Queenstown was flooded and the Mail’s stock damaged; worse was to follow in 1879 when two of Warren’s children lit some paper and the Mail’s office was completely destroyed by fire, along with a supply of new type and materials that had only been received from Melbourne the previous day.
In 1883 Warren found himself in legal strife after the Mail published a scathing article about a public address by J T Marryat Hornsby of the neighbouring Arrowtown newspaper, the Lake County Press. Hornsby sued for damages for libel and succeeded when the jury held that the Mail had implied that Hornsby was a convict by saying he came from Tasmania.
After William Warren died the Warren family continued to be involved with the Mail for many years. During the First World War, Margaret (Daisy) Warren took over management of the paper when her brother enlisted for service, despite prejudice and doubt over her suitability for the role. Daisy proved to be highly successful in her new position and after the war continued to have a prominent role in the running of the Mail.
In 1928 the Lake Wakatip Mail absorbed the Lake County Press and continued to be published until 6 February 1947.