The New Zealand Spectator was the first Wellington newspaper to last for any length of time. It began weekly publication in October 1844, several weeks after the demise of the New Zealand Gazette, Wellington’s and New Zealand’s first newspaper.
The Spectator was set up by a committee of local settlers to fill the gap left by the Gazette and to provide an alternative to it. The Gazette, a New Zealand company newspaper under the editorship of Samuel Revans, had been so vociferous in its attacks on the colonial administration that many settlers wanted a newspaper that was more temperate. However the Spectator soon found itself embroiled in conflict, when the paper’s printers published an item from Revans that was clearly an attack on local lawyer Daniel Wakefield (younger brother of Edward Gibbon Wakefield). The publishers dismissed the printers who responded by setting up a rival newspaper, the Wellington Independent. The Spectator immediately tried to put the Independent out of business by taking back the printing plant that they were using. The Independent got its own equipment and was back in business four months later. The Spectator and the Independent warred continually for years, advocating for opposing parties in local, provincial and national politics.
From 1845 to 1858 the Spectator was published in Manners Street at the printing works of Robert Stokes (c.1810-80). Stokes was a member of the committee that set up the Spectator. He had originally come to Wellington in 1840 as a New Zealand Company surveyor. He was involved for many years in provincial and national politics, including being a member of Legislative Council from 1862 to 1879.
Stokes was the virtual owner of the paper from about 1850. Under his management the Spectator was the only paper, other than the New Zealander, that supported George Grey and the colonial administration. Many settlers saw Stoke’s support for Grey as grovelling, motivated by a desire to ingratiate himself with the Colonial Office. For this he was described as a "scribbly toady".
The Spectator always struggled to keep afloat and in 1865 it allowed itself to be taken over by its rival the Independent.
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