Australian Charles de La Roche began the newspaper in 1901. After his first foray into newspaper ownership with the short-lived Tauranga Herald in 1899, he moved to Warkworth and quickly established a successful real estate business. He also bought a poorly performing paper, the Gazette, ostensibly serving the Waitemata and Kaipara areas, and used its press to launch Warkworth’s first newspaper. The masthead read Rodney and Otamatea Times, but the secondary heading, Waitemata and Kaipara Gazette, suggested de La Roche had hopes of retaining some readership there. It did not help his cause that the first issue made no mention of either area.
The weekly Rodney and Otamatea Times, a four-page broadsheet, was printed on a Furnival flat-bed press. Two casual workers shared the job of turning the large wheel by hand while the printer fed sheets of newsprint to the rollers. The newspaper, published on Fridays, sold for 3d a copy, and the annual subscription was eight shillings. The Times soon acquired a reputation for its reporting and comment on local politics, but sporting enthusiasts found coverage disappointing.
After de La Roche sold the newspaper to A H Mason late in 1903, his real estate and property activities thrived. He later edited the Manukau Gazette in Onehunga where he retired, dying in 1938.
The Times had a number of other owners before Wairarapa printer William Cook bought the paper in 1917, the beginning of a three generation publishing dynasty that was to last 88 years. William Cook was editor until his death in 1942. His son Elsley, a former banker and World War One veteran, succeeded him in the editor’s chair and in running the company. Following his unexpected death in 1955, aged 62, his wife Marjorie headed the company until 1976, buying two opposition papers and withstanding a takeover bid from Wilson and Horton. Their son, Tony Cook, took over as managing director and, converting to web-offset, significantly developed the company’s commercial printing activities. The Times shifted from a paid subscription to free distribution model.
In 2005 the Cook family sold the twice-weekly Rodney Times to Fairfax New Zealand.
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