QLDC puts $174,000 into owners of Mountain Scene and Wānaka Sun in 11 months

by Peter Newport - Jul 06, 2024

The Queenstown Lakes District Council has revealed to Crux that it has spent $174,381 on advertising and promotion with Allied Press, which owns Southern Lakes community newspapers the Mountain Scene and Wānaka Sun, in eleven months between July 2023 and May 2024.

The funding is sufficient to cover the salaries of two or three full time journalists at a time when news media funding is a major national political issue.

The council is yet to break down the spending figure by publication and reveal additional expenditure with other local news platforms.

Crux has also asked whether QLDC managers conducted a formal procurement process for the expenditure or built a business plan to study audience trends, media reach/engagement, value for money and potential risk of the money being perceived as buying local influence, or silencing 'unfriendly' council coverage.

Crux has also asked the same questions of the Dunedin City Council regarding their expenditure with the Otago Daily Times.

The ODT, Mountain Scene and Wānaka Sun are all run by Dunedin's Allied Press, a company controlled by Sir Julian Smith.

Sir Julian Smith serves as Allied Press chairman and managing director with his family as shareholders. Sir Julian has made about $80 million out of the business according to the National Business Review in 2019 with power now shifting to younger members of the Smith family and chief executive Grant McKenzie who now owns 25 percent of the company.

Crux will also ask the central Otago District Council for details of its news media spend next week.

The policy at Crux is that we would only publish council notices in our Community Bulletin section, and not in our main news section. Crux has received no advertising or other funding from local councils since our launch in May, 2018.


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