131-YEAR-OLD NEW ZEALAND PRESS ASSOCIATION TO CLOSE

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It’s been slow decline for once-leading Kiwi news source

MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, Aug. 30, 2011) – The New Zealand Press Association, the country's national news agency, will close its doors on Wednesday after 131 years of operation.

Editor Kevin Norquay has lamented the end of an organisation that was once regarded the voice of New Zealand journalism, dominating distribution of both domestic and world news to the country's newspapers.

After surviving a series of cutbacks over the past 15 years, Mr Norquay said the decision to finally close NZPA was made in April, when the Australian-owned Fairfax group decided it no longer needed the service.

"When I started, every desk out there would have been occupied," the 14-year NZPA veteran told AFP, gesturing to the agency's newsroom. "Now, I'd say fewer than half of them are."

The agency's demise comes on the eve of the biggest event ever staged in New Zealand, the Rugby World Cup, as well as a national election in November.

"It would have been great to cover them for NZPA but it would have been extremely difficult with the resources we now have," Mr Norquay said.

He said, however, that NZPA staff had showed their ability to provide top coverage on a shoestring budget during a string of disasters over the past year, including two major earthquakes in Christchurch and the Pike River mine tragedy, in which 29 men died.

described the agency's journalists as "unsung heroes" who filed tirelessly with no expectation of prominent bylines, simply receiving an NZPA tagline at the end of their stories.

Auckland University media academic Gavin Ellis, a former editor-in-chief of the New Zealand Herald, said NZPA's closure would make New Zealand one of only a few western nations without a domestic news agency.

"It's not just a great shame, I think there's also something really quite tragic about losing an independent national voice, because that's what NZPA represented," he told Radio New Zealand.

NZPA was founded in 1880 as the United Press Association, adopting its present name in 1942.

At its peak in the latter half of the 20th Century, more than 70 New Zealand newspapers subscribed to the service and the agency had offices in London, Sydney, New York, Washington and Singapore.

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