Radio New Zealand has confirmed it will close its Queenstown office.
RNZ head of content Carol Hirschfeld says RNZ would recruit a second reporter to join its sole Dunedin-based journalist, Ian Telfer, to cover news in the lower South Island.
The decision to close the Queenstown office, established in 2005, follows the recent resignation of reporter Peter Newport.
It will close by the end of the month.
Hirschfeld tells the Otago Daily Times she did not see the closure as a cost-cutting measure.
“The real cost-cutting would be … if we didn’t replace the reporter.
“We are replacing the reporter and we’re optimising the resources that we have currently.”
She also denied RNZ’s coverage of Queenstown issues would suffer as a result.
“We recognise it’s easier to cover a range of different issues when you’ve got somebody on the ground in a particular centre, but we aren’t reducing the number of regional reporters, we’re retaining the number.”
Working as a sole-charge reporter is a “tough, tough road”, and having two journalists working together in Dunedin is a case of “optimising the resources we have currently”.
“Of course I’d love to have two reporters in all our regional centres, but the reality is that we are utilising and spending our money in a way that is responsible and maintaining our coverage as well as we possibly can.”
But veteran RNZ Queenstown reporter Steve Wilde told the Mountain Scene last week it would be a mistake to close the office.
Wilde, who quit last year after a decade in the role, says the region needs to be represented on public radio.
The closure is RNZ’s response to not having received a budget increase for eight years.
RNZ has also closed its Tauranga and Palmerston North offices in recent years.
Hirschfeld says there is internal interest in the second Dunedin position and she hopes it will be filled quickly.
Having two reporters in Dunedin could enhance RNZ’s coverage of the city’s issues, she says.
“There’s a lot happening in Dunedin as well – it’s one of the few cities in New Zealand showing real signs of growth.”
Otago Daily Times