New Zealand radio communications

Welcome to maritimeradio.org, where you’ll find the stories of New Zealand radio communication stations that were originally operated by the Post & Telegraph Department, and later by the New Zealand Post Office and finally by the privatised company Telecom.

These stations provided not just communications with ships but also point-to-point services internationally and to isolated parts of the country.

Although several such stations once operated from around New Zealand, all point-to-point services have now been replaced by satellites and undersea cables. A single radio station operated by Maritime NZ serves shipping and small craft from the middle of the North Island, although it is controlled from the capital, Wellington.

One former station, Auckland Radio ZLD, has been preserved by an enthusiastic group of “ham radio” operators, while the former transmitter building at Awarua Radio ZLB became a museum in early 2016. The other stations live on in memories only, and this website aims to enhance those memories in words, photos and recordings.

Some of the material covering Awarua Radio ZLB comes from a website created by the late Alan Gilchrist. When Alan decided that he could no longer maintain his website due to failing health, he kindly allowed me to republish his material here, where I trust it will be available for many years to come.

Alan’s information came largely from Alex Glennie, whose father was an operator and manager at ZLB, so thanks also to Alex for his cooperation and generous assistance with this project (and for the photos at the top of this page – that’s his dad, Charles Alan Glennie, pictured at the microphone).

Many other people have contributed (and continue to contribute) content for this site, which is greatly appreciated, and they are mentioned in the acknowledgments.

This site now includes significant material on the very impressive Himatangi and Makara stations which were operated by the New Zealand Post Office for long-range communication.

The small radio installations at lighthouses were also maintained by the NZPO technical staff and there are some interesting notes and photos showing life at these outposts.

And of course, coast stations would be very lonely places if there were no ships to talk to, so we have the beginnings of a section on ships’ radio rooms and radio officers.

Your feedback – and any contributions of information or photographs – are much appreciated. And of course, please let me know if you spot any errors or omissions.

– Neil Sanderson, Editor and Publisher

17 Responses to New Zealand radio communications

  1. Paul Hawkins says:

    When I was researching HF P-P history for my book (see my post on the F/B page) I came across this traffic schedule, in the C&W archive, for the NZPO services in the mid 1950’s:
    Services GMT Mod Ch Privacy Transmitter Ant Frequency
    London 07–12 ISB 2 5 band 40kW (STC) Array 10235
    London FSK 50kW (GE US)Array 10275
    Oakland 02-05/15-17 ISB 1 5 band 4kW (STC) Rhombic 9900/15500
    Sydney 20 – 12 ISB 1 5 band 4kW 10980
    Sydney FSK 1kW 16005
    Ships 21-22/00-02/06-08 DSB 1 Inversion

  2. Brian says:

    Participants may like t0 know that there is a very active Radio Officers’ Association in the UK

    https://www.radioofficers.com)

  3. Adalberto Raul Olivera says:

    Many years ago, summer of 1974, I was barely 14 years old, a very hot night I was doing radio in the band of 6 meters (50MHz) with an old RT-68 team from the gerra of Vietnam,
    that night it was very good spread and my old team only had 18 watts approximately.
    Suddenly I hear a call from a station that is identified as Radio Concurry, I ask him if he listens to me and he answers me in a very clear Spanish language telling me he listens to me loud and clear.
    he asks me what a child does on the radio and I answer that I am a radio amateurs from Buenos Aires Argentina, the operator tells me that he is at a coastal radio station in New Zealand Australia,
    It was a great joy for me because it was a very distant communication,
    My postal address from my country asks me to go to Darcela, after spending almost a year and a half I get the mail with a card and a flag of the Coastal Radio Station.
     Today I am 58 years old and never again communicated with that radio station.
    I only remember the card and the pennant which is still hanging in my transmission room.

    Greetings from Buenos Aires, Argentina

    Adalberto Raul Olivera (LU4DAJ)

  4. Fred says:

    I worked at Cape Naval Radio (ZSJ) Cape Town, South Africa, in the mid sixties as a ship shore operator on 8 Mhz, and one night a British ship sent a SLT to me to be relayed to GKL and afterwards he asked me if I would make a phone call to someone. I said yes and asked where the person lived and he said, Wellington. It was outside of the Cape Town area but only about 100 kms distant so I tried to phone the number but I couldn’t get through and eventually we found out the guy meant Wellington NZ. He was talking to the wrong radio station!

  5. Brian Gallagher says:

    What a great interesting site,pure nostalgia which kindles many happy memories.I started my working life as a Post Office Radio tech and spent a good part of that time at ZLW before moving on to work at the then NZBC. In retrospect my time at ZLW was the best job I had,interesting rewarding work with the greatest ever bunch of people.Sad to see that a number of these have passed on.
    Thanks for setting up this valuable site.
    Would love to hear from those people that I knew and worked with.

  6. Alex C Glennie says:

    Hi Lester

    Where is the evidence? Please help me.

    In all my research of Coast Radio pouring over hundreds of old files at the Southland Museum and Archives in Invercargill, Archives NZ in Dunedin, Archives NZ in Christchurch, Archives NZ in Wellington and Archives NZ in Auckland I have never seen any evidence of this.

    In this regard I have also visited the Chatham Islands.

    This also includes visiting and talking with many dozens of retired radio people up and down the country.

    I have found no evidence and neither has it been mentioned by anyone of The New South Wales Govt administered The Dominion of New Zealand Coast Stations.

    Kind regards

    Alex C Glennie

    • One must also consider that New Zealand was a “sovereign country” with it’s own system of Government and hardly likely to let another Government or country administer it’s affairs in this manner.

      Alex C Glennie
      Invercargill

      • Lester Pricr says:

        Sorry for the tardy reply. The evidence that NSW governed NZ in radio regulatory matters is in the callsign which were used by NZ Coast stations up until 1929. Awarua Radio was VLA. the ‘VL’ being an Australian radio prefix. This was changed to ‘ZL’ wnen NZ took charge of radio regulatory matters after 1929

        • Alex C Glennie says:

          Lester

          Sorry I do not agree. New South Wales did not govern New Zealand in radio regulatory matters.

          The answer lies with the International Radio Telegraph Conference held in London in July 1912 which established international callsigns with prefixes allocated to different countries.

          At this conference British colonies were allocated callsigns beginning with ‘V’, possibly because that letter could be associated with Queen Victoria. Australia was allocated the block VHA – VKZ and so changed its PO designation to VI for all its coast stations so that POP became VIP and POS became VIS. New Zealand was allocated the code block VLA – VMZ and its coast stations changed to the use of VL prefixes hence VLA – Awanui and VLB – Awarua.

          You will see no mention of NSW governing New Zealand radio matters.

          See:- http://earlyradiohistory.us/1913call.htm
          also
          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Radiotelegraph_Convention_(1912)

        • Alex C Glennie says:

          Further to my last reply New Zealand and Australia do not appear to be signatories to any Radio Conference or other agreement prior to 1912.

  7. geoff Kenny says:

    As an ex operator at ZLW and ZLC i have really enjoyed finding this site and taking a trip down memory lane. Congrats and thanks to all have made this happen. I particularly enjoyed Clyde Williams articles. I only wish as a young man i had realised what this job would mean to me and taken a few more photos.

  8. Barry Munro says:

    I was stationed at ZLC Chatham Islands Radio at the time. ZLB Awarua Radio picked up the Gothic’s (callsign MAUQ ?) on the 8 mHz lifeboat emergency radio frequency; the ZLB operator was the late Dave Dow.

    For a while, not knowing that the bridge and radioroom, plus some passenger accommodation, was destroyed by fire, it was thought the Gothic might have headed for Chathams as the nearest point of land. She actually sailed to the mainland, either Lyttelton, or Wellington.

    Sadly, there were two fatalities, a woman and young son.

  9. Richard Davies says:

    Came across this book last week. “Invaluable Service” by Desmond Ball, Cliff Lord and Meredith Thatcher. The front cover has a picture of Musick Pt station which is what caught my eye. It details the work of the Coast Radio Stations during WWII in signals interception – also ZLB in intercepting comms from the German Fleet in the Pacific in WWI. A bit technical so it can be a hard read, but worth persevering. Tried to include a photo of the front cover but its beyond my technical competence.

  10. Barry Munro says:

    Amalgamated  Wireless of Australia (AWA) were associated with the contract to build the New Zealand Stations. Australia also administered them, hence the original VLx callsigns, at least up until the 1920s, when New Zealand took up full administration and the local station changed to the ZLx callsigns.

    This might explain why early information is difficult to find?

    • Lester Price says:

      Hi Barry,
      Good to see you O.T..,
      yes, The New South Wales Govt administered The Dominion of New Zealand Coast Stations until 31 March, 1929. Thereafter the N.Z.Post and Telegraph Dept Had its own radio regulatory body. 73 om
      Lester

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