1900 – 1909

Ophir Post and Telegraph office
Decades before the development of wireless, landline telegraph reached most of New Zealand. This is the Post & Telegraph office in Ophir, Central Otago. It was built in 1886 and was still operating as a Post Office in 2018. Photo: N Sanderson
1885 memo about use of horses
In 1885, you could get in big trouble for ‘borrowing’ a horse.

Marconi transmitted a wireless message 3000km from Poldhu, Cornwall to St Johns, Newfoundland.


Responding to a request from the Postmaster of the Chatham Islands for wireless equipment, the New Zealand Post & Telegraphs Department said there was no wireless in New Zealand.

Letter to the Chatham Islands Postmaster in 1902
Letter to the Chatham Islands Postmaster in 1902

New Zealand passed the Wireless Telegraphy Act, authorising the Government to set up wireless stations.


Postmaster-General Joseph Ward observed a demonstration of wireless by the Marconi Company in London and the International Telegraph Construction Company in New York.


The Marconi Wireless Telegraphic Company, through its Australasian representative (Captain Walker), proposed to establish wireless telegraph stations round the New Zealand coast.

First Telefunken logo, used from 1903 to 1917
First Telefunken logo, used from 1903 to 1917

“By the end of the 19th century, researchers were focusing intensively on the use of electromagnetic waves as a medium of wireless communication. When Guglielmo Marconi – supported by the British Navy – began to create a radio network, the UK was close to achieving a global monopoly in wireless telegraphy. Emperor Wilhelm II and military circles in Germany responded by urging Siemens & Halske and AEG to establish a united front as a counterbalance.

Following protracted patent disputes, the Gesellschaft für drahtlose Telegraphie mbH – System Telefunken was finally founded in 1903 with the aim of coordinating technical development, defining possible applications and marketing apparatus and systems. The new company’s stakeholders, Siemens and AEG, each held a 50-percent share; as the parent companies, they were responsible for production.

Telefunken’s large transmitter in Nauen, near Berlin, c1920
Telefunken’s large transmitter in Nauen, near Berlin, c1920

Until World War 1, Telefunken was primarily involved in constructing large transmitter stations. Colonial administrators and the admiralty supported the construction of such transmitters because – for economic and political reasons – they were interested in exchanging information quickly with Germany’s colonies in Africa and other overseas possessions. As of 1906, a test transmitter which was located in Nauen near Berlin and later expanded to create a large transmitter station made it possible to bridge such great distances.

In 1907, Telefunken commissioned the operation of a coastal radio network in Germany, subsequently establishing country-wide and overseas services for marine radio communications and enabling information to be exchanged in the shipping sector.” 1


On 3 Feb, Prime Minister Joseph Ward sent a wireless message from HMS Pioneer in Wellington Harbour to his Australian counterpart, relayed by HMS Powerful in the Tasman Sea and HMS Psyche at Port Jackson. The reply was received just six hours after the original message was sent.

On 10 Sept, three teenage radio amateurs in Dunedin – Rawson Stark, Stanton Hicks and Cyril Brandon – sent the first message by land wireless in New Zealand.

New Zealand passed the Post and Telegraph Act.


On 15 Dec, representatives of New Zealand, Australia, and the UK Admiralty met in Melbourne to discuss radio communications in the South Pacific. The conference recommended the creation of high-power (15kW) wireless stations at Sydney, Doubtless Bay in New Zealand, and Suva (Fiji). Medium-power stations were to be set up at Tulagi (Solomon Islands), Ocean Island (Gilbert Islands, now Kiribati) and Port Vila (New Hebrides, now Vanuatu). New Zealand agreed to contribute £2000 to the cost of the Suva station.2

In addition, New Zealand decided to build a second high-power station near Bluff, and low-power (2.5 kW) stations at Wellington, Gisborne, Cape Farewell and Sumner.3

» 1910 – 1919


1 Wittendorfer, F., siemens.com

2,3 Wilson, A.C. (1994). Wire and wireless: A history of telecommunications in New Zealand 1890-1987, (p 94), Palmerston North, New Zealand: Dunmore Press.