In July, wireless became compulsory on large New Zealand ships. Contracts were let for New Zealand’s two high-power stations and four low-power stations (Wellington added to the list).
JK Logan, Superintendent of Lines at the P&T Department, retired. He was replaced on 10 January by Joseph Orchiston who was given the new position of Chief Telegraph Engineer, based at Wellington.
On 31 March, the government signed a contract with the Australasian Wireless Company of New South Wales for the supply of Telefunken wireless equipment at a cost of £23,730, choosing Telefunken over rival bidders Marconi and Lepel. The Marconi proposal, in addition to being more expensive, required 200hp to operate between Australia and New Zealand whereas Telefunken required only 70hp, which meant lower operating costs as well.1
Wellington Radio went on the air from the General Post Office on 26 Jul. The following month, construction began at a much better location on Mt Etako, (later known as Tinakori Hill).
In June, wireless was installed on the Government’s steam ship Tutanekai.
In August, Sydney Radio went on the air from Pennant Hills.
On 14 October, Wellington Radio NZW was officially opened.
On 24 October, Auckland Radio NZK went on the air from the Chief Post Office.
In Wellington, radio listeners Arthur McClay and Guy Tinney notified authorities of a ship’s SOS which had not been received by Wellington Radio due to a storm having damaged its aerial. Radio listening was illegal at the time, but the young DXers were let off, and the law was changed so that people could apply for a licence to listen to radio.
A total of 16 ship radio stations were registered in New Zealand.
On 3 August the Post & Telegraph Department began censoring mail and telecommunications; representatives of the Censor’s Office were placed at cable and coast radio stations.
In late August, P&T wireless staff with the New Zealand Expeditionary Force restored Apia Radio, which had been sabotaged by its German staff.
On 23 Sep, P&T staff at Fanning Island restored cable service with Suva following a German attack.
On 6 November they restored the Fanning-Vancouver connection.
“The increase in the number of radio-telegraphic messages over the previous year was 54 and 87 per cent for the forwarded and received respectively. The increase, especially of messages received, can be partially accounted for in the opening of the high-power stations at Awanui and Awarua and the station at Chatham Islands.
There are now five New Zealand coast stations. These provide adequately for the needs of ship-stations in all directions around these coasts, and also secure communications between Chatham Islands and New Zealand…
When weather-disturbance is expected a free weather-telegram is sent out for the benefit of shipping from Awanui, Awarua, and Wellington, at 8, 9 and 10pm respectively.
A continuous “listening” service is maintained at Awanui, Awarua, and Wellington, the latter station being open continuously for commercial work. The wireless coastal stations are connected with the land-line systems, and arrangements exist for promptly transmitting wireless messages over the land lines and immediately communicating distress-signals to the proper authorities.
Twenty-two ship-stations are registered in New Zealand.
The compulsory equipment of certain New Zealand vessels will operate from the 1st July, 1914. Regulations were prepared by the Marine Department under the powers conferred by the Shipping and Seamen Amendment Act, 1909, and were gazetted on the 23rd October, 1913. Provision is made, inter alia, for the installation of wireless telegraphy on every steamship registered in New Zealand and carrying passengers which is engaged in the foreign or intercolonial trade (except steamships trading to Chatham, Auckland, Campbell, and Antipodes Islands), and every home-trade steamship which is authorized by her ordinary survey certificate to carry not less than 150 passengers at sea. Such vessels are to be placed in the third class, wherein they have no fixed working-hours, are not bound to perform any regular “listening” service, and are not required to carry an emergency installation.
The regulations governing the use of wireless telegraphy on ship-stations registered in New Zealand, and licensed by the Minister of Telegraphs, have been revised and brought into conformity with the recommendations of the International Radio-telegraphic Convention, London, 1912.”
– AJHR: Post & Telegraph Department, 1914*
The low-power station at Auckland closed on 8 May, but was not dismantled.
On 19 March, T Buckley of the NZ Post & Telegraph Department wrote a letter of enquiry to the De Forest Radio Telephone & Telegraph Company in the USA. On 29 April, FM Williamson of De Forest replied with information about, and photographs of, De Forest radio equipment.
In April, 62 P&T men reached Basra as part of the First Australian and New Zealand Wireless Signal Squadron. The Officer-in-Charge, Lieutenant Harry Clark died of jaundice on 8 July.
“Ships continue to exercise care not to disclose their whereabouts, and, owing to the restrictions placed since the outbreak of war upon business of an unimportant nature, a considerable decline in the volume of wireless traffic has resulted.
Twenty-four ship-stations are registered in New Zealand. Observations are being made at Chatham Islands and Awarua of atmospheric electrical disturbances which prevail in greater or less degree at all times. These are despatched to the British Association for the Advancement of Science.”
– AJHR: Post & Telegraph Department, 1916*
“Wireless weather forecasts which were discontinued at the commencement of the war have been resumed during the year, and are sent out through the radio stations at Awanui, Wellington, and Awarua on the usual reporting nights, and at other times when deemed necessary. A daily wireless weather report was authorized from the Chatham Islands, and commended on the 8th April, 1915; it has been maintained without a single break. Part of this message is also transmitted by cable to the Commonwealth Weather Bureau for research purposes. Forecasts are also occasionally transmitted to the Chatham Islands, for which a small charge is made by the Post Office, but usually the Wellington forecast suffices.”
– AJHR: Marine Department, 1916*
Twenty-one ship-stations are registered in New Zealand.
– AJHR: Post & Telegraph Department, 1917*
Of the 2255 permanent officers from the New Zealand Post & Telegraph Department who served in combatant or communications roles during the War, some 10 per cent (225) had died.
On 31 March, Joseph Orchiston, Chief Telegraph Engineer, retired. He had been with the department since starting as a cadet in 1874. His replacement was Timothy Buckley, Chief Electrician, who, reflecting changes in technology, was named Director of Telephones.
Censorship of wireless messages ended on 3 February.
In April, a new Post and Telegraph Act removed the Department from the jurisdiction of the Public Service Act of 1912, giving the Department greater freedom in managing its staff.
* Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives
1 Wilson, A.C. (1994). Wire and wireless: A history of telecommunications in New Zealand 1890-1987, (p 95), Palmerston North, New Zealand: Dunmore Press.