Radio Section, part 12: 1965-1987

By Chris Underwood

Radio Section expansion

By the early 1980s Radio Section was growing too big for the Wellington East Post Office building and several sections moved to Britannic House.

The two towers of Britannic House, later known as the Datacom building
The two towers of Britannic House, later known as the Datacom building

It was here that early planning work for Trunked Dispatch Radio and Cellular Telephone networks was undertaken. Purchasing of new Microwave systems, test equipment and other items for Radio stock was undertaken here as well.

At about the same time a number of radio technicians joined the new Engineering Associates group. These changes started to break up the traditional close ties between the different groups and caused some loss of cohesion.

Radio Depots

By the mid 1980s Radio Depots had been established from one end of the country to the other.

Radio Depots were established at Whangarei, Auckland, Hamilton, Napier, Taupo, New Plymouth, Palmerston North, Wellington, Blenheim, Nelson, Christchurch, Timaru, Dunedin and Invercargill.

Whangarei Radio Depot
Whangarei Radio Depot, July 1968
Whangarei Radio Depot
Whangarei Radio Depot, July 1968
Whangarei Radio Depot
Whangarei Radio Depot, July 1968

The Nelson Radio Depot was the last to be built in the late 1970s early 1980s. It was purpose-built, unlike most depots which were often housed in old Post Office buildings or rented accommodation.

In all, 14 Radio Depots were established with a total technical staff, including those at WEPO, Warkworth SES and the HF stations at Himatangi, Makara and Awarua of around 434 Radio Technicians in the mid 1980s.

Christchurch Radio Depot in the early 1980s
Christchurch Radio Depot in the early 1980s

The staff at Radio Depots, except at the very smallest ones, were normally split into three sections:

1. Trunkline Section focused on microwave, multi-access and country sets, i.e. systems carrying telephone circuits.

2. Land Mobile Section focused on land mobile base stations.

Jacksons Lookout, Taranaki
Jacksons Lookout, Taranaki
Tait receivers at Jacksons Lookout
Tait receivers at Jacksons Lookout

3. General Section looked after everything else, such as installing radios into PSG vehicles, RT mobiles into NZPO Engineering line trucks, vans and other vehicles. This section also repaired faulty lines branch probe amplifiers and maintained, installed and repaired PA systems at line depots. Later. this section also installed and maintained security video cameras and recorders installed in Post Offices.

Audrey Fenton, receptionist and Radio Section stalwart
Audrey Fenton, receptionist and Radio Section stalwart, 5th floor at WEPO
Doug Allan, Radio Section Clerical Supervisor, 5th floor at  WEPO
Doug Allan, Radio Section Clerical Supervisor, 5th floor at WEPO

In 1986 the NZPO was broken up, with the engineering branch becoming Telecom with the exception of the Radio Inspection group which became the Radio Frequency Service (RFS). Telecom was eventually privatised and broken up.

The end - 5th floor at WEPO cleared out
The end – 5th floor at WEPO cleared out
5th floor at WEPO cleared out
‘Last one out, turn off the lights.’

All photos courtesy Chris Underwood


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