Auckland Radio

Auckland Radio began operation as New Zealand’s second radiotelegraph station on 24 October 1912.

Callsigns:
NZK until 5 July 1912 (possibly only used for testing before the station opened)
VLD until 31 December 1928
ZLD (marine radio) until 30 September 1993 (closure)
ZLF (aviation radio)

The station was located in a small building on the flat roof of the Auckland Chief Post Office.

While the station’s spark-gap transmitter performed well, the effectiveness of the station was handicapped by poor receiving conditions.

Auckland Radio VLD in 1912
It is believed that this photo was taken in the radio cabin on the roof of the Auckland Chief Post Office, c1912. Photo possibly by WA Price, Alexander Turnbull Library
Auckland Chief Post Office in 1915
Auckland Chief Post Office in 1915, looking northeast from the corner of Customs St W. To the right of the CPO is the entrance to the railway station and the Waverly Hotel. At left is the Endean Building. This view shows the masts on the two CPO domes, with one of the oak spreaders for the T aerial of Auckland Radio VLD.

The station was closed – but not dismantled – in 1915, as the new high power station at Awanaui, near North Cape, was providing superior performance. By the time Awanui closed in 1930, due to the cost of maintaining its isolated facilities and as a result of the shift from long wavelength spark transmission to short wave “CW” signals, Auckland Radio was back in operation.

1923 saw Auckland Radio relocated to a room on the first floor of the CPO, adjoining the Telegraph Office.

In 1927, there were big changes in call signs internationally. New Zealand gave up the “V” prefix and VLD became ZLD.

When aviation services started in the 1930s all communication and radio navigation aids were run by the Post Office.

In 1933, planning for an Auckland communications station with high- and medium-frequency services was begun, and possible sites for a station were investigated.

A possible receiving and direction-finding site was identified at what is now known as Musick Point, near Bucklands Beach, with a transmitting site about 3 miles away in Oliver Road, Bucklands Beach.

The land was publicly owned, but various difficulties had to be surmounted before access could be obtained. A refurbished Auckland Radio was included in the planning.

In 1938, just as planning for the radio station was getting under way, one of the celebrated survey flights across the Pacific came to a tragic end. The Pan-American Airways flying boat “Samoan Clipper” commanded by Captain Edwin C Musick was lost with all on board near Pago Pago.

In keeping with the general feeling of the country, Group Captain T Wilks, Controller of Civil Aviation, put forward the idea that the projected station should “constitute a Memorial and should be known as the Musick Memorial Radio Station”.

The Government approved this and accordingly, the main building was planned with this objective in mind.

The comprehensive station was completed in 1940, and officially opened by the Prime Minister, the Rt Hon P Fraser, on 12 January 1942.

Musick Memorial Radio Station, 29 Aug 1946
Musick Memorial Radio Station, 29 Aug 1946. Photo: Whites Aviation, Alexander Turnbull Library

Wartime conditions meant that the station conducted numerous services under Post Office control.

These services included coastal services for shipping, Naval Intelligence (Direction-Finding or “DF” Watches), civil and military aviation, and emergency telegraph services.

When wartime demands subsided, some of these services ceased, but those for the coastal shipping and civil aviation remained.

Musick Memorial Radio station seen from the southwest, 29 August 1946
Musick Memorial Radio station seen from the southwest, 29 August 1946. Photo: Whites Aviation, Alexander Turnbull Library

NZ Post Office coat of armsMusick Point was home to:

  • ZLD marine radio
  • ZLF aviation radio
  • ZLXA emergency radio

Civil Aviation moved their areonautical services to Auckland International Airport at Mangere in 1972.

The Post Office (followed by Telecom NZ Ltd) continued the maritime and emergency radio services until the station closed on 30 September 1993.

For more information about Auckland Radio, please visit musickpointradio.org.

5 Comments

  1. Yes, and the remote receiver was even tunable by the operator at the Post Office! Tom Clarkson describes the system at http://musickpointradio.org/auckland-radio-zld/recollections/clarkson/

  2. Peter Ross
    31 October 2018

    I was an R/O on the M/V Waiana in the mid 60s. The only tx was a ‘rat cage’
    transmitter with a chain link tuner. I had just joined and was calling zld on
    500 to send our tr on 512. Called, no reply, turned power up (we were just outside)
    no reply, turned up power, oh, some more. ZLD came back with full power ( I was
    listening on 500), knocked me off my chair, and said they monitor on 500, not 515.
    I learned very quickly between tuning ‘up’, or tuning ‘down’.
    I was 21 at the time, green a grass, embarrassed as hell but never repeated that
    mistake.

  3. Rog Fowler
    13 August 2018

    Hi as an ex lighthouse keeper at TiriTiri and Cuvier Islands we had a lot to do with ZLD Auckland radio

  4. Thank you for your history and documentation on Auckland Radio on Maritime Radio. Also thanks for the New Zealand Post Office.

  5. Dennis Seymour
    22 June 2016

    Hi Re Auckland radio , that was located at the central post office in Auckland.
    In addition to the equipment located at the CPO , Two remote receiving stations were also installed because of the noise created when the lift was installed in the building.
    Pollen island now part of the North Western motorway
    Crown Hill where the water Reservoir located on the hill on the northern end of Milford . The audio from these sites was fed back to the CPO by telephone line

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