Awanui Radio 1920-1930


The wireless station at Awarua is equipped with a new standard barometer and a barograph, so that weather reports are available from that station for ships, and for Sunday and holiday reports, when the usual post-offices are closed. Awanui is also to be similarly furnished, so that gradients between our fartherest north and south may be available at all times.
– AJHR: Marine Department, 1922*

Radio weather-forecasts and 4pm barometer readings…are broadcast nightly from Wellington and Awanui, but have recently been discontinued from Awarua.
– AJHR: Marine Department, 1922*


The proposed modernization of the radio-stations at Awanui (New Zealand) and Apia (Samoa) by the installation of continuous-wave transmitters in place of the present spark equipment is being held in abeyance pending possible developments in connection with the erection in New Zealand of a high-power station, which would probably incorporate the specific services at present performed by Radio Awanui.
– AJHR: Post & Telegraph Department, 1924

Operating building at Awanui wireless station in the 1920s
Operating building (centre) and engine house (right) at Awanui wireless station in the 1920s. Possibly Bill Walker’s 1927 Chevrolet? Photo: Awanui Scrapbook, Te Ahu Museum

1925: Awanui Radio started a daily broadcast of New Zealand news, free of charge for ships and coastal stations.

1927: The daily news broadcast begun in 1925 was taken over by Wellington Radio ZLW at the end of the year.1

Back L-R: Stone Fredericks, Bill Marsh, Bill Walker, John McBride, Les Elliston. Front L-R: Norman Rawlings, Dave Craig, Alf Pellow, Tom Ansles
Back L-R: Stone Fredericks, Bill Marsh, Bill Walker, John McBride, Les Elliston. Front L-R: Norman Rawlings, Dave Craig, Alf Pellow, Tom Ansles. Source: Mrs Lesley Goodall: “My mother Isabel Ansles (nee Hansen) wrote ‘Last of the VLA staff Awanui Radio North’ on the photo.” Kaitaia Library collection.

1928: Alf Pellow, Officer in Charge, leaves to become Postmaster at Paeroa.

Les Elliston was the final superintendent.

1929: On 1 January, the callsign of Awanui Radio changed from VLA to ZLA, under the new worldwide callsign allocations agreed at the 1927 International Radiotelegraph Convention. (This was the second change in callsigns, as prior to 1913 there were Auckland – NZK, Awanui – NZA, Wellington – NZW and Bluff – unallocated.)


Awanui Radio closed on 10 February 1930 – after barely 16 years in operation.

In 1930 the station was closed and there remained the huge task of hauling and coiling 60 counterpoise wires 900 feet long. Bill Walker was a man of initiative. He brought his 1927 Chevrolet car to the base of the tower, jacked up one wheel, attached a home-made wooden pulley to it, secured one end of the wire and set the car engine going in low gear with Les Elliston at the controls and in came the wire neatly coiled!
– Author unknown, from notes at Te Ahu Museum

The 400′ steel mast was felled in December.

Heavy ropes were taken from the lower links of one pair of supporting stays to the anchor block. The strain was taken on the ropes which were [then] cut. After what seemed an interminable time, the weight of the two opposite pairs of stays began to pull the mast away from the perpendicular, slowly at first and then with increasing acceleration, then crash and the end of Radio Awanui.
– Les Elliston, quoted in notes at Te Ahu Museum

» 1931-Now

* Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives
1. From notes at Te Ahu Museum