Awarua Radio 1980-1991

Bert McKechnie at Awarua Radio ZLB

Bert McKechnie in the Radio Telephone Room monitoring 2182 kHz at Awarua Radio ZLB in 1980. Notice that the microphones were on those black swing arms similar to what the light was attached to. The ash tray and yellow tobacco were par for the course back then and no big deal. Bert was the father of Brian McKechnie, a New Zealand All Black AND Test Cricketer. Photo and words: Tony Graham

As Tony says, smoking was no big deal. You’ll see lots of cigarettes and ashtrays in the photos of coast radio stations, but it wasn’t always that way.

In January 1890 (not a typo) the New Zealand Post and Telegraphs Department banned smoking in all its premises for staff and the general public. This ban was relaxed in 1936 in non-public areas, but then gradually reimposed in most areas from the late 1980s.1

1980 – The technicians moved from the station to Radio Depot in Invercargill 3rd May. Leigh Hattan, (ex Navy) our first female operator began 14 May. Awarua Radio had its first direct teleprinter contact with a ship at sea via satellite to Forum New Zealand/ZFEV, 18 May.

2182 kc/s desk at Awarua Radio ZLB

The 2182 kc/s desk at Awarua Radio, c1980. The Collins 51S-1 single sideband receivers had been installed in 1969. Photo: Tony Graham

Ken Robertson of Awarua Radio ZLB

Ken Robertson, Supervisor at Awarua Radio c1980-1982. Photo: Tony Graham

1981 – George R Edlin retired 2nd April. Technics headphones replaced Telex type in September. JT Dudley retired 30th September. LJ Price (Supervisor) appointed Manager ZLC in October, and in November PJ Collett appointed Manager Awarua Radio, and CR (Dick) Bennett Senior Supervisor.

The hostel at Awarua Radio ZLB

The hostel at Awarua Radio ZLB c1981. In front of the building is the foundation for the original 394-foot mast, and one of the original guy anchors is at the far right. Photo: Tony Graham

P Joe Collett, Manager of Awarua Radio 9 Oct 1981 – 3 May 1985

PJ (Joe) Collett, Manager of Awarua Radio 9 Oct 1981 – 3 May 1985. Photo courtesy Chris Underwood

Awarua Radio ZLB in 1982

Awarua Radio ZLB receiving station in 1982. Photo: Tony Graham

Awarua Radio ZLB main building

Awarua Radio ZLB receiving station in early 1980s – reliably dated by Mike Evertzen, owner of that nice van from 1981-1986! This photo shows the small ships room which was added to the north east corner of the building in 1974 (left side of photo). Photo courtesy Chris Underwood

Awarua Radio in the 1980s.

Awarua Radio in the 1980s. Photo courtesy Chris Underwood

1982 – VDU installed as our terminal to the AFTN network 19th May. HF telex introduced at Wellington Radio on 1st November. Scan units introduced to HF on 29th December.

Awarua Radio operators Nevile Chalke and Mike Evertzen in 1982

Awarua Radio operators Nevile Chalke and Mike Evertzen in 1982

» 1982 QSL letter from Paul Cotter

Creed teleprinters (model 54?) at Awarua Radio in the 1980s.

Creed teleprinters (model 54?) at Awarua Radio in the 1980s. Photo courtesy Chris Underwood.

Another operating desk at ZLB, fitted with two Marconi receivers.

Alan Meek on 500 kHz radiotelegraph at Awarua Radio around 1982. The receivers are Marconi Pacific X (aka Eddystone EC1837). Photo courtesy Chris Underwood

500 kHz radiotelegraph desk at Awarua Radio around 1982. The receivers are Marconi Pacific X (aka Eddystone EC1837). Photo: Tony Graham

Transmitting Frequencies for Awarua Radio ZLB

The following information was supplied to Alan Gilchrist by Paul Cotter. It is undated. Further information would be most welcome.

Radiotelegraph: 500, 515 kHz

Radiotelephone: 2045, 2068, 2162, 2182, 2206 (which eventually became 2207), 2638, 4125, 4187 kHz

HF working frequencies: 8504, 12740, 17170.4, 22533 kHz

1983 – In January CR (Dick) Bennett transferred to Instructor, Radio Training School. PD Burke (Radio Operator) appointed Senior Supervisor 31st March. New wooden tables installed on HF watches and 500 in July. Creed teleprinters replaced by Olivetti JE 300’s in August.

Awarua Radio operator Roland (Roly) Ernst in the 1980s

Awarua Radio operator Roland (Roly) Ernst in the 1980s

Semi-automatic telegraph keys used by Joe Collett at Awarua Radio

Semi-automatic telegraph keys used by Joe Collett at Awarua Radio

1984 – Flooding closed Invercargill Aiport, but air service between Invercargill and Stewart Island operated from the Awarua Farm Settlement’s airstrip. Cyril W Burke completed 29 years at ZLB, retiring 29 March. WO Eales’ long awaited retirement happened 12 July. Philip Twyman of ZLD (ZLB 27-10-1981 ~ 5-1982) died 15 September.

ZLB operating desk in the mid 1980s.

ZLB operating desk in the mid 1980s. It appears one of the two Collins 51S-1 receivers has been replaced by a Marconi receiver in the middle rack. Is that a cassette recorder partially visible at lower left? Also noteworthy: the red phone and the sheep grazing beyond the window. Photo courtesy Chris Underwood

Mike Evertzen on small ships radiotelephone at Awarua Radio ZLB in the mid 1980s

Mike Evertzen on small ships radiotelephone at Awarua Radio ZLB in the mid 1980s. Photo courtesy Chris Underwood

JRC single-sideband transmitters 1 and 2, used in the Small Ships Service at Awarua Radio ZLB in the 1980s.

JRC single-sideband transmitters 1 and 2, used in the Small Ships Service at Awarua Radio ZLB in the 1980s. Also a Nautel transmitter at left? Photo courtesy Chris Underwood

24-hour logging recorders at Awarua Radio ZLB.

24-hour logging recorders at Awarua Radio ZLB. Photo courtesy Chris Underwood

Buildings at Awarua Radio ZLB. Photographer and date unknown.

Buildings at Awarua Radio ZLB. Photographer and date unknown, but believed to have been taken around 1985. Courtesy Chris Underwood


1985

  • PJ Collett retired 4th May.
  • LJ Price appointed Manager 16th July.
  • Sagem teleprinters introduced 18th September.
  • PD Burke appointed Manager, Chatham Islands Radio (ZLC), 16th October.
  • Electronic Air Cleaner installed in main office, December.
  • Brick front entrance to Station built by Peter King, bricklayer, during December 1985 and January 1986.
  • Awarua Radio ZLB transmitter building

    Awarua Radio ZLB transmitter building. Photographer and date unknown, but believed to have been taken around 1985. Courtesy Chris Underwood

    1986

  • Lights erected on pillar June 1986.
  • Brass sign plate scheduled for July 1986.
  • Front entrance cleaned up by MOWD subcontracted November 1985 and to be replanted in shrubs 1986.
  • Old shelter belt from station to hostel (about 500 metres) delimbed by contractor in September 1985, and a new fence line to the rear of this was erected in February 1986. A new Pinus Radiata shelter belt is planned to be planted in July 1986.
  • All three 30,000 gals fire ponds were cleaned out for first time by ditching contractor Bill McEwan of Invercargill during July 1986. Approx 1.5km of discharge drain also cleaned out at the same time.
  • New fences to be erected around these in August 1986 by fencing contractor Malcolm Wright of Kennington.
  • Station Master clock retired on 9th April 1986 and new solid state quartz master clock installed by PO Electricians to drive the existing slave clocks.
  • Old retiring room partitioned off by BMB during May 1986, and made into office for Senior Supervisor and as a meeting and interview room for management and staff.
  • New carpet laid in manager’s office and new office next door June 1986.
  • New Senior Supervisor: NW Chesney, appointed 11th Feb 1986.
  • New Supervisor BJ Simpson appointed 1st March 1986.
  • Individual lines to station houses put in about April 1986 to provide individual telephone service, although some residents opted to remain on the station PABX. STD cutover for Invercargill area was at 9.30pm, Friday 14th March 1986.
  • The Mason/Morris report on PO services was released on poor unsuspecting PO employees on 1st May 1986. This review proposes many changes to the PO business: Postal, Banking, and Telecommunications.
  • Proposal to substantially renovate the Receiving Office store/kitchen and male toilet area plus provide lean-to garage for the PO work van (Mitsubishi L300) released to Property division June 1986 for financial authorisation to proceed with the work 1988/89.

198875th Jubilee of Awarua Radio ZLB

Entrance to Awarua Radio ZLB

Entrance to Awarua Radio ZLB in 1990, the year before the station was closed. Photo Alex Glennie

Staff houses at Awarua Radio ZLB in 1990

Awarua Radio ZLB staff houses in 1990, the year before the station was closed. Photo: Alex Glennie

1991Awarua Radio ZLB closed on 30 August, and operations became remote-controlled from Wellington.

1 Wilson, A.C. (1994). Wire and wireless: A history of telecommunications in New Zealand 1890-1987, (pp 84, 205), Palmerston North, New Zealand: Dunmore Press.

» 1991 – Now