Wellington Radio

Wellington Radio opened on 26 July 1911 as New Zealand’s first wireless telegraph station. It closed after 82 years on 30 September 1993.

NZW until 5 July 1912
VLW until 31 December 1928
ZLW until 30 September 1993 (closure)

In 1909 an Australasian Telegraph Conference was held in Melbourne and this led to a New Zealand Government decision to establish marine radio coast stations in the capital, Wellington, and at Auckland and the Chatham Islands.

The first station, which used a 2.5 kW Telefunken ‘spark’ transmitter, opened on 26 July 1911 and operated from the clock tower of the General Post Office in Wellington.

Only three months later, in October 2011, the station was transferred to 301 metre high Mount Etako (also known as Mt Wakefield or Tinakori Hill and since 2009 officially known as Te Ahumairangi Hill) where it provided a wireless telegraph service to ships within a 600 mile radius.

Opening ceremony at the radiotelegraph station on Mt Etako (Tinakori Hill) in Wellington, 1912

Opening ceremony at the radiotelegraph station on Mt Etako (Tinakori Hill) in Wellington, 1912. Photo: Sydney Charles Smith

In addition, two high-power (15 kW) stations with a range of 1250 miles were opened in 1913, one in the Far North near Kaitaia at Awanui (VLA, later changed to ZLA) and the other in the South between Invercargill and Bluff at Awarua (VLB, later ZLB).

All of these coast radio stations have now closed.

Audio documentary about ZLW

In July 2011, the Spectrum programme, hosted by Jack Perkins on Radio New Zealand, marked the 100th anniversary of the first transmission from Wellington Radio ZLW:

More ZLW resources

Wellington Radio through the years

Listen to final transmissions from Wellington Radio ZLW and watch an interview with former operator Peter Baird.

20th Anniversary of the Closure of Wellington Radio ZLW

13 Responses to Wellington Radio

  1. Brian Hill Samuel says:

    Good memories of ZLW on the New Zealand coast during the period 1959/60 whilst serving as a Radio Officer on mv Medic, Prince Line chartered to Shaw Saville and Albion

    Also happy memories of New Zealand in general – a lovely country and lovely people

    I never visited ZLW in person or any other marine radio stations in NZ, but in my latter years at sea , I made a point, where feasible, to make such visits

    One visit in particular was Bahia Blanca in Argentina (with Lamport and Holt Line) where I actually went on air and was receiving and sending telegrams – a very lax station !

  2. Anthony J Palmer says:

    Hearing ZLW again brought back many happy memories. Getting in range of ZLW on m/f meant the long voyage from the U.K. was nearly over and soon we would berth in our destination port. For some years I was R/O on various NZSc/o or Federal ships and have so many happy memories of the Land of the Long White Cloud. Good luck to everybody. Tony Palmer

  3. Steve Dolan ex GBTT GREU GDSA says:

    Great to hear this programme. Brings back fond memories of my short seagoing career in the Atlantic region listening to coast stations such as Portishead in UK, Norddeich in Germany and the US stations.

    Such a valuable service was provided by dedicated professionals in what was at times very difficult when there were distress situations. But it was good to hear the camaraderie among the interviewees, and it did provide me a smile with the Morse being keyed during the section on receive errors!

  4. Brian Gallagher says:

    I worked at ZLW as a technician between 1958 and 1964. Loved the job there but by then it was on the wane with major services being taken over by Himatangi Radio and then the Compac cable with ZLW as standby. “Ed” Beckett was Supervising Tech with Bert Wiggins as his deputy. Down at the receiving station ? Carter was Station Supt followed by Dave Shearer. Across from the receiving office was the staff hostel which was still in full swing. I left the service in 1964 to pursue a career in Broadcasting with the NZBC but part of me stayed with Wellington Radio.

  5. Jim Dell says:

    I did my training at the P & T Radio Telegraph School in Trentham in 1962. From there I went to ZLW and the ITO in the CPO, Featherston Street, Wellington. Left P & T in 1964 to join the Navy as a telegraphist. Peter Baird mentioned above, was one of my classmates at Trentham.

  6. Jan Venning-Slater says:

    I lived there at the accommodation block for a while. Can’t remember exactly the date but it would have been sometime between 1966 and 1968. I worked in the ITO at the CPO in Featherston St as a radio operator. We had radio circuits to the pacific islands and Scott Base in Antarctica, plus normal teleprinter circuits to the rest of the world. I had a good time up there at Wellington Radio, remember it well.

  7. Paul Cotter says:

    Hi John

    It was called the NZPO Radio Training School
    Post Office Accommodation Centre

    I did my training there in 1966

  8. John Giles says:

    what was the name of the telegraphy school in the Hutt Valley ? I was there 1976 and trained as a ships radio operator

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