Skip to main content
Browse the 1966 Encyclopaedia of New Zealand
Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.





New Zealand's first overseas telegraph cable was laid by the Eastern Extension Telegraph Co. in collaboration with the Australian and New Zealand Governments between La Perouse (Sydney) and Wakapuaka (Nelson). It was opened for business on 21 February 1876. For several years before this telegrams for many parts of the world could be telegraphed to a New Zealand port mailing to Melbourne or Sydney for onward dispatch by cable. The cable rate to Great Britain from Sydney was £9 9s. 6d. for 20 words. Traffic was increased when charges were reduced with the setting up in 1902 of an “all-red” route, jointly owned by the British, Canadian, Australian, and New Zealand Governments. In 1912 a cable was laid between Sydney and Auckland. The Wakapuaka terminal was later abandoned and the cable landed at Titahi Bay near Wellington in 1917.

Increasing competition from fast-developing radio services resulted in the formation in 1929 of a merger company, later known as Cable and Wireless Ltd., which coordinated the various systems, including the cables serving New Zealand. A branch of this company operated the cable service at Auckland until 1948 when the Commonwealth countries concerned nationalised their overseas telecommunications services and the Post Office assumed the management of the New Zealand terminal. Telegraph services by radio were established to London in 1952, to Sydney in 1954, to Vancouver-Montreal in 1959, and an international telex service opened in 1960. In 1947 a radiophoto service was opened with Australia and England.


From 1930 until 1962 New Zealand's overseas telephone service used high-frequency radio. By 1962 there were four channels to Australia and one each to Britain, Canada, the United States, and Fiji. Service was restricted, except to Australia. The first link of COMPAC, the Commonwealth Pacific telephone cable owned by Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, was laid between Sydney and Auckland in June 1962. Suva was reached by the end of the year, and by the end of 1963 the cable was completed to Vancouver through Hawaii, giving New Zealand high-quality telephone service to North America, and through “CANTAT” (the transatlantic section of the Commonwealth cable) to England and Europe.

Over the shorter routes to Australia and Fiji New Zealand toll operators are now able to dial subscribers direct in the distant country. A system of dialling over long intercontinental cable circuits has recently been developed and is being incorporated in a new international exchange planned for installation in 1966–67 and at that time semi-automatic operation will be introduced with Britain, Canada, and the United States.

The cable handles telegraph, telex, and photo services, in addition to telephone calls. New Zealand is also a partner in SEACOM, the proposed Commonwealth South-East Asia telephone cable which is to provide a link between Australia, New Guinea, North Borneo, Singapore, and the Federation of Malaya, with a spur to Hong Kong. New Zealand provided the convenor for the SEACOM Management Committee. In 1962 two Post Office engineers were seconded to Britain in order that New Zealand might take part in a Commonwealth programme to develop long-distance communication by earth satellites.

Year Ship Radio-telegrams Sent Ship Radio-telegrams Received International Telegrams Sent International Telegrams Received International Telex Calls Outward International Telex Calls Inward
1900 .. .. 62,275 55,601 .. ..
1910 .. .. 120,599 109,389 .. ..
1920 .. .. 208,604 201,121 .. ..
1930 .. .. 341,837 307,058 .. ..
1940 4,808 8,511 321,169 291,285 .. ..
1950 15,974 48,979 503,580 475,973 .. ..
1960 16,157 50,924 702,457 625,873 .. ..
1963 16,646 53,307 721,293 631,785 16,095 17,265
1964 15,963 52,904 753,750 679,089 20,199 23,412
Overseas Telephone Calls
Year Inward Outward
1940 729 689
1950 6,330 5,793
1960 22,130 23,335
1963 45,630 58,159
1964 63,486 91,693