Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 35, September 1991

By Gordon Mathieson

With the advent of Paeroa's new, permanent radio station (Nga Iwi FM), the first in our region, it is time to compile some background information on events leading up to this occurrence, and to trace the origins of this medium, as relevant to our area.


Two bands are in use for domestic broadcasting:

AM (Amplitude Modulation) and FM (Frequency Modulation). For many years, the AM band (also called "medium wave" or "broadcast band") was the only one in use, covering from 530 kHz to 1600 kHz (KiloHertz, formerly kilocycles - older receivers will show "KC", while newer ones have "kHz"). The MW band was once considerably shorter than it is now, and from the beginning of broadcasting in New Zealand in 1921, until 1978 the channels were 10 kHz apart. In order to create more channels, they were narrowed slightly to 9 kHz separation, thereby increasing the number of available AM channels from 108 to 120.

The FM band came into use much later, in fact until the first experimental transmissions in the late 1970's it was occupied by "utilities", that is radio-telephone links, trucks, taxis, fire service vehicles etc. Over the last 10 years these have been progressively cleared from the band - which covers from 88 to 108 MHz (MegaHertz, formerly megacycles). New Zealand's first permanent FM radio stations commenced in Auckland in 1983 (89 FM and 91 FM). FM sound is far superior to AM, in that the signal received from the radio receiver is in "stereo sound", best on sets with twin speakers. Most receivers today are the larger "Ghetto-blaster" variety, covering AM, FM, sometimes SW (short-wave) and often incorporate a cassette tape deck, and latterly CD (Compact disc), a revolution in noise-free stereo sound, which is supplanting 45 and 33 rpm (revolutions per minute) records, themselves replacing the 78 rpm records in the 1950's.


The Thames Valley region was the last in New Zealand to be allocated its own radio station. Previously our listening has been from surrounding areas - Bay of Plenty, Waikato, Auckland, and Northland. The number of stations has increased sharply in the last few years. Below is a tableofstations showing this trend, in the last 40 years.








1YA, 1YC, 1ZB, 1YD



as above



1YA, 1YC, 1ZB, 1ZM (ex 1YD), Radio Hauraki, Radio i



as for 1970, plus Radio Pacific and Radio B



as for 1980, plus 89 FM and 91 FM



(9 AM) Radio Aotearoa 603; Pacific 702; 1YA 756; Access Radio 810; 1YC - AM 882 (Parliament only); Newstalk 1ZB 1080; 1XR Radio Rhema 1251; Radio i 1332 AM; Airport Information Radio 1476.

(8 FM) 89 FM (89.4 MHz); 91 FM (91.0) Concert Programme 1ACP (92.6); 95 BFM - University of Auckland radio station (95.0); Classic Hits 97 FM (97.4); i 98 FM (98.2); Hauraki 99 FM (99.0) and Country FM (99.8).





1XH (estab. Sept. 1949)



1YW, 1XH



1YW, 1XW (Radio Waikato 930 kHz), 1ZH (ex 1XH 1968)



as for 1970, plus 1XC Radio Contact 1440 kHz from the University of Waikato



(4 AM) 1XH (call sign reactivated in 1988 for Radio Rhema 855; 1XW, now Radio Pacific - Waikato 954; 1YW 1143; 1ZH - AM 1296

(4 FM) Contact 89 FM - ex 1440 kHz AM (89.0); Kiwi FM (89.8); 1WCP Concert Programme (91.4); 98.6 ZHFM (98.6)

The last 3 FM stations mentioned transmit from the summit of Mt Te Aroha, 952 metres above sea level - literally in our back yard. The Mt Te Aroha transmitter also carries TV 1, TV 2, the Sky - TV Channels plus another FM station - Radio Tainui (95.4 MHz) which broadcasts from the Turangawaewae Marae at Ngaruawahia. Regrettably TV 3 does not use the Mt Te Aroha facility, but has a smaller antenna on Ruru Peak, some 16 km east of Cambridge, and 57 km south of Paeroa. Due to the hilly terrain of parts of Paeroa, many receivers, with an 8 element UHF TV aerial, can receive better reception from the Waiatarua transmitter site in West Auckland, of TV 3, on channel 7, 92 km WNW of Paeroa with a clear view across the Hauraki Plains being a distinct advantage.


There is an early model television receiver, with a date of 1959 attached, in the Feilden Thorp Museum at Paeroa. Many experimental transmissions took place throughout the 1950s, in the lead up to a permanent service. The N.Z.B.S. (New Zealand Broadcasting Service) put its first television station on air in Auckland on Wednesday 1 June, 1960, at first weekly, gradually transmitting daily by January 1961, and its hours increased accordingly. The advent of AKTV-2 (the call sign relating to Auckland Television Channel 2) was to change forever the social habits of a nation.

The first TV receivers (black and white picture tube) with a rotary channel selector dial covering channels 1 - 13, have not become obsolete even 30 years later, though not in colour, are still useable, but parts for repairs would be almost unobtainable. The N.Z.B.S. was changed in April 1962, to the N.Z.B.C. (New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation), and again, to a dual identity in April 1975 - Television N.Z. and RadioN.Z.

In comparison with what is available today, television broadcasting in the 1960s seems totally primitive, when it is remembered what was on "the telly" then. Those of us who were children at that time, remember crowding into someone's lounge to watch this new and exciting medium, few homes having a TV then. Spread out all over the lounge floor, while the adults occupied the sofa and chairs surrounding, all eyes were glued to the "one-eyed monster", "goggle-box" or, more simply, "The Box", which quickly became an essential part of the furnishings. One imagines that similar scenes took place during radio's early days, all listeners in rapt attention. By 1965, more than half of N Z homes had TV and coverage was increasing rapidly.

The table below shows the growth of TV stations in two areas.





AUCKLAND (all Waiatarua transmitter)



AKTV-2 (Changedto Television One in 1975)



TV-2 (originally South Pacific Television)






Sky TV (News, Sport, Movies)





AKTV-2 Mt Te Aroha transmitter



TV-2 Mt Te Aroha transmitter



TV-3 Ruru Peak



Sky TV

Incidentally, New Zealand had colour television before Australia (introduced here in October 1973). Some early makes of TV receivers include Bell, Astor, Autocrat and Pye (made in Waihi - see Journal 8 pages 29 - 32 [Journal No. 9: Akrad Radio Corporation - E]). The first authentic TV service dates back to 1935 - in Nazi Germany and in 1936 the BBC's first transmissions commenced, but World War 2 halted these. The USA had the first permanent commercial TV stations in 1948, BBC TV dates from 1953, and Australia's first, dates from 1956.


Considerable research has revealed a number of short term broadcasts within the Thames Valley region, listed in detail here.

1) Radio Sam (1030 kHz AM, Call Sign 1XC)

Allegedly the first, was broadcast from studios in the Pauanui shopping centre, transmitter on Slipper Island, operated by Radio Waikato of Hamilton, from Dec. 26 1977 to Jan. 15 1978 for summer holidaymakers on the Coromandel Peninsula's east coast. On air again Dec. 26,1978 to Jan. 21, 1979.

2) Radio Sam (new frequency of 1170 kHz)

Broadcast this time from Tairua, transmitter on Paku Hill at entrance to Tairua Harbour. On air Dec. 26, 1979 to Jan. 20, 1980.

3) Radio Nambassaland (1XN, 1170 kHz)

This unusual broadcast took place at Waitawheta - the site of the last Nambassa Festival. (Golden Valley near Waihi hosted the earlier ones.) The station ran for just 5 days operated by Radio Promotions Ltd of Auckland, during the festival of January 1981.

4) 1CCA - FM (92.75 MHz FM)

The call sign stood for "Community Chest Appeal" on this broadcast from Paeroa, one of the first short-term FM broadcasts, on the unusual "split" frequency of 92.75 MHz. The studios were in the 'old Honey factory', Seymour St., Paeroa, the transmitter being on the top of the building, radiating a power of just 30 watts, on air December 1982.

5) 1GCA FM (Goldfields CommunityAccess)

Note the slightly altered call sign, this broadcast lasted 28 days during February - March 1983. On air again during November 1984, a unique broadcast from the 1984 Paeroa Guy Fawkes Carnival at Paeroa Domain was memorable. Same frequencies as before.

6) CoromandelFM

After an absence of 10 years, short-term broadcasts from the Peninsula's east coast were in vogue again in 1990. Based in Pauanui, CFM as it was known, used 3 transmitter sites on 2 frequencies to cover all the east coast - 89.1 MHz for Tairua/Pauanui and 96.6 MHz from Whitianga and Whangamata. On air from December 26, 1990 until February 3, 1991, 24 hours a day.


Broadcasting from the old Regent Theatre Building in the centre of Paeroa, Nga Iwi FM, 99.4 MHz is the Thames Valley's first full time radio station. Its intended broadcasting area is a large one - the Coromandel Peninsula, Hauraki Plains, Hunua Ranges and East Auckland - the area of the Ngati Maru Maori people. Great Barrier, Waiheke, Ponui, Pakatoa, Pakihi, Rotoroa and Motuihe Islands of the Hauraki Gulf are included in the tribal area also.

The current transmitter is located on top of the studio building and is 120 watts, direction antennae in a north westerly direction. By the time of publication, the proposed increase in transmitter strength to 1000 watts (1 kW) and a better site to give good signal coverage to the whole tribal area, will hopefully be a reality.

Nga Iwi FM is administered by Te Reo Irirangi 0 Pare Hauraki Trust" and is operated on a 50/50 Maori/European content. Its hours are: Monday to Thursday 6 00 am - midnight and 24 hours at weekends. Full programme details are published in the Paeroa Gazette, there being something for everyone, truly a community effort.

The station's first broadcasting day was Saturday 9 March, 1991. The official party consisted of Mr Graeme Lee, M P for Coromandel who declared Nga Iwi FM open; John Tregidga, Trust Board Chairman, Brian Dunham, Community Board Chairman; Canon Gordon Kaa who performed the ceremonial blessing of the station and Huhurere Tukukino, Chief and PatronofHauraki.

FOOTNOTE - The Hauraki Herald of 20 July 1991 reported that the Commerce Commission had approved funding of $700,000 to Nga Iwi FM Radio. This grant represented $100,000 for capital equipment and $200,000 per year for the next three years. Te Reo Irirangi 0 Pare Hauraki Trust Chairman John Tregidga said the cost of equipment is high and the transmitter which will be in Mt Te Aroha will cost about $50,000 to be set up. The frequency will change from 99.4 to 92.2 and the power increased from 120 watts to 1000 watts.