Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 45, September 2001


Waihi's Pye factory was responsible for history in the making when it introduced the dominion to television.

The story starts with the Akrad Radio Corporation which was set up by Keith Wrigley in 1934. The Waihi company made army equipment during the War, such as radio communications, spare valve cases and morse code equipment.

In 1946 Keith Wrigley died of blood poisoning, leaving the company to a public trustee until Tom Spencer was found to take over as manager. Pye New Zealand formed in 1951, after the English corporation of Pye bought 60% of their shares. The company quickly expanded and before long had over 500 employees in Waihi and factories in Paeroa, Hamilton, Auckland and Wellington. Soon they were making more money than their English counterparts.

In 1952 Ted Grant (who had been the thirtieth employee of Akrad Radio) went to England to learn about the manufacture of television sets.

In 1953 Pye set up a studio in Wellington to televise the Queen's visit. New Zealand's first television programmes aired every night over the 24 television sets which Pye had positioned in the Wellington Hospital. Because they only had a low power transmitter, these were the only sets to receive coverage.

The following year, the Pye engineers (some from England) built a studio and set up a station to broadcast nightly programmes surrounding Auckland's Easter Show. Four engineers from Waihi were involved - Ted Grant, Ken Trebble, Harry Jenson and Trevor Corder - as well as some women engineers. Among those to be broadcast were radio personalities Aunt Daisy and Selwyn Toogood. A newspaper article on the event says that the programmes "provided a foretaste of what may prove to be the greatest technological advance of the current century".

Then, on July 25 1954, the first full-scale television broadcast of a rugby match in New Zealand brought record crowds to Waihi's Rugby Park, where the Barbarians played Waihi. Power failures meant that only the second half of the game was broadcast. Among the star players of the day were L Lett and R Diggleman, although the Barbarians won 16-8.

The open-circuit telecast came following demonstrations around the country by Pye representatives. At the time the Auckland Star reported the Minister of Broadcasting, Hon. Mr Algie, as stating that, "if sufficient interest is aroused with the general public, television will come to the dominion as soon as public opinion asks for it."

Around this same time, closed circuit television was used to televise operations for the Australasian College of Surgeons.

EDITOR'S NOTE : See Journal 9, page 29 for article "The Story of Akrad Radio Corporation Ltd." by R E Skinner [Journal 9: Akrad Radio Corporation - E]

EDITOR'S NOTE : The Editor acknowledges, with thanks, the permission of the Editor of the WAIHI LEADER to reproduce the above articles [including "Waihi's Historic Businesses" and "Bank Robbery Shocks Waihi" - E]. These articles were originally published in the WAIHI LEADER on 4 July 2000.