Musick Point Radio Station


Category
Engineering Site (eg Portland cement works, Maori fortifications)

Description

Not only does the headland at Musick Point offer panoramic views over Auckland’s Waitemata Harbour, it was also a perfect site for radio transmission and reception. As such, the Musick Point Radio Station was constructed in the early 1940s, and named in memory of pioneering transoceanic aviator, Edwin Musick (1894-1938).

Early radio transmission and international aviation in Auckland
The New Zealand Wireless and Telegraphy Act (1903) gave the Government a national monopoly on transmitting, receiving and administering wireless communications. Following this they constructed a number of marine coastal radio stations because at the time the main use of radio was for shipping communications.

To encourage broadcasting, and the creation of private radio stations, regulations were introduced in 1923. Later, in 1936 the Government purchased most of the early private radio stations and the Post Office Department then administered all radio around, and coming into, New Zealand until the1980s. It seems that a reason for this purchase was that the wanted to nationalise commercial aviation in a similar way to rail and other services.

The 1930s were a golden age for aviation and in 1937 Tasman Empire Airways was established by the New Zealand, Australian, and British governments with the aim of creating a trans-Tasman link. Aviation promised to lessen New Zealand’s isolation through commercial travel and airmail.

At the same time Pan American Airlines was investigating a trans-Pacific route. During a route survey from the United States of America (USA) to New Zealand, Captain Edwin Musick and crew landed a large four-engine Sikorsky S42B flying boat, the ‘Samoan Clipper,’ off Mechanics Bay on 30 March 1937. A huge crowd of exited Aucklanders came out to see the event and provide Captain Musick with a hero’s welcome. Soon-after other airlines began flying to Auckland, and Captain Musick returned as well.

In 1938, because of this increase in aviation activity, plans began for the creation of a new radio station at the head of the Tamaki Esutary. This site meant that, unlike the existing one at Auckland’s Central Post Office, there would be relatively little electrical interference.  Early that year news was received of the tragic death of Captain Musick and six crew when the ‘Samoan Clipper’ crashed into the sea near Pago Pago on their way to New Zealand. As such, the Government decided that the new radio station and its headland site should be named in honour of Captain Musick.

Musick Point Radio Station during World War Two
The station was intended to house equipment to communicate with off-shore aviation and to operate as a coastal radio station, but it also received meteorological information. The station was to have contact with Awarua Radio, at the extreme south of New Zealand, and with New Plymouth where direction-finding observations were made across the Tasman.

John Blake-Kelly designed the station building. He went on to become the first New Zealand-trained Government Architect. Tenders were called in 1940, with DC Street Construction Company winning the contract for the Art Deco-Modern style building. Fittingly, the form of the building is representative of an aeroplane.

Naturally, this strategic site and communications centre was important during the rest of World War Two, and there was a military presence there as a result. The station provided around the clock regional maritime and emergency services on medium and high frequencies, and was significant in fostering a close relationship between New Zealand and the USA because of its military and diplomatic communications function. The building could easily have become a target during the war, so an emergency radio station was built in a concrete bunker. After the bombing of Pearl Harbour the USA Naval forces stationed in Auckland utilised the station for a time.

During the war Musick Point was also important to the New Zealand Coastwatcher Unit. Their job was to monitor the approach of enemy naval and military forces from remote Pacific islands. Reports were relayed to Fiji, and then on to New Zealand through Musick Point.

Musick Point and the changing face of maritime and aviation communication in Auckland
After World War Two, both maritime and aviation radio communication were operated from Musick Point Radio Station. Increased air traffic resulted in Civil Aviation taking over the upper floor, while the Post Office operated shipping communication from the ground level.

In 1946, a tour of the station was broadcast which described the activites and layout. It was broadcast again in 2014 by Radio New Zealand in a programme called "A trip back in time to Musick Point." (www.radionz.co.nz/)


Keeping in Touch, a 1956 film held by Archives New Zealand, profiles Post Office Department activities at the time. The section beginning at 6:40 minutes into the film features interior and exterior footage of Musick Point Radio Station.  (www.youtube.com/user/archivesnz)



However, in 1957 long-range high frequency radio communication with overseas aircraft was transferred to the airport at Mangere. Then in 1965-66 Civil Aviation moved out to the airport as well because this site offered less interference than the developing area at Bucklands Beach.

Until 1993, when the station closed, Telecom operated Auckland Radio ZLD from Musick Point, as well as a Morse code service for commercial shipping and maritime services. The use of Morse code was favoured by foreign fishing boats that had to relay their daily positions.

The closure of the station meant that the building was left and began to fall into disrepair. In 2002 the Musick Point Preservation Society (now the Musick Point Trust) formed with the aim of restoring the building and ensuring continued public access to the area.


Heritage Recognition
IPENZ recognised the engineering hertiage signficance of the Musick Point Radio Station with a plaque, unveiled 2003.

This place is included in a Heritage New Zealand Historic Area (List no.9335):
Te Naupata/Musick Point: New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero information (www.heritage.org.nz)


References:
'Musick Point,' New Zealand Association of Radio Transmitters (www.nzart.org.nz) 
Rhys Thomas, 'Musick Point Radio Station' (paper to be published 2011)


Attachments

No Attachments

Location

Eastern Beach
Howick
Auckland



Region/s
Auckland

Access Info


Nature of Engineering
Communications

 

IPENZ plaque for Musick Point Radio Station. Photograph courtesy of J. La Roche, 2011

(Click image to enlarge )

Aerial view of Musick Point, Howick, Auckland, March 1946. Whites Aviation Ltd: Photographs, ID: WA-02384-F. Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand, must be obtained before any re-use of this image.

(Click image to enlarge )

Musick Point Air Radio Station, Howick, Auckland, 29 August 1946. Whites Aviation Ltd: Photographs, ID: WA-03631. Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand, must be obtained before any re-use of this image.

(Click image to enlarge )

Musick Point Air Radio Station, Howick, Auckland, 29 August 1946. Whites Aviation Ltd: Photographs, ID: WA-03633. Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand, must be obtained before any re-use of this image.

(Click image to enlarge )

Lat: -36.8473 Long: 174.9014