Helping Rebuild Christchurch 3ZB Building 1937-2012

3ZB transmitter building today © Radio Heritage Foundation

The original 3ZB transmitter and studio building has survived both the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes unharmed and is now ready to celebrate it’s 75th anniversary in 2012.

It’s been an ongoing battle to preserve this solidly built radio heritage site.

In the same week that Christchurch [New Zealand] hosted the UNESCO World Heritage Conference, local city councillor Gail Sheriff confirmed she was on the panel that agreed to demolish the original 3ZB transmitter building in North Beach. This is one of the few remaining radio heritage sites in a city where Ernest Rutherford conducted his radio broadcasts in 1894, possibly earlier than those of Marconi.

Local businesses quickly supported 3ZB.
© David Lascelles Collection. NZRR 1937

In 1937, the National Commercial Broadcasting Service expanded to include 3ZB Christchurch, replacing the popular privately owned station 3ZM. As one of just four ZB stations in New Zealand, 3ZB immediately became the most listened to radio station in the city, broadcasting from a site in suburban North Beach.

Popular local announcer Grace Green.
© David Lascelles Collection. NZRR 1938

Through the dark days of WWII, programs from this location kept Canterbury listeners informed and entertained, and many popular personalities of the ‘golden days of radio’ were heard over 3ZB, such as Grace Green.

As such, the North Beach location is associated with the broadcast of many important local and global events and forms an important part of the city’s social and popular culture heritage.

With few exceptions, traces of early radio broadcasting in what is arguably the world’s ‘home of radio’ have been destroyed by time, neglect, indifference and the recent earthquakes. Agreeing to the demolition of the 3ZB transmitter building is a deliberate decision of Gail Sheriff and other councillors, despite strong submissions calling for the building to be preserved and restored for contemporary use to honor its role in the city’s heritage.

In fact, the original draft of the plan recommended looking at alternative contemporary uses for the building as suggested by the Radio Heritage Foundation. Instead, the council did an about face in the final version, replacing the original recommended action with a new one of demolishing the building and did so without advising the Radio Heritage Foundation. We wonder why the secret change.

‘Christchurch architect H.Francis Willis inspects construction of 3ZB studios in Colombo Street, 1938’
© Green & Hahn Photography, supplied courtesy of Amanda Ross

The Radio Heritage Foundation is leading the ‘Save 3ZB Campaign’ and is calling for the management plan to be reviewed and the building protected. This will allow local community use with an operating local LPFM radio station studios and memorabilia of the original 3ZB, which celebrated its 70th anniversary on September 22 2007.

A business case is being prepared for restoring the building with local volunteers and developing an educational heritage area to celebrate the story of 3ZB within its own original transmitter building. The site already has power and water and the building is externally sound.

‘Fred & Maggie Everybody’ was a favorite radio serial in 1937
© David Lascelles Collection, NZRR 1937
  • Read the background on the 3ZB North Beach site and understand its importance to our national heritage
  • Contact us with offers of time, money and resources or 3ZB memorabilia such as photos, plans and air checks
  • Make a donation through our online donation page using your credit card [NZ donations over NZ$5 are tax Deductible. Make sure you include your name and address so we can send a receipt]
  • Help us restore the original 3ZB building in New Brighton and bring radio back to the beach for the community
  • Become a Business Supporter with a tax deductible donation of $NZ500 and receive online acknowledgement and ongoing involvement with the 3ZB Restoration Project
  • Non-business donations and donations less than $NZ500 are also very welcome and will also be acknowledged on our Supporters Roll

You can also write to us and send donations, memorabilia, memories and offers of support and help to ‘Save 3ZB Campaign’, Radio Heritage Foundation, PO Box 2213, Stoke, Nelson 7041.

Postcard to early listeners of 3ZB, broadcasting from North Beach site.
© Cleve Costello Collection, Radio Heritage Foundation
Dick Weir and ‘Bertie the Germ’ were great children’s favorites during the early 1970’s on 3ZB.
© Radio Heritage Foundation Collection

The Radio Heritage Foundation is a registered non-profit charitable trust in New Zealand with supporters throughout New Zealand, Australia, the USA, Canada, Europe and elsewhere.

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