Home > Past Caring > The Telegraph
Go to home page - Christchurch Online.
Skip navigation

Printed diagram showing the approximate course of the West Coast Telegraph. 1866

Archives Reference

CH 287, CP208, ICPW 171/1867, No 1378(1)

Electric Telegraph Office, Lyttelton 1865. Plans and elevation.

Archives Reference

CH 287, CP194, ICPW 802/1865

Telegraph Office Hokitika North Elevation Plan. 1866

Archives Reference

CH86, GR787

1st telegram via Cook Strait line. 26 August 1866

Archives Reference

CH287, CP81, ICPS 1291/1866

George Bird - Report on improvements to West Coast telegraph line. Includes sample of cable to be used in the bush at Bealey and Otira rather than burying cable. 21 August 1866

Archives Reference

CH287, CP204, ICPW 1226/1866

The Telegraph

Long distances and slow communications helped promote the idea of a decentralised provincial form of government in New Zealand which lasted from 1853 until 1876. In the early part of this period it could take two months for the provincial government in Christchurch to receive a reply to a query sent by sailing ship to the Capital in Auckland. The first commercial telegraph line in New Zealand was opened in1863 and ran between Christchurch and Lyttelton. By the middle of the period the telegraph across Cook Strait meant that the provincial government could communicate with the new capital in Wellington almost instantaneously. This development, along with the introduction of steam trains and steam powered ships, meant that the tyranny of distance within the colony had almost been defeated and so one of the primary reasons for the establishment of the provincial system disappeared.

The spread of the new technology resulted in new government development programmes. New buildings, infrastructure and staff were needed to run the telegraph system. More than that though, and just like email over a 100 years later, the telegraph brought with it new modes of administration, record keeping and government process. The documents shown here illustrate a small fraction of this development.