We have over 70,000 items in the archive, totalling many thousands of hours of audio.
Our oldest recordings are recorded on wax cylinders, including one made by Prime Minister William Massey in 1917. Our collection also includes copies of New Zealand’s first commercial recordings, which were made by singer Ana Hato in Rotorua in 1927.
Public broadcasting started in New Zealand in 1925, but recording technology was not often used until the early 1930s. Our earliest known broadcast recording is a rugby commentary by A L Cantor on the first test at Carisbrook, Dunedin between the All Blacks and the British Isles on the 2 of June 1930.
Our latest recording is happening right now. We regularly record programmes from different radio stations, and continually monitor news stations for breaking stories.
Our staff index and convert historic recordings to newer formats, and select current broadcasts to add to the collections. This resource is available for research, education, exhibits and film, television and radio productions.
We operate on a not-for-profit basis, but there is a cost involved in accessing our collection. These charges go towards maintaining the Archive and our work preserving New Zealand's radio heritage.
Sound Archives/Nga Taonga Korero is New Zealand’s only specialist archive of contemporary and historical radio programmes, responsible for managing, collecting, preserving and providing access to the nation’s recorded radio heritage. The various collections offer unique insights into New Zealand’s social, economic and political development via the medium of sound. The recordings give resonance to New Zealand history and offer exciting opportunities to enhance and expand the cultural identity of our nation.
The Nga Taonga Korero collections have a Maori focus, whilst the Sound Archives in Christchurch collections hold a broad range of recordings.
To create and preserve for posterity this country's premier collection of historical broadcast audio recordings.
To make this collection available to the people of New Zealand, and to foster in them an appreciation of the role played by broadcast media in the creation and recording of our national culture and identity.
Sound Archives was formed in 1998 as a not-for-profit entity, wholly owned by non-commercial public radio network Radio New Zealand and separately funded by the Broadcasting Commission (NZ On Air) to act as a national broadcast radio archive. On 1 October 2012 the day-to-day operations of Sound Archives/Ngā Taonga Kōrero was transferred to the New Zealand Film Archive with funding from the Ministry for Culture and Heritage.
The Sound Archive collections were formed by the amalgamation of two separate units within Radio New Zealand, the general archive collection, held in Christchurch, and the Maori programme archive, held in Auckland. These two units share common management and have adopted uniform procedures and practices, where these do not cut across cultural sensitivities in regard to audio recordings. The core of the archives consists of Radio New Zealand's historical collection, which dates as a separate entity from 1956. This is comprises 14,000 lacquer discs, 20,000 open reel tapes, 10,000 analogue and digital tape cassettes and a large collection of supporting documentation, artifacts and photographs.
The collection can be searched via our online database and in many cases, copies of recordings can be requested via our online request form.
Radio broadcasting started in New Zealand on 17 November 1921 with a broadcast by Professor Robert Jack, Professor of Physics at Otago University, Dunedin.
Recording capability was not acquired until 1935 by which time radio was very firmly established as a source of entertainment and information. During the following thirty years radio broadcasting in this country was almost entirely state-owned. This circumstance has resulted in Radio New Zealand's archive collection being the sum total of the surviving audio record of radio in that period. While this has resulted in a preponderance of archival material originating with RNZ and its predecessors, there are also significant holdings representing other broadcasters, such as Radio Hauraki.
During the latter half of the 1930s the so-called 'Special Library' was set up at Head Office, Wellington. A decision by the New Zealand Broadcasting Service (NZBS) led to the establishment of Sound Archives as a separate unit in Timaru in 1956. Programme material including the 'Special Library', consisting mainly of direct cut 16" acetate discs and the then-new open reel analogue tapes, was transferred from Wellington to Timaru.
During this era the archives were in the care of Asquith ('Tommy') Thomson and later Jim Sullivan. The lack of space for expansion and problems with the location led to Sound Archives latest move in 1992 to inner-city Christchurch. This move, and the outfitting of the new premises in the space previously home to the 3ZB recording studios in Kent House, was overseen by Stephen Riley.
The formal beginning of Nga Taonga Korero (the Treasures of Speech) as a separate collection dates from the early 1960's when the Maori section of the New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation was set up by Leo Fowler, with Wiremu Kerekere.
Fowler's stroke of genius was to second Wiremu Kerekere to the section. Kerekere was involved with every aspect of Maori cultural activity - composer, tutor, performer and leader. The pair became a force as they travelled from marae to marae, from hui to hui - marae openings, the Coronation hui, Hui Toopu, Hui Aranga, cultural festivals both regional and national, nga tangihanga, welcomes and farewells, Waitangi, royal occasions, and Maori cultural clubs were all grist to their microphones.
They saved raw and edited tapes together with the programmes compiled from them. Prior to the establishment of the Maori section, stations in the centres of Maori population saved Maori material discs and tapes which were either held locally or more often than not, sent to Sound Archives. Copies of much of this material are also held by Nga Taonga Korero.
The collection was held for many years in Papatoetoe, before moving in 1985 with the associated programme unit, then known as Te Reo o Aotearoa, to Cook St, central Auckland. In April 2005 the collection was moved to a purpose-built archive facility at RNZ’s transmission site in Henderson, and staff and facilities were relocated to RNZ Auckland’s new premises in Hobson Street, Auckland.
We pay tribute to broadcasters and technicians, station managers, programme organisers, announcers and producers who not only collected this material, but also kept it. Haere ki nga tipuna.
Since 1989 Sound Archives and Nga Taonga Korero have been funded by New Zealand on Air under the terms of the Broadcasting Act 1989. They have also been generously supported by Radio New Zealand under the provisions of the RNZ Charter.
A review of NZOA's media archiving policy in 1996 led to a series of negotiations which established a new corporate body called Sound Archives/Nga Taonga Korero. This includes both the previous units and is a non-profit entity which is prescribed by regulation under Section 90 of the Copyright Act 1994. This for the first time permits the archiving of radio broadcasts originating from any network or station in New Zealand. This will go some way towards redressing the imbalance in the archival record which has seen non-public radio broadcasters under-represented in archival collections to date. At the same time responsibilities towards the preservation of and access to the older collections is undiminished.
Maintaining an audio collection dating from 1935, recorded on a variety of formats requiring a corresponding variety of playback equipment (much of it now obsolete) is a complex undertaking. Audio recordings are by nature ephemeral and decay over time is inevitable. The task is to manage this process by migrating recordings to ever newer formats.
If you have in your possession recordings or other material relating to the history of radio broadcasting in New Zealand, you may be interested in offering this to SA/NTK either on deposit (in which case you retain ownership but entrust care of the material to us) or by donation. While such offers are always welcomed, we can make no undertaking to receive material without our prior consent, based on an appraisal of the material and consideration as to whether or not it fills gaps in our existing collections. In particular we cannot undertake without reservation to accept unsolicited bequests. Such offers regarding donation or deposit should be made in each instance to the Chief Archivist, care of our Christchurch office.
Further information regarding deposits and donations may be found in the Selection and Acquisition policy document
Within Sound Archives/Nga Taonga Korero there are a number of different collections. These are distinguished by various characteristics including; recorded format (e.g. disc, tape), subject (eg. World War Two, NZ Classical Composition), origin (e.g. identity of originating broadcaster, private collection) or date. Specific information on collections will be found in the collections section of this site. It is important to appreciate that our collections consist of 'unpublished' recordings. These are recordings of radio programmes which have been broadcast but not made available for sale. While SA/NTK does hold published sound recordings such as LPs, 45s, 78s and CDs, it is not our primary function to preserve these or to provide copies of commercially released recordings to the public. This is primarily the result of copyright legislation protecting the original owners of the recordings, and the legal complications involved make it too great a drain on our available resources. We are however happy to answer purely discographical enquiries where this is possible.
Help us preserve radio history.
We are always looking to add to our archive.
Sound Archives in Christchurch holds many photographs, memorabilia, and documents relating to the history of radio in New Zealand. You can view some of our photographs in the gallery
Sound Archives has been involved in some interesting projects.