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Satellite dish has had its day

Published: 8:28PM Sunday July 13, 2008 Source: ONE News

Before 1971, seeing foreign news on the day it happened was just a dream for New Zealanders. Then came the Warkworth satellite dish, their first live link with the outside world.
Now this piece of Kiwi history is being dismantled.

On the grassy pastures of Warkworth near Auckland, a satellite dish was built in 1971 that changed life as New Zealanders knew it.

When man first landed on the moon Kiwis had to wait for an air force plane to bring a tape with the big moment from Australia.

But the arrival of Warkworth One meant they could see international news on the day it happened. And it also put an end to having to make a booking at least a day in advance if you wanted to ring someone overseas.

Two years after the satellite dish began transmitting, Allen Harper landed a job looking after it as a satellite technician. 

"First day on the job they wouldn't let me near it," says Harper.

Thirty-five years later, he's sad to see it taken apart but won't miss emergency callouts in the wind and the rain.

"It was always the middle of the night and you didn't really want to be here, but if there was a tracking fault you had to come out and identify whether there was water in the electronics or whether the wind had just blown it off the satellite," he says.

The show always went on though and New Zealand's first live international broadcast came when Princess Anne married Mark Philips in 1973.

But it's now out with the old and in with the new. Warkworth One has now been replaced with Warkworth Eight. The new satellite dish is half the size, seven times lighter and is already carrying eight million minutes worth of toll calls to the Pacific Islands each month.

It means the end of the road for a national landmark and the end of an era for those who were nearest to it.