RT network winds up operations

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An era in Wakatipu communications has ended with the winding-up of the local cooperative radio-telephone network. 

For many of its 46 years, veteran ex-chairman Graeme Railton recalls, the Coronet Peak Radio Telephone Users Association provided the district’s only mobile communications. 

Railton, who chaired the non-profit group for more than 30 years, says jetboat, rafting, helicopter, taxi and transport operators used the RT network, along with police, doctors and Lakes District Hospital. 

Coronet Peak is part of the group’s name because that’s where the first transmission tower was, Railton says – more than 10 other towers subsequently extended coverage across the wider Wakatipu. 

The network was occasionally tasked with odd jobs, he recalls – such as ordering groceries and tractor parts for isolated Halfway Bay Station, which didn’t have a landline phone back then. 

Railton also chuckles at the sale of Ben Lomond Station being negotiated by RT. 

Yet he philosophically says it was “a foregone conclusion” cellphones would eventually reduce reliance on the network and make it uneconomic. 

Datek Services, which has long owned some network assets, has bought the co-op’s assets to run the entire network on a commercial basis. 

The association’s final funds – about $2000 – have been donated to St John Wakatipu.