Rotokura/Cable Bay, Wakapuaka, near Nelson in Te Wai Pounamu/the South Island of Aotearoa New Zealand, was the laying site of Aotearoa New Zealand’s first international telegraph cable. The cable went live on the 21st of February 1876, connecting Aotearoa New Zealand to the rest of the world.
The place name, originally Rotokura, then called Schroder’s Mistake by European settlers, was officially changed to Cable Bay in recognition of the telegraph cable, in 1926. Before European settlement, from at least 1150 AD, Rotokura was a Māori fishing and camping site and across a nearby estuary was a Pā site (a Māori fortified village). Interestingly, many of Aotearoa New Zealand’s cable laying sites and cable stations were positioned in places already well-settled by Māori iwi and hapū (tribes and sub-tribes), often on significant whenua (land), Pā sites or tapu (sacred) spots. Some of New Zealand’s telegraph stations are still standing (notably White’s Bay), but Cable Bay’s station was razed in a fire in 1914. The cable itself was subsequently relocated to the capital, Te Whanganui-a-Tara/Wellington, in 1917.
Once a site of great industry, activity, and a social zenith, Rotokura/Cable Bay is now predominantly a quiet holiday town but still carries its English telegraphic nomen. A plaque is one of the few contemporary reminders of its importance in Aotearoa New Zealand’s communication history.