IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: the information on this page is intended to help our fellow amateurs who may be planning to visit and operate from Oceania. However, the rules, laws and regulations are complex and changeable and we are not experts. Please check with the relevant authorities and do not rely exclusively on the following. We would hate you to come all this way only to be turned around and sent straight back, or worse still arrested and clapped in jail.
You can pre-arrange an E5 license by emailing the authorities on Rarotonga, then visit the licensing office in person to finalise and collect the paperwork. The E5 authorities do not distinguish North from South Cooks in issued calls but you might try politely requesting an E5 callsign with a suffix starting with, or at least containing, an N if you will be active from North Cooks. The licensing people are friendly and welcoming but they have jobs to do ... so be nice to them.
Amateur licensing in VK is handled by the licensing authority ACMA and the national radio society WIA working in collaboration. In short, ACMA formally issues licenses, but requires the go-ahead from WIA first.
VK9: to obtain a temporary VK9 licence refer to ‘licensing for external territories (VK9)’ in the ACMA guidance. A good place to start is to express your interest to the ACMA by emailing email@example.com. You will need to provide the following information in support of a VK9 licence application:
If you are not set on a specific VK9 callsign, CEPT rules apply in Australia and there are reciprocal licensing arrangements with many other countries. Good luck making sense of the rules though!
If you hold an amateur license from a CEPT signatory country, the CEPT rules apply for operations on ZL mainland, inshore islands and ZL7 Chathams. Sign ZL/your-call for mainland ZL, or ZL7/your-call in the Chathams. Bring your home license with you in case you are challenged. Comply with the local NZ laws including the GURL General User Radio License terms and conditions (e.g. 1kW max, no operation yet on 60m).
For ZL8 and ZL9, a landing permit is required from MBIE (Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment), the NZ government ministry charged with protecting the islands’ unique fauna and flora. You will need to persuade them that your visit will cause no harm. Once you have crossed that major hurdle, you can then apply for a temporary ZL8 or ZL9 callsign through MBIE, specifically the part called RSM (Radio Spectrum Management). Expedition parties heading for ZL8 and ZL9 can expect to be inspected carefully and thoroughly by the environmental protection people at the port prior to your departure to the islands, as well as the routine form-filling, inspection, sniffer dogs and X-ray of all your baggage on arrival into NZ. Depending on exactly where on the islands you plan to land and operate, there may be explicit conditions to protect the environment and wildlife, as well as for your own safety.
Especially if you plan to visit any of the more remote and rarely-activated locations in Oceania, we strongly recommend contacting any resident amateurs and DXpeditioners who have been there most recently. They can probably tell you plenty about licensing, other rules and regulations (e.g. visas), places to stay and eat, and perhaps locations from which to operate or to avoid. Please be considerate and courteous when contacting resident amateurs. What may be an amazing once-in-a-lifetime trip for you may well be the Nth enquiry this year for us! There is a fine line between seeking information or assistance and imposing on someone’s goodwill and hospitality.
If you have visited and operated from Oceania recently (whether for OCDX or not), please share with us any information that will help others planning to follow in your footsteps. What worked best for you? What advice would you give other intrepid travellers?
Given our geographical isolation and unique biodiversity, environmental protection is a big thing in Oceania generally, especially regarding biological threats posed by non-native plant materials (e.g. plants and flowers, whether fresh and green or dried/pressed), food (e.g. fruit, anything containing milk products, and anything else you eat including the fruit and snacks you may have bought at your departure port or were given on the plane/ship), seeds (e.g. seeds for cultivation, seed pods, nuts), insects (e.g. moths, ticks, fleas, flies, maggots, pupae and larvae) and other animals, dead or alive (e.g. pelts and vermin). Even soil is of concern due to the risk of fungal, viral and microbial diseases (such as foot-and-mouth) so make sure everything you bring is clean, including the soles of your shoes or boots and your antennas, cables and packaging. If you have recently been on a farm, trekking, or visited any disease-prone areas of the world, be prepared for additional questions and checks.
It is best to avoid bringing any biological materials (other than yourself!) to Oceania but if you do, be sure to declare them on arrival. Declaration avoids a whole load of grief.
Trust me, it is much better to declare anything that is or might not be permitted and have it checked (and possibly sent for cleaning or binned), than to ignore it, or worse still try to conceal it. There are substantial on-the-spot fines and you may well be refused entry and detained at the port. The authorities are just as serious about this as they are about illicit drugs, wads of undeclared cash and travellers without the appropriate visas. They are not trying to catch you out: they are working hard to protect Oceania.