Great Barrier Island is the largest island in the Hauraki Gulf, laying only 65 miles (105Km) from Auckland City. The island can be seen from Auckland on a clear day, it is that close, but back in the 1800s, it was isolated with no communication other than by sea with an irregular ship service. When in 1894, the Northern Steamship Company's ship SS Wairarapa hit the northern end of the island with the loss of 121 lives, the news took several days to reach Auckland. It highlighted the need for better communication between the island and the mainland. See our post Wreck of the Wairarapa.
The Great Barrier Pigeongram Agency was created in early 1897 with a purpose of providing a mail service using pigeons. The letters carried, known as flimsies, were written on extremely lightweight paper. A few months later, on 14th May 1897, a rival pigeon mail service was established under the name of The Original Great Barrier Pigeongram Service. The two companies, commonly known as the 'Agency' and the 'Service', would continue competing with each other until 1908 when a telephone cable was laid between the island and the mainland.