Goods for ads: how bartering kept the Hauraki crew afloat 50 years ago

Fifty years ago the Radio Hauraki DJs, pirates, ‘Good Guys’ (or whatever you would like to call them) were cruising around the Hauraki Gulf on the Tiri, blasting rock and roll tunes out through the airways and into the eager ears of Kiwis from north to south. 

Radio Hauraki was born after a group of journalists who were unhappy with the NZBC radio stations decided to start a pirate radio station operating in international waters in 1966.

After surviving storms, ship wrecks and many run-ins with the law, Hauraki was finally allowed to broadcast on land legally in mid-1970 after the crew spent 1,111 days at sea in total.

Former pirate and radio host Ian Ferguson says when Hauraki launched it had quite a lot of advertising support, mainly from New Zealand companies, despite the fact if brands advertised on Hauraki they “couldn’t claim it as a tax deduction”.

“There were some agencies who gave us backing with their clients … Sometimes they would advertise not for benefit but supported what we were doing. We were rebels and they liked that.”

He says back in the early days the Hauraki team wasn’t exactly flush and would often use contra advertising in return for goods and services. “There was one stage where three of us got our engagement rings on contra. So we didn’t pay and we gave advertising to Brownson’s Jewellers.”

The whole staff got paid $40 per week, he says. “Sometimes it was contra instead of cash and frequently cheques used to bounce as we didn’t have enough money and weren’t allowed cheques until after the banks had closed on a Friday to give accounting staff a chance to drag some money in and Colin Broadley was one of the ones who was tasked with trying to get money in the weekend to pay staff. And he would pocket all sorts of things.”

One of Hauraki’s first advertisers was Europa Oil, which Ferguson cites as one of the main reasons the station managed to get out to sea in the first place.

“They put up cash in return for future advertising promises which got Hauraki out to sea in the first place,” he says. “Europa was one of the first to support us.”

“I think it was decided that we wouldn’t take cigarette advertising but we did take alcohol advertising, which I think the New Zealand Broadcasting Service refused to do and we had advertising on a Sunday which the government stations wouldn’t do,” he says.

Ferguson says it was a lot of fun and at the time enjoyed playing The Beatles and a lot of other British pop groups like The Hollies and The Rolling Stones.

It wasn’t all fun and games though, Ferguson says, and there was more than one ship wreck.

He says one time the winds really got up and the waves rose to forty or fifty feet. “And we were late in getting away from the mooring and too late to head to shore so we had to stay at sea and were blown 80 kilometres out and ended up on Waipu beach,” he says. “That same night we heard on radio that a ship called the Maranui had gone down and lives were lost. That we survived was quite amazing.”

Former pirate and boat technician Curtis Dobbie says if it wasn’t for him and Colin Broadley there might not be a Hauraki as they were there when the boat’s aerial fell down and Dobbie says he was there to help save the Tiri on several occasions.

He says he had a great time on the boat.

“I think it was probably the fact that we were doing something no one had ever done before and we were sticking it up to the authorities. Right up them,” he says.

The 50th anniversary celebrations will run through until December with limited edition t-shirts and beer, massive parties and a special gift for listeners amongst other surprises, according to an NZME release.

Hauraki is teaming up with Kiwi clothing brand Mr Vintage and releasing limited edition Radio Hauraki tees. There will be a limited edition commemorative beer and cider by the team at Invercargill Brewery – the Hauraki 5-O. 

Hauraki listeners will have the chance to have their artwork feature in the station’s marketing, with the launch of a poster design competition called Show Us Your Doodle.

Celebrations can be followed here.

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