Off the Top of My HeadBy Paul Murray
Karamea Radio was launched in September 2004 by a group of Karamea locals who thought it might be a good idea to set up a community radio station. Craig Stenhouse had previously been involved with creating a similar radio station down the West Coast in Punakaiki and knew how to go about getting a transmitter and the other necessary equipment together and connecting it all up…other people including Stu Mollison, James Rae, Raramai Adcock, Tony Ibbotson, myself and a few others got the $$$ together and helped it happen.
The station was initially set up in the main street of Karamea in an old shop, but this venue proved inadequate and the equipment was soon moved to the shed at the back of Rongo Backpackers & Gallery, where it remains today.
Karamea Radio plays music non-stop. Radio shows, public service announcements, local news and weather reports and radio interviews break up the music and the station also provides an important community service by permitting the rapid dissemination of information in the event of a civil defence emergency. Information about floods, earthquakes, tsunami, fire etc can be quickly and effectively broadcast to warn Karamea residents of any danger and advise on the best course of action to mitigate harm to themselves and their properties.
The arrival of Brian “Big Man” Thomson in 2005 saw the radio station transcend its humble beginnings and really take shape as a serious radio station. The Big Man donated a computer, an amplifier, speakers and some other key equipment that took the radio to a new level. Tristan Lockerbie had the idea of giving the radio station, which had previously been in the Rongo Theatre, its own room…so we cleaned out the old coal store and made it the radio studio. Tristan built the benches for the equipment and it was all moved into its current location in the spring 2006.
Soon after the move, Paul Murray and Brian Thomson got together to start the world famous (in Karamea) DJ Crap & the Big Man Blues Show, which is the longest-running show on Karamea Radio. Since January 2005, DJ Crap and the Big Man have put on a show every Wednesday night without fail and the show now has many fans locally and around the world. Other notable DJs from the early days of Karamea Radio include DJ T (Tjalve Mollison-Sjöberg) who used to come down after school and do a show. Dave Bateman rose to Karamea Radio fame with the controversial “Bigga than Bateman Show,” which made up in hilarity what it lacked in political correctness…Bigga left the district for a couple of years to live in the ghost town of Otira, but he’s back now and more incorrigible than ever…tune in for a giggle on Monday nights. Random and Casual make random and causal appearances as well…with guests Weaver D and others…DJ Obewan takes up the coveted Friday night slot…DJ Echo owns Saturday night and Kathy Ramsay plays awesome Kiwi music and old blues on Sunday afternoons with the “Stranded in Paradise” show.
Many visiting musicians have also played live in the radio station; Luke Hurley, Paul Ubana Jones, Karen Hunter, Vibrasics, BellBirds, Nigel Gavin, Richard Adams, Steve Abel, Tony McIver, Panda, Erin, DelGirl, Hot Club Sandwich and many, many others have played for the people of Karamea Live on 107.5.
The Karamea Area School media studies class also used to come to the studio to put their skills into practice and get a feel for the medium of radio and guests often do radio shows while they are staying at Rongo Backpackers & Gallery and introduce music from all over the world to the Karamea airwaves. Karamea Radio and the opportunity to be a radio DJ has become a feature of the hostel and many have enjoyed the opportunity to express their musical tastes and personal opinions on radio.
Karamea Community Coordinator Rick Lucas provided the region with the most popular Karamea Radio show of all time with his series of interviews with local celebrities. Rick did 12 radio interviews that attracted a lot of new listeners to the radio station and DJ Crap has continued the live radio interviews with a series of on air chats with candidates for the local Council elections Sheryl Rhind and Garry Howard and visitors to Karamea, including West Coast Conservation Board Chairman Stewart Robinson and Brando Yelavich, who is attempting to be the first person to circumnavigate New Zealand’s coastline on foot.
Thousands of LP records and singles have been donated to the station as well as digital files from the music collections of may Rongo guests. Karamea Radio has a musical collection that would rival commercial radio stations worldwide. An incredible donation of awesome records came from N.Z. poet Rod Morris, who loaded up his small Japanese hatchback car with his entire record collection and drove to Karamea from Hamilton to donate the records to Karamea Radio. When he arrived at Rongo, he was barely visible in his car that was loaded to the front back and sides to the roof with vinyl. He dropped off his collection, stayed the night and then drove back to Hamilton…thanks Rod!
Another guest donated a musical collection that continues to give today. The 1001 best albums from the 1950s through to 2002 contains some incredible music from the best bands of the last century…I forget the name of the donor…but thanks a lot…we have enjoyed listening to much of the 80GB file and have a lot more to get through!
In the summer of 2012, a little man from the “Ministry of Social and Economic Development” arrived (unannounced) with radio testing equipment to measure the Karamea Radio signal. With some concern for the future of the station, Paul Murray, the owner of Rongo Backpackers & Gallery showed him through the station and assisted with the testing. The outcome was disappointing…Karamea Radio was deemed to be within legal broadcasting limits and given the thumbs up to continue doing so. The radio was considered by all concerned as a “Pirate” station, but it was in fact operating legally, so we survived government scrutiny and the station continues to provide entertainment, information, amusement and enjoyment for the people of Karamea.
Being legal opened up new opportunities for the station and with the help of Chris Diack from the New Zealand Radio Network, established a means of recording Karamea Radio shows. This has enabled the shows to be uploaded to the Internet as podcasts so that people outside of Karamea can download and listed to Karamea Radio shows. Given that Rongo hosts travellers from over 50 countries per year, a lot of people around the world, who have experienced Karamea Radio while staying at Rongo, can now listen to 107.5 FM in their respective countries. Karamea Radio shows are now uploaded the following day to SoundCloud as well as being repeated during the day on Karamea Radio.
This initiative has elevated the status of Karamea Radio and significantly broadened the station’s listenership and audience.
So, in celebration of nine years of non-stop broadcasting, I thank all the people involved in the establishment of Karamea Radio and look forward to a bright future for what is quite possibly the World’s Best Radio Station.