I was unaware that New Zealand had a pirate radio scene in the 1960s. But upon further reflection it makes sense, since that country’s radio dial was similarly monopolized by state broadcasters just like the UK and continental Europe. This meant that insurgent rock n’ roll music was hard to find, making for a ready audience and opportunity for industrious unlicensed broadcasters.
New Zealand is also an island nation, making true ship-based pirate radio quite feasible. A new movie telling the story of Radio Hauraki, which broadcast from off shore from Aukland, is in production. The film is already booked to screen at next year’s Cannes Film Festival.
The seafaring pirate iteration of Radio Hauraki broadcast from 1966 to 1970 from the Hauraki Gulf. In January, 1968 the station ran aground near the Great Barrier Island, broadcasting the progress of the disaster live to listeners. The following April the station again ran aground during a massive storm which also resulted in the Wahine disaster where an inter-island ferry capsized, killing 53 of the 733 people on board.
July 1, 1970 turned out to be Hauraki’s last offshore broadcast when DJ Rick Grant was accidentally thrown overboard, never to be seen again. Writer David Johnson, whose mother had been previously married to Grant, told the story of Radio Hauarki for Mess+Noise back in 2005.
Radio Hauraki went on to become a licensed network of rock radio stations beginning in the mid–70s when New Zealand began permitting private radio stations.
The film version of the story, “3 Mile Limit,” is a drama, though I hope it will be more true-to-life than the fun, but not quite accurate, Pirate Radio (a/k/a “The Boat That Rocked”). I also hope “3 Mile Limit” makes it here to North America.
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