It is Christmas Day in 2010 and in a suburban home on a lateral road not far from the Stone Store in Kerikeri there is great excitement. A present has been delivered to the Hay household but it’s not one to be found under the Christmas tree wrapped in pretty paper and tied with a bow. It will, however, greatly change the life of the recipient.
The present is, indeed, a radio frequency and with it Malcolm Hay, who at that point had lived in the Bay of Islands for about six years, has just become the owner of a radio station. You might ask why but, actually, to him it was a natural progression.
Thirty or so years ago he was a director and technician for Peak Radio in New Plymouth. It was in the early days of frequencies being available and a time when most of the privately bought frequencies were only allowed to run for four weeks. So that’s what Malcolm and some friends and others did. The Hon Steven Joyce, for instance, was one who benefited from Mr Hay’s technical knowledge when he started in radio and look where that’s got him-he’s now the Minister of four portfolios and ranked fourth in National’s hierarchy.
When Malcolm and his wife Judy moved to Auckland the radio connection continued. He was building and designing equipment for the Radio Pacific network, he’d design gear for them and their ‘excitors’ for the transmitters. They made the move to Kerikeri in 1995 and within six years up popped another frequency. So what was the man to do?
“Kerikeri was in a bit of a vacuum. It had an existing station, More fm, and I thought we could have different sort of music that people would like to hear. We investigated what people wanted and then we started 88.4fm with a mixture of country music, easy listening and a bit of high-brow from about 10pm.”
The frequency covers Kerikeri and slightly outside, depending on what sort of radios people have and a repeater was erected in Dove’s Bay. Now, two other radio stations have been added to the Malcolm Hay repertoire. One – a kind of easy listening 107.7fm – sort of ‘popped up’ and is run from a laptop but the third station, 87.6fm, is a Christian station because Mr Hay had always wanted to start one. So, he did.
If Keri Country fm derives an income the other two stations are certainly a labour of love even if none of them can be maintained for nothing. There is always money to be spent on components and one’s time has a price that doesn’t always materlise into dollars. But where there’s a will, there’s a way.
“I built a lot of gear from scratch. I had done it professionally and we have a workshop here where we can cope with the engineering side, welding, tool making, dye making and other technicians come to us for servicing. It’s in the backyard but it’s fully equipped.”
Quite where having three radio stations will head is uncertain. There is no-one waiting in the wings to take over, no-one has yet stolen his thunder, and yet when Malcolm Hay can no longer operate the three frequencies and broadcast from his basement, all his considerable knowledge and training and expertise will remain with him or will be lost forever.
His legacy, however, remains a microcosm of a broadcasting conglomerate operating at local level.
© The Northland Age May 9th, 2012.
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