End is near for cash-strapped station

By John Cousins

9 comments
Neil Walsh belts out the hits from yester-year in the studio of Village Radio. Photo / John Borren
Neil Walsh belts out the hits from yester-year in the studio of Village Radio. Photo / John Borren

Tauranga's blast from the past, Village Radio, could be forced off the air after 30 years of keeping oldies' toes tapping.

Station manager Bonnie Leonard said the constant struggle of finding $1200 to $1300 a month to meet overheads was exhausting volunteers.

With only $1700 left in the bank and no prospect of a big injection of money, she reckoned that the lifeline for hundreds of elderly people was only a couple of months from closing.

"We are all getting older and more tired - the council is strangling us."

Mrs Leonard said a big reason why Village Radio was under financial pressure was because so few people visited the station's home in the Historic Village. In the days when the village thronged with visitors, the station operated as a working museum, with people able to see a radio station in action amidst a collection of old valve radios, antique transmitters and vinyl records.

"We can't survive because no one comes down here any more."

The best hope for the non-commercial station that played nostalgic music was for it to become a working museum again. Mrs Leonard said it would mean moving out of the village where costs were crippling Village Radio and finding a benefactor prepared to give them a new home, ideally near the Elms historic precinct.

They were now paying rent of about $700 a month plus rates, water and power - a far cry from the days when the council charged a peppercorn rent.

Mrs Leonard said Village Radio was paying too much for the amount of water it used. There was also a communal power charge for street lighting. "It is beyond the pale. We are tired of finding the money to keep going. We get a few donations but we keep on hitting the same people."

Historic Village team leader Michael Thomson defended the way village costs were allocated. They were apportioned on the basis of the floor area occupied by each tenant, a method used by commercial landlords. Costs included rates, water, insurance, security and rubbish removal.

"Everyone is treated the same," he said.

He said the village would be sorry to lose the radio station and he offered support to try and keep them viable. "It does not do us any good to see them fail."

The station's music librarian Cherry Feasey said it would be hugely upsetting if Village Radio was forced to close, for listeners and volunteers.

She said a lot of listeners were in rest homes and she often heard about how their faces lit up listening to the old tunes and their feet start tapping.

Announcer and technician Russ Bain said house-bound people often called to say how Village Radio was their lifeline.

"They say how much they love our music, it gives you the warm fuzzies."

Village Radio

• Run entirely by volunteers

• Music from the early 1930s to mid-1980s

• Frequency 1368 on the AM band

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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