Radio Hauraki ‘Pirates’ sign marks the spot

27 March 2024

  • Wynyard Quarter
  • News

Battle of the Bridge

A sign commemorating the beginnings of Radio Hauraki has gone on display at Bascule Bridge.

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Battle Of The Bridge Unveiling 3591 (002)

“When we tried to leave the Viaduct basin, the police had the bridge operator lower the bridge.”

Original Radio Hauraki Pirate
Denis “Doc” O’Callahan

 

It commemorates the day, in 1966, when a bunch of determined young people fled Viaduct Harbour to broadcast in the waters of the Hauraki Gulf in protest of the state-owned broadcasting monopoly in New Zealand.

On 23 October 1966 Denis “Doc” O’Callahan was at the helm of the Tiri, the ‘unseaworthy’ boat that the radio station would broadcast from as it made it’s daring escape.

“When we tried to leave the Viaduct basin, the police had the bridge operator lower the bridge”

“Some of the pirate crew positioned themselves to prevent the bridge closing completely. I tried to force the Tiri past the partially closed bridge, but the mast jammed, and we were stuck until someone ran out a rope and the crowd of supporters were able to heel her over and we broke free.”

Members of the crowd that had gathered helped the Tiri sail under the half-closed bridge, even freeing the mast when it became jammed. However, police had managed to board the Tiri and arrested the crew at sea. The Radio Hauraki members were exonerated at their trial and went back to broadcasting from their boat in international waters.

O’Callahan say’s their efforts were more impactful than even they thought “We did not know it at the time, but looking back I like to think that we played a small but significant part in opening up New Zealand business and culture.”

A gathering of the ‘pirates’ was held to unveil the signage at the site of the escape, including family and friends of David Gapes, the legendary founder of Hauraki Radio and the leader of the Pirates, who passed away earlier this month.

After running their station from the Hauraki Gulf for 1,111 days – amidst storms, shipwrecks, and financial pressures - a broadcasting licence was finally granted, and Radio Hauraki came to be.

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