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In the 1970's, Pirate Radio Stations were all the rage. It was seen as a badge of honour to quietly admit to listening to Pirate Radio. As the internet becomes increasingly censored, are we going to turn the clock back to those heady days of defiance and consider buying a shortwave receiver? if not, what will be the modern-day equivalent of Pirate Radio?

My first encounter with Pirate Radio was in New Zealand as a schoolgirl in 1968.

The New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation had been opposed to commercial Radio stations and was stonewalling all applications for privately owned broadcasters. A group of young men decided to get around the ban by getting a ship and broadcasting from International Waters – in the Hauraki Gulf outside the 3 mile territorial-water limit. They named her Tiri and, as she was being towed out to sea, Tim Shadbolt was one of those who helped her escape the clutches of the “establishment” and make her way to her destination. Tiri foundered on the rocks off Great Barrier Island. But that is another tale to tell.


 Now, no one outside of New Zealand has probably ever heard of Sir Tim Shadbolt, a man for whom I have long held a great fondness. His political views are the total opposite of my own, but I could not help but admire his tenacity and his sense of humour.

He is currently Mayor of the small city of Invercargill, home to the late great Burt Munro of " The World's Fastest Indian"  fame.  A town that I hold in great embrace. 

His first stint as Mayor was back in 1983 when he was elected Mayor for Waitemata, part of the city of Auckland, New Zealand's biggest city.

He celebrated his unexpected win by bringing out his now infamous concrete mixer ( “ Karl Marx “ ) and towing it behind the Mayoral car at the Henderson Christmas Parade. One story I heard was that he would drive the Daimler around on Sunday mornings and ask local Maori lads if they wanted a drive in the Daimler and come and lay some concrete pads for picnic tables in public parks? Apparently, there was no shortage of volunteers to mix the concrete because they got a drive in the flash car.

As a young man, Tim was a radical anti-establishment left wing Activist who seemed to spend a lot of time protesting and getting arrested. In fact, he seemed to be very good at being arrested because he did it 33 times. Which will always beat the number of times he has been elected Mayor, and that is saying something.

One of my favourite recollections of his younger protesting days was over the Pirate Radio Ship the Tiri. For those youngsters reading this, Radio Hauraki was quite the thing back in the 1960’s. 


I vividly recall listening to Radio Hauraki all of those years ago when they did the unthinkable… they broadcast the uncensored version of The Beatles song “ The Ballad of John and Yoko. “ Back then, the word “ Christ “ was bleeped out and Pirate Radio broadcast it without the bleep. It was the talk of my school for days.  Afterward,  we tried to digest the impact of such a daring and wicked song! Interestingly, I heard it in my Religious Education class where we were able to listen to the song as it aired on Radio Hauraki – our discussion point was “ Do you believe that the use of the word “ Christ “ in this song should be censored? “ It was a very heated discussion.


He organised Jumping Sundays , a weekly event that included music and lollies, and the Council decided was getting too popular and they had to apply for a permit. Tim and a group of his mates turned up at the Council offices with bags of jellybeans for the Councillors and one chap was offended by the jellybeans and Shadbolt was arrested under the Grocer’s Act for distributing food in a public place without a license. I think that was his second arrest.

His gift for getting up and speaking on a soapbox in the public domain is something that he puts down to his early childhood. His father was a Pilot in the Fleet Air Arm and died when Tim was young. Following his father’s death his Mum took him to Holland for a year to be closer to her side of the family. When they returned to New Zealand, Tim was put in a class for foreign students and was taught to speak English. Their teacher was an opera singer and she taught him the power of the human voice.

three col Tim Shadbolt in Albert Park Photo by Murray Cammick 1

He was sent to prison twice and when serving time in Mt Eden, he was befriended by George Wilder, the Houdini of Kiwi criminals.

After his Knighthood he said “"I must admit I have had a rather colourful past,  but that gives me a bit of joy in this situation as well, because it means ultimately we are all equal."

Will he stay on as Mayor as he in in his 70's? In my opinion, he will. After all, as he cheekily said once “ I’ve heard if you die in Office, they pay for your funeral. Maybe I’m doing some long-term planning. “

But I have wandered off subject, as I often do these days. So I will get back to Pirate Radio.

All those decades ago, it was the left-wing activists who spoke up for free speech and put themselves on the line for a laugh and also a chance to stand up to the " Big Brother " mentality of the " Establishment."

We seem to now be living in an alternate Universe, where the left-wing are defending the oppression and the right-wing are fighting to defy the restrictions, oppression and suffocation of our freedoms.  How strange is that?

Perhaps that is why I always liked Sir Tim Shadbolt. Because, in reality, he fought for what I still believe in: Freedom. Tim may have gotten the wrong hero to worship, but his heart was in the RIGHT place. 

As our politicians and governments sink lower into the swamp and moral decay of censorship, we have come full circle to a collision of ideologies. Where the name of the brand means nothing anymore. It is the ingredients that are shoved into the recipe that matter.


So called left wing parties and right wing parties are so busy trying to appeal to the same audience of fringe dwellers in the group-think concrete mix called modern life that neither one appeals to the silent majority. Often, it will come down to which brand represents our views, not what the ingredients are.

When brands go woke, I will abandon them as they have abandoned me. 

They may attract the rainbow monkeys and vegan vultures who prey, not on animals, but on the gullibility of the media and the professional politicians - but ignore the People who make up the mainstream voters. 

The only way that they can win is by cheating, manipulating the votes and stifling free speech.

If censorship continues, particularly on the internet, what is our future? To create the modern-day equivalent of Pirate Radio?

And of course, the next question is how will that Pirate Radio be created? It is not as simple as towing an old boat off the coast into territorial waters anymore. It requires skill and a great deal of expertise to navigate the cables, satellites and servers that deliver information to a person's home computer or telephone. 

Or will it be that we will have to turn the clock back, rush out and buy a ham radio and start calling ourselves " The Bandit " or " Smokey" ?


Hang on it a minute, don't we do that already? 



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