Up and down the country there's a vast collection of people bound by one idea - radio by, for and about their communities.
There are 12 community access radio stations funded through NZ On Air. They make more than 480 programmes in up to 40 different languages. Their programmes are broadcast locally but available to anyone, anywhere via podcasts. The programmes are made largely by community volunteers, assisted by a handful of dedicated staff.
Access radio programmes cover an incredibly (that D word again!) diverse range from programmes by and for particular ethnic groups, programmes about arts, current affairs, niche music, children's and youth programmes, health, spirituality, programmes by and for people with disabilities and community organisations reaching out with advice and support on numerous topics.
In August 2016 all 12 stations have joined together in a nationwide campaign to celebrate the unique values and qualities of access radio - its called The Big Listen.
Here we feature just some of the magnificent programmes made by access radio.
The Romanie Plai de Dor production team with special guest the Romanian ambassador
Access radio has a unique way of bringing communities together. It is especially important for people who have come here from other parts of the world - it helps maintain language and cultures, but also assists with settling in to their new home in New Zealand.
At Planet FM in Auckland a weekly radio programme Romanie Plai de Dor has become the centrepiece of the Romanian community in Auckland. Lucia (Tibre) Davis, a former journalist in Romania, is a long-standing producer and presenter of the programme. She says the community has many activities and groups all of which have been initiated, promoted or celebrated through the access radio programme.
One of my fond memories is of discussing on air the need for a community newsletter. The very next week 11 year old Alexandru knocked on the door with the first community newsletter that he wrote and edited. It contained local news, Romanian recipes, poetry, tips and advice for happily surviving the Auckland winter. Ten years later, the magazine Romanian Pages promotes New Zealand all over the world.
Lucia says the radio programme connects Romanians around the world, building bridges and sharing experiences.
We use it to build our community: to connect, to brainstorm ideas, to share best practice, to celebrate success. Our most important shows are archived on Planet FM website: the oral history of our community in Auckland, told by us. Planet FM is our living memory.
If one Friday night, from the Planet FM microphone I ask the question: “How many Romanians in Auckland?” The answer that I get is: “Enough to make a positive difference.”
To find out more about Romanie Plai de Dor or any of the Planet FM programmes check out the station's website.
Active citizens: Hosts of Otago Access Radio show The Source (from left) Sam Donkin, Alana Donkin, Kelly Stitely with Dunedin North MP David Clark
A joint initiative between Otago Access Radio and the Dunedin City Council’s Youth Council and Youth Action Committee (YAC) is encouraging young people to become active citizens.
The Source is a 10-part radio/podcast series exploring a range of civics topics, from the roles and responsibilities of Members of Parliament to understanding the functions of local Councils and their rating systems.
Each episode of The Source is researched and presented by Dunedin Youth Council representatives, young people aged between 12 and 17 whose primary role is to work with Council staff and other youth, to design a system that ensures young people can participate in the Council’s decision making, easily and enjoyably.
The concept for the series was developed by YAC member Bokyong Mun in partnership with Otago Access Radio Youth Coordinator Domi Angelo-Laloli.
Bokyong said the Access radio show would encourage the future generation of voters to engage with the decision-making process.
As a student and a young person in Dunedin, I thought there was a gap in terms of access we had to information about citizenship in general and how to be an active citizen within our society. With the local body elections coming up, I thought it was important that the young voters in Dunedin understand what the council does.
NZ On Air commissioned Colmar Brunton to conduct some research into how well community aaccess radio meets the needs of communities. The research was carried out via an online forum in June 2016. Programme makers and people involved with a wide range of community groups were invited to participate. We were looking for views both from the inside and the outside.
The results showed a much loved and valued service. Some of the key comments on the value of access radio are captured in the picture below.
Lina Lastra - La Vida Loca on Otago Access Radio
Otago Access Radio (OAR FM) is providing a unique opportunity for Dunedin-based ethnic groups and individuals to share language, music and culture by making their own radio shows for the station’s new Connecting Cultures Zone.
The Settling In Fund: Office of Ethnic Communities has provided funding for the initiative, which has seen OAR FM create a dedicated zone for cultural broadcasts on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings.
Lina Lastra, Dunedin Multi-Ethnic Council vice-president and host of La Vida Loca says DMEC is delighted with the Connecting Cultures project.
One of the most important messages we promote (among migrants) is that they should feel proud of their roots. With radio, you can share all the things that are important to you and your culture and try to pass that on, not only to New Zealand people but to the next generation.
Connecting Cultures Zone programmes air Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays between 7-9pm on OAR 105.4FM and 1575AM, and are live and podcast from www.oar.org.nz.
Eight shows are already up and running, and the station is in discussion with several other interested groups about developing more programmes for Connecting Cultures:
La Vida Loca (Mondays, 7-8pm), hosted by Dunedin Multi-Ethnic Council (DMEC) vice-president Lina Lastra and University of Otago Spanish language lecturer Dr Adelso Yanez, offers insight into the music and language of a range of Spanish-speaking nations.
Namasthe Telugu (Mondays, 8-8.30pm), presented by Sasi Bhushan, offers music and news from the Telugu region of Southern India.
Chinese Cultural Music Night (Mondays, 8.30-9pm) is presented by Dorothy Li and Hillary Hang, members of the Dunedin Chinese Art/Instrument Association.
Vanakkam Tamizha (Tuesdays, 7-8pm), hosted by Rumesh Duraikannu of Dunedin Tamil Friends, celebrates the richness of Tamil language and culture.
Settlement Information with Citizens Advice Bureau (second Tuesday of the month, 8.30-9pm) delivers the latest information for new migrants to the city.
Shakti Voices (third Tuesday of the month, 8.30-9pm) promotes Shakti’s role as an organisation serving migrant and refugee women of Asian, African and Middle Eastern origin, working to end all forms of violence and discrimination against women of colour.
Hello Kerala (Wednesdays, 8.30-9pm), hosted by Swaroopa Unni, features Malayalam music and news from the Kerala region of in South India, famous for its beaches, rivers, greenery, monsoon and movies.
We help to keep Pacific languages, culture and issues on the air with support for radio stations and radio programmes broadcasting in a variety of Pacific languages.