It’s the end of an era for the volunteer voices behind Oamaru Heritage Radio, who will all now broadcast from their homes.
Founder Charlie Fraser said the station had been running for close to 20 years, initially from the old Lane’s Emulsion building in Harbour St, before ending up at its Itchen St premises.
The first official broadcast was on April 20, 2001. The transmitter was small in those days, and could cover only a few blocks around Harbour St.
After a couple of moves and transmitter upgrades, Oamaru Heritage Radio now transmits on two frequencies – 88.3FM and 107FM – and with an antenna on the South Hill and at the North End, the station covers all of Oamaru and some surrounding areas.
Mr Fraser and his wife Eunice helped start the station and after moving to Invercargill six years ago, they continued to broadcast from there.
“We’ve got one DJ in Christchurch, three in Oamaru, one at Maheno and two near Invercargill,” he said.
He was pragmatic about the studio closure, saying it had been in the pipeline for years.
“I think it’s fairly much what we’ve got to do to keep the station on air, and we have a lot of elderly listeners.”
The studio closed on Monday, although things will remain largely unchanged for its loyal listeners who were mostly in the 50-plus age group.
The playlist was a mixture of easy listening and country music, with a small amount of classical, he said.
The Covid-19 lockdown last year was the “final straw” for the Itchen St premises.
“The costs of rent of the premises were getting way in excess of what was coming in.”
The station’s costs had been mostly covered by tourist donations, due to a bus stop right outside the studio.
“There were a lot of interested people who actually worked in radio in other places,” Mr Fraser said.
“We had one lady from the BBC … she couldn’t work out how one person could do the whole lot. I think she was getting worried about her position.”
Oamaru-based presenters Alison Paulsen and Jim Forbes were both sad about the studio’s closure and said they would miss it.
Mrs Paulsen said she thought she would mostly miss the contact with other people.
She had worked off and on in community radio for about 30 years.
She was involved in Christchurch before jumping on board in Oamaru, and was one of the station’s first announcers here.
Mr Forbes had also been involved with the station since its inception.
His music collection of 4000 to 5000 CDs and about 2000 tapes had been invaluable to the station, Mrs Paulsen said.
Christchurch-based country singers Malcolm (Smokey) and Lorraine Marshall were fan favourites, she said.
“I get a phone call just about every show requesting Smokey and Lorraine. They’re regulars.”
The Topp Twins, Jules and Linda, had also made guest appearances.