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Community radio seeks the power to help out in a disaster

Hutt Valley community radio station Hutt Radio, which broadcasts on 88.3FM and via iHeartRadio, is reaching out to its supporters to help raise funds for two generators to enable it to stay on air during a natural disaster.

During events like an earthquake or flood, radio is the invisible emergency service. While police, fire and ambulance and Civil Defence are on the ground, radio is informing people what’s happening, how to stay safe, and where to go for help.

In 2015, when flooding “shut down” Wellington and took a life, Hutt Radio was fortunate that its mains power remained connected. With the then Mayor Ray Wallace live in the studio, on the phone to local Civil Defence, the station was able to broadcast the information people needed to stay safe, and later, get help.

A year later, in the aftermath of the Kaikoura quake, it was a small local radio station, operating out of a caravan, that gave locals the information they needed – from where they could get a hot shower to the progress of repairing roads, water supplies and the mobile network (https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/national/319192/radio-‘nutters’-move-in-to-help-shaken-kaikoura)

When Cyclone Gabrielle hit the east coast, it was a local radio announcer who kept the community informed by sleeping at the station and broadcasting notes slipped under the door (https://www.1news.co.nz/2023/02/21/gisborne-radio-legend-keeping-locals-connected-amid-the-storms/). Mobile cell towers were out of action for days or weeks, while power was cut to many places. Civil Defence say a simple and cheap transistor radio should be part of everyone’s disaster kit. But to keep people informed and safe, radio needs to be able to stay on air even if the power is out.

“We donated one of our generators to the Cyclone Gabrielle relief effort,” explains Hutt Radio General Manager Rex Widerstrom, “and the other one was destroyed, ironically, by weather. It’ll take over $4,700 to replace the equipment we gave away and lost, so we’re hoping the community will see the value in having a localized source of Civil Defence information focused specifically on the Hutt Valley, and donate to the campaign.”

As part of the campaign, the station has collected press clippings and photographs of previous natural disasters in the Hutt, going all the way back to 1931. “Each time, the floods are described as ‘the worst yet’,” Mr Widerstrom notes.

Part of Givealittle and The Funding Network’s Generosity Generator program, the campaign ends on 17 November. Donations can be made at https://givealittle.co.nz/fundraiser/give-hutt-radio-the-power-to-help-when-disaster



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