27 Apr 2024

Great Barrier's thriving media scene

From The Detail, 5:00 am on 27 April 2024

Five media outlets for fewer than a thousand people. Find out about the outer Hauraki Gulf island where there are news and views for everyone

Great barrier

Photo: Supplied

There's an island in the far reaches of Auckland's territory, sitting off the tip of the Coromandel Peninsula, 30 minutes by air from the city or four hours on the slow boat. 

Aotea Great Barrier is off-grid, it has a population of less than a thousand people ... and most of them embrace their isolation. 

But that doesn't mean they're out of touch. 

Aotea has two fortnightly community newspapers, at least two online news outlets, and a radio station. 

Tim Higham

Writer turned broadcaster Tim Higham Photo: Supplied

It's not because they're making up for a lack of internet availability - Elon Musk's Starlink takes care of that.

"It's an island that attracts characters," says writer turned broadcaster Tim Higham. 

"We want to express ourselves, we don't want to be over-regulated, we love the wild and the free ... it inspires us, it's a beautiful place. But we have to get on, as well.

"So there's this tension between all these rugged off-grid individualists, and having to rely on each other and community. So it brings out the best in self-expressionists .. and we're just going through this wonderful patch, having great media looking after us in different ways." 

Today on The Detail we look at the 'characters' running the local radio station and learn why they think competition is a glorious thing. 

Firstly, what exactly is operating from the island?

There's the newly-launched newsletter the Aotea Advocate; The Barrier Bulletin (or the AA and the BB as Tim Higham says); Aotea TV which is also known as 'The Knewz', published on Facebook and YouTube.

Then you've got AoteaGBI.news which is an online video and written platform (also called The Barrier Independent) which claims to be not only powered by the sun (like everything on the island it's on solar) but also by 'the spirit of volunteerism and community'. 

And then the radio station Aotea FM where Tim Higham's Island Stories - interviews with locals and visitors - are broadcast. It's taken over the frequency from the original station, The Beach, started by Tony Storey, aka Tony Veritas (which means 'truth' in Latin), a controversial figure who's been dragged to the Broadcasting Standards Authority in the past over his anti-police and pro-marijuana proclamations, who seems to write or podcast for everyone. 

The Detail talks to Storey, along with the new owners of the Barrier Bulletin Simone Fougère and Giulio Cavallo, and Tim Higham, who calls himself the Kim Hill of Aotea.

They're all widely different but have something in common - they want to interact with their community of unique and wonderful residents. 

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