He worked in the building industry on and off for 15 years but now Aaron Mooar has found his true station in life — Raglan Community Radio.
The 41-year-old is the station’s first paid employee and for the past few weeks has been juggling his 30 hours a week between his hands-on Morning Show every weekday, dealing with technical issues and generally managing a station that’s an incorporated society and depends heavily on grants to stay on air.
Not that any of this is particularly new to Aaron — he’s been involved with Raglan Community Radio for around nine years now.
But the focus now is a little different for a person who concedes he’s not what you’d call mainstream and is perhaps best remembered for his polarising ‘Under the Radar’ show.
“It was very political, alternative, underground news,” Aaron explains. “It was the sort of show people either loved or hated.”
He agrees he’s still “into” it all but emphasises that’s not what his new paid job and the revamped Morning Show are all about.
“The Morning Show’s dedicated to the community … but it had kind of drifted away a bit,” he says. “Now it’s in a process of renewal and we have come up with something better in terms of services to the community.”
The “we”, he stresses, is the Raglan Community Radio committee which has spent a busy couple of years surveying opinion and then strategizing, reviewing and brainstorming before writing policies and the likes of job descriptions.
Aaron says the new-format Morning Show is the result of the committee’s realisation that most people or community groups simply didn’t have the time to do a show for an hour or two.
“Only Xtreme Waste had a two-hour show,” he says. “Now people can just come in and be interviewed. I interviewed Xtreme Waste this morning (Monday) and will do community groups like the arts council regularly, and I alternate each week between Clint Baddeley and Rodger Gallagher, catching up on projects and issues.”
Aaron loves the community inter-reaction that the small studio at the town hall entrance encourages, particularly as it shares a grand entranceway with the town hall itself and with Waikato Environment Centre. It’s important to have a “shop front”, he adds.
“People are coming and going all the time,” he points out, with the local kindy crew for example in and out of the town hall last Monday morning after their successful silent auction at the weekend. And Aaron was able to use their positive feedback as an item on his daily news bulletin.
Aaron hopes the station’s audience will grow and “that lots tune into the Morning Show, especially since the survey showed people were really hungry for local info”.
But he concedes the station “still feels fairly fragile” without the sort of core funding WEC or the arts council, for instance, are able to get.
He says Raglan Community Radio has always got some funding from groups such as Wel Energy Trust and Trust Waikato, and does get small grants for equipment, “but we need regular funding in place and we need to increase income from advertising”.
However he adds that funding from the Lotteries Commission is now emerging as a “definite possibility”.
Aaron recalls Raglan Community Radio did a lot of fundraising three or four years ago so it could set up a new transmitter on the hill behind Xtreme Waste off Te Hutewai Road. That gave better coverage but also meant a change in broadcasting frequency, from 96.6 to 98.1.
“Of course it’s hard with the hollow here (in Raglan) to get into every home which is the reason the station started in the first place,” he says. “People here couldn’t pick up Hamilton stations.”
Aaron’s lived here since 2000 and used to commute over the hill but “like everyone I wanted to work in Raglan”.
He says he’d “much rather do this (radio work) and live on a pittance” than work in architecture for which he’s trained, earning say $100,000 a year. For him and his family, it’s all about lifestyle and getting involved in “an awesome community”.