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Pirates of the Airwaves



Network: TVNZ/TVOne

Director: Charlie Haskell

Producer/Writers: Donna Malane & Paula Boock


Auckland Viaduct, October 1966: a group of determined young men defy the police and government and, to the cheering of their fans, launch a coastal ship that has been converted to a pirate radio station which they intend to use to broadcast from the Hauraki Gulf.


It is the birth of commercial radio in New Zealand. Crazy as it seems, this is what it took to break the stronghold the Broadcasting Corporation had on national broadcasting at the time, despite a growing youth audience clamouring for radio that was in touch with their generation. Radio Hauraki, as the pirate station was known, broadcast their popular mix of music and chat from the so-called ‘safe’ international waters 50 miles from Auckland beyond the reach of government legislation, on and off from 1966-1970.


They weren’t the first. Radio Caroline in Britain was trying to broadcast from the English Channel, the story of which was the basis for the comedy film The Boat that Rocked. But the Hauraki endeavor, unlike all other international attempts, succeeded.


And it was no joke. Enduring political interference, harassment, court cases, crippling financial woes and shipwrecks along the way, the endeavour cost them more than they could ever have known.


Pirates of the Airwaves is a feature-length docu-drama, with a unique mix of drama, interviews, archival footage and retro music that recreates the true and extraordinary story of the Hauraki pirates.


Pirates of the Airwaves is supported by NZOA and TVNZ’s Doco-Drama fund and premiered on TVNZ in July 2014. 

It is available to view online in New Zealand here.

The DVD is available here and other retail outlets.


All enquiries regarding distribution and sales to

Rialto Channel Film Awards 2014 

Finalist | Best Television Drama

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