Board meetings are not a priority for Mark Perry. Nothing stands in the way of good surf, not even ownership of a thriving radio station.
Radio Hauraki’s original Morning Pirate, Mark is one of the country’s top broadcasters with a string of radio awards to his name. Remember his Family Health Diary segments on TV One? Or his Briscoes voice-over ads, brand voice for the Living Channel, or… and… plus… The list is endless. But when it comes to an all-round good guy title, that’s been awarded by the Mangawhai community. Locals have applauded him for his philanthropic contributions and for keeping the area rocking to an eclectic mix of music via Heads FM and The Wireless.
What’s surprising is the structure of Mark’s privately owned and operated station. A few DJs glued to a studio? Spoiler alert - everything is automated, freeing Mark up to chase the best surf breaks or travel around the globe. “Technology has given me freedom to run a radio station from the bush in Te Arai. The arrival of broadband around 2007 meant my wife and I could escape Auckland and move permanently to Mangawhai. I’ve always been a techie, balanced out with surfing. Living the dream? yes!” Mark says.
Humble beginnings are the best way to describe the launch of Heads FM. Throwback to Y2K and the station beamed out of an old iMac. Running from the rooftop of Mangawhai Lodge at a ½ watt on 88.1FM and just covering a 4km radius, belting out tracks from Mark’s favourite iTunes library. It was a weekend hobby, an escape from the day job at Radio Hauraki. Back then it would hiccup regularly and he’d race down from his Te Arai bach to fix things.
In 2008, buoyed on by positive feedback, Mark purchased a “Small Community” FM licence on 106.4FM and continued to provide a local voice for the community with greater coverage. “This gave me 20 watts and opened up a viable business. Broadband meant I could work from home, or away. I could say goodbye to the rat race and its McRadio cheesy formats. People ask why I haven’t picked a genre, but I’ve purposely kept the music varied to suit a wide audience and to expose people to different artists. Maximum music time has been important, I roll out less than four minutes of ads per hour.”
Hiring DJ’s has never been tempting Mark’s here for the lifestyle not to be a manager. While time checks, surf reports, and weather updates could be handy, he believes people access that info from mobiles anyway. He’s unapologetically and unashamedly keeping it simple. “Yes, that makes it a little rough around the edges sometimes, but it also means I can support non-profit groups in the area. Hey, it’ll never be a Rupert Murdoch success, but I’m happy.”
Many won’t realise it, but Mark recently funded a solar power backup system as part of the Emergency Response Plan for the region. He can now share live updates 24/7 for three days should power cut out in an emergency. He also competed with the big radio guys at auction in 2014, purchasing the licence for 90.4FM, safeguarding his patch with The Wireless format and getting greater coverage with a transmitter site high on Bream Tail, giving coverage to Marsden Cove, Ruakaka, Waipu, Langs Beach, Te Arai, Pakiri and of course, Mangawhai.
From day one, Mark has been grateful for the support of his original listeners and advertisers. Does Spotify worry him? “Nah, radio will always have its naysayers, but listenership just keeps increasing as we’re streaming online as well. Local radio connects a community.”