On the job: Kevin Ikin - Radio NZ

Kevin Ikin has been reporting on rural news for the past 30 years and was an active member of the PSA for the majority of that time. He speaks about his recent retirement and the importance of rural news.

Kevin Ikin in the studio. Photo courtesy Radio NZ.

Kevin Ikin in the studio. Photo courtesy Radio NZ.

By Jess McAllen

When Kevin Ikin was starting out in journalism one of his first union acts was to hand-write a story. It doesn’t sound like a strange thing for someone to do at the Otago Daily Times newspaper, but this was in the age of typewriters – and not using one was a major time-waster.

The act was part of a protest by the New Zealand Journalists’ Union that demanded that media companies provide typewriters, says Kevin.

“In those days, when you joined a newspaper as a reporter the first thing you’d do would be go out and get a typewriter. They didn’t provide them. This was in the days before computers, it was basic stuff. A bit unbelievable now.”

Kevin made his name in rural reporting, joining Radio New Zealand’s commercial station, 4ZB, in 1975 and later the rural team where he worked on daily bulletins and a Saturday morning programme Country Saturday (now Country Life).

“We had a team of about a dozen people around the country doing rural news and features. That was all cut back – I can’t remember when. It went down to two rural reporters and a couple of people doing Country Life.”

Back then, before “legislation to constrain unions” came into place, he says it was normal to be in the union and hopes people reconsider union action as a legitimate response in 2015.

“If the instability in newspapers and radio keep going and more and more staff keep being laid off, I think journalists and other staff should have a serious think about whether they should get union representation.

“We’ve seen in lots of sectors now, like retail and hospitality, that when people don’t have anyone to fall back on there are numerous cases of people being victimised, bullied and not given a fair go.”

Kevin retired a couple of months ago, but is planning on remaining an associate member of the PSA. He also intends to reignite his passion for folk music – he plays guitar, banjo and mandolin. A keen gardener, Kevin hopes to do some more work for Forest and Bird.
He says he hasn’t thought about whether he will do anymore radio work.

“I don’t think I’ll miss the daily grind, but I do miss the daily contact with colleagues in radio and all the rural people.”

The importance of rural news can’t be overstated, says Kevin.
“Rural New Zealand is still the biggest single contributor to the economy through farming and horticulture.”

Issues he covered ranged from what scientists and researchers were doing, to rural health issues, to political decisions.

“Environment is a huge issue. The continual process of making sure farming doesn’t damage the environment and trying to put rules in place so that dairy farms, in particular, don’t pollute waterways.”

Kevin says rural news provides a bridge for urban dwellers, and there’s always a story.

“What’s happening in the rural sector affects everyone else in the country. If you’re a farmer or a grower, it’s a challenging livelihood and there’s never a dull moment.”