The history of the Mid North Coast Amateur Radio Group
Otherwise known as - look at my butthurt!!
This is the story of my involvement in the Mid North Coast Amateur Radio Group (MNCARG) which was based in Coffs Harbour from 2007 to 2014. It is a very personal story told entirely from my perspective. It tells of what happened to me and my opinions of those events. You may hear others give a very different version of events as they saw things differently. And some will tell a story which is complete fantasy. But the following is the truth as I saw it.
I am no longer involved in amateur radio. I gave up my hobby of 35 years because of the MNCARG.
In 2007 some members of the Coffs Harbour and District Amateur Radio Club (CHADARC) were becoming disillusioned. They wanted to be members of a radio club which was active and be involved in group activities in amateur radio. At that time CHADARC was not such a club. So seven people met in the Coffs Harbour hotel and formed the MNCARG. Those seven people became the first committee. I was vice president. The man who had been the main force behind creating the new club became the president.
For the next two years the club went very well. We took part in amateur radio events and raised money by building antenna kits to sell. We got two repeaters on air. Our president proved himself to be invaluable to the club. He was a good communicator. A man who made things happen. He also had contacts in the radio trade and secured huge discounts on repeater equipment. He was able to locate these repeaters on commercial sites. He was exactly the sort of bloke you wanted to head a ham radio club.
I wrote a monthly newsletter and wrote and maintained the club's website. These two tasks took a lot more time than I first imagined. But I didn't mind as I was having fun being involved in such an active and friendly club. In the clubs second year we had almost forty members. Twice the number I thought would join.
During the third year the first signs of negative comments started. There was grumbling in the ranks. The members were not happy that our president was making some decisions without consulting the club. Decisions requiring expenditure of club funds were being made without taking a vote and the club wasn't happy. But because the president was doing such a good job nobody said anything.
The president announced that there would be a third repeater. It was to be installed at a house belonging to a friend of his. We had already decided we would not put repeaters in private residences. We wanted them separate from any single member as they were club property and not under any single persons control. But this decision was ignored. We didn't do any on-site testing as we had done prior to fitting our existing two repeaters. Two of us did some computer modelling of the expected coverage. But we were told by a club member who lived close to the planned site that the modelling was wrong. This member was ignored and a few days later the repeater was fitted and on air. We then found out the files we were modelling coverage from were inaccurate, and our nearby member was quite right to doubt them. The repeaters coverage was hopeless.
We then learned that the president had spent $800 of club funds to employ two men from a local communications company to erect the repeater antenna. Without asking the club. I drove past and saw the antenna was a straight pole with a vertical on it. There were five or six club members who would happily have fitted the antenna for free. But nobody was asked, or knew the installation was happening on that day. After this the grumbling within the ranks became much louder. But still nobody said anything.
Then the president sent out an email via the club mailing list stating that due to government regulations only people qualified up to a certain level would be allowed to access repeater sites. So only the president and people he employed would be allowed to visit the clubs repeaters. No club members would be allowed. That is when I finally said something. I asked for confirmation of these requirements. I pointed out that no other clubs seemed to know about them. Some other club members spoke out once I had broken the ice and discussion resulted suggesting changes to the club constitution to ensure more transparency. The president did not answer.
The next meeting was the AGM where the president announced he was retiring for health reasons. We never heard from him again.
I am convinced that he assumed the club would fall apart without him and he thought he would be invited back as president. This would allow him the opportunity to demand removal of the "troublemakers". But in reality, everyone was quite glad he was gone. We had lost his skills and contacts, but we had gained democracy.
The club continued as before. But now with regular committee meetings and votes being taken whenever appropriate. Unfortunately the presidential dispute had discouraged some from renewing their membership so numbers were down. But the club was still viable. In 2011 we held a field day with traders and clubs exhibiting. I organised about 80% of this event. Again it took a lot more time than I expected it would, but I didn't mind as everyone had a great day and some said it was the best small town event they had attended. I was pleased with this and was looking forward to helping at next year's field day.
Around this time the group was offered some equipment from a deceased estate. The club secretary wanted to buy it for the club. He made an offer which was not accepted. Weeks went past and nothing happened. I asked the secretary if the club was going to buy the gear and he said they were not. So I asked if it was OK if I bought some of it. He said that was no problem. So myself and a friend bought the equipment between us.
A week later at the next committee meeting the secretary raved furiously at me. He accused me of stealing the equipment and of betraying the club. When I pointed out he had said it was OK for me to buy it, he seemed puzzled but continued being angry. I was surprised as we were friends. We visited each other's homes and chatted on the phone. If he was upset by something I had done he could have spoken to me about it. But he didn't. He just wanted to be angry. I was later to find out he was under a huge amount of stress in his personal life and this stress overflowed into delusional paranoia towards me.
Over the next year I found more and more radio hams stopped speaking to me. The secretary was telling everyone I was a thief and a cheat. I was accused of stealing club equipment which I had last seen in the back of the secretarys ute. I went to the Lismore club field day and two people suddenly stepped back away from me wide eyed in horror when they realised who I was. It turned out these two were friends of the secretary. His lies were making me into a monster.
The next field day was cancelled as the committee, influenced by the secretary, retrospectively deemed the 2011 event a failure. All the work I had done for the club was either written off as worthless or attributed to someone else.
MNCARG was no longer a friendly club. The aggressive accusing atmosphere stopped more membership renewals. By 2013 the club members totalled the secretary and three of his followers. When I learned that they had illegally changed the club constitution without asking anyone I withdrew from the club and did not renew my membership. The constitution said that if the club closed any funds would go to charities of the members choosing. Now it said the funds would go to the closest amateur radio club. I.e. CHADARC. This showed that the committee were preparing to close down the club.
MNCARG was shut down and the secretary joined CHADARC to immedietely become an office holder. At this time $7000 still remained in MNCARGs bank account. I don't know who has it now.
In 2014 I dismantled my radio station and sold it. You can only be angry for so long before it effects your health. I now have hobbies where the people are normal and friendly. Or at least in comparison to amateur radio they are.
As late as 2016 I heard reports from a friend that one of the ex-secretaries minions was fishing for information about me. Why? Just make up some lies! That's what's been happening for the previous five years!!
MNCARG was a learning experience for me. I can now recognise a good number of destructive personality disorders and avoid becoming involved with their carriers. But I also see I made a number of mistakes.
1- I should not have left CHADARC to form MNCARG. I should have stuck with CHADARC. I know a few people were insulted by the way the two clubs were set into competition. I was swept along with the enthusiasm of it all and contributed to that. CHADARC has some good guys in it and I should have shown more respect. I regret this now.
2- As vice president of MNCARG I should not have let the president act alone without club approval. The club as a whole should have acted quickly when it was noticed that proper procedure was not being followed. This would have avoided a lot of unpleasantness.
3- I should not have allowed one man's paranoia to destroy my amateur radio hobby. I should have fought back and not become the victim.
But the victim I remain.
One day I will return to amateur radio. When I live somewhere else.