He’s off the dial

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Queenstown’s “Mr Radio” Chas Drader is tuning out after 49 years on the airwaves.

The veteran DJ on local station The Breeze will hang up his microphone on Monday – he’s been a familiar voice to listeners in the resort since 1985.

But the self-confessed workaholic – who turns 65 the day after finishing up – will begin his retirement by starting his own radio station servicing his home town of Glenorchy.

“I won’t miss the daily drive into Queenstown but I need a good hobby and broadcasting is all I know,” Drader says.

He’s building a home-based studio for his new station called Glenorchy Country and aims to rope in locals for a mix of classic pop music and chat when it launches on June 1.

“I’m not doing it to make money,” Drader insists. “But I can’t just sit at home and watch the grass grow.”

The beanpole broadcaster admits it hasn’t been easy juggling a long career in radio with family life – the dad-of-three and grandfather-of-four has been married four times.

“There were times when seven days a week I used to start at 6am and would still be working at 11pm, which doesn’t help your personal life,” he explains.

“I even used to wear a T-shirt that had the words ‘The microphone is my mistress’ printed on it.”

Drader, originally from New Plymouth, started as a copywriter at a small Government-controlled station in Masterton. He was a radio journalist before becoming a full-time host and moved into the private sector in 1970, joining Auckland’s Radio i when it was in its heyday.

Drader also helped launch the classy, but now defunct Hamilton-based station 898FM.

His arrival in Queenstown kicked off a rollercoaster 15 years.

He originally came to the resort to head up the then Radio Otago’s four-hours daily local operation – but soon came into conflict with his Dunedin and Alexandra-based bosses.

Drader told them Queenstown “is an island within the South Island” that had a different audience with different needs and tastes to the rest of the region.

His words fell on deaf ears, so within a year he quit to set up resort-based Ski Radio to prove his point.
“The establishment saw me as a nuisance,” Drader says

Then controlled by the New Zealand Broadcasting Tribunal, the tiny station was granted a temporary licence but the pin was pulled on it after just a month.

“We had sold three months’ worth of advertising so it was a very difficult time.”

When NZ radio was deregulated, in 1989 Drader obtained a long-term licence and founded Q92 FM in Queenstown. He hosted everything from breakfast to the drive-time shows.

The station was bought by media giants RadioWorks four years ago and relaunched as The Breeze.

“It’s certainly been an interesting journey broadcasting in Queenstown,” Drader reflects.

“A lot of the commercial stations around NZ aim their programmes at bored suburban housewives, but that doesn’t really apply in the Wakatipu.

“People who live in Queenstown are here because they want to be here, not because they have to be here.

“We very much enjoy an outdoor lifestyle so there aren’t too many women here who sit at home twiddling their thumbs and listening to the radio all day.”

Drader adds: “Queenstown has a pace and energy of its own and that’s what makes it so exciting and challenging for a broadcaster.”