Sean’s the law with a brush


By day, you’ll normally find Sean Drader working at Queenstown’s cop shop. But, when he’s not there, you’d be surprised at where he might pop up. Tracey Roxburgh talks to one of the artiest boys in blue you’re likely to find in town.

SEAN Drader was meant to go to art school.

He lasted a week.

“It was expensive and you had to do foundation studies for a year, so you had to do everything.

“And I just really wanted to do painting.”

To appease his parents the 18-year-old applied, and was accepted into, Australia’s Federal Police.

Drader had moved from Auckland to Canberra when he was 15 – joining the police was seen as his “back-up plan” if art didn’t work out.

The police, though, were willing to pay him well … so plan B became his career.

In 1994, after five years work-ing in Australia, he decided to have a holiday in Queenstown in 1994 to see his father, Chas, who was running former radio station Q92FM.

He’s never quite got round to leaving.

He wanted to join the New Zealand Police but the wait list was long, so, to bide time and earn some coin he became a jack of all trades.

He was a barman and kitchen-hand at McNeill’s, now Yonder; worked as a delivery boy for a wholesale market, now Raeward Fresh; was a landscape gardener; stonemason; scaffolder; and labourer.

He also worked at Q92FM, which was where he and his partner of “24 or 25 years” Alexa Forbes first met.

Forbes, now, among other things, one of Queenstown’s councillors, was at the time a night-time radio announcer, fielding song requests from high school kids, and journalist for the station.

“She never really thought of me as a policeman – she was pretty horrified [when she found out].

“She still is sometimes.”

The pair’s son, Solomon, now 20, seems to have inherited his dad’s artistic ability – he’s studying graphic design in Wellington and showing talent for film-making.

In 1996 Drader was accepted into police college here and, after graduating, took up a posting in Queenstown, initially in general duties. He is now a senior constable working in intelligence.

Put simply: “When people want to know what’s going on, I’m the person who tells them.

“You take a whole lot of information and express it in a way that’s easy, a digestible format.

“It’s kind of like art – you’re showing information and making a point of making things understandable.”

And when it comes to his artistic side, Drader’s also got plenty of other outlets.

He’s continued oil panting – there are canvases hung around his home, some have been exhibited and sold in the Arrowtown Autumn Festival exhibitions.

He’s also done a bit of body painting and, to date, one untitled street painting, on Beach Street last year.

Sean Drader with his Beach Street art work

A keen photographer, digital art’s another bent, particularly colourising old photos. And he volunteers at various community events, including Luma festival.

Three years ago he started learning Te Reo Maori – that’s now prompted him to learn how to sing.

“You kind of join a choir [when you learn Maori] because you’re singing all these songs together.”

After completing four levels in two years, Drader and his fellow students enlisted the services of Queenstown council employee Cory Ratahi to teach them more.

“I wanted to [take singing lessons with Margaret O’Hanlon] to make it better – I feel like the crazy lady in church who’s really loud.

“There’s always one.”

When you ask him where he gets his artistic talent from, the 47-year-old says everyone’s arty in their own way.

“You can get called ‘talented’ because you practise, but I kind of think there should be an outlet for almost everybody.

“A lot of tradesmen do wood-turning; you could be the best at macrame.

“You might be a wordsmith within your work … some people, it’s in their clothing [or] maybe they’re a really good chef.”

Despite being told, regularly, he should consider giving up his “day job”, Drader says that’s not on the agenda.

“It’s not like I’m the best cop in the world … but I still really like the job that I do.”

And, despite some of the issues Queenstown faces, he’s still not in a hurry to end his 25-year holiday.

“I’ve found nothing that would replace it.

“There are plenty of things that need ironing out … but I still love it.”