Final signoff from Newstalk ZB veteran

16:00, Dec 21 2013

Another veteran broadcaster is about to fade into the ether - Newstalk ZB Wellington host Justin du Fresne has been switched off after a radio career stretching back half a century.

Du Fresne, who pioneered New Zealand's first radio pop music show on 2ZB in the 1960s, has been eased out of the Newstalk ZB Wellington studio by The Radio Network.

His weekly Wellington on Saturday morning magazine show was broadcast for the last time yesterday and will be replaced from January 11 by the networked Jack Tame Morning Show.

The 72-year-old broadcaster, whose departure follows the recent retirement announcement of old radio colleague Geoff Robinson, said it was not his decision to go.

"They've just decided they wanted a change.

"It's sad to go this way. Everything comes to an end. How much longer I would have continued I don't know, but I was enjoying what I was doing and it was working well. But as a friend said, ‘It is what it is' and we'll pull down the curtain."


He said local radio was disappearing as MediaWorks and The Radio Network shifted to a network philosophy.

"I think time will prove that philosophy wrong, but what would I know," said Du Fresne, who started his career as a clerical cadet for the New Zealand Broadcasting Service in 1960.

He first went on air as an announcer in 1961. It was very simple - announcing what was coming up and what had just been aired and giving the time.

"It was a very public service ethos, but when the Beatles were invented and pop music arrived, the audience wanted plenty of it, I became a DJ."

He and colleague John Douglas pioneered The Sunset Show in 1963.

A dedicated late afternoon pop music programme was a revolution for the station. The first show opened with Cliff Richards' Summer Holiday, although Du Fresne's preference was for harder-driving American stars such as Jerry Lee Lewis and Fats Domino.

After six years he took a long break, working for Silverdale Knitwear and then running his own menswear shop in his home town of Waipukurau.

Enticed back into radio after being invited back for the 20th anniversary of The Sunset Show, he signed on as a staff announcer in November 1983 and stayed on for 30 years as ZB progressively shifted into talkback.

He has no regrets. "I've been very lucky. I've worked for a great radio station and I've been there in the glory days of radio. I don't think it will ever again be the force that it was."

Du Fresne is proud of the fact he never made any dreadful on-air clangers, that his political opinions were hard to pigeonhole, and that he alway retained an open mind.

However, he has strong opinions on at least one subject - he loathes shock-jocks and the peddling of ignorance and prejudice that he says some talkback hosts foment to wind up their listeners.

He has nothing but high regard for his Wellington colleagues, although he has a weary resignation for the bosses who finally pulled him off air.

"They're just doing what they think is the right thing to do to attract this bonanza called youth."

His parting comment was a polite sign off: "Thank you and good night."

The Radio Network's Wellington general manager Rhys Nimmo praised Du Fresne for his commitment. "Justin has worked for Newstalk ZB for decades, both as our man in Wellington through the week and latterly on Saturday morning.

"We're hugely appreciative of his efforts and enormous contribution to the success of the station."

Sunday Star Times