Catching up with Comedian Peter Rowley: Morning Host on Central Otago Radio
It’s an odd feeling knowing that you are about to interview the new presenter on Central Otago Radio who was also the voice behind ‘Dog’ from Footrot Flats. It becomes even more daunting, knowing that he is also a comic genius. He has worked with New Zealand comedy icons like Billy T James, McPhail & Gadsby, and Pio; in fact, he really is a comedy icon in his own right!
It’s not surprising that Peter (Harrison) Rowley is an engaging conversationalist. What is unexpected is just how candid he is about his life story and aspirations for Central Otago Radio and Central Otago in general. It’s because of this sense of authenticity that this was perhaps the most enjoyable interview with a “famous” person that I’ve ever done.
The first thing to clear up is the name ‘Peter’ as he was christened Harrison; Peter came from his childhood nickname “Peterkin”. He is absolutely unashamed about being a slightly “odd wee thing” when young and he remembers being told by most of the family to “stop showing off”. The exception here being his grandmother who lived on a farm in Hawea Flat and would ask him to “stand on a chair dear and do that thing you do,” whenever her friends came to visit.
Peter’s father flew in the South Pacific and after doing an agricultural cadetship at Lincoln started a business as an aerial photographer and crop dresser. This explains the root cause behind Peter’s love of aviation and his pursuit of his own personal pilot’s licence. His mother was a nurse at Cromwell Hospital and he was supposed to have been born in Cromwell; however, due to complications his official arrival happened in Timaru.
Peter also acquired a spirit of entrepreneurialism from his parents. His dad would fly over farms taking photo’s and drop a leaflet saying “If you want photographs of your property for your farm management plan please contact….” His mum would then do a ‘colour touch up job’ on a low flying photograph of the farmhouse and these also seemed to sell every time.
Sadly, the effects of flying under stressful conditions in World War II meant that Pete’s dad was not an easy man to live with and his parent’s marriage dissolved while he was still young. Pete’s upbringing was focused around Central Otago with time also spent on Haldon Station in the Canterbury High Country and his formal schooling completed at Christ’s College in Christchurch.
His earliest memory of Cromwell was doing road trips with his grandmother to visit the ‘big’ department store that had an ‘Air Vac’ system running around the building. The shop assistant would put the purchase order and money in a special tube and it would be sucked up a tube only to return with a receipt and exact change. To a young boy, it seemed like mechanical magic!
After years of well-documented comedy success and living in Australia Peter has returned to Central Otago because “it’s my home and I love it.” He’s now the weekday morning host on Central Otago Radio based in Alexandra and is heavily focused on ‘bringing in the Cromwell side of the story.” He’s inspired by the growth in viticulture and tourism.
When I asked him what were the biggest change that he had noticed coming back to New Zealand and he gave a no holds barred answer. “The centralisation of all things media to Auckland, Queenstown has just lost a major radio station, and we had to close our office in Cromwell. What we’ve got here is really special. Community radio is an endangered species and like so many other facets of business, we need to support our local people.’
Pete’s astute view of the world, comedic sense of timing and ability to get people relaxed and talking, blasts through loud and clear across on Central Otago Radio. If you want to hear interviews with local people, more about what is going on in the world (Central Otago and beyond), and enjoy an updated song playlist tune into 91.9 FM. Or you can stream the programme live or download the app to hear his broadcast live every day at www.localradiocentral.nz.