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Rock station Channel Z might as well just add an 'N' to its name - it's about to be relaunched as an all-New Zealand music station.

The station is being rebranded as "Kiwi FM" and will play only local music and try to appeal to a broader audience.

Mediaworks CEO Brent Impey said after eight years the Z brand had reached its use-by date.

Channel Z - now Kiwi FM - programme director Grant Hislop said the move was in response to the explosion in the local music scene. Also, the station had suffered after its frequency was changed in 2003.

The shift to an all-NZ format is being touted by backers as the biggest event in local music radio since the days of the Hauraki pirates.

Hislop, who also manages Kiwi bands Goodshirt and Pluto, said the new channel would support fledging musicians as well as established acts.

"Part of the thing for Z is people understanding where it fits and the thing that we are really passionate about is New Zealand music. When we define what we're really into, that's the thing."

He said the channel would be genre-specific, featuring dedicated shows such as hip-hop, punk and retro music. Contemporary artists such as Shihad or Brooke Fraser would probably not play next to Hello Sailor or Dave Dobbyn.

"It's providing a base for all types of New Zealand music, not just alternative rock."

He was confident the new format would work, having noted the success of the annual New Zealand Music Month, during which only local content is played.

While members of the music industry, such as NZ On Air and APRA trumpeted its arrival, heads of rival station 95bFM said they were unsure the channel could survive.

Outgoing programme director Bill Kerton said: "To put it into context, you've got a world of 6 billion people producing music but you're choosing to got with the output of 4 million. Proportionally I wouldn't put my money there."

The five radio hosts currently employed by the station are in the process of renegotiating contracts and the channel is looking to hire up to four more presenters.

The new station will first broadcast on Waitangi Day and it will also be available to Sky Digital subscribers on Sky Channel 100, and online (see link below).

Where to find Z


* 93.8FM in Auckland

* 91.7FM in Wellington

* 99.3FM in Christchurch