It was a chance conversation in a dentist's chair that led to a 20-year career in radio for retiring Coast Access Radio manager Graeme Joyes.

Graeme started as a technician before doing everything from being an announcer, broadcaster and cleaner, to pouring concrete for a new transmitter.

It started when his wife Heather was working with an Ōtaki dentist.

One day, the Coast Access Radio manager at the time, Hillary Hudson, was in the chair getting dental work done when she mentioned the radio station urgently needed a technician.

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So Graeme's radio career began.

On leaving school, Graeme had started as a banker. working for ANZ.

Abandoning this to become a technician for New Zealand Post in Taumarunui, it was a quick step from post office technician to radio technician.

"My technical qualifications covered radio and I was hired," Graeme said.

Graeme's technical aptitude will not surprise many in Kāpiti, who have benefited over the years from his technical help, and his generosity with his skills.

Graeme worked at the post office until 1985.

"I joined at the start of the technology wave," he said.

"I received superb training and I loved the work."

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He resigned to study theology and was a church pastor in Putaruru and Ōtaki before ill health intervened.

Pumping gas at BP in Ōtaki for four years helped him recover from burnout and depression and enabled him to take the job as technician at Coast Access Radio.

"Right from childhood, I've been fascinated with radio," he said.

"As a 7-year-old, I hid under the bed covers listening to programmes like 'Life with Dexter'.

"Radio communicates. It is not about the best camera angle, showing beautiful people. Radio can communicate at a much deeper and more interesting level."

Coast Access Radio, based in Waikanae, is one of 12 independent access radio stations in New Zealand.

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It has been a finalist in the New Zealand Radio Awards 22 times since 1997.

"I have loved my 20 years at Coast Access Radio," Graeme says.

"It has great people and has been really interesting work.

"I had the satisfaction of knowing I was involved with a team of people adding value to the community.

"I never woke up and thought, duh, I have to go to work. For 20 years, it was, YES, I'm going to work.

"Access radio allows the community to have a voice, to tell their stories, to share their passions and concerns. And that's not time-limited to a 3-minute sound bite - the programme can be as long as needed."

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Graeme said it's the people he's interviewed and worked with who have given him his greatest thrill.

"The best and most interesting stories don't necessarily come from the famous, but the ordinary person.

"I interviewed the guy who was part of the gang who fuelled the battleship Hood as it sailed to confront the Bismarck during World War II.

"He believes he was the last person to wave and shout goodbye before it sailed to its fateful encounter."

Graeme believes access radio has an important role in broadcasting because commercial radio is struggling to survive in the current economic environment and, because they are often Auckland-based, they struggle to have a local community focus.

"Access broadcasting allows groups like the Heart Foundation, Dementia NZ, Parkinson's as well as arts, cultural and religious groups to produce in-depth programmes for both their members and the general public."

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Graeme paid tribute to the chairman of the Coast Access Radio Trust, Michael Scott, for his support, friendship and counsel for the whole 20 years he's been with the station.

He will continue working two days a week at Coast Access but will use his newly acquired spare time to paint the house, help run his church's Mainly Music programme and advance the construction of his model railway layout.

At a function to mark Graeme's retirement last week, incoming manager Todd Zaner paid tribute to Graeme's work and leadership.

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