That traffic jam you avoided back in 1985? You can thank Peter Everatt.

And the one in 1979, and 1991. And so many more.

It was the longtime radio announcer's sharp eye in the skies above Auckland, riding shotgun in the ZB1 Piper Cherokee plane for around three hours a day over the morning and afternoon traffic peaks, that helped many a motorist reach their destination on time.

Everatt, who retired from Newstalk ZB yesterday after 45 years in broadcasting, spent so much time looking down on the ribbons of roadways of his home city he found himself coining a term familiar now to so many — Spaghetti Junction.

Advertisement

"It was there to be coined. That's what it looked like from the air."

The 64-year-old father and grandfather started his career as a trainee engineer at the New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation in 1973, much to the displeasure of one family acquaintance who later saw the Bachelor of Science in applied maths graduate working at a radio event.

"She said 'I know your parents must be terribly sad you haven't used your degree'. I raced home to my parents and said 'I'm sorry' ... my dad said 'it doesn't matter to us, we want you to be happy'."

His job was similar to that of modern radio producers. He played commercials and sounds, and took phone calls, but there was no automation in the early days.

An early mentor and friend was then-1ZB Morning Host Merv Smith, who fronted the flagship programme between 1961 and 1987 — except one morning when Smith was half an hour late for work.

Everatt stepped in, although he was later convinced Smith had been waiting in his car in a ploy to give Everatt a taste of being on air.

"He knew I was interested [in being an announcer]. It gave me a taste of it and the courage to take the announcer's audition."

After passing he was posted to Radio Caroline in Timaru, but stayed only six months before returning to Auckland as 1ZM's breakfast announcer. He later switched to 1ZB in 1977 as a floating announcer.

It was in a new gig two years later as the drive announcer that he was introduced to the world of traffic, later becoming the station's full time traffic presenter.

Taking to the air — the station also had three cars that roamed the city watching out for congestion — was an important development as 1ZB's rival was already in the skies.

"Traffic was a growth industry. The company was really keen to get in there."

Despite all those hours above ground, Everatt only had one white-knuckle moment.

A squall whipped up and the pilot deviated to fly above the southern motorway before telling a curious Everatt the reason — he'd been trained to fly over roadways if an emergency landing was possible.

The pair eventually landed safely — at the airport.

Over his career Everatt worked through many big news events, from the death of Princess Diana to the Canterbury earthquakes and 10 Olympic Games.

On September 11 2001 he rushed to the newsroom after watching live TV footage of the World Trade Centre's south tower collapsing.

"I thought 'that's the end of the world, I might go to work'. When something like that happens broadcasters come out from wherever they are to congregate where they can be useful."

Newstalk ZB head of talk Jason Winstanley said Everatt cared deeply about others, and that could take the sting out of the worst news.

"Even when Peter has bad news to deliver he does it with such compassion, that it doesn't seem as bad."

His longtime colleague was also someone who gave his time freely to help others.

For Everatt, it was all part of a job that, from the earliest days until the last, yesterday, he just enjoyed.

"Broadcasting is meant to be enjoyed. It's fun, it's creative, it's giving of yourself," he said.

"It's an entertainment industry — if you can't have fun making it you're not getting it."