‘Heel Boys’ - Queenstown’s first female realtor arrives in town
When Steph Drader arrived in Queenstown back in 1985, the local real estate industry was “pretty much a blokes’ reign”, she says.
She’d just spent five years learning the ropes with The Professionals, at its Timaru franchise, and came to town to open an office for the company down here, with friend Kay Hobson.
“We became the first two women agents in Queenstown,” Steph says. “We sat on a roll of carpet on our office floor, (where Leonardo’s was), with just a telephone.”
Steph quickly dug her high heels in, drawing the few incumbent males out from behind their desks.
“They sat in their offices like shopkeepers taking orders,” she laughs. “We donned high heels and walked around town meeting people then plucked up courage to go onto building sites. They were overwhelmed, and said, ‘Gee, real estate agents don’t come and see us. We have to go and see them’.” But it was the mid-1980s and that was about to change.
Steph and Kay picked up a lot of listings from those building sites and spent every evening, firstly at O’Connell’s Hotel, then Wicked Willies and The Mountaineer, touting for business.
It was good grounding for a 40-year career in real estate.
Daughter of a Southland-Central Otago farmer, Steph always had a connection to Queenstown Lakes. “Dad brought us here as wee kids, holidaying in the two-storeyed house at the top of Shotover Street,” she says.
When the family moved to Mount Allen Station in Taieri Gorge, she attended Hindon School from age six, riding ponies to school in summer and hitching a ride with the Railways jiggers the rest of the year, sometimes over icy, snow-covered tracks.
Pony Club, ribbons and show days were big when her dad owned Nimrod Downs Station in South Canterbury, but while she loved riding, she wasn’t so proficient at driving - at 15 she hit steel gate pillars delivering the shearers to the house in her dad’s Model T.
“The two guys came through the soft top cab. My first experience with passengers,” she grins.
Boarding school wasn’t for her, and she left at 15, working as a nurse aid at Fairlie Maternity Home then a vet nurse in Timaru before her first marriage, and three kids from age 21.
Single and in Queenstown, there was plenty more of that social ‘touting’. “Office manager Bob Jack was really alarmed once as we’d failed to turn up for work after having dinner with clients at Treetops the night before and ending up at the Glenorchy Pub.” They borrowed towels from the pub and after a quick skinny dip in the lake arrived at work, to a frazzled Bob, at midday.
On another occasion after marrying legendary radio host Chas Drader in 1995, the celebration with clients over a freshly, inked contract went awry when Chas, caught up in the excitement, ripped it in half. “We were all horrified as the vendors had yet to finally sign it off. I ended up sellotaping it together and photocopying it.”
Steph’s most challenging sale though would have to be the Frankton Arms Hotel and Accommodation in the late 1990s.
She and Chas had sold up and were in the process of moving to Glenorchy where they built a house, when the record 1999 floods hit. “We did three days commuting down the lake dodging driftwood in our boat as Chas had to get through to the radio station.”
In 2000 the house and boat were sold, replaced with rural land near Glenorchy and a horse and float for Steph, back in her ‘happy place’ saddle.
A radio station was born in their new home when Chas launched Glenorchy Country 89.2FM in 2009, his deep, velvet tones gracing local, and even international, airwaves.
Sadly, he passed away in 2020 and Steph inherited the station, which she moved to a small building out back of a smaller home she’s now built on their land. With help from good mate, technician Dave McLaren, and modern-day technology, Glenorchy Country still rocks on, airing popular local and national programmes.
“I’m not a DJ and I can’t even work the controls. I’m just caretaking Chas’s legacy.”
She’s won her fair share of Glenorchy Flower Show cups though, and still has her real estate licence. “I have a small portfolio of properties that I look after, as well as property management inspections.”
However, her first love now is her horses and riding her quiet hack up the valley.