1 Feb 2013

Broadcaster Sir Paul Holmes dies

10:38 pm on 1 February 2013

Tributes are being paid to veteran broadcaster Sir Paul Holmes who has died surrounded by family at his home in Hawke's Bay.

The Radio Network said the 62-year-old the passed away peacefully at his house at Poukawa near Hastings on Friday morning.

The veteran broadcaster had been in poor health since having heart surgery last year and battling with a reoccurrence of prostate cancer.

Sir Paul was knighted in the New Year's Honours for his services to broadcasting and the community and a special ceremony was held in January.

He presented NewstalkZB's breakfast talk programme for 21 years, leading a brand change which saw the ZBs switch from light music and family entertainment to an all-talk format.

On television, the Holmes programme was a prime-time ratings winner for 15 years on Television New Zealand with a mix of news interviews and tabloid-style stories.

Sir Paul at times courted controversy, having to apologise in 2003 for what some saw as a racist joke directed at the then-United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, calling him a "cheeky darkie".

In 1989, the first edition of the Holmes programme on TVNZ saw America's Cup skipper Dennis Conner walk out in protest at Sir Paul's questions.

In recent years, Sir Paul scaled back his radio and television work, but was still presenting on both media until a few months ago. His last TV appearance was in a recorded interview on Sunday.

Sir Paul is survived by his second wife Deborah, as well as a son and a daughter from his first marriage to Hine Elder.

End of an era, says PM

Prime Minister John Key said Sir Paul Holmes' death is the end of a broadcasting era.

Mr Key said Sir Paul was a trailblazer and someone whom he also counted as a friend. He said he conducted his interview with intelligence and insight and while he never suffered fools gladly, his interviews were never without kindness and empathy.

The Prime Minister said it was a privilege to be with Sir Paul in January as he received his knighthood and can't think of anyone who deserved it more.

Labour Party leader David Shearer said his contribution to New Zealand's media landscape was significant and he will be deeply missed.

Mr Shearer said he got to know Sir Paul personally in recent years and saw him as a friend with whom he enjoyed a robust debate. He says Sir Paul had a fine sense of ordinary New Zealanders and an uncanny understanding of the issues of the day.

Television New Zealand chief executive Kevin Kenrick said Sir Paul redefined current affairs for a generation and was a leading light in New Zealand journalism.

Mr Kenrick said Sir Paul was a part of the TVNZ family for a long time and his many friends at the network extend their deepest sympathy to his family. He said his legacy will be remembered within TVNZ and across the industry for many years to come.

Bill Francis, Sir Paul's boss for 16 years at NewstalkZB, said he will be remembered for his openness. He said he was always an open book about who he was and what he believed in.