19 Aug 2011

Broadcaster and academic Maureen Garing dies

8:48 pm on 19 August 2011

Maureen Garing, the long-time producer of spiritual programmes for Radio New Zealand, has died. She was 79.

The broadcaster and academic been ill for some time and died in Wellington on Friday afternoon.

Dr Garing had a lifelong interest in choral music, having joined a church choir at 13 and being for many years a member of the Khandallah Presbyterian Church choir. She was also session clerk in that parish from 1995 until 2007.

Her interest in the academic study of religion was kindled at Victoria University where, on completion of her PhD exploring the rise of secularism, she joined the Department of Religious Studies as a lecturer.

Her work for Radio New Zealand began in 1993, producing and presenting Hymns for Sunday Morning, which she did until her retirement this year due to ill-health.

For most of her time at the state broadcaster, Maureen Garing was also the producer of religious issues programming, and in this role she explored a wide variety of spiritual and philosophical themes through extended long-form interviews.

A courteous on-air manner, underpinned by deep knowledge, resulted in some memorable encounters with an extremely wide range of interviewees from many faith traditions and sometimes none - agnostics and atheists also featured in Spiritual Outlook.

Dr Garing was also not afraid of tackling spiky issues and bringing together people with very opposed views about matters such as homosexuality and the child discipline legislation which was then about to go through Parliament.

Paul Bushnell, group manager spoken features at Radio New Zealand paid tribute to Dr Garing.

"Maureen was the consummate professional, sharply intelligent and interested - but also great fun to be around. We'll miss her terribly."

Dr Garing is survived by daughters Andi and Jill, and Jill's son, James.