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Sir Paul Holmes knighted in emotional ceremony

By MORGAN TAIT


The rich, powerful voice that boomed across New Zealand's airwaves for the last four decades is fading.

But the charismatic presence, cheeky sense of humour, passion and compassion that has been the cornerstone of broadcasting legend cannot be dimmed.

That legacy was paid homage at Poukawa estate, Mana Lodge, yesterday where family, friends and dignitaries gathered to watch a pioneering media personality dubbed Sir Paul Holmes.

Escorted to the investiture stall by his wife, Lady Deborah, and brother, Ken, the 62-year-old was unsteady on his feet, but beamed when the sword tapped his shoulders and Governor General Sir Jerry Mateparae adorned his chest with a knight's insignia.


 


Applauding him were, among others, daughter Millie, son Reuben, Prime Minister John Key, Labour leader David Shearer, former PM Jenny Shipley and the daughters of Erebus captain Jim Collins.

A white marquee atop manicured lawns housed the celebrations, brought forward to accommodate Sir Paul's ailing health. The picturesque location, set to a backdrop of olive trees and rolling hills, was to be a retirement haven until heart troubles and an aggressive return of prostate cancer became a "fly in the ointment".

In the face of such a harsh reality, he still found humour.


 


"I don't think Houdini will do it this time, particularly."

Hoarse and frail, Sir Paul was swallowed by a brown leather chair in his stately living room but conducted the biggest media presence ever to attend an investiture with ease.

The passion for his family and for those he worked with was captured by film crews and reporter's pens, and caused the Haumoana-born, Karamu High School foundation student to choke-up at times.


 


"I have the most wonderful support of Lady Deborah and my family and friends, and we still have a lot of fun, a lot of good times but some realities have to be faced.

"The idea was I would build this farm and retire here, live a full and wonderful life basking in my former great career, but along came a fly in the ointment."

He reflected on a career that transcended a new format of journalism and straddled radio, television and print mediums.

"I hope today I bring honour to broadcasting."

Sir Jerry described the newest Knight Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit's contribution to New Zealand communities as "pre-eminent".

" You once described yourself as a lifelong rebel against those who were frightened of openness, colour and expressions of passion and individuality. You have celebrated the colourful, the passionate and the expressive side of our national psyche. You have asked hard questions of politicians, bureaucrats and celebrities.

"And you have told the stories of everyday New Zealanders as they celebrated the good times, and grieved in the sad times."

Along with his commitment to the Auckland Westpac rescue helicopter charity and anti-methamphetamine group the Stellar Trust, motivated by his daughter's own struggles, Sir Paul named his work with the Paralympic community and the families of the Erebus disaster amongst his biggest achievements.

"Some of the work I am most proud of is the documentaries I made after the Paralympics," he said.

"I love their community, I love their movement, I love their people, I love their courage, I love their stamina and triumph against the odds.

"The way that deceased flight crew was dealt with throughout that inquiry, after that inquiry and after that accident was, I think, a disgrace and I really worked hard on that project."


 


He admitted his success was somewhat blemished by regrets. "I made mistakes, I went too far, I thought I could do something and it was not accepted."

He may have been referring to his reference to former United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan as a "cheeky darkie", an interview that ended when America's Cup sailor Dennis Conner stormed off set, and a self-described "obnoxious and unpleasant attack" on Tariana Turia.

He believed that if he "saw a person treated wrongly and unfairly that I was never afraid to rush in and say you're treating this man unfairly".

Despite his high-flying career, Sir Paul has always maintained close ties to Hawke's Bay. His community involvement often brought him home to speak at charity and community events before returning permanently in recent times.

As this knight prepared for his retirement at home, he was able to bring humour to a proud moment.

"Just call me Sir," he said.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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