A cheeky trailblazer who talked to the nation

Broadcasting legend's old school and workplace lower flags to half mast as NZ mourns his passing.

Plans for a funeral and public tribute to Sir Paul Holmes will be announced in the next day or so, says the broadcaster's family.

Sir Paul died early yesterday at his Hawkes Bay home, Mana Lodge, surrounded by family, after battling aggressive cancer and a failing heart.

Admirers and some former adversaries say a hole has been left in New Zealand media.

A statement from his family said Sir Paul was more than just a broadcaster.

"Paul was a loving husband and father, as well as a generous friend. He loved people and people loved him.

"Information on how the public can pay tribute to Paul will be announced in due course."

News of his death sparked an outpouring of tributes. Flags were lowered at Television NZ and at his former Hastings school, Karamu High, and TVNZ screened a special half-hour tribute show.

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

"He was a trailblazer in New Zealand journalism with a style that was all his own."

Sir Paul rose through the ranks of the media in NZ, and not long after starting his eponymous TVNZ current affairs show, he became as much a celebrity as those he interviewed.

As his popularity grew, his personal highs and lows also made headlines.

Every twist and turn in his life became public property, including a battle with prostate cancer and a near-death experience in a helicopter crash.

More recently it was again his health that made headlines; his career was put on hold when his cancer returned early last year and he underwent open-heart surgery in June.

He briefly returned to the country's screens and airwaves, but in December announced he was retiring from broadcasting because of poor health.

An unexpected phone call from Prime Minister John Key on Christmas Day ended Sir Paul's "annus horribilis" with an "unexpected, wonderful" gift in the form of a knighthood.

His career in radio, print and television was dogged with controversy and he often butted heads with politicians, sportspeople and celebrities, but many have expressed their admiration for his feisty style.

Former Television NZ colleague Susan Wood said Sir Paul "led the revolution in communication ... he was a man for the times".

Fellow broadcaster John Hawkesby recalled a quick-witted, "one-off"' trendsetter who had an "action-packed career".

Sir Paul was lauded for being able to speak with every type of person, and that has been reflected in social websites, with hundreds on Twitter paying tribute.

Sir Paul and his wife of 10 years, Lady Deborah, lived at their Hawkes Bay farm surrounded by gardens and thousands of olive trees.

Following his open-heart surgery in June, Sir Paul wrote a personal account of what he had been through.

"... I've written it in good health, full of beans again, looking out on a golden spring day, the cold wind has gone and there is so much love in my life. What more could a man want?"

- APNZ

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