Merepeka Raukawa-Tait: Sir Paul a great New Zealander

By Merepeka Raukawa-Tait

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Life can be unfair. Sir Paul Holmes should now be enjoying retirement. He should be spending his money in the areas and on activities he enjoyed most. But he isn't. Perhaps it's just as well we don't know what the future holds.

But if we did, if we knew we had only nine or 12 years ahead of us, would we still be doing then what we're doing now? For most of us I suspect not. With Sir Paul I think he would be.

I always enjoyed being interviewed by him on his radio show but particularly on his TV Holmes show. Sir Paul put you at ease right from the start. I couldn't say that of all the other interviewers over the years.

With Sir Paul you got the impression that no matter the subject, you would be treated fairly and given time to respond.

Domestic violence and child abuse are not what most people want to hear about, but whenever something tragic happened or new research pointed to something we may have missed in our work, Sir Paul was on to it. Why does abuse continue to happen, couldn't we be doing more, who is to blame for New Zealand's appalling statistics?

He wanted to get right to the heart of the matter and wasn't inclined to pussyfoot around. I was always grateful for this approach because I could be equally forthright in my reply. Government agencies and social service providers are not in the homes every evening where abuse occurs and neighbours can no longer shut their eyes and ears to the suffering going on next door.

I remember one night I was to be interviewed with another of his guests who didn't share my views on the causes of abuse and what needed to be done.

He sent his producer to ask if I wanted to be moved from the Green Room; this is where you wait until called on set. His other guest had turned up with six supporters, while I had one person with me.

I preferred to stay and stick it out but the temperature in the Green Room was decidedly icy. After the interview, that on reflection I think was poorly handled on my part, Sir Paul grinned at me and quietly whispered "that's it Merepeka, never let the bastards get to you". I still try not to.

It's funny though. I can't quite get my ahead around Paul now being Sir Paul Holmes. Since his death I have heard him referred to as an extraordinary man, someone we'll never see the likes of again and a great New Zealander.

Of course we'll never see another Sir Paul; he was definitely a one-off and his own man. But I'm not sure about a great New Zealander. My taste in contributing New Zealanders has changed over the years.

Sir Paul was a committed journalist and highly skilled broadcaster. Both in radio and TV.

I believe he also had a sense of fair play and wanted social justice for all. But the title great New Zealander? Yes, he was well loved for the work him did on many fronts but is it celebrity status today, which Sir Paul obviously enjoyed, that earns a person the title great New Zealander?

How do we measure greatness? By popularity? By choice of job? By the good works you have the opportunity to do and be part of?

If that's the case then Sir Paul definitely is a great New Zealander.

There are many caring people in our country who quietly go about doing amazing work every day in their communities. Most can't afford to contribute significant amounts of money and they don't have a recognised name to pull the support and advocate for the organisations they care about. But they give something I consider priceless, their time.

You may say I can't compare these people with Sir Paul. But I do. Sir Paul did, for many years, what he loved.

He always worked hard to gain and maintain the reputation of an accomplished and talented TV host, journalist and radio broadcaster. He was able to become celebrated because he became a celebrity.

He could focus on the activities that ignited his passion. He knew what he could (and couldn't) be the best at. It is this personal insight that made him "the man" in my books. Extraordinary New Zealanders are all around us. They can be celebrities too but more often they are people who just want to be part of developing, fostering and growing something great. Like other New Zealanders for instance.


- Rotorua Daily Post

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