Editorial: Crowning honour for Sir Paul's rare talent

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Broadcaster Sir Paul Holmes. Photo / David White
Broadcaster Sir Paul Holmes. Photo / David White

The belated inclusion of a knighthood for Paul Holmes makes this year's Honours List something very much out of the ordinary. No one could say, however, that the accolade is not totally merited. During his five decades in broadcasting, which ended earlier this month because of poor health, he never received his due. Now, finally, he has received a recognition more than warranted by his place in the pantheon of New Zealand broadcasting.

Sir Paul entertained New Zealanders in his own quirky manner, challenged them and occasionally offended them. His phenomenal longevity owed much to a talent for recognising the major issues facing the country and articulating them effectively to all parts of society. His perceptive interviewing was another particularly strong suit.

This exceptional range of ability led him at one time to host both the country's leading early morning radio and evening television programmes on the same day. Hosting just one of these would have placed him at the forefront of broadcasting.

The extent of that achievement resonates more now than it did at the time, as does the way in which he became the face of TV One during virtually any important live broadcast. His departure has left a hole simply because he contributed so much to this country's national life during a career that set a new benchmark.

As might be expected following a particularly successful Olympic Games, this year's list also includes a large number of gold medal-winning sportsmen and women. There is also a knighthood for horseman Mark Todd, even though he secured only a bronze in London. This represents a recognition not only of his equestrian achievements over three decades but, perhaps even more so, offers a commentary on this country's willingness to rehabilitate and forgive.

Inevitably, some people will be reluctant to forget an episode in 2000 in which Sir Mark became the subject of covert reporting. A British newspaper arranged for a man to gather photographic evidence of him and Todd appearing to snort cocaine. The ensuing furore did not stop him appearing at the Sydney Olympics, where he answered critics by winning a bronze medal. But he turned his back on competition soon afterwards. He came out of retirement to compete at the 2008 Olympics and in London equalled the record of having the longest gap between winning first and last Olympic medals - 28 years.

Sir Mark was awarded a CBE in 1995, in recognition of his early equestrian victories. There has been nothing since despite him being voted the eventing rider of the century in 1999 by the International Equestrian Federation. But Sir Mark has remained a popular figure with New Zealanders, even though he may have been cast permanently into the wilderness in some countries. In some ways, his knighthood, like that of Sir Paul's, is a catch-up.

The other accolade that will attract criticism is the knighting of Owen Glenn. He was hardly known outside business circles when he was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order Merit in 2008. He had not lived here since 1966 and spent his time in Sydney, Monaco and England overseeing his logistics company. Much has changed in the past four years, culminating in his initiation of a multi-million-dollar project to address domestic violence and child abuse, his funding of hockey, and part-ownership of the Warriors.

If the style he brought to the rugby league team irked some, there can now be no doubt about his commitment to this country. That, underlined by the millions he has given to educational, political, health, sporting and charitable bodies, should eradicate any cynicism about this honour.

- NZ Herald

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