With 40 years in the media business under his belt, broadcaster Peter Williams has earned the title news legend. And although the 64-year-old has left the big smoke for the sun and sand of the Bay, he is not giving up the mike or pen yet.
He is joining NZME as a sports journalist in the Bay, and has just finished a stint standing in for Brian Kelly on the Coast Tauranga breakfast show, finding the switch from hard news to lighter entertainment fun but challenging.
"To be honest it was quite daunting. I hadn't done that sort of thing for nearly 30 years and just getting back into the rhythm of running a music show with the required format and operating the studio was more demanding than I'd thought it would be. On top of that I was substituting for a guy who's been the main man on breakfast radio in Tauranga since 1980 and he's always set really high standards. But I seemed to battle through. By the time I'd finished the three weeks I could almost do a full show without making a mistake."
Over the years Williams has of course encountered many changes, particularly in technology.
"When I last did this, it was all manually operated with tape machines and turntables for vinyl records! Now all the sound comes through a computer and you operate with a few clicks of a mouse. While that sounds like it should be a lot easier, it just took me quite a bit of getting used to and making sure I always clicked on the right place!"
Williams believes radio has a very strong future.
"Its great strength has always been its flexibility and its immediacy. That will never change. Then on top of that, you have the connection to the local community. Media is a tough business these days because of the number of outlets available to readers, listeners and watchers but the most successful ones in a place like the Bay of Plenty are those with the best local content. So it's no surprise that, in terms of audience share, Coast is the No 1 station in Tauranga."
It wasn't just the lure of Tauranga's booming media and entertainment scene that lured Williams to the Bay. His wife Sara Lunam has been working at the Port of Tauranga since 2010 and he has been doing a lot of commuting up and down SH2 while he was working fulltime at TVNZ. Currently Williams is still weekend news reader.
"I'm still doing 1 News on Saturday and Sunday nights. That arrangement continues to the end of this year. I also do the weekday 6pm news when Simon Dallow is away. That's happening quite a bit in the next couple of months. But I don't think you'll see much of me on TV after the end of this year."
Changes in his schedule mean the couple put their St Mary's Bay house in Auckland on the market and also recently sold their apartment in the Twin Towers in the Mount.
"It took us a while but we finally found a really nice house in The Mount earlier this year. It's close to the beach and walking distance to downtown and my wife's work at Port of Tauranga."
A big draw to the Bay is the weather here compared to Auckland.
"I like the weather. I've lived in a lot of places around New Zealand and this place has the best weather without doubt. Auckland just has too much rain in winter. I love the sun here and the wonderful free draining sandy soils at the Mount which means the golf courses never get wet! "
Even when it rains here, Williams says he feels more at home. "At heart I'm a boy from the provinces and that's what I like about living in the Bay. Sure, it's booming and vibrant and growing all the time but a combination of beaches, weather, ever so slightly more affordable housing and less traffic means I find it a much more liveable and enjoyable place than the big city."
Peter Williams is photographed on our cover in the new Audi Q5, courtesy of Farmer Audi.
He himself drives a Q5.
"It's an amazingly comfortable and easy-to-drive vehicle. I've owned one for five years now and the new generation version, which I only bought earlier this year, has some great features that I really like. For instance the Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) is great for a nose-to-tail Auckland motorway situation. You set the speed for 80km/h and it slows or stops automatically when you get in the traffic queue, only to start automatically again when there's movement in the queue. It means you don't have to worry about stop-start motorway driving because the ACC will do it for you. I like the automatic full beam light switch too. So when you're driving at night, you flick the full beam to auto and it turns on and off depending on whether there's oncoming traffic. I find it remarkably fuel efficient. Mine is diesel powered and I find I'm usually using between 6.5 and 7.5 litres per hundred kilometres. I drive a few hundred kilometres every week so a car with this fuel efficiency and performance is ideal."
Williams is joining a host of famous Aucklanders who have recently made the Bay — the Riviera of New Zealand — their permanent home — including chef Chelsea Winter and Anna and Jay Reeve.
"Main Beach at The Mount has been the most famous and popular beach in New Zealand for as long as I can remember so in that respect, it's always been the Riviera of NZ. But now more and more are deciding they've had enough of the relentless growth of Auckland and the problems that brings so I'm not surprised that many are doing what we've done. I know of about half a dozen of my former colleagues at TVNZ who are now living in the Greater Tauranga area. You're never short of things to do around this town. I know it's not for everybody, but the golfing options are pretty good. Walking up Mauao is still one of the best workouts you can do."
The huge development and construction particularly in downtown Tauranga means it's shedding its reputation as a retirement village.
"The Waikato University campus is going to have a huge influence from next year and it's not hard to imagine the difference up to 5000 students will make to the area in just a few years. Then there's the other commercial and residential developments happening. I can see a real sea change in the Tauranga CBD by say 2025. There will be consequences of that in terms of car parking and accessibility but it will make the city a lot more vibrant. I think any reputation as a 'retirement village' will well and truly disappear."
Williams says he still gets recognised when he is out and about. "It goes with the territory and after nearly 40 years on TV I'm sort of used to it. But usually it's just being stared at. I don't get abused very often!"
The couple like to eat out in the Mount.
"We're at the Latitude quite a bit for eating and drinking and we've tried many of the places on Mount Mainstreet over the years."
You won't find him hitting up the shops, though. "You're kidding, right? Apart from New World and the occasional golf shop, I don't go shopping."
Instead he spends time on the golf course and running up Mauao.
Even though he has now handed the Coast seat back to Brian Kelly, he will continue to fill in for him as well as sports writing.
"I may be leaving TV but I'm certainly not ready to stop working completely."
Audi Q5 quattro sport specs:
●Collision avoidance assist
●Audi park assist
●Audi pre-sense rear and city
●Audi active lane assist
●High beam assist
●360 degree camera system front, side and rear
●LED rear lights with dynamic indicator
●Tailgate electrically opening and closing