Toni Street has hit back at criticism of Mike Hosking's hosting role in TVNZ's upcoming election debates, saying he'll do a "fair job".
Street, Hosking's co-host on Seven Sharp, said he did "a wonderful job" of helming the political party election debates in 2014, and predicted he'd do the same thing this time around.
"Will he do a fair job in this particular role? I think he will," she said.
Street spoke out on The Hits' show Sarah, Sam and Toni this morning ahead of an anti-Hosking petition set to be presented to TVNZ today.
The petition calls for Hosking to be dropped as the moderator for three televised debates ahead of the September 23 election and has been signed by 59,000 people.
It will be handed to TVNZ head of news John Gillespie in Auckland today.
Street told her Hits co-hosts that helming the debates was a tough job, and there wasn't time for Hosking to influence the outcome.
"The reality is, you're an adjudicator, you steer the traffic. There is no time for you to give any form of opinion whatsoever," she said.
"I feel like we saw it in 2014, it worked, I can't see why it won't work again."
Petition starter Erica Finnie said Hosking's "right-wing views" as a political commentator made him unfit to be the moderator.
"The election debates need to be hosted by a fair, unbiased presenter to ensure politicians have reasonable opportunities to present their party's views," she said.
Street said Hosking was "a polarising figure" and was used to criticism.
"I've worked with Mike for four years and he's a polarising figure. I think that's what makes him good at his job because he has strong opinions, and people either love his opinions, or they love to hate them, or they just hate them," she said.
"He has been very upbeat this week, he's used to this ... when you're in a role like that you expect it. He's hardened to it and he shelters from it on purpose."
Despite overwhelming support for the petition, Street believed it was too late for TVNZ to make changes.
"I can't see it changing this far out - logistically it's far too hard."
Hosking has addressed the issue, saying he believed he ran a "reasonable sort of debate" last time and expected this year's debates to be even bigger.
"It rated through the roof, they were huge numbers last time and the irony was this time we're thinking 'how's this going to go?'. I think it's going to be bigger than last time, there's even more interest in it."
He said people would complain no matter who the moderator was. "That's the way it works."
TVNZ announced three weeks ago that Hosking would host two debates between Prime Minister Bill English and Labour leader Jacinda Ardern, and also a multi-party debate featuring coalition partners.
A fourth debate, on youth issues, will be moderate by Jack Tame. At the time of the announcement, New Zealand First leader Winston Peters called Hosking a "wholly unsuitable" choice as moderator. The first debate is on Thursday and the others will be on September 8, 14 and 20.
- With AAP