Radio New Zealand stalwart Geoff Robinson has signed off Morning Report for the final time after a last show filled with tributes following more than 30 years in journalism.

Robinson joined the NZBC in Dunedin in 1970 after emigrating from Britain in 1965 and working in banking.

He joined the Morning Report team in 1975 when the programme was introduced and, apart from three years reading news on the then commercial network, has been there ever since.

A special tribute show on RNZ today included audio from Robinson's foray on Morning Report, when he filled in for a colleague on June 6, 1975.


Robinson announced his retirement last November, telling listeners he chose today's date for his last day as it is the report programme's 39th birthday, "we started on the first of April, 1975".

"Apart from a couple of years reading the commercial news, I've been with the report programme all the way through."

Veteran radio reviewer Clark Isaacs described Robinson on the programme today as a consistent performer who had been "affable [and] even-handed" throughout his broadcasting career.

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Robinson's co-host Simon Mercep said RNZ had received hundreds of emails commemorating Robinson since he announced his retirement.

"Dear Geoff Robinson, for thousands of hours of enlightenment, entertainment and above all, an even-handed approach to everything, we are very grateful," an email from listener Gordon Cooper read.

"Best wishes for your retirement Geoff, I don't know what I shall do in the mornings now. Thank you for the best mornings a person could have, you will certainly be sorely missed by a multitude of listeners, all the best," Joanne Jenkin wrote.

"Thank you Geoff for setting the highest benchmark of New Zealand journalism, your professionalism, equanimity, and the high regard shown to all of those you speak with or report on is a privilege for listeners to share," another email read.

The money shot - Geoff Robinson's first moment as a former broadcaster.

Robinson described the tributes as "very humbling" and a tribute to receive.

Major stories

Mercep said Robinson had been "the voice of Morning Report".

The programme has been looking back at major stories covered by the broadcaster, including the September 11, 2001 attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Centre.

The programme started an hour earlier than usual, at 5am, with Robinson interviewing a Radio New Zealand reporter who was in the United States at the time and New Zealand's ambassador there.

He said of all the big stories, that had been one of the "most important stories I've ever been involved in".

"The horror of it came through to us as the morning went on."

Geoff Robinson signed off Morning Report for the final time this morning. Photo / Radio New Zealand
Geoff Robinson signed off Morning Report for the final time this morning. Photo / Radio New Zealand

The adrenaline rush had kept him, Sean Plunket and Kim Hill, who presented the show, going through the morning.

"But you do come down quite hard."

They also played interviews in the aftermath of the September 2011 earthquake.

Robinson was taken to Christchurch's Red Zone after the quake and reported from the scene.

At the memorial service for those killed in the quake, a clearly emotional Robinson reported the details.

"With a disaster like that, you have to do those awful 'How do you feel stories', you have to interview the survivors,'' he said.

The bombing of the Rainbow Warrior in 1985 was also a major story during Robinson's time on air.

It was difficult to report on because of a "security lockdown", so they had to speak with Greenpeace spokespeople overseas, he said.

Geoff and Simon's last show!

The Aramoana shootings and the Air New Zealand plane crash on Mt Erebus were other major stories recalled by Robinson.

Prime Minister Robert Muldoon's snap election was another major story.

Robinson said that on election night he interviewed Muldoon when the news came through that David Lange had won the general election.

Muldoon was sometimes a "difficult person to interview", he said.

Black Tuesday, when the sharemarket plunged also happened on Robinson's watch.

Bob Jones, who had lost about $400 million in the crash, came in for an interview - but was "surprisingly chipper" about the situation, Robinson said.

In the 1970s, Robinson took his tape recorder and taped himself riding a rollercoaster for the show.

"I saw this and I thought, I just want to go on this with my tape recorder."

The machine was jammed between his knees, he said.

The programme played audio from Sir Edmund Hillary's funeral, which was covered by Robinson.

He said it was "interesting" hearing that audio again.

"It's an intriguing thing, doing those kinds of things, it really is a privilege bringing those stories to the nation."

Sir Charles Upham's service was the "most poignant" he had covered, because it was attended by other old servicemen, he said.

Other former co-hosts joined the team in the studio today.

Kim Hill said today was an "historic occasion".

"You were always there Geoff, the calm centre of the universe."

Sean Plunket said Robinson was able to pick up the programme and move it forward if there had been any problems.

His co-hosts, in turn had been "the safety blankets" for him, Robinson said.

"We all rely on each other."

Two of Robinson's most memorable interviewees were Jacques Cousteau and the Dalai Lama.

Geoff Robinson on air. Photo / Radio New Zealand
Geoff Robinson on air. Photo / Radio New Zealand

Cousteau was one of Robinson's "childhood heroes".

"I'd grown up on the television programme 'The Undersea world of Jacques Cousteau' in black and white on the old grainy television that we used to have then.

"And there was this man, this unassuming gentleman in front of me playing with a pile of airline tickets...and he said he was keeping them to see how big the pile got over the course of the year."

The pile was already "an inch thick", he said.

"He was a very nice man, it was a nice interview."

During the Dalai Lama's first visit to New Zealand in 1992, Robinson interviewed him at a hotel.

"I was crawling under the table to plug in the lead to interview him and as I backed out and turned around, there was this nice smiley man with glasses and a blanket over his shoulder coming towards me with his hand out - the Dalai Lama."

Before signing off for the last time, Robinson thanked his family and co-workers for the support they had given him during his career.

"(And) to the listeners, for without you we wouldn't be here and we do what we do for you, so you are the really important ones."

He said he was allowed to choose the bird call for the show.

"My favourite birdcall, the Kokako."

After its call, Robinson said: "Goodbye."

Larger shake-up

Robinson's retirement was part of a larger shake-up of the national broadcaster.

Mercep is also due to step down from the show, moving to a revamped afternoon show and current host Jim Mora joins Mary Wilson on evening show Checkpoint.

Auckland-based Guyon Espiner will Robinson on Morning Report and will be joined by Wellington journalist Susie Ferguson.

Espiner and Ferguson joined Robinson in the studio today and announced that while the bird call would remain, the programme's theme tune would change tomorrow.

In 2005 Robinson was awarded an honorary doctorate in literature by Victoria University of Wellington.

He was also was given a special award for outstanding contribution to radio in New Zealand at the 2007 New Zealand Radio Awards.

- Additional reporting Rebecca Quilliam