Peter Williams might have taken a step back from the cut and thrust of daily television, but he is not going quietly into retirement. The former Waitaki Boys’ High School pupil responds to some questions from Hayden Meikle.
Q Where is home for you these days? What do you like about where you are?
We live in Mt Maunganui. My wife started working at the Port of Tauranga eight years ago, so we’ve lived between Auckland and here since then. But now that I’m winding up my work in Auckland, I’m here more or less fulltime. We’re a couple of blocks from the beach, and Sara walks to work. Life is pretty convenient.
Q What does your working week consist of now?
I work weekends for 1 News as the presenter of the 6pm news. Otherwise, I’m a sports and opinion writer for the Bay of Plenty Times. Life is quite busy for a semi-retired man.
Q You’re finishing TV for good soon? How are the emotions?
Well, my current deal runs out at the end of December. There is talk I may return next year for a few things. We’re working them through. I’ve had a pretty satisfying career there, so no regrets.
Q When you look back, what were some of the highlights of your career?
Being the anchor presenter at quite a few Olympic Games, especially Beijing in 2008. Being at the first Rugby World Cup final in 1987, not knowing the juggernaut it would turn into. On a more tragic note, anchoring the 1 News coverage of the Pike River disaster and the subsequent memorial service. My heart still goes out to the Greymouth community after that.
Q Any thoughts on the modern television/media landscape?
It’s a struggle, but keeping it local is going to be the winner. That means New Zealand content on TV and telling stories from your community in the local paper. That’s why it’s so much fun at the Bay of Plenty Times
Q Who is the one person you wanted to interview but didn’t?
Nelson Mandela. I actually encountered him, and his entourage, in a closed shopping mall/hotel complex in Johannesburg one evening when I was there interviewing Ken Rutherford, the New Zealand cricket captain. I called out to Mandela asking if he would like to meet the New Zealand captain, but he said, sorry, some other time!
Q What is the one sporting event you wanted to cover but didn’t?
Wimbledon. Not that I know much about tennis, but it’s just such a famous event and place. I went there once to watch. That’s good enough, I guess.
Q Mastermind struck a chord with a lot of people. Will it be back?
No, I don’t think so. It had a very big audience, but it was deemed most of them were too old.
Q What did Waitaki Boys’ High School do for you?
It gave me the confidence to go out and explore the world. I enjoyed Oamaru as a boy and still like going back, but in the 1960s I felt like I was encouraged to think beyond the boundaries. That’s why I was able to go to the US in 1971 as an AFS student.
Q You still have family in Oamaru?
Yes, my sister Margaret is the deputy principal at Waitaki Girls’ so I’m in the town a few times each year. It’s remarkable how the town has finally taken note of its magnificent buildings and uses them to such great effect for tourism. It’s the same with the penguins. All those assets were there when I lived in Oamaru in the 1960s, but now they’re being shared with visitors and the locals alike. It’s been quite the evolution from a pretty untrendy and unloved place 50 years ago to what it is now.
Q What are three things on the bucket list for Peter Williams?
I still need to play one round on the Old Course at St Andrews. I’ve been on the New Course and a couple of others there but not the really famous one. I’d like to go to India to see a test match, and maybe an IPL game, too.
And I’d like to go to Gallipoli some time, too. My grandmother’s second husband was there later in 1915 and I’d just like to see what it’s like, and imagine the horror of the time.