As the kokako called across the airwaves a few seconds before 9am on Tuesday, April 1, a wave of sadness swept across the nation.
Veteran broadcaster Geoff Robinson had signed off from Radio New Zealand’s Morning Report for the very last time, after 39 years at the helm.
Thousands of Kiwis have relied on Geoff’s steadying voice to guide them through the sometimes exhilarating, often horrifying, events of the past four decades and will feel lost without him.
“I’ve been astounded by all the cards and emails,” says Liz, Geoff’s wife of 45 years.
“Some are saying they’ve woken up to the sound of Geoff their entire lives, and some are quite sad, saying, ‘Don’t go!’”
And Liz admits the listeners aren’t the only ones who have been emotional – she joined Geoff in the studio for the first (and last) time during his final broadcast, and reflects, “I can assure you there were tears.
“It was hard to hold them back. When Geoff walked out of the studio, just about the whole of Radio New Zealand were standing there. They clapped and let off huge streamers.”
“I was lost for words,” says the man who has known exactly what to say through the biggest events of our time, including the Erebus disaster, the sinking of the Rainbow Warrior and 9/11.
With them in the newsroom was their son Ben, who also works at Radio New Zealand. Their daughter Holly, who works in publishing in Auckland, had flown down earlier in the week to be by her dad’s side at a dinner held in his honour at Parliament House.
“I think they’ve always been proud of their father,” says Liz, a retired school teacher. “They’ve always felt it was special to have a father who was an acclaimed broadcaster.”
And while Ben has followed his father into the same industry, he won’t be treading exactly in his footsteps, says Liz.
“I don’t think he wants to do it full-time like Geoff. I think he wants to vary his work a bit.”
“I have apologised to the kids,” adds Geoff modestly.
“When they were growing up and doing media studies at school, I don’t think it was pleasant to have their teachers talking about their dad. For them it was just the job that Dad did.”
But the family has always been supportive of Geoff’s work, and though the hours were gruelling, it also meant Liz was able to fulfil her own ambitions.
“Many people think it must have been very demanding on our family but, actually, once you know what you’re in for it just becomes a way of life. Yes, he went off to work early but then he had afternoons free, which enabled me to go to university and get my degree while he looked after the children.”
“And I got to play golf during the week when no-one else was on the golf course,” says Geoff.
“Though we have always had to eat [dinner] earlier than others – as I keep being reminded,” he adds, smiling at his wife.
Colleagues and fans have been quick to praise Geoff for his calm, even-handed approach, no matter what was going on, and Liz says this is absolutely who Geoff is both on and off the air.
“What you hear with Geoff is what you get at home. He’s exactly what he seems.”
Now, Geoff is equally unruffled in the face of a completely different way of life.
“You can’t do something as long as I have without missing it afterwards,” he reflects. “But what I know is that nothing is permanent but change.
“Ever since I turned 65 I’d keep asking myself two questions: ‘Am I still enjoying it?’ and ‘Am I still performing at the level I want to perform at?’ Last October I answered ‘no’ to one of those and I resigned.”
Now, Geoff won’t need to wake up at 3.30am every day, and both he and Liz are looking forward to some of the simple pleasures that will allow them.
“We can think about some things that we want to do for ourselves – things we can do together,” says Liz.
First up, Geoff says he needs to attend to the fact that “bits of the garden are sliding down the hillside,” but he also has lots of books to read, a trip around Australia planned, and Liz is hopeful that they’ll finally be able to host some midweek dinner parties.
There are no regrets, and plenty to look forward to.
“I’ve been a very lucky guy to have had a job that I like and a family that has supported me through it” muses Geoff.
“It’s been a privilege – and what I want to say to New Zealand is ‘thanks for listening.’”