Geoff Robinson's last Morning Report

Updated at 1:30 pm on 1 April 2014

Morning Report presenter Geoff Robinson has signed off after 35 years hosting New Zealand's most popular radio show and 44 years in public broadcasting.

Geoff Robinson coming out of the studio after his last Morning Report.

Geoff Robinson coming out of the studio after his last Morning Report.

Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

As the pips struck nine o'clock on Tuesday morning he said a last goodbye to listeners. Emerging from the studio, where television cameras had been filming his final show, he was cheered and clapped by a large crowd of fellow Radio New Zealand workers. Former co-presenter Sean Plunket was there as well.

Paying tribute to Geoff, RNZ head of news Don Rood said: "You have made Morning Report what it is."

Geoff Robinson reminiscing on-air with former co-presenter Sean Plunket.

Geoff Robinson reminiscing on-air with former co-presenter Sean Plunket.

Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

Tuesday was also co-host Simon Mercep's last day on Morning Report before moving to the weekday afternoon slot on Radio New Zealand National. Morning Report's new presenters, Susie Ferguson and Guyon Espiner, take up their roles on Wednesday 2 April.

Probably the nation's best-known voice, Geoff Robinson joined the New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation (NZBC) in Dunedin in 1970 after emigrating from Britain. He first filled in on Morning Report on 6 June 1975 but was soon presenting the show full-time - and with only a slight detour to read commercial news in the late 1970s, he has been the voice of Morning Report ever since.

Of the many major international news events the programme has covered, he rates the 9/11 terror attacks on the United States as the biggest.

"It was exciting. It was horrible. Probably the most important news story I'll ever cover. You get carried along by the excitement of the story but then when you finish, the emotional realisation of what you've been talking about takes over. I came down quite heavily that day."

Listen to Geoff Robinson on the morning of 9/11 ( 3 min 33 sec )

Local knowledge

Geoff has also reported on many of the major local news stories of the past 40 years, including the crash of Air New Zealand flight 901 into Mt Erebus in Antarctica in 1979, the sinking of the Rainbow Warrior in 1985 and the Aramoana shootings in 1990.

Geoff Robinson at the Radio New Zealand training school, Dunedin, 1974.

Geoff Robinson at the Radio New Zealand training school, Dunedin, 1974.

Photo: GEOFF ROBINSON

He says of the Aramoana massacre: "I had one enormous advantage over my then co-host but the advantage was that I had lived and worked in Dunedin for five years when I joined broadcasting, so I knew Aramoana."

"I felt the shock as much as any but that little bit of extra knowledge, I think, helped."

More recently, Geoff has been the mainstay of Radio New Zealand's coverage of the Christchurch earthquakes, including anchoring the memorial for those who died.

The February 2011 Christchurch earthquake ( 4 min 54 sec )

Because of his unassuming dignity and sense of occasion he has anchored many other memorial services and state occasions: the funeral of Sir Charles Upham, the memorial service for Sir Edmund Hillary and the tangi for Te Arikinui Dame Te Ata i Rangi Kaahu.

He also anchored the Cave Creek memorial service and the service for the victims of the Asian tsunami.

Another key role for Geoff has been hosting Radio New Zealand's election night special. He first covered the 1978 election night, then elections in 1981, 1984, 1987, and 1990 - all under the first-past-the-post system.

Dramatic election

Geoff remembers coverage of the results of the 1984 snap election as being particularly dramatic.

Geoff Robinson and Maggie Barry in the mid 1980s.

Geoff Robinson and Maggie Barry in the mid 1980s.

Photo: SOUND ARCHIVES NEW ZEALAND

Geoff Robinson and Kim Hill in the 1990s.

Geoff Robinson and Kim Hill in the 1990s.

Photo: SOUND ARCHIVES NEW ZEALAND

"We were doing an interview with Sir Robert Muldoon, who was the prime minister who called the election," he says.

"And he said something and we didn't quite twig it. Then in a kind of a stage whisper off to the side of me from one of the experts we had - it was Nigel Roberts - I heard him say 'he's conceded'.

"Only at that point did it twig that that was what [the prime minister] was actually saying."

Robert Muldoon concedes on air ( 1 min 35 sec )

A sitting prime minister resigning is quite a story so when David Lange did just that in August 1989, both Geoff Robinson and co-presenter Maggie Barry wanted to do the interview.

They tossed a coin, as they always do when they both want to do an interview, and that morning Geoff won. But Mr Lange wasn't playing ball. He arrived late and clearly didn't want to engage with his interviewer.

Trying to find the right opening line, Geoff recalls it was "No turning back now" that thawed his guest.

Listen to Geoff interviewing David Lange ( 2 min 6 sec )

Geoff Robinson, Morning Report Editor Martin Gibson and Sean Plunket, 2006.

Geoff Robinson, Morning Report Editor Martin Gibson and Sean Plunket, 2006.

Photo: RNZ

Continuity at its best

Geoff has worked with more than 30 co-presenters since Morning Report first went to air - including Lindsay Perigo, Mike Hosking, Maggie Barry, Kim Hill and Sean Plunket.

"Every morning you just knew that Geoff was going to be there doing his job and he was a rock. He is continuity at its best," Kim says.

Geoff says being a broadcaster has been an absolute privilege - and a pleasure.

"You are talking to people ordinary folks don't get to meet. You're doing it on behalf of them. You're the first person to hear a lot of the news that goes on in the world which is always an exciting position to be in. And you're right in people's heads and homes.

"It's been a privilege as well as a pleasure."

Listen back to some of the highlights of Geoff's career ( 3 min 10 sec )

View highlights from Geoff Robinson's last Morning Report programme.

TIMELINE

1970: Joins NZBC in Dunedin after emigrating from Britain

1975: Joins the Morning Report team

1978: Hosts his first Election Night Special

1979-1983: Moves to Radio New Zealand's commercial network to read the news

1981: Part of the comprehensive coverage Radio New Zealand gives the Springbok tour

1985: Reports on the bombing of the Rainbow Warrior

1987: Reports when the stock market crashes on Black Tuesday

1990: Named Wellingtonian of the Year after being nominated by readers of the Evening Post

1994: Anchors the funeral service for Sir Charles Upham

1995: Anchors Radio New Zealand's coverage of the Cave Creek Tragedy Memorial Service in Greymouth

2001: A key part of Radio New Zealand's extended coverage of the September 11 attacks in the US

2002: Becomes the first New Zealand broadcaster to visit North Korea

2005: Awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Literature from Victoria University in recognition of services to Broadcasting in New Zealand

2006: Anchors the Radio New Zealand coverage of the tangi for Te Arikinui Dame Te Ata i Rangi Kaahu

2008: Presents Sir Edmund Hillary's memorial service

2008: Travels to the US to cover the presidential elections - and Barack Obama's historic win

2011: Part of Radio New Zealand's Christchurch earthquake coverage - when Morning Report was on air for 22 days in a row. He also anchored the memorial service for the victims of the earthquake

Otago Daily Times radio critic Clarke Isaacs comments on Geoff's career ( 1 min 17 sec )

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