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Toni Street's big career move: 'It's like working with family'

Our TV darling is embracing change with her new radio role.

By Sophie Neville
With two jobs already, two young children and a recent health crisis to consider, Toni Street’s first reaction to the offer of taking on yet more work was a firm “thanks, but no thanks”. She loved the idea of hosting a daily morning radio show with two of her best pals, but she couldn’t see how working both ends of the day would ever be do-able.
However, the Seven Sharp star hadn’t banked on her “amazing New Age” husband Matt France, who turned down a full-time job offer to work part-time from home so Toni could follow her dream.
“We had a lot of really long discussions about it all,” explains the broadcasting belle, 33, “but in the end, it would have been silly to give up the chance to diversify and to add another string to my bow. I’m so lucky Matt doesn’t have an ego and isn’t worried about his wife working more than he is. He actually enjoys being home with the family.”
And as she and her The Hits co-hosts Sam Wallace, 36, and Sarah Gandy, 34, hang out at Toni’s home on Auckland’s North Shore, it’s clear to see that the trio are much more than workmates.
“We’re like family members,” confesses Sam. “In fact, Sarah and Toni are basically like two extra mums. They tell me what to do and they’re usually right. Actually, they’re always right!”
Toni’s weekdays now start at an eye-watering 4am, when she sneaks out of the house and heads to the studio for their three-hour morning show. At 9am, she rushes home in time to see her girls, Juliette, four, and two-year-old Mackenzie, then she returns to the city in the afternoon to host Seven Sharp alongside Mike Hosking. She finally gets home at about 8pm.
“It sounds worse than it is,” insists Toni. “I’ve learned from Mike, who’s been doing the same thing for three years, that you have to be disciplined to make it work. As long as I have a lunchtime nap and early nights, then I’m totally fine. It’s actually the nicest thing in the world to be able to climb into bed with your baby for a midday snooze.”
Toni’s adorable little girl has recently celebrated her second birthday with a treasure-themed party, thanks to her love of all things shiny. With the help of a friend at TVNZ, Toni even made an impressive treasure chest cake!
“Mickey’s a real little magpie,” says Toni. “She’s always stealing money out of my purse, and just loves jewels and treasure. It’s pretty cute.”
And Toni still can’t quite believe that her eldest daughter Juliette, known as Juju, will be five in October – “She’ll be a big school girl soon!”
Sarah, who has been married to film director Luke Haigh for a year, jokes that keeping such unusual hours isn’t so hard now she’s getting older.
“It’s way easier to be a loser in your 30s! I’m actually quite happy having early nights.”
Like Toni, joining The Hits was a huge decision for Sam, who left his job as weatherman at Breakfast for the radio gig. He admits he was worried his TVNZ bosses would be upset by his decision to follow a new path, but after six years at the network, it was time for a change.
“I went to Toni for advice,” he reveals. “She’s the ultimate optimist, so she is really good at focusing on all the positives. She gives the best advice.”
The trio are still buzzing after partying up a storm at their former workmate Nadine Chalmers-Ross’ recent marriage in the Bay of Islands.
“It was one of the best weddings I’ve ever been to,” tells Toni, who admits the 4am start on the following Monday wasn’t easy.
All three are upfront about the big shoes they have to fill – their show has replaced legendary hosts Polly Gillespie and her ex Grant Kereama.
“I grew up listening to Grant and Polly,” tells Sam. “They were always on in the car on the way to school. They were brilliant.”
While it was originally broadcast only in Auckland, it was recently announced that they’ll now be on air throughout the North Island, except for Hawke’s Bay. And Taranaki-raised Toni is thrilled her parents Wendy and Geoff, and her old school pals, will now be able to tune in.
“I love the thought of my mates listening while they drive to work each day,” she says. “I tend to overshare when I’m on radio, so they’ll now know everything I’m up to!”
Meanwhile, Sam jokes that being surrounded by women is quite a change from TVNZ, where he was usually out on jobs with male crews.
“It’s hugely different,” he tells. “The topics we talk about blow my mind. Like birth photography – how can that actually be a thing?”
“It’s like working with my brother,” laughs Toni, “which is great because I can tell him off. I could tell Hosking off, but he just wouldn’t listen.”
Jokes aside, Toni – whose health is almost back to 100 per cent after her shock diagnosis of Churg-Strauss syndrome two years ago – is grateful to her workmates for helping her manage the demanding work-home juggle.
“That’s the thing about working with people who are more like family,” she says. “They understand that sometimes I’ll get called away or that I need to rush home to see the girls.
“They pick up the slack for me and never make me feel bad about it – and that’s why I love them!”
Words: Sophie Neville
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