Peter Williams is a man who believes in pushing himself. At 62, the TVNZ newsreader has a bucket list he’s busy ticking off and enjoys tackling new challenges. So after 37 years on our TV screens, he was delighted to land the job as host of Mastermind New Zealand.
“You get to a stage where there is a certain amount of sameness in life, so I’m always looking for a bit of variety,” he says. “This was quite different to anything I’ve done before and the preparation was pretty intense.”
The shooting of Mastermind is finished now, but Peter’s life is still pretty full-on. He’s up at 4am, three mornings a week, to present the breakfast and midday news bulletins, and usually on a Wednesday afternoon, he travels from Auckland to Mt Maunganui to be with his wife Sara Lunam, who works there.
“Mt Maunganui is a fantastic place,” says Peter, who also presents the weekend news. “We’ve got an apartment across the road from the beach. It does mean driving up and down State Highway 2 a lot, but you get used to it.”
Fortunately, Peter has always kept himself in shape and certainly isn’t letting his age hold him back. At 60, he ran his first marathon and also swam Auckland harbour.
“Swimming across the harbour was quite a big deal for me,” he tells. “It’s very different than doing three kilometres in a pool because you’ve got tides, cramps in your legs and people in the way. I think I did it in an hour and a half. I got there as people were packing up to go home!”
Also on Peter’s bucket list was to compete in a half-Ironman.
“I wanted to see if I could manage it, which I did, albeit slowly,” he says. “It meant six or seven months of intense training. That was in 2012 and it was a one-off. I haven’t had the desire to do it again since.”
These days, his preferred way to keep fit is to walk in the outdoors and raise his heart rate by striding up a few hills.
“I like to get as much fresh air and exercise as I can,” he says. “If I don’t, I get grumpy.”
He also goes to the gym a couple of times a week to lift weights and do some cardio training. Recently, there was a bit of a blip when he had a dizzy spell there and was taken by ambulance to hospital.“That was due to over-exerting by lifting too many heavy weights,” explains Peter. “It was mainly dehydration and a couple of IV sacks of fluid put me right. It was a good reminder to have plenty of water before I go.”
Staying healthy is important to Peter. He likes to eat well and maintain a steady weight.
“Although my wife says I’ve got a bit of a puku,” he admits ruefully.
No matter how early, he has breakfast before he heads to work.
“And I like to cook – it’s pretty basic stuff – fish, meat and vegetables,” he says. “Also, I get plenty of sleep and never burn the candle at both ends; at least not any more. I did have some wild times in my youth, but who doesn’t?”
Peter doesn’t think he’s so unusual for a man of his age.
“These days, people are working past 65 and being active because they’re fitter and healthier,” he points out.
“I think the baby boomers have seen their parents’ generation finish life too early through smoking, drinking and lack of exercise. They’re used to being fit, and want to keep it going well into their fifties and sixties.”
There are no retirement plans for Peter, who says he’ll keep going with TVNZ for as long as they want to employ him.
“Although I’d like to cut back on the early mornings, if I could,” he confides. “I’m not enamoured of getting up at 4am.”
He is looking forward to his next work challenge, reporting from the Rio Olympics. The time difference will mean working through the night, as it will be 3am in Rio when our 6pm news broadcast goes out.
“It’ll be intriguing to see how my body clock adjusts to that,” says Peter, whose wife Sara, a basketball fan, will join him for the final weekend before they take some time off to explore Brazil and Argentina together.
After Rio, he would love to be involved with the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast and Peter is hoping Mastermind will return to keep him occupied for some years to come. Plus, there are a few more things to tick off his bucket list, in particular playing a round of golf at the iconic old St Andrews course in Scotland.
“One of these days, I’ll get round to doing it. If I can manage that, I’ll be a happy man,” he says.
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