Breakfast celebrates 25 years on screen

The early rising presenters have brightened our mornings since 1997

Matty McLean

‘I was this close to being arrested on national television!’

Starting as Breakfast’s roving reporter in 2007, Matty McLean has done his fair share of wacky stunts on live TV. But he says no story will ever compare to the time he almost ended up in handcuffs over a dare from then-host Paul Henry.

“Back in 2010, while doing a live cross from outside the Prime Minister’s official residence in Wellington, I was dared to see if I could jump the fence,” recalls Matty. “Turns out the security at Premier House really don’t like it when you do that and I was this close to being arrested on national television. Twelve years later and viewers still remind me of that moment.”

Matty left the show in 2010 to pursue other opportunities. Then, in 2017, a couple of weeks after he moved to London, he was asked to re-join the team as the weatherman. Matty says abandoning his OE was the easiest decision he ever made.

“Working as the roving Wellington reporter for three years was the most incredible experience. Breakfast became my home, and my family, and when I was asked to come back to be their weather presenter, it was honestly a no-brainer. I love this show so much,” enthuses the 35-year-old. “Plus, a week after moving home from London to take the job as the weather presenter, I met my now-fiancé Ryan – so thanks, I guess!”

Though he has worked with many legends of New Zealand broadcasting across his time on the show – including John Campbell and Hilary Barry – Matty admits that working alongside Jenny-May Clarkson and Indira Stewart has been one of the highlights.

“I’m so inspired by the team I work with. I’ve worked alongside some of the best in the business, but I have learnt so much sitting next to Jenny-May and Indira. They are the most fearless, strong, beautiful women who inspire me every day.”

Fans of Matty can breathe a sigh of relief as he says he has no plans on leaving his Breakfast whānau anytime soon.

“What makes me come back every day is the viewers, cheesy as it may sound,” Matty says. “They are so wonderful, passionate and opinionated, and I truly never take it for granted that they allow us into their houses every morning. It’s a real privilege and it’s what keeps me going.”

Indira Stewart

‘He’s one of those people I will never forget’

It has only been two years since Indira Stewart joined the Breakfast team as the newsreader, but already the 37-year-old says she can’t imagine working anywhere else.

“It’s a bit of a whirlwind but an absolute vibe!” tells Indira. “If you can do three hours of live TV every day, you can do any show!

“When you walk in the doors in the morning, time goes by so fast! From make-up and our team meeting to counting down the seconds till we go live. By the end of the show, you can barely remember what you said in the first hour.”

While most hosts complain about the early starts, Indira was previously working at RNZ filling the early morning slot on First Up. So the switch to Breakfast actually gave her a later start in the morning.

“I get a sleep in!” she laughs. “The Breakfast role gave me an extra 45 minute’s sleep from my old routine.”

Many Kiwis will remember Indira as the runner-up in the 2006 season of NZ Idol. She enjoyed a successful career in music after the show but when she found herself a solo parent to two young children, she decided to reassess her life.

She realised that music didn’t bring her the same joy and opted to study journalism instead. Since then, Indira has worked for top media outlets both in Aotearoa and Australia.

When Indira accepted the role as the newsreader on Breakfast, it meant stepping away from her show on RNZ, where she had complete creative control. But she says the opportunity to work alongside John Campbell made the decision an easy one.

“I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to learn from him,” Indira says. “He’s been a huge mentor and he’s going to be one of those people I will never forget in my career.”

John’s been a mate and a mentor to Indira.

Born in Tonga and raised in NZ since she was two, one of Indira’s proudest moments on the show was securing interviews with the Prime Ministers of Niue and Samoa, and highlighting Pacifika issues.

“It was rare and we felt proud to bring them to our New Zealand audience.”

Toni Street

‘It was a heartbreaking story and really tough for me’

Taking on a job that requires three hours of live TV every day is a daunting task for anyone, but when Toni Street stepped into the role of full-time presenter on Breakfast in 2013, she had the added pressure of being a first-time mum.

“I was offered the job on the day I was due to have my first baby,” tells Toni, who shares kids Juliette, nine, Mackenzie, seven, and Lachlan, three, with husband Matt France.

“I remember being so excited to be offered the big gig but also terrified because I had no idea what motherhood was going to be like and whether I would cope with the crazy hours. It was one of the most full-on periods of my life, looking after a newborn and starting one of the most high-profile jobs in television.”

Snowbiz with the kids.

Toni’s first appearance on the show was in 2011 when she was called up to cover for then co-host Petra Bagust who was sick. It was nerve-wracking, but the 38-year-old says the moment the cameras started rolling, she knew it was meant to be.

“The day was a mixture of nerves and excitement,” recalls Toni. “After I’d read the first intro, I was away, and I remember thinking, ‘This is the best job in the world!'”

She became Petra’s regular cover, and it wasn’t long before she was given her own slot hosting Saturday Breakfast with Rawdon Christie and weatherman Sam Wallace, whom she still works with today on their Coast radio Breakfast show.

Not long after taking the reins of Breakfast in 2013, Toni was given the opportunity of a lifetime to travel to San Francisco to celebrate Team New Zealand’s inevitable America’s Cup win.

But what started as a three-day trip turned into a month-long stay as New Zealand lost after having an 8-1 lead over Oracle. It is a moment she will never forget for several reasons.

“It was a heartbreaking story to cover,” Toni recalls. “Dean Barker cried during one of our live crosses after the loss. And it was really tough for me. I thought I’d be away from my 10-month-old baby for three days and it was in fact nearly a month. There were many teary moments.”

Of all the incredible stories she covered, Toni says the most special part of her time on the show is the relationships she formed with the close-knit team.

Date night with co-host Sam and their partners Matt and Sarah.

“I loved every single moment,” she enthuses. “You form friendships for life when you work those crazy hours. I’m still very close to every member of our original Saturday Breakfast team. It was such a special time.”

Jack Tame

‘I’ve never lived it down!’

For Jack Tame, his three years as host of the morning show is one of the proudest achievements of his career, but he admits there is one thing he would change about the job.

“I’d never woken up so early in my life – 3.30am! I thought I’d need about five cans of V to get me through my first morning,” he laughs. “We often say that Breakfast is the best show with the worst hours. It’s exhausting, but every morning is filled with laughs.”

It was those early starts that eventually forced Jack to make the difficult decision to leave the show in 2019 to “improve my work/life balance”.

Jack first started working on Breakfast in 2006 as an intern when he was just 19. He was the Christchurch reporter while he finished his studies and eventually he started filling in when then-host Paul Henry was away.

The 35-year-old loves the range of stories he covered on the show, doing everything from hard-hitting interviews with New Zealand’s political leaders to bungy-jumping out of a helicopter to celebrate Breakfast’s 10th anniversary.

But Jack says the moment that will stick with him forever is one of his more embarrassing blunders.

“It was Guy Fawkes,” recalls Jack. “Paul and Pippa crossed to me and asked me for my favourite cracker. I didn’t understand the question, but I paused and considered it carefully. ‘Umm… maybe Meal Mates?’ I answered. I’ve never lived it down!”

At 24, he moved to New York, where he served as TVNZ’s US correspondent before he was called home in 2016 to take up the role of Breakfast co-host alongside Hilary Barry. For the young broadcaster, the honour of beaming into Kiwis’ homes every morning was something he took very seriously.

Happy days with (from left): Daniel Faitaua, Hayley Holt and BFF Matty.

“The Breakfast team is the first voices that many New Zealanders hear for the day. The team fills a special place in people’s homes,” tells Jack, who now hosts Q+A on TVNZ and Saturday mornings at Newstalk ZB. “I’ve never taken that privilege for granted.”

One of the best things to come out of his time on Breakfast is his enduring friendship with Matty McLean, who Jack says is one of his biggest inspirations.

“We started on Breakfast at about the same time and spent years teasing each other as reporters on the show,” he recalls. “Eventually, we both went on to host Breakfast, but he’s way better than I ever was. He’s a brilliant, thoughtful and warm broadcaster.”

Petra Bagust

‘It was such a different time’

Only weeks after Petra Bagust joined Breakfast in 2011, the country was rocked by the devastation of the Christchurch earthquakes that killed 185 people. She says covering the disaster with co-host Corin Dann and connecting people with the support they needed is something that will stay with her forever.

“It felt like the programme truly had a purpose,” recalls the 50-year-old. “I will always remember that time. Not only were we being useful, but we were also helping to unite the nation to support the people of Canterbury and work our way forward together. It was such a privilege to broadcast at the time.”

With co-host Corin Dann.

That was just the beginning of a busy two years on the show, where Petra covered everything from an Olympic Games, a general election, a local Rugby World Cup, and even joined the well-wishers outside Buckingham Palace for the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.

But, she says, the thing she is most proud of was incorporating more te reo onto the show. Though Māori is regularly used by today’s hosts, Petra says back then, even beginning the news breaks with a small greeting was unusual.

Congratulating Dame Valerie Adams on winning gold in 2012.

“It was such a different time,” tells Petra, who now hosts the Grey Areas podcast.

“I received pronunciation feedback regularly and I shudder to think how badly I was saying ‘kupu’. Then one day, a wahine Māori came up to me at the airport and thanked me, saying the greetings made her feel more at home. That meant a lot.”

Petra admits she stepped away from the show because the pressure of the role and the early mornings started to outweigh the fun times.

“I didn’t quite fit in the culture,” tells Petra, who is mum to Venetia, 18, Jude, 16, and Teddy, 15. “Ultimately, I was healthier and happier leaving the role. Some days, it was like sitting an exam with so much to get through and never enough time. On other days, it was like opening Pandora’s box and inviting the world in to partake of our beautiful whenua and the world we call home.”

Though her time on the show was short-lived, Petra says it is easy to see why Kiwis have happily welcomed the various hosts into their homes every morning for the past 25 years.

“The hosts are in our homes as we get ready for the day and I think that’s why it’s special. I’m so happy to see more of our communities represented on Breakfast – it’s healthy, true and wonderfully encouraging.”

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