TV golden girl Toni Street always described Seven Sharp as her dream job. But four years after teaming up with broadcasting icon Mike Hosking, the pair shocked their fans by announcing they've called it quits.
They signed off their last Seven Sharp show together before Christmas, bringing an end to a dynamic partnership that won a legion of loyal viewers. Down-to-earth Toni's warmth was seen as the perfect foil to Mike's hard-nosed style.
While Kiwis were left reeling by the news, it came as no surprise to Woman's Day, who the previous week had shared Toni's struggle over balancing work and motherhood. The Taranaki-born 34-year-old – who's mum to Juliette, five, and Mackenzie, two, with husband Matt France – confessed that working two weekday jobs in TV and radio had become too tough.
"They are young for such a short period of time, and while work is so important to me and to who I am – not to mention financially – it's a matter of weighing up how much I'm willing to sacrifice," said Toni, who was voted Woman's Day Television Personality of the Year at the recent NZ TV Awards.
The turning point came when Juliette started school in October, confessed Toni, who will continue her morning radio job on The Hits.
"She's struggling to understand why she's only seeing me for such a short time," says Toni.
"I understand that heaps of women work and they have no choice, but for me, it's five days a week where I hardly see my girls at all. There's no night where I can read them a story before they go to sleep."
When the announcement was made, she added, "This decision has not come easy for me, but with two young children, I want to be home more often in the evenings for them. Seven Sharp has been my dream job. I've absolutely loved my four years with Mike on the show. It's been a privilege to be part of such a professional, fun and supportive team. I'm really proud of our success and grateful to have been welcomed into the homes of so many New Zealanders."
While Toni will relish more time with her adorable girls, life will certainly be different in the Hosking household too, with Mike's wife Kate Hawkesby returning to the workforce.
Almost seven years after putting her career on hold to raise their blended family, which she writes about in her weekly Woman's Day parenting column, Kate, 43, will replace Rachel Smalley on Newstalk ZB's early-morning show from January, in the time slot before her husband.
After the news was announced, a clearly delighted Mike, 52, told Woman's Day he couldn't be happier about the prospect of spending more time with Kate, his twins Ruby and Bella, 15, and stepchildren Jackson, 17, Joshua, 15, and Marley, 10.
"I'm most looking forward to being at home at night to have dinner with my wife and kids, which I haven't been able to do on weeknights for four years," he says. "With Katie going back to work next year, I was worried we'd get less and less time together, so I'm thrilled our schedules will be in sync.
"That said, I'm hoping she doesn't expect me to take up cooking dinner because I'm hopeless at that. It will be a relief not to have to work both ends of the day – it's been a punishing schedule not just for Toni and me, but also for our families."
He reveals the decision to walk away has been incredibly easy.
"There was not a single sleepless night over this and I'm very much at peace with it. I was looking to leave two years ago, so this feels like plenty of time. We were hired to build the show and make it a success. I feel like we've done that and we can leave on a high. Life's too short to spend too much time at work when you have families at home."
Mike made it clear that he didn't want to continue at Seven Sharp without the inimitable Toni, who has become a close friend.
"I felt very strongly that Toni and I are the team, and if she's out, I'm out," he tells.
To mark Mike's momentous decision, the Hosking-Hawkesby whanau enjoyed a meal of takeaways, Kate reveals.
"We're a very happy household here tonight getting the dad/husband back! The boys went out and brought us all back Burger Fuel to celebrate – burgers are the best way to celebrate," she laughs.
"It's a huge relief to get our little worker bee back!"