Family

Fair Go's Hadyn Jones gives us a rare peek into family life - and shares why leaving Auckland was the best thing they ever did

Hadyn juggles his TV roles with being a stay-at-home dad and involves his three kids in his work as much as he can.

By Kelly Bertrand
Fair Go host Hadyn Jones with family

The Taranaki bureau of TVNZ is quite the different environment from other newsrooms around the country.

For one, it's often occupied by a trio of very enthusiastic (if a little under-qualified) contributors, whose main mission is to help pick the backing tracks for the country's favourite news segment.

It's also in the home of their dad, Hadyn Jones, who hosts long-running TV show Fair Go

He's Taranaki's one-man band, and he's been on a nine-year mission to spread a bit of joy and love to the country with Good Sorts, his weekly yarn that airs at the end of the Sunday ONE News bulletin and celebrates an ordinary Kiwi doing something extraordinary.

Hadyn (43) and his wife Zanta (37) have welcomed the Weekly into their New Plymouth bungalow, which has been undergoing renovations for seven years with no end in sight. Hadyn has agreed to give up the right to select the location for their new kitchen in return for the usually very private Zanta agreeing to be interviewed too.

"She even drew up a contract," he says, laughing. "I signed it the other day, it's on the fridge."

"He doesn't do the cooking, so I'm not sure he had a say anyway," Zanta adds with a grin.

Yes, life in the "Taranaki bureau" – the name Hadyn proclaimed for the editing studio in a room off his garage – is perhaps unconventional for a journalist, but Hadyn wouldn't have it any other way, and it means he gets to see a whole lot more of his little music selectors, Marley (9), Archer (7) and Perry (5).

However, it does mean that chaos is often the order of the day – while chatting to the Weekly, Hadyn is heating his forgotten mug of tea in the microwave for the third time this morning.

"I can never finish a cup," he laments, pulling another neglected cup from the microwave to make room for this one.

"Hadyn usually brings the chaos home with him," Zanta says, smiling.

"He's usually away for a bit at the beginning of the week so when he gets home on a Tuesday night, I consistently say, 'Don't rark the kids up before bedtime.' And he consistently rarks the kids up before bedtime!"

"I might overcompensate a bit," Hadyn concedes. "I jump on a plane for Auckland on Sunday night, film Fair Go on Monday morning, then head out to somewhere in the country to shoot some stories, before I come back on Tuesday or Wednesday, and spend Thursday and Friday putting together the stories."

It's a full-on life for the Jones family, but Hadyn adores both his roles and makes sure to involve his kids in his work as much as he can.

"There's usually at least one of them in my office at a time, trying to push buttons and tell me what to do," he says.

"We share a lot of the stories Hadyn does with the kids too," adds Zanta.

"I think it's really important for them to see what these people are doing in their community, and all the good things that go along with it. But I suspect the kids just think that Dad makes them videos to watch. I don't think they understand that the videos are on everyone else's screens too!"

The kids are the absolute light of Hadyn and Zanta's lives.

Marley is the eldest and perhaps a little shy but she's the most conscientious.

"She's very keen on doing the right thing," her proud dad says.

Archer's a typical Kiwi kid, obsessed with sport and being like his dad.

"He just got given some compression gear for his birthday, so he looks like a scuba diver," Hadyn says. "But he's convinced it makes him run faster. He's a bit of a show-off, like his dad – if I'm wearing a blazer, he'll want to wear one too."

And as for their youngest, little Perry – Hadyn and Zanta reckon she'll be trouble, in a good way.

"She's cheeky and she knows that she's cute," he says with a laugh. "She definitely tries to work it."

Their lifestyle in New Plymouth – with the kids' school down one end of their street and the beach at the other – is exactly the environment that the couple, who have been together for 18 years, envisaged they'd raise their children in.

"We're just trying to recreate the childhood that we had," Hadyn says. "They run up and down the street and go from house to house – there are always kids around. We love it."

Their regional base is a lot different to their former home in Auckland, from where Hadyn and Zanta relocated, with a brief stop in Wellington while Hadyn worked on Good Morning for a year.

"It wasn't really for me," he admits. "So from there we decided to move to New Plymouth for a bit of a fresh start. Apparently 80 per cent of all men live within 5km of their mother-in-law and I became one of those men!"

Hadyn was ready to give up his TV career to make the move to Zanta's hometown and at one point thought his broadcasting days were over.

"For the first few years, I kind of thought my career was winding down and at an end. I did Good Sorts and that was about it. But it meant I had more time, so I became a stay-at-home dad for a few days a week.

"We just had Marley then, so it was about relaxing and enjoying time with her. We became partners in crime and checked out all the playgroups in Taranaki. Eventually we settled on the one with the best home baking. But yeah, I thought my career would suffer."

However, with evolving technology and TVNZ's call to redistribute journalists to bases around the country, Hadyn has never been short of work, and of course now he tapes stories for Fair Go and hosts it with his "on-screen wife", Pippa Wetzell.

"She's amazing to work with – so kind, thoughtful, even and professional. What helps is she also has three kids, just a few years older than mine, so in between takes we're constantly discussing the kids and different parenting tactics."

But it's Good Sorts that remains Hadyn's passion – so much so that he sometimes forgets it's a job, despite the hectic nature of the role.

"My cup does get filled up a bit, and it does make me feel a bit inadequate sometimes because I get paid to do this job. These people are so happy – they're never going to be rich, but they're so happy. I think they've found the secret to happiness in life."

The segment was Hadyn's suggestion, an idea he admits he nicked from an American TV station he once visited.

"I think they'd called it 'Heroes'. It was pretty overblown, but I thought, 'Man, wouldn't it be great if we celebrated regular Kiwis?' I walked in to my boss and he said 'yes' straight away. Now we've done about 440 of them. I call it speed dating, because I fall in love with a different person each week and then I move on!"

He and Zanta met 18 years ago in New Plymouth, where he was working in radio, and she was a friend of a friend.

"We were just mates for a year, and then one day she came home for the summer, and then we were more than friends," he says. "And we've been together ever since. Zanta's really good at keeping it real – you could say she keeps me grounded."

Zanta, a project manager, also works from home, which means they get to combine Friday office drinks. Because of the younger guest list, theirs has one big difference.

"The SodaStream gets fired up at ours!" Hadyn says, laughing.

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