New Zealanders are mourning the death of Philip Sherry, one of the country’s best-loved newsreaders. This profile first appeared in the Bay of Plenty Times in 2004, soon after he moved to Tauranga and was elected on the local council.
Every night for many, many years, Philip Sherry appeared on our TV screens reading news about the nation’s politicians. Now he’s a politician himself – right here in the Bay. Graham Skellern meets the man behind the name.
Some people must think Philip Sherry has been eloquently reading the news on television forever.
Well, it hasn’t quite been that long.
He left the screen some 14 years ago but his name and distinctive face doesn’t fade.
Mr Sherry had hardly moved into his new home in Papamoa after 26 years in Auckland when he was elected a councillor for Environment Bay of Plenty.
He was the former deputy chairman of Auckland Regional Council but he wasn’t active during the recent local body elections – there were no signs on the side of the street, no newspaper advertising.
But Mr Sherry swept into a new office, becoming the second highest polling candidate in the Tauranga electorate. He attracted 14,739 votes, more than 2200 votes ahead of another newcomer Andrew Von Dadelszen and more than 3100 ahead of experienced councillor Athole Herbert.
Mr Sherry, who has been a local body politician ever since he disappeared from the television screen, said he was “pleasantly surprised” by the result.
“You can hardly be part of the family furniture for 30 years and going from brunette to blonde without people becoming a little used to you. People either vote for you or they don’t – and the candidates’ directory is the best means of informing people.”
Soon after his election, rumours spread about his age. So I put it to him. “Are you 83 years old?”
That got Mr Sherry chortling. “Oh, my God; deary me.” The question came late and by then the interview was out of control.
I waved the white flag when he insisted he hadn’t entered his eighth decade and he had just blown my angle of telling the world that he was the oldest local body politician in the country.
But he still wouldn’t tell me his age. Early to mid-70s might be a good guess. Mr Sherry and his wife Margaret have been commuting to Tauranga for the past year or so to visit their daughter, son-in-law and two “very tiny grandchildren”.
They officially moved into their home they bought last November a month ago – soon after he stepped down from the Auckland Regional Council and strode into Environment BOP.
“The family is the big driver to live here,” he said.
“We closed our retirement home in Takapuna and it was time to move on. The Bay has everything going for it – wonderful climate, dynamic community and very interesting local government.
“People have asked me ‘why on earth do you keep doing what you do?’ I enjoy public
service, I enjoy human beings and that drives my interest,” said Mr Sherry.
He first became a public name and voice in 1960 when he joined the New Zealand Broadcasting Service as a continuity announcer. Two years later he was an original radio newsreader and, when television began in 1963, he joined John Roberts, David Clark and Brian Hudson as the country’s first news frontmen.
The young Sherry then shot off overseas, working for commercial radio in Vancouver, Dutch World Service in Hilverson and the “obligatory” time with the BBC in London.
Returning from overseas, Mr Sherry based himself in Wellington and read the South Pacific Television news in tandem with Tom Bradley who was based in Auckland.
Mr Sherry was also part of the start-up crew for National Radio’s Morning Report in 1975.
“I started work at 5am for radio and would be reading the television news at 9pm. It was a longish day but very disciplined.”
A year later Mr Sherry moved to Auckland to front the television news with Mr Bradley and he also presented Eye Witness News. It was a high profile stint that lasted until 1990.
Two years later, he followed his new dream by becoming a first term councillor for the North Shore City Council and Takapuna Community Board.
Then he represented North Shore for three terms on the Auckland Regional Council (ARC), finishing six years later as deputy chairman last month.
His final year in Auckland was punctuated by the huge public outcry over a big hike in rates.
“The ARC lesson is to listen very carefully to the ratepayers. The ARC acted correctly but it was political expediency in the way they applied the increased rating – and that is not what good governance is about.”
So what will Mr Sherry bring to the Tauranga electorate of Environment BOP? First and foremost, he says he will look after the interests of the ratepayers by being a member of the regional council’s finance committee. And secondly, he brings experience.
“I already have a track record in local government and that may well be in my favour. I remember Keith Holyoake saying ‘breathe through your nose and listen and learn’. That’s what I propose to do here,” he says.
“It’s a matter of getting up to speed with policies and the immediate planning process. There’s a lot of homework and I’ll see how I can make a positive contribution.
“It will be a pleasure to be part of the regional council.”
Mr Sherry knows the roading and congestion in Tauranga needs to be sorted – but right now he has something else on his mind. Roundabouts. There’s very few of them in Auckland.
“I have to learn the disciplines of using the roundabouts. You have to have eyes front and back and you need to be very alert,” he laughs.
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