Mark Sainsbury signs off

Close Up presenter talks life after TVNZ

NICOLE PRYOR
Last updated 05:00 01/12/2012

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Veteran TV host Mark Sainsbury has signed off on his last edition of Close Up - and now faces the task of finding new work after more than three decades with TVNZ.

And he laughed off the rumours and reports of a massive pay-off from the state broadcaster, saying dreams of a vineyard on Waiheke remained just that.

''I won't be able to afford to grow grapes.''

Instead, this weekend will seem him relaxing and catching up with old friends. He then plans to do all the things he did not have time for when he was on the box every weeknight.

''My hobby or passion or whatever is cars. I'm going to hit the road a bit. I've go the time to go and do things ... the job was great but it did hog your time'' he said. 

''I'm open to doing anything. That's the thing. I haven't been chasing around, I'm going to take a break, and see what opportunities are out there,'' he said.

After the break though, Sainsbury will be out looking for another job.

''That's going to be the odd thing, after nearly 32 years having to get out and start peddling yourself around or looking for stuff or finding what you want to do. It's a bit discomforting.''

And he will have to work, despite newspaper estimates of a hefty golden handshake.

"A Sunday newspaper rang me up saying they've done the sums and because I've worked at TVNZ for 30 years I was getting $2.5 million. I was going 'bring it on'.

''I get exactly what I'm entitled to. I get redundancy, so that's it. I'm not buying a vineyard on Waiheke or whatever. I won't be able to afford to grow grapes.''

Sainsbury did not rule out a return to the screen, for something to do with cars, extensive travel or food, but also had a hankering for making living-room furniture.

''I've always wanted to make resin tables. I know this sounds odd but I've had this thing going for years and years.

Have you seen those paper weights with butterflies in them? I had this idea years ago to make tables out of it,'' he said.

''I started experimenting years ago. It's quite complicated actually, you need someone who knows what he's doing.''

This would be a surprising segue were it not for the eclectic lineup of jobs preceding his long tenure with the state broadcaster, starting with driving buses after he took a hiatus from law school.

''I still have my driver's license. I can drive an electric bus,'' he said.

''I did that, then I worked for Barratt's Hotel, I was bar manager, assistant manager there. Then I went off overseas, to the States, travelling down through Mexico.''

This was followed by a stint working for an awning company, where he handbuilt the structures for wealthy families.

''Originally I was going to do law, and save the world. All that sort of bullshit,'' he said.

''Journalism - honestly it was something I thought I could do at night. You know, I could work at NZPA and not be a poor student. But I really liked it and I scored a job at TVNZ before the end of the course.''

He started with TVNZ in 1981 as a researcher for a show called Close Up - which was a mid-week, hour-long ''clone of 60 minutes''.

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Sainsbury worked on a wide range of projects with TVNZ.

He made documentaries, got the foreign correspondent gig, did long form reports for Assignment, became political editor, and then filled in for Susan Wood - something he said was the ''best job of the lot - the fill in job''.

But more than 30 years later, Sainsbury is not concerned about life after Close Up.

''It all comes down to the question 'are you solely defined by your job?' If you stop doing this job will you cease to exist - you know, the job has been great - but I don't define myself solely by this,'' he said.

Another defining feature, the famous moustache, stays.

''I don't know, I've just got used to it. I shaved it off in about 1978. I've never shaved it off since I've been on this programme.''

As for what the new-look Close Up will be, he said it was his friends and colleagues who would be a part of it, and he wanted it to work for them.

''There's nothing worse than someone finishing a job and then running the ruler over what's happening next, you know? And I don't know how objective you can be, in that sense,'' he said.

"I'm not sitting here hoping it's going to crash and burn, then you feel better about yourself - I think that's tacky, personally.''

- Auckland Now

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