To most New Zealanders, Wendy Petrie is someone you would describe as “famous”. But for the down-to-earth One News anchor, it took being at Auckland’s Viaduct Harbour, among a heaving crowd of more than 6000 royal fans, to make the mum-of-three feel that way.
It was the day of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s sailing trip on the Waitemata Harbour and Wendy was waiting patiently to film her news story.
“I looked like a little woolly sheep,” Wendy (42) laughs.
“I’d done my own hair and make-up but it absolutely poured down and my hair goes curly in the rain. It was certainly not a sleek look!”
Nevertheless, as the crowds, with their cameras at the ready, waited anxiously for a moment to spot William and Kate on the water, Wendy was surprised that “a few people came up to me and asked me for a photo”.
“They were so warm and kind – I sort of felt like a celebrity myself, which was funny.”
And yet, Wendy is. It’s her polished delivery of the 6pm news each weekday, alongside Simon Dallow, which has seen One News win numerous awards. At heart, however, she’s a journalist with more than 18 years’ experience, during which she’s got up close with the royals on several occasions.
“I am intrigued by them – I find them very interesting,” explains Wendy.
“Kate and William are such a beautiful couple and I think they do a really great job of keeping their lives private, while fulfilling their public obligations.”
She recalls the feeling in the TVNZ newsroom as the family of three touched down on New Zealand soil in an Air Force plane on Monday, April 7.
“Royal fever captures you – even if you aren’t a royal follower! It’s nice to celebrate something when so often I deliver stories that are tragic, difficult and sad.”
The TV presenter is now a seasoned royal reporter, having flown to London in 2011 to cover the royal couple’s wedding at Westminster Abbey, London.
She joined thousands of international media to present a daily live cross from outside Buckingham Palace in the lead-up to the wedding.
Wendy also covered Prince Charles’ visit to New Zealand in 2010 and in her tenacious style, directed a spontaneous question to William when he also visited that same year.
“Prince William was wandering past and I couldn’t help myself – I just blurted out, ‘Are you loving New Zealand, Prince William?’” Wendy recalls.
“He said, ‘Yes, it’s wonderful!’
It was caught on camera and we screened it. But I had a very stern telling off afterwards for talking to the royals.”
This time around Wendy took a more backseat approach, not daring to so much as catch the royals’ eyes. But if given the opportunity to enjoy a quiet moment with them both, she’d have had plenty to talk about.
The reporter visited their royal hideaway, the luxurious Wharekauhau Lodge in the Wairarapa, to attend the wedding of TV One weather presenter Renee Wright.
“And Petra Bagust married Hamish Wilson at Matakauri Lodge, the Queenstown resort that the duke and duchess overnighted at, so I’ve been there too! They have certainly picked the best spots in terms of luxury. But if I was them in those lodges, I would enjoy downtime with my son and relax away from the crowds.”
Wendy happily admits to being a little obsessed with her regal role – she’s watched Kate, William and Prince George closely throughout the tour, even forfeiting time with her children to check up on her favourite tourists.
“I found myself constantly checking online to see what they were doing,” she says.
“I was even at a gymnastics event with my daughter Liv and looking at videos of the royals instead of watching her team warm up!”
However, Wendy says she’d have been more overjoyed still had Kate worn a range of New Zealand designed outfits on tour. “I wish we’d seen more of that – having said that, I loved the black Jenny Packham gown with silver fern detail.
“It was a nice touch and clearly she was thinking of New Zealand. She’s respectful of our culture and heritage.”
The duchess did indeed dress for every occasion, including the nautical outfit she donned for her Team New Zealand debut – and Wendy was among the crowd to witness it.
“She took her heels off to get onto the boat, which was brilliant, and when at the wheel of the yacht, I reckon she looked like a first-class athlete!”
And seeing Prince George in her arms, albeit only a handful of times, reminded Wendy of her own first holiday with her first-born daughter Addison (now 10).
“The royals probably couldn’t help but be excited about their first official trip away together as a family.
“I remember my holiday to Queenstown with my (then) six-month-old. It is certainly a life-changing moment as a new mother.”
Wendy noticed a large number of children who skipped school for a glimpse of royalty at the Viaduct Harbour, but says her brood, Addison, Liv (8) and Zach (4), weren’t part of the crowd.
“My girls were at school,” she sighs. “I actually saw a few kids from their school and felt guilty about that! My kids remember when I was in London covering the wedding, but for the girls, the recent tour was more exciting. They are interested in the duchess – being married to a prince is what fairytales are made of! They think Kate is so gorgeous, lovely and kind, and that adorable Prince George is divine.”
And to Wendy, Prince William’s charm didn’t go unnoticed either.
“I like that he’s very humble and didn’t mind taking a back seat to his wife,” she says.
“I enjoyed watching him when he was out talking to people in the crowd – he’s very genuine and everything he says is well thought out, not obligatory. They really are the modern royals!”