26 June, 2019
Family, naps and netball all part of Toni’s busy routine
Having recovered from a serious illness and added to her family, broadcaster Toni Street is back juggling work and parenting – and her latest role as a Belmont Primary netball coach. She talks to Helen Vause.
While most of us are still snug in our beds, Toni Street is slipping out of Bayswater and heading across the bridge to the office. Her alarm has gone off at 4.30am, and soon after 5am the broadcaster is preparing to get behind the microphone for a few frenetic hours as co-host of The Hits breakfast show.
Back home, baby Lachlan is the next to stir, and dad Matt France will swing into gear to get the girls, Juliette (6) and Mackenzie (4), ready for school and kindy.
The family’s nanny arrives at 7.30 to help get dad and the girls out the door and to take care of Lachlan until Street comes home. Typically, she is back home from work by late morning and, on as many days as she can manage, she’ll fit in an intensive exercise class around lunchtime in Takapuna. Those fitness sessions are one of the keys to maintaining the health and energy to keep it all together with a happy family and full work schedule.
Street looks fit and happy as we chat in her living room, while Juliette helps entertain her active baby brother. It’s two and a half years since she went to work in breakfast radio after her stint of co-hosting Seven Sharp with Mike Hosking on TV One. And although all looks rosy now, for Street and her family it has been a very eventful period away from the world of screens and microphones.
The tough times came just six weeks after the birth of her second daughter, Mackenzie, in March 2015. The baby was thriving but Street had been feeling increasingly unwell. Searing stomach pains, awful anxiety and more led to hospital and a bevy of baffled medics. Weeks later, after many tests, she was diagnosed with the very rare autoimmune disease Churg-Strauss syndrome. This is a condition that leads to organ failure and Street says she’s very lucky it was diagnosed before it progressed any further.
Her gallbladder was removed and she started on treatment that would slowly get her back to health – and to work. Street will never fully recover; she’s in remission, remaining on a low dose of medication.
“It was a terrible time for us. The girls were tiny, I didn’t know what lay ahead for me. Mum and Dad were here with us and somehow we battled through,” recalls Street.
“I suppose I’m lucky it can be managed. But it took two or three years to fully get over it.”
Part of getting over it for Street, apart from unwavering family and professional support, was being able to return to work alongside Hosking at Seven Sharp. There’d been weight gain, she felt puffy and often very tired, but being able to slap on the make-up and face the bright lights and buzz of live TV at night was just the boost she needed, she says.
“Sometimes it was tough but I felt very lucky to be able to do it – to go back to the job at a time when the distraction of it took me away from the worry and stress of what I’d been going through at home.
“Everyone was very supportive – workmates and the public. I felt lucky to have all that and it did make a big difference to getting back to health.”
By the time Mackenzie had hit the ‘terrible twos’ and Street was in better shape, the niggling desire for another child was getting stronger. The doctors said her health issues ruled out a safe and successful pregnancy. Shortly after she’d digested that news, an old friend from Taranaki made the offer to carry and give birth to baby number three for Street and France.
Last year, it was probably the nation’s most high profile surrogacy-story, so Lachlan has already had a fair bit of media coverage. It was the second time in just a couple of years that Street’s personal life – and health – came under the national gaze.
“I was quite worried about how people would react. In fact, there was a very positive response to what we were doing, and to this day I’m getting messages from women about surrogacy. I’ve been very happy to talk about it and maybe to be part of helping someone else on that journey.”
Watching 10-month-old Lachlan exploring the living room, Street says: “I sometimes forget I didn’t give birth to him myself. But I can never forget the incredible generosity of the dear friend who had him for us.”
The biological son of Street and France, Lachlan is a happy, busy little boy, doted on by all: “He has brought us incredible joy.” Street is mindful of striking the balance of ‘having it all’ – and making it work. To have the jobs that give her the space and energy for the family life she wants, she is conscious she needs to keep up her skills as a ‘Jill of all trades’ in broadcasting. She has to be prepared for any role that will work in with her personal and professional considerations.
Learning the trade was her dream as a kid growing up on a Taranaki dairy farm. In her teens, Street was a rising sporting star in both netball and cricket. She was head girl of New Plymouth Girls’ High School and the classic all-rounder.
Street played both cricket and netball at national level, representing Taranaki and Canterbury in netball and Central Districts in cricket. She went down to Lincoln University in Canterbury on a cricket scholarship and graduated with a commerce degree. In her first year, there she met France, who was a rugby player at the time. She married him in 2009.
Sports-mad Street did a postgraduate course in journalism and landed an internship in television. Although she had no intention of confining her career to sports, that’s where she started in broadcasting.
It was a move that took her rapidly into the public eye through her coverage of top sporting events. For Street, it was a relatively short journey to jobs in television, beyond the sports desk.
In addition to her radio job, she’s still often returning to television to fill in for others or for one-off roles. She’s also an ambassador for four charities and in regular demand as an MC. She finds it hard to say ‘no’ and her instinct is to cram more into her working life.
She and France run a very tight ship. She says they’re both highly organised, active people. Luckily, they’re happy to be tucking into bed very early most nights. “We’re great fun at a party. But everyone knows we’ll be off home before nine,” she laughs. “I really don’t do relaxing very well. But I know I need to watch my health and our life balance. We plan for very regular breaks throughout the year. And when I’m off-air in the summer programme break, that gives vital time to reset before we’re back into our routine.”
The couple moved to Bayswater six years ago. A major renovation of their bungalow included accommodation downstairs that’s become a second home to Street’s parents.
This year, Street is thrilled she’s able to be more entrenched in the community as coach of Juliette’s Year 2 netball team. And three games in, she’s proud to say the Belmont Superstars are undefeated.
How does she do it all? “I take after my dairy-farming father. I have his ability to just take a nap whenever I want. Naps are my secret weapon.”
This article originally appeared in the June 28 edition of The Devonport Flagstaff. Download PDF.