Shore local Toni Street will be a well-known face to Channel Mag readers. The Narrow Neck resident features on many TVNZ shows as well as being on the Coast Breakfast radio show. Toni has recently published a book which she titled ‘Lost and Found – My story of heartbreak and hope’. Channel Mag’s Aidan Bennett heard about the book via an episode of TVNZ's Sunday programme and decided to buy it and have a read. He discovered a truly remarkable story that really is one of heartbreak and hope as the title suggests. He believes it is a book that Channel Mag readers should know about and read. Also a great gift for Christmas! Aidan caught up with Toni for this Q&A in mid-November.
AIDAN BENNETT: Congratulations Toni on a fantastic book. After seeing the piece on the TVNZ Sunday show about your story I bought the book and couldn’t put it down. It is a truly remarkable story that is told so well. What made you decide to write the book?
TONI STREET: I was asked to write a book by Allen & Unwin publishing after we went through the surrogacy process to have our now three year old Lachie. I knew there was a real need for Kiwi surrogacy experiences because we found it really hard to get information from anywhere when we first started considering surrogacy as an option. I liked the idea of other parents being able to use the book as an insight into how everything worked, but also as a nice keepsake for Lachie to look back on one day.
AB: How long did it take you to put the book together (from start to finish) and who helped you?
TS: It took about 18 months from start to finish. I have been extremely busy in that time hosting things like the America’s Cup and Olympics, so initially I didn’t think it would be possible! I was very lucky to have a ghost writer to help me. Sophie Neville (also a North Shore local) and I have worked together many times through the magazine industry so she was an easy choice. The process involved hours and hours of interviews, transcribing and editing!
AB: Has it sold well?
TS: I’ve been blown away by the reception to the book. It has been New Zealand number one since it debuted and was also number one overall (including international books) for three weeks.
AB: What I liked about the book is the honesty. You tackle a whole range of personal things. Sad and tough parts of your life, health issues and the challenges of surrogacy. That can’t have been easy?
TS: It was extremely hard to talk through the deaths of my three siblings with Mum and Dad. You just don’t get that level of detail until you sit down in a situation like that, and so much of their story I didn’t know properly as I was so young. Personally I have always been a very open person and I really wanted to give an accurate description of the big things that have happened in my life; I didn’t want to sugar coat any of it. I want people to be able to relate to things like my illness and grief and I just don’t think you can do that without sharing all of the highs and lows.
AB: What has the feedback been from people you know and others about the book?
TS: People have all reacted in different ways depending on what part of the book they relate to. Two of my best friends rang me and said they didn’t realise the enormity of the grief my family had endured and they were worried they weren’t supportive enough. I think that is a common theme of not knowing what to do for people who are grief-stricken and I hope people get from the book that just “being there” is actually enough, feeling supported and loved is the best you can do.
I’ve had lots of people going through the surrogacy process get in touch, and others who have also lost siblings or children themselves. I’ve also had many people who are on long term steroids message me to say they had exactly the same side effects.
AB: You lead a busy life. Are things a bit more balanced for you these days or have you been battling with lockdown life like most of us?
TS: I’ve been going to my radio job on Coast Breakfast every day throughout lockdown and balancing that with home schooling my two daughters and looking after our three-year-old which is super challenging. At the same time our pace of life has slowed down because there is no school, sports practices, concerts or trips away – it really has been a double edged sword! We have felt very thankful to have beautiful beaches and places to walk on our doorstep.
AB: What made you choose the Shore as a place to live and bring up your family and what do you love about the place?
TS: Initially my then fiancé and I moved to the Shore because Matt got a contract to play rugby for North Harbour. Prior to that I had lived in Balmoral and Freeman’s Bay. We had no idea where to go but ended up renting in Hauraki and we loved it. I truly believe once you move to the Shore you find it hard to cross back over to the city. We loved the slower pace of living, the suburban feel and the access to the beach. The Shore has a very beachy, chilled-out vibe and that is what I loved growing up in New Plymouth – so I feel like living in Narrrow Neck gives us the best of both worlds being so close to central Auckland.
AB: What has 2022 got in store for Toni Street and your whānau?
TS: Getting out of lockdown would be a great start! We’ll be heading to the Coromandel early January for some beach time. Work wise I’ve signed on to host the new TVNZ show “ASB Game Changer”, which gives people who apply financial help to get control over their finances. I visit them before and after to see the changes they’ve made. I’ll continue to host Coast Breakfast radio which is 6 to 9am weekdays on 98.2fm in Auckland.
Family-wise, we’ve just signed up as members of the North Shore Cricket Club; my daughter is keen to play and I’ve said yes to coaching! Fingers crossed travel will be on the agenda too after so long being locked down!!
AB: Complete the following. After a busy and challenging 2021 I am looking forward to…
TS: …. catching up with my friends and family who I have missed dearly, having the freedom to travel and do all the things we love to do. Normality would be great!
Toni’s book is available from all good local book stores – shop local!