Jim Hickey won extended fame as TVNZ’s senior weathercaster, after debuting on screen as an actor. After first handling weather duties on TV One’s primetime news bulletin in 1988, he went on to host for Country Calendar and A Flying Visit, plus a number of one-off documentaries.
Hickey trained as a secondary school teacher. At university he did a major in climate, as part of a geography degree (after becoming a weather presenter, he followed it with a diploma in meteorology).
In the early 1980s, Hickey was acting in a stage musical in Auckland when he was spotted by producer Chris Bailey. He began appearing on-screen, initially in acting roles. Hickey’s CV includes more than 20 commercials, plus small acting roles in Mortimer’s Patch (as a mechanic), Heroes (as a publican), Gloss (as a policeman, in this episode) and an appearance as a surveyor in kidult fantasy Children of the Dog Star (viewable five minutes into the second clip here).
Hickey debuted on the TV One’s primetime primetime bulletin in 1988. His confident, inviting style of weather presentation quickly won a keen following. In the mid 90s TVNZ started harnessing Hickey’s presentation skills for other shows. In 1996 he was invited to join the team of reporters on magazine show Town and Country, which after changing channels morphed into New Zealand Living.
Having grown up on a Taranaki farm and done his share of milking cows and making hay, there had been aspirations at one point to become a farmer. At the start of 1998, Hickey returned to his rural roots, to present the iconic Country Calendar. He remained on the show for five years, mixing regular frontman duties with reporting on some episodes. In 2016 he was called back to present a special show marking Country Calendar's 50th year on air.
Hickey also found time for the first of many televised tours of the country; initially for one-off doco Shaky Beginnings, which examined how natural forces have shaped New Zealand.
By 2000 Hickey’s fame was such that his name had made it into the title. That year he fronted Jim’s Car Show, with help from Mark Leishman and Marie Azcona. Soon after he was seen on one-off documentary How’s the Weather Jim?, doing interviews around the country as part of a mission to understand New Zealand’s weather and what causes it.
Hickey quickly reteamed with frequent collaborator, producer/director Dave Mason, for the first of two seasons of A Flying Visit. Irishman Jim Hickey senior had flown Spitfires over Burma during WW2, before marrying a nurse back in New Zealand. The new television show saw Jim junior, who had inherited his father's love for flight, piloting a four-seater Cessna 182 to less visited parts of New Zealand: from Matarangi to Stewart Island. His father even made a cameo appearance. Another tour followed for The Real Middle Earth, this time talking to some of those who had contributed in various ways to The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Hickey left TVNZ in 2003, and returned to the primetime news in September 2007. He continued to alternate presenting duties with meteorologist and TVNZ weather veteran Karen Olsen until 2014. These days he is a partner in airport cafe company Airspresso.
‘Jim Hickey’ Speakers New Zealand website. Accessed 2 March 2016
Helen Harvey, 'Jim produces warm front on weather' (Interview) - Taranaki Daily News, 25 October 2012
Bevan Rapson, ‘Thank God it’s a good ole COUNTRY show’ - NZ Herald, 15 January 1998, page E3
Dave Mason Productions website. Accessed 2 March 2016
‘Jim Hickey’ TVNZ website. Accessed 20 May 2013
'Interview: Jim Hickey' (Radio Interview) Newstalk ZB website. Loaded 21 December 2015. Accessed 2 March 2016