It's my 10-year anniversary at TV3, and the milestone has made me stop and reflect for a moment. Two things immediately spring to mind: firstly, I must be getting old. Secondly, how lucky I am to spend my life telling people's stories.
I still can't quite believe anyone gave me a job here. You may share this view when you see the first story I filed for 3 News at the tender age of 17 (which technically makes this my 15-year anniversary). Back then I had long, unkempt, bright red hair - some things don't change - I wore jeans with sneakers and was still trying to stop rolling my Rs (it's a south Otago thing). I didn't wear a scrap of make-up.
But former head of news Mark Jennings took a punt and over the years I've tried my hand at most of the shows we offer. Firstly there was Nightline, with its wonderful, nurturing, patient crew who put up with a complete rookie presenting the show at the age of 23. Then there was Firstline, 3rd Degree, 3D, Newsworthy, Newshub Late and the flagship 6pm news.
There have been hundreds of stories over the years. It's almost impossible to pick out favourites, but that's no fun so I've had a crack at my top 10 from the past 10 years:
Click the images to watch the stories.
My first TV story. I was 17 years old and on work experience with Nightline when producer Angus Gillies sent me out to interview heavy metal band Megadeth. I had no idea what I was doing but inadvertently came back with an international scoop. It was the first time I ever got to say "Samantha Hayes, 3 News" and I was hooked.
I travelled to India to shoot a ramshackle series of stories on everything from bio fuels and dental tourism to the toxic dyes in the Holi Festival of Colour. It was a magnificent and at times absurd experience - and the food was spectacular (for a vegetarian).
After listening to just one song, my 3D producer, Terence Taylor, was bold enough to let me document the first eight months of a young Aucklander's music career. That song was 'Royals' and the girl was Lorde. She went on to win two Grammys and hang out with lots of famous people.
Pete Bethune captured my imagination circumnavigating the globe with Earthrace and again when he took on Japanese whalers in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. He invited me to join him on his next crusade in the jungles of Costa Rica. I have immense respect for his commitment to environmentalism.
I spent some time in Rarotonga with Greenpeace and Whale Rider star Keisha Castle Hughes, documenting their crusade against climate change and its impact on the Pacific Islands. It was the beginning of my passion for the topic, which took me to Copenhagen to cover COP15 - the largest United Nations summit at that point on the issue.
I'd wanted to go to Antarctica for as long as I could remember and excruciatingly almost forfeited my ticket by breaking my arm 10 days ahead of our departure. Luckily I got the okay to go and I travelled with members of the Parliamentary Press Gallery to cover Prime Minister John Key's trip. On our final day I filed a story on the return of Shackleton's century-old whiskey to his historic hut at Cape Royds. The experience left me drunk on Antarctica and I vowed to return again soon (without a broken arm).
Running a half-marathon through Kenya's Masai Mara Game Reserve was the hardest physical challenge of my life. I was stupidly unprepared for the gruelling race in the middle of the African summer, at altitude, during the great migration.
I've filed several stories now with the Mongrel Mob and Black Power. In the first -Supergang - we documented the two gangs' intentions to join forces and work together. It opened up a world I'd never known and what we found was staggering.
Alex Renton's medicinal cannabis case made daily headlines but no one had the full story. I'm proud of the trust we built with Alex's mum, Rose, who showed incredible strength during her son's illness. Alex spent three months in an induced coma and was the first patient to be prescribed and given a cannabis product in a New Zealand hospital. The twist was Rose had already been giving her son the cannabis oil for weeks before the hospital or Government knew. As she said, a mother would do anything to save her son.
The single greatest experience of my working life (and possibly my life) is flying into the Dry Valleys in Antarctica and camping with a small group of scientists on a mountain top fewer than 20 people had ever visited. At one point we were flying over the nearby polar plateau and I burst into tears simply overcome with emotion at how beautiful it was. It was a pivotal moment in my life and I'm so grateful I was given the opportunity to experience it.