Yep. Was utter madness from TVNZ at the time. But Hawkesby walked from TV3 when they wanted to pair him with Carol Hirschfeld at the start of 1999. Some bright spark at TVNZ thought they’d reunite John and Judy, who had presented shows together in the 80s (Top Half, which as I understand it was a regional forerunner to Holmes/Close Up/Seven Sharp).
As you mentioned, Richard was bumped to weekends with Liz but it only lasted only about 3 weeks I think before it was reversed after ratings tanked. Hawkesby got a 6 million dollar payout (https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=125060) and never had to work another day in his life (I believe he did some MCing and charity work, but has never appeared on TV again on a regular gig).
Incidentally, if Hawkesby had stuck with TV3 we might have never seen the rise of John Campbell, who they rushed in as his replacement last minute.