An appalling breach of neutrality at TVNZ

Patrick Gower at 3 News reported:

3 News can reveal state broadcaster is being used as a campaign base by Party activists.

They’ve even held a meeting in TVNZ’s Maori and Pacific Unit aimed at fundraising for Labour.

The unit’s manager, , has held ambitions to become a Labour MP and his staff have been arranging Labour Party business, using TVNZ facilities like email.

Mr Taurima has resigned following the revelation.

Mr Taurima’s a Labour Party activist. He could be standing as a Labour MP this election.

Documents obtained by 3 News show the state broadcaster is being used to help Labour’s cause.

Labour’s electorate committee for the Auckland Maori seat Tamaki Makarau has been using TVNZ as a base.

Last year, a meeting was held at the Maori and Pacific unit’s Hobson headquarters, next to TVNZ’s main building, with Labour Party activists swiped through security.

On the agenda was “fundraising” – making money for the Labour Party.

This is appalling and there must be a full independent inquiry into how this happened. Having the resources of the state broadcaster used to help the Labour Party fund raise and campaign plan is not far off political corruption.

This is not about the actions of Taurima alone. He was a known Labour Party aspiring candidate. TVNZ hired him back after he sought Labour’s nomination for Ikaroa Rawhiti. They knew his affiliations when they hired him back. Did they explicitly tell him he could not remain politically active?

There are so many questions about this, I don’t know where to start. Here’s a few.

  • How did TVNZ become aware of Labour Party use of their facilities?
  • Did they only take action once they became aware it would become public.
  • Why was Taurima not sacked, and allowed to resign?
  • Who at TVNZ knew about the Labour Party campaign meeting held at their offices, and who swiped all the activists through?
  • Who decided to rehire Taurima, after he quit to try and be the Labour candidate for Ikaroa Rawhiti?
  • Was Taurima explicitly warned or counselled about political activity?
  • How many TVNZ Maori unit staff are Labour Party activists? At least four are known of, which destroys any notion that the TVNZ Maori Unit is delivering politically neutral programmes.
  • Did any Labour MPs attend the meeting at TVNZ premises? Did they not think this was wrong, if they did attend?
  • Was Labour Head Office aware that TVNZ was basically the host for their Tamaki Makarau branch?
  • Did David Cunliffe not think there was anything wrong with attending a sesssion on how to win the Maori vote, run by the head of the TVNZ Maori Unit? Should this not ring warning bells?

There must be a full external inquiry into this. Either the TVNZ Board must commission an independent inquiry into how this occurred, and how to prevent it happening again – or the Auditor-General should be asked to investigate.

UPDATE: A further story in Stuff reveals:

  • TVNZ only found out about this due to the TV3 story.
  • Taurima only resigned once the story came to light
  • TVNZ knew that Taurima wanted to seek Labour’s nomination for Tamaki Makaurau

This is a really bad call by TVNZ. They hired someone who had just weeks earlier been a Labour Party candidate, and who wanted to stand for Labour again at the next election. They never should have hired Taurima again. By doing so, they turned their Maori unit into a branch of the Labour Party.

No one would say that you can never return to broadcasting after being a candidate. Paul Henry stood for National in 1999, for example. But that was in his past when he went onto TVNZ. It is very different to hiring someone weeks after they have been a candidate – and when they are still planning to run again.

UPDATE2: Taurima has put out a press release:

It is with immense regret and sadness that I have resigned as General Manager of Māori and Pacific Programmes at TVNZ.

I love and respect the work of all my TVNZ colleagues and regret any damage that my actions may have had on them, and the incredibly important and quality work they do.

I have been a member of the Labour Party since I contested the Ikaroa-Rāwhiti candidacy in 2013.

I have attended party hui and fully accept that some of my actions in supporting Labour may be seen to have crossed the line and I apologise unreservedly.

I categorically deny that my political affiliations have had any influence on any editorial decision that I have made during this time or at any time in the more than 12 years that I have been honoured to work in many roles at TVNZ. However, questions have been raised that have brought into question the integrity of the crucial work of my colleagues at TVNZ. This is unfair and unacceptable and as a result I have resigned.

I respect that an internal investigation is underway into the actions of three of my former colleagues and my heart goes out to them at this time..

I have seen the word activist used to describe my now former work colleagues. They are not activists. They are passionate friends and people that I love and respect who committed to provide some support to me. They are wonderful people whose enthusiasm led to some poorly considered decisions. Decisions that were not to benefit them individually.. I do hope their actions do not impact on the passion, commitment and loyalty they each provide as valued employees of TVNZ.

I have made no decisions around my future and will be making no further comment at this time.

I apologise again for any damage or upset that my actions may have caused.

Taurima made some very bad judgement calls, as he admits. For me the real issue is that of TVNZ management. Did they hire him back without asking if he planned to stand again?

Comments (94)

Login to comment or vote