17 May 2022

Producer of Chloe Swarbrick documentary responds to ACT backlash

8:06 pm on 17 May 2022

A producer of a documentary about Green Party MP Chloe Swarbrick says there are serious discussions to be had about the impact of trolling on the mental health of MPs.

Chlöe Swarbrick

Green Party MP Chloe Swarbrick. Photo: Supplied / Benjamin Brooking

ACT leader David Seymour has been kicking up a fuss over the decision to award taxpayer money towards the production of the film, titled Being Chloe, which will follow Swarbrick over the next two years.

"She should come out and say she doesn't endorse it, tomorrow," Seymour said on Tuesday.

But producer Letisha Tate-Dunning said neither NZ On Air, the Green Party, or Swarbrick had editorial control of the film, and Swarbrick would not benefit financially from it.

"The producers want to make the film because they feel it's important to show the reality of working within politics and how a young woman reconciles this with what and who is important to her," Tate-Dunning said.

About $200,000 will come from NZ On Air, as well as $20,000 from the Film Commission.

The funding decision was first announced in December, but it was not until pressure group the Taxpayers' Union picked it up on Friday that Seymour went on the offensive.

"Chloe Swarbrick needs to do the right thing and decline to be part of this. If she lacks the judgement to decline this, Swarbrick should declare it as an election advertisement," wrote Seymour on Monday night.

He doubled-down on Tuesday, calling NZ On Air's status as an independent government agency into question.

"It's unthinkable that a government agency that's supposed to be politically neutral would do something that is so nakedly partisan as a two-hour film with a politician's name in the title."

National leader Christopher Luxon doubted any of his MP's would want a film made about them.

"It just doesn't feel right that you should have a sitting MP being the focus of a major documentary," he said.

While Swarbrick is a sitting MP, the documentary would not be released until after the 2023 general election, so would not be considered an advertisement under the Electoral Act.

"It's not the first time a sitting MP has been featured in a NZ On Air-funded programme," Tate-Dunning said.

"I think what it does reveal is that there is some serious discussions to be had about the impact of the media and social media trolling on the mental health of MPs," Tate-Dunning said on the backlash.

Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson would not be drawn on whether Swarbrick should endorse or distance herself from the film.

"She should do what she needs to do. We've had documentaries over many years made by that organisation, so it's not even a thing."

She said MPs stayed far away from NZ on Air decisions.

"Those are independent decisions made by an independent organisation. I don't have thoughts, that decision is up to them."

NZ on Air is an independent agency, and runs a contestable process that any producer can enter into with any subject.

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