Māori TV kaumātua feels left out in the cold

8:26 am on 7 July 2016

A member of Māori Television's Elder's Council, Huata Holmes, says he has not been contacted for two years and feels whakamā, or shy, at the way the state broadcaster has treated him and others.

The Maori Television building logo

Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

Mr Holmes said the Kaunihera Kaumatua, or Elder's Council, used to meet with the stations' executives over important issues including language and identity.

He said the last meeting he was invited to attend was in 2014.

"It seems to have forgotten about us," he said.

Mr Holmes is not alone, Te Aūpouri language exponent and kaumatua Kingi Ihaka has also been left in the dark.

Mr Ihaka said the last meeting he and Mr Huata attended was in 2014 under the leadership of former chief executive Jim Mather.

"We've had no formal notification of the disbanding and I think that is a shame because there was a pan tribal, and one of our tasks was to monitor and mentor the Māori language, but since the inception of the new chief exec we've not had a meeting."

RNZ has been told the Elder's Council was established to guide Māori Television's board and executive in the areas of te reo Māori and tikanga.

Kingi Ihaka served in Borneo

Kingi Ihaka Photo: Supplied: Jodi Ihaka

The members are all exponents of te reo Māori and valued kaumatua of their iwi and represent all areas of Aotearoa.

Mr Huata said the group provided a deep holistic, spiritual and experienced view on kaupapa Māori, and they have been treated poorly.

"They never ever gave any explanation - we didn't think it was our place to ask, if they were so rude to not to say anything but its just the silence, there's no communication whatsoever.

"I think it was a very worthwhile meaningful group of people that the executive took great note of, of what we had to say."

But another member of the kaunihera kaumatua told RNZ he was approched by two members of the executive to meet earlier this year.

He was concerned to find it was just him at the meeting and questioned why they weren't meeting with the entire council.

He said it felt secretive and he now has concerns about the future of the elders council at Māori TV.

RNZ spoke to a number of former executives and board members who said they were disappointed by the move to leave out the kaumātua, and those who attended the Council meetings said they remember a richness of views and experience.

Labour Māori Broadcasting spokesperson Peeni Henare said Māori Television should not be treating kaumātua this way.

Labour MP Peeni Henare during caucas run April 2015.

Peeni Henare. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

"They should have met with them, and when I say them I don't mean just the individuals so it should be with those people's tribes or hapū or even whānau members to allow all parties involved to part or leave with their Mana intact.

"Not to feel whakamā with the way they've been treated or how they've been simple ignored."

Māori Television has been under fire after suggestions a company review may rebrand the station's name.

Mr Ihaka said had he been consulted on that he would have had strong views.

"Had the board still been operational I would have fought strongly against it, its the only channel that identifies us, the broadcaster, as Māori, we were the forefront of Māori components of broadcasting throughout the world and nationally."

RNZ contacted Māori Television to ask why Council members had been sidelined.

In a written response it said it had completed a series of meetings with the Council but would not say with who.

A number of members have passed away since 2014 and RNZ attempted to contact other members but has not heard back.

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