9 Jun 2021

Series 2 - Episode 7: Dover Samuels | Matangireia

From Matangireia, 6:04 am on 9 June 2021

Series Classification: G (General Programmes)

Former Labour Party MP Dover Samuels is a veteran of Māori politics.  But on his rise to prominence - a political scandal threatened to derail his career.

“I had all the bloody undercover agents knocking on my door in the Beehive... 'you should resign, you should resign'… I refused, simple as that – so I got sacked.”

Dover Samuels opens up to Mantangeria presenter Mihingarangi Forbes about the unfounded sex crime allegation which lost him his ministerial portfolio.

*The views expressed in this interview are the honestly held opinion of Dover Samuels

Before entering politics – Dover Samuels had already seen and experienced more than most people.

As a young boy he was part of the generation caned for speaking Māori at school. As a young man he served in the air-force, and later moved to Australia to perform with the Māori showbands. 

Dover Samuels entered Parliament in 1996 as a list MP for the Labour Party and quickly rose through the ranks of the Labour Party under the leadership of Helen Clark.

And in 1999 there was change in the air as the Labour Party swept into power.

The Te Tai Tokerau was part of that change – being appointed Minister of Māori Affairs and becoming the highest ranked Māori MP in the Labour caucus.

Dover Samuels as a diver

Dover Samuels as a diver Photo: Supplied / Dover Samuels

But just a year into his tenure – he would be left fighting for his political survival.

Samuels became the subject of a police investigation into alleged historical sex crimes. He was later cleared, but never regained his former ministerial portfolio.

“It was an interesting part of my political life. It was interesting because you begin to see through the veil of hypocrisy,” he said. 

Samuels points the finger at former ACT leader Richard Prebble, claiming he was the “architect” in parliament who pushed for the allegations to be escalated and investigated.  

“I regret not smacking him between the eyes… not giving him an uppercut if you like.”

The Prime Minister at the time, Helen Clark, stripped Mr Samuels of his Māori Affairs portfolio.

“I had all the bloody undercover agents knocking on my door in the Beehive... “you should resign, you should resign”… I refused, simple as that – so I got sacked.”

Once the political storm passed – Dover Samuels was cleared of any wrongdoing – with his whānau eventually receiving an apology.

“Nothing else would have sufficed. So, there was a statement that came out, as a matter of record.”

Despite the turmoil, Samuels remained loyal to the Labour Party and continued at parliament.

“Abandoning ship now and saying, ‘oh bugger you all I’ve had enough of all this hypocrisy’, that would’ve been the easy way. 

“But there was still a lot to be done.”

Samuels served his entire time in Parliament under the leadership of Helen Clarke – someone he describes as both an “iron lady” and a “professional politician”.

“She was unique, but she certainly polarized people.”

One early test of their relationship was when Clark famously cried during Waitangi commemorations in 1998. 

Clark, who was leader of the opposition at the time, was heavily criticised by Ngāpuhi leader Titewhai Harawira for speaking on the marae and breaking with Māori protocol.   

“I think that unfortunately she blamed me for that,” Samuels said.

Samuels said he held many hui with Ngāpuhi elders who gave a commitment Clark would be free to speak on the marae. 

“As soon as Titewhai got up, they all surrendered… they ran like hell,” Samuels said. 

“Looking back, perhaps I should have never taken their confidence and extended that opportunity to Helen at that time.”

It wouldn’t be the last time Labour would be challenged by Māori. The foreshore and seabed debate in 2004 led to one of the largest protests seen at parliament. 

Dame Tariana Turia, a Labour MP at the time, crossed the floor in opposition and became an independent MP. The rest of the Māori caucus remained with the party.

“I think if we had of all walked away from it, it would’ve gone ahead without any consideration at all for Māori rights and interests in the seabed,” he said. 

“The word was compromise.”

The Labour Māori caucus did front up to their people, sitting opposite protestors on the forecourt of Parliament on the day of the hīkoi.

“We copped it – we were the sellouts, Tariana was the matriarch, simple as that. That’s how it was painted.”

Dover Samuels lost his electorate seat the following year in 2005, and would retire as a backbench MP in 2008.

“I always say to politicians that are riding the high wave now, even this new generation, the time will come.”

Despite his departure from politics, Mr Samuels is still working for his people – he’s spent years calling for a Crown apology to the children physically punished at school for speaking Māori.

“The caning of my generation simply for speaking our language was something that today’s generation would never tolerate,” he said.

He’s since lodged a claim over the issue with the Waitangi Tribunal.

“It wasn’t just the language… it was a deliberate policy by the Crown through the Ministry of Education at that time to disempower a nation, and they started off with the children.

“That was my beginning of an attempt from the Crown to disempower me.”

Made with the support of NZ On Air

About the Presenters

Mihingarangi Forbes

Ngāti Paoa, Ngāti Maniapoto

Matangireia, Series 2 Presenters - Maiki Sherman, Scott Campbell & Mihingarangi Forbes

Matangireia, Series 2 Presenters - Maiki Sherman, Scott Campbell & Mihingarangi Forbes Photo: Aotearoa Media Collective

Mihingarangi Forbes is an award-winning broadcaster who is known for her fearless brand of journalism, never shying away from asking the tough questions and tackling the big issues.

As the Māori Affairs reporter for One News in the late 90s Forbes spent much of her time at Parliament reporting on Māori politics. ​During that time she reported extensively on the fortunes of NZ First and their clean sweep of the māori electorates in 1996.

Today Forbes hosts three’s current affairs programme The Hui where she regularly interviews politicians from various parties.​ In 2020 Forbes won Best Presenter News and Current Affairs at the New Zealand TV Awards.

Maiki Sherman

Ngāpuhi, Te Whakatōhea

Maiki Sherman at Parliament

Maiki Sherman at Parliament Photo: Aotearoa Media Collective

Maiki Sherman is an award-winning senior political reporter for TVNZ’s 1news. She’s also the deputy chairperson of Parliament’s press gallery. Having worked across three television networks including Māori Television, Three, and TVNZ, Sherman has developed a reputation for breaking stories and courageous reporting.​

During her career Sherman has covered several general elections, the rise and fall of the Māori Party, Sir John Key’s National government, Hone Harawira’s failed merger with the Internet Party and the ascension of Jacinda Ardern.

In 2014 she showcased her presenting skills when she shared co-hosting duties with Mihingarangi Forbes for Māori Television’s election night coverage.​Sherman is a kōhanga reo and kura kaupapa alumni and a graduate of Te Panekiretanga o Te Reo, the invitation only academy for excellence in te reo Māori. ​

Scott Campbell

Ngāi Te Rangi, Ngāti Pūkenga, Te Arawa

Scott Campbell at Parliament

Scott Campbell at Parliament Photo: Aotearoa Media Collective

Scott Campbell is a former press gallery reporter, communications specialist and political commentator. ​During his time in the gallery Campbell was known for his fair but firm style of journalism.

He began his television career in 2004 under Three’s editor Stephen Parker before being appointed deputy editor in 2010. ​Campbell was based in the press gallery during the controversial seabed and foreshore legislation which saw 20,000 Māori march on Parliament. He reported on the rise of the Māori Party under the co-leadership of Dame Tariana Turia and Sir Pita Sharples. He also covered Don Brash’s tenure as leader of the National Party.​

Campbell left the press gallery in 2010 and is now the chief executive of Campbell Squared, a communications company based in Tauranga. He is a regular commentator for RNZ, The Hui, Newshub Nation and other media outlets.

About the production team

Annabelle Lee-Mather, Producer/Director

Annabelle Lee-Mather (Ngaai Tahu/Ngaati Kahungunu) is an award-winning journalist with 18-years experience in broadcasting. She served as an EP on RNZ’s NZ Wars series. As well as producing The Hui for Three, Annabelle is the series creator and co-producer of The Casketeers.

In 2020 Annabelle was named Editorial Executive of the year at the Voyager Media Awards.

Mihingaarangi Forbes, Producer/Director

Mihingaarangi Forbes (Ngaati Paoa /Ngaati Maniapoto) Mihingaarangi is an award-winning investigative journalist and the presenter of weekly current affairs series The Hui on Three. She began her career in the 90s as a rookie reporter at Te Karere. Since then she’s worked across a range of channels and mediums, with roles on Campbell Live, 20/20, Native Affairs, and as Māori correspondent for RNZ. In 2020 Mihingaarangi was named Best Presenter News and Current Affairs at the NZTV Awards.

Wena Harawira, Executive Producer

Journalist Wena Harawira has a career that spans 4 decades. Harawira was just 19 years old when she became the first wahine to work on TVNZ’s fledgling Māori news service Te Karere alongside the legendary Whai Ngata.​

She went on to become the Executive Producer of news and current affairs at Māori Television where she now leads the newsroom.

Having worked in nearly every aspect of the Māori media industry, Harawira is much admired not only for her leadership and journalism but also for the many reporters she has mentored and inspired.​

in 2017 Harawira was honoured with Te Tohu a Tanara Whairiri Kitawhiti Ngata for lifetime achievement at Ngā Kupu Ora awards.

About Aotearoa Media Collective

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AMC is a boutique Māori production house that specialises in indigenous storytelling and content. Founded in 2019, by journalists Mihingaarangi Forbes and Annabelle Lee-Mather AMC has created NZ Wars: Stories of Waitara (RNZ) and The Hui (Three) with Great Southern Television as well as independently producing Matangireia (RNZ) and Coastwatchers: Operation Pacific (TVNZ).

Made with the support of NZ On Air

Made with the support of NZ On Air Photo: NZ On Air