Carol Hirschfeld resigns from Radio New Zealand after controversial meeting with Broadcasting Minister

Carol Hirschfeld has resigned as a senior manager at Radio New Zealand (RNZ) after misleading management about a controversial meeting with Broadcasting Minister Clare Curran, RNZ says.

A senior source at RNZ told Newshub the saga "goes to the core" of RNZ's values, "in terms of independence, being at arm's length from the Government and being totally independent."

Ms Hirschfeld met with Ms Curran in December, later "assuring repeatedly" RNZ chief executive Paul Thompson that the meeting was coincidental.

RNZ chair Richard Griffin told NZME he received a tip off late last week that the meeting had been scheduled in the minister's diary.

On Sunday, Ms Hirschfeld confessed the meeting was pre-arranged, RNZ says.

Mr Griffin told NZME Ms Hirschfeld maintained the incorrect version of events for nearly four months. It's not clear why Ms Hirschfeld maintained the misinformation for so long.

Newshub's source said there's a serious process that takes place when meetings with ministers are arranged. A meeting with the Broadcasting Minister would generally be arranged through the chair or chief executive.

As a result of Ms Hischfeld's insistence the meeting came after they bumped into each other at a cafe, Mr Thompson told a select committee the meeting was a coincidence, unintentionally misleading members of Parliament.

"I am very disappointed about what happened, and it is important that I put the record straight about the circumstances of the meeting," Mr Thompson said.

The 'informal breakfast' that's been on slow boil since December

The whole matter raised its head back in December when Ms Curran's failed to initially include the meeting in a written question from National's Melissa Lee, which asked about meetings with staff or board members at TVNZ or RNZ. 

The corrected answer to a question from Melissa Lee, lodged in December.
The corrected answer to a question from Melissa Lee, lodged in December. Photo credit:

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says Ms Curran did not include the meeting in her initial answer because she had not considered it "official".

"She had a breakfast meeting, there were no officials present, everything they discussed was in the public domain. She recognises that was splitting hairs, so corrected the record," Ms Ardern said on Tuesday morning.

"She herself admits that in the first written question she should have acknowledged it occurred. She didn't consider it to be formal, but within 24 hours, made sure it was known she had had that meeting.

"She's acknowledged that, and also that when comments were made in select committee, she should have corrected the record immediately."

The former TV3 news presenter and Campbell Live producer's resignation is effective immediately. RNZ head of news and digital Glen Scanlon will take over her responsibilities in the interim.

During the 2017 election campaign, Labour had proposed a policy to create RNZ Plus, with millions of dollars to be allocated by an independent broadcasting commission.

National has claimed Ms Curran intentionally tried to hide her meeting with Ms Hirschfeld.