NZ On Air shocked to learn convicted paedophile hired as cameraman for kids TV show What Now

The man was hired in 2018 and 2019.
The man was hired in 2018 and 2019. Photo credit: Getty

A spokesperson for NZ On Air says the agency is "deeply disturbed" at news that a convicted paedophile was hired to film a popular children's TV show.

The man was hired as a freelance camera person for What Now in 2018, and again in 2019 despite having served jail time for abusing children. 

He was hired by Whitebait Media - a company owned by popular children's entertainer Jason Gunn and his wife Janine Morrell-Gunn.

He did not undergo a background check before being employed, an error for which Morrell-Gunn has profusely apologised.

"We were very shocked and upset to learn of his arrest and prior convictions. We did not carry out police vetting prior to the contractor's engagement," she said in a statement to Newshub.

In 2017 the company asked the Police Vetting service whether all employees needed to be checked and were told those who only had "incidental contact" with children did not need checking. 

"In hindsight, this was a failure on our part and one which we are deeply sorry for. We now require police vetting of all staff, contractors and freelancers to ensure this never ever happens again."

NZ On Air, which funds What Now, says the discovery was "deeply disturbing" but has led to changes in how Whitebait Media safeguards its employment process.

"Whitebait Media have assured us they now routinely police vet all crew," a spokesperson told Newshub on Thursday.

"At the time the man worked as a freelance cameraman they vetted presenters, as the people who had the closest contact with children, but not crew."

The spokesperson says Whitebait Media have made the right decision to increase police vetting as a result of the incident.

"We think this should be an industry standard for sets where children are present and have raised it immediately with Screensafe."

The Ministry of Education says it has contacted all the schools the man visited and none of them had any concerns.

"Any school that has concerns about this person should notify police," said Katrina Casey, the Deputy Secretary of Enablement and Support. 

Police would not comment on the story, saying they do not confirm a person's criminal history. 

NZME reports the man is now in front of the courts again charged with nine counts of possessing, distributing, exporting and making child sexual abuse material.

Court documents obtained by NZME allege the man was arrested in 2019 after being found with thousands of images and videos on his electronic devices, as well as a small amount of methamphetamine.