Kanoa Lloyd: Kei hea ngā kaimahi Māori? Where are the Māori at Three?

Kanoa Lloyd.
Kanoa Lloyd. Photo credit: The Project

OPINION: When I cross paths with the one Māori man in our office, we greet each other with a "Kia ora", but in this big building, we don't even see each other every day. 

When there is a karakia to be done or a waiata to learn, he takes the lead, enthusiastically; and our beautiful colleagues join in, enthusiastically. When there is a kaupapa Māori story to cover, he laughs with me when I tell Pākehā colleagues that not every Māori story needs a pūrerehua as the background music.

Because not every Māori story is Once Were Warriors. We're a team within a team, but some days it can feel a bit lonely.

And it's not just at The Project. It's throughout our company.

While The Hui and R&R have become beacons of Māori excellence onscreen, the company has no Māori board members or executives. The people in charge of Newshub's bulletins aren't Māori, and nor are the senior reporters. 

Mike McRoberts (Ngāti Kahungunu) flies the flag, as do a handful of people who work in departments like sport, camera and digital.

There are as many white guys called Mark at my work as there are Māori. Some of my best friends are middle-aged white guys (hi Jesse! Kia ora Corby), I'm even married to one! (Love you Mikee). 

But that doesn't mean they are the only people who should get a voice.

So this is not about turfing them out, but it is about figuring out what to do.

If Tangata Whenua aren't fairly represented at Three, what hope is there for the other cultures that make up our country? When will people living with disabilities get a primetime spot?

Newshub's head Sarah Bristow cares about creating greater diversity in the newsroom. 

"If we as New Zealand's media don't tell the stories that affect Māori, then who will?  It is about wrapping significant context around statistics, it is being able to represent views that resonate with a large part of our audience and it's also about making sure that Māori are seeing themselves on our screens and hearing their voices on our airwaves."

Not every Māori kid with aspirations to be a journalist will see themselves in me, or Mike or Mihingarangi Forbes (Ngāti Pāoa, Ngāti Maniapoto). We should show them that just because they can't see themselves, doesn't mean they can't be themselves. 

The work to make Three a great place to be Māori doesn't just fall to us. It falls on our Pākehā colleagues, many of whom want to do it.

Wikitoria Day (Ngāi Tūhoe) is working at Three right now as a Te Reo consultant. She has plenty of experience in Māori broadcasting but this is her first time in a mainstream organisation and she has been pleasantly surprised.

Running lessons for staff in the lead up to Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori,  she says she can't get over how passionate people are and how eager they are to learn. 

"People here have been wanting this, but the reality is this has only been possible because of Te Māngai Pāho funding"

She believes that getting more Māori into mainstream media comes down to real willingness from the network to make changes and is hopeful that the lessons can continue in 2021.

Eru Paranihi (Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Ngāti Raukawa) is the face of R&R, but he wears many hats including producing news bulletins for The AM Show and producing sports for Newshub Live at 6. Because he is a fluent Māori speaker, he's also become an unofficial go-to guy when it comes to all things Māori. 

It's a role he relishes because he is passionate about te Reo and he has had some big wins, pushing for Macrons to be included in our graphics and polishing the pronunciation and language for his "Newshub whānau".

But when I ask him if he ever feels undervalued doing this mahi he tells me, "There are some days when I do feel undervalued if I'm completely honest - if I was a builder, would you ask me to build you a table for free"?

So how do we start to change?

Eru doesn't want people to stop asking for help, "but my thing is, have a think about how you will give back to those people [who are helping you]".

Ko te reo Māori te waharoa o te ao Māori - the Māori language is the gateway to the Māori world - my reading of that is a bit like, "if you build it, they will come". If we build a gateway, where everyone who works for us can learn and use more 'Reo', where there are more waiata Māori sung (shout out to The Project fam who have a hearty singalong on a regular basis), and more Māori across the network, then other Māori will feel empowered to step through that gateway and become part of our business.

And that starts with campaigns like 'Toru', showing the country that we really care about integrating Te reo Māori into our work, and that we can do it in a way that feels fun and approachable and Three-ish. Or Toru-ish, even

Recruiting more rangatahi Māori is essential. The average number of Māori students at the NZ Broadcasting school is 13 percent.

While school head Tony Simons isn't unhappy with those numbers, he'd like more. He suggests that broadcasters could help, by emphasising to his students that diversity is important. 

After all, for students "their primary motivation is to get a job". Sarah Bristow agrees. 

"As an industry, we must get together, formulate a plan and back it up with action. We need to be open to thinking differently, working with educators and our competitors, and

making sure the mainstream media is an attractive career proposition for Māori".

Change will happen! Perhaps it's already happening. 

While writing this piece, my loneliness has faded as I've discovered more 'cuzzies' across our company, than I ever knew were here.

Kanoa Lloyd: Kei hea ngā kaimahi Māori? Where are the Māori at Three?
Photo credit: Newshub.
Kanoa Lloyd: Kei hea ngā kaimahi Māori? Where are the Māori at Three?
Photo credit: Newshub.
Kanoa Lloyd: Kei hea ngā kaimahi Māori? Where are the Māori at Three?
Photo credit: Newshub.

Still not as many of us as the white guys, but I'm really excited about what the future holds. We're here because we love our work and love our workplace. We just want more of you to be a part of it, whoever you are.

Kanoa Lloyd co-hosts Three's The Project

This article was made in support of Toru & Te Wiki o te Reo Māori in partnership with Te Māngai Pāho.