Kiri Allan alleged Radio New Zealand 'unable to keep Māori talent', 'some deep reflection' needed

Cabinet Minister Kiri Allan alleged Radio New Zealand (RNZ) needed to have "some deep reflection" after claiming it has been unable to keep its Māori talent.

On March 31, RNZ hosted a farewell event for Allan's fiancée, Māni Dunlop, who was leaving the organisation. 

During the event, Allan criticised RNZ's culture and treatment of Māori staff, although she later apologised for this.

On Monday, in response to an Official Information Act (OIA) request, RNZ released a partial transcript of Allan's speech that she made during Dunlop's farewell.

"There is something within this organisation that has to be looked at," Allan said during the event. 

"Now I know that you said that you would pick up that, the wero, that Māni left. It is not for just you, it is for your SLT [senior leadership team] to pick up. It's for your SLT to pick up. It's for your boards to pick up.

"That there is something within the organisation that will not and has not been able to keep Māori talent and that is a question that I think deserves some deep reflection."

Allan continued and said it was up to the people within the organisation to "grow and nurture, show that they have a viable future" at RNZ.

"That you can come in as an intern and that you can get to the top spot, not just because you are Māori but because you have trained them well, you have nurtured them well," she said.

RNZ didn't release the entirety of Allan's speech, citing privacy and to protect the tikanga and kaimahi of the organisation.

The organisation said in their OIA response that the farewell event was conducted in accordance with both tikanga Māori protocols and the protocols of how RNZ conducts employees' farewells.

"In relation to the event, those protocols meant that there was an open floor where people could trust that what they said was for that audience only and they were able to speak openly and frankly," RNZ said.

"Minister Allan's kōrero was made as a direct response to the invitation, established at the start of the evening, for attendees to challenge RNZ if they wished to do so. She made it clear she was speaking as an individual on behalf of Māni Dunlop and her whānau."

Kiri Allan.
Kiri Allan. Photo credit: Getty Images

RNZ said in their response that Allan made "some brief comments" that were "critical" of the broadcaster.

"We are of the view that Ms Allan's speech, made at a private farewell with family and friends present, where speakers were encouraged to speak openly, involves a privacy interest that should be protected under section 9(2)(a) OIA," the organisation said.

"Specifically, we consider that attendees have privacy interests that warrant protection. We do not consider that the withholding of the information is outweighed by other considerations which would render it desirable in the public interest to make that information available."

At the time, RNZ said the farewell functions are a chance for family and colleagues to acknowledge, celebrate, and support departing colleagues. The broadcaster added that farewells include an open invitation for anyone present to give a speech and "the free expression of views is encouraged". 

Criticisms raised by Allan weren't addressed.

Just days after the event in March, Allan made an apology for her comments. She said while she was there in a personal capacity, she accepted there is "not such a delineation in terms of public perception" and it could have been interpreted as "me telling RNZ how to manage their staff or company".

"That was not my intent and it is certainly not my job," Allan said.

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said at the time he'd accepted Allan's apology. He said while she was invited in a personal capacity, in that instance it would've been better if she had chosen not to speak, given her ministerial position.