John Drinnan

Media writer for the New Zealand Herald

Board did not seek CEO's comment about TV hopeful

Paora Maxwell.
Paora Maxwell.

The Maori Television board did not seek a reference from TVNZ's boss over an applicant for its own top job, the Herald has been told.

An announcement of the Maori TV chief executive is expected soon with former TVNZ Maori and Pacific unit general manager Paora Maxwell tipped to be appointed.

But a well-placed source said the board did not seek a reference from TVNZ chief executive Kevin Kenrick.

The board also turned down an offer from Mr Kenrick to discuss the background to Mr Maxwell's performance before leaving in January 2013 under a negotiated resignation. The reasons for the resignation have not been spelt out.

Former Maori TV CEO Jim Mather said in an email to the board that Mr Maxwell got a glowing reference from the head of news and current affairs Ross Dagan. Separately the board obtained a reference from former TVNZ chief executive Rick Ellis - who had a good rapport with Mr Maxwell. Mr Ellis worked with Mr Maxwell but left to run Telstra-Digital operations in Australia.

Mr Ellis declined to confirm that he provided a reference.

Mr Maxwell's popularity with the board is despite a petition last August from two-thirds of Maori TV staff expressing concern about his possible appointment.

Reports of his status as a frontrunner have revived questions about processes at Maori TV which has an annual budget of $45 million of taxpayers' money.

Mr Maxwell is seen as being more conservative than his predecessor, Mr Mather, who has been allied to the popular head of news and current affairs Julian Wilcox and head of production Carol Hirschfeld. Both were early applicants knocked out of the running by the board.

Maori educationalist Richard Jefferies remains a contender.

A row blew up last September over the resignation of Maori TV board member Ian Taylor over the chief executive appointment process. Mr Taylor's resignation led to the process being put on hold.

It is understood one member of the board has consistently opposed Mr Maxwell's application but that the board has changed rules so that the appointment does not have to be unanimous.

Maori TV is overseen by Finance Minister Bill English and Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples and Labour is expected to ask questions about the appointment process in Parliament today.

Alan Witherington is leading Maori TV as interim chief executive.

Mr Maxwell, Mr Dagan and Mr Kenrick did not return calls.

- NZ Herald

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