Obituary: Robin Kora

By Phoebe Falconer

Robin Kora was appearing in his first amateur production with the New Independent Theatre in Auckland in 1982 when he was spotted by Ray Waru, producer of TV One's Koha programme. Waru saw his potential and asked Kora to audition as the programme's host.

Later, Kora admitted it took some time to feel at ease in front of a studio camera.

"I used to be incredibly nervous. Go numb. Especially round the jaw."

But what Waru described as Kora's "fearlessness" got the newcomer through. He stayed with Koha for the next five years, continuing with his teaching job at Kowhai Intermediate School for four of those years. He then took a year off before resigning to devote all his energies to broadcasting.

Kora had an impeccable background for the Maori programme. Although he was not fluent in te reo, his ancestry could be traced back to the Mua Upoko iwi from Lake Horowhenua. He was born in Levin and later moved with his extended family to Hawkes Bay, where he attended Te Aute College. After a year in Oklahoma as an American Field Scholar, he tried university but changed to teachers training college, and a fortunate posting to Auckland.

In 1987 Kora won the job of reading the opening five-minute news segment on the late-night current affairs show Eye Witness, with Lindsay Perigo.

The director-general of TVNZ, Julian Mounter, was keen to get Maori representation on the network news programmes, and Kora knew several other more experienced presenters had applied. Two weeks later he was live on air, a big change from the pre-recorded Koha.

His appointment was not without its detractors. Barry Shaw, the Herald's television reviewer, wrote that Kora's laid-back style and soft diction was out of place in a hard-news environment. Kora himself felt powerless and uncertain about his success or otherwise. Every time he went to his mail pigeonhole he expected to find a letter telling him to go. And he found a reluctance to communicate openly at TVNZ.

"It's a little like the sportsman hearing the news first, that he's not on the team, when he reads it in the paper."

Letters of support from the public buoyed him, but his time at Eye Witness was brief. Early in 1988 he took over the Midday News bulletin, a position Paul Norris, chief of TVNZ news and current affairs, felt was more suited to Kora's relaxed style.

Kora left TVNZ in 1989 when his contract was not renewed. He resumed his acting career, appearing in TV series such as Shortland Street, Mataku and Last Man Standing. He also began writing poetry.

Robin Kora had been suffering from cancer for four months. He is survived by his wife Paula, former wife Toni, and children Asher and Naomi.

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