Shortland St defends Maori beach levy plot

By Yvonne Tahana

Ngamaru Raerino recently pushed for Dr T.K. Samuels to have a Maori girlfriend. Photo / Supplied
Ngamaru Raerino recently pushed for Dr T.K. Samuels to have a Maori girlfriend. Photo / Supplied

Shortland Street's Maori adviser has defended a storyline where tangata whenua try to charge a Pakeha family to use a beach.

Ngamaru Raerino says viewers shouldn't have flicked the channel before the storyline resolved itself.

Two episodes which screened last Thursday and on Monday show Maori men trying to get $10 a head out of the Cooper family, on holiday over the Easter break.

TVNZ and production house South Pacific Pictures have received complaints alleging discrimination against Maori.

Facebook chatter has been critical of the storyline, saying it amounted to "scaremongering", while others said it was a "lame" attempt at covering a contentious issue.

More colourful was this criticism: "Maori are just low-hanging fruit for these uncreative ignorant hacks."

A former cultural adviser to Shortland Street said it wouldn't have "happened on his watch". And Mr Raerino, the current cultural adviser, said he had not been sure about the storyline when he first saw it.

But he was comfortable when he followed it through to its conclusion - it turns out the camping ground's owner was sending sewage into the sea and the Maori group was aiming to hit the owner in the pocket to force her to change her ways.

Mr Raerino said unhappy viewers might have been too "trigger-happy" with their television remotes after the beach scene.

"When it first comes up it really creates animosity and hostility. When I looked at the script I thought, 'Oh geez'. When I saw it develop, I thought, they've offset it by doing other things.

"The first thing you think is that those Maori are being mercenary, but those Maori are very slick at what they're trying to do to the campsite. They're fighting for their rights, they're trying to stop sewage from going into the takutaimoana."

Mr Raerino said he had had one or two "big fights" with scriptwriters in the past, although wins recently included getting Dr T.K. Samuels a good-looking Maori girlfriend who could speak te reo.

However, his guiding principal was if a storyline might happen in real life, then it should get the green light to go on television.

"It comes down to, do you have the guts to put it on television? The foreshore's still hot in people's minds. That's one of the things that will create dialogue."

- NZ Herald

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