Teuila Fuatai is a reporter for the NZ Herald

Cunliffe: Taurima decision 'appropriate'

Journalist claims findings on political bias at TVNZ a vindication but Cunliffe says report raises serious issues.

Former broadcaster Shane Taurima still has a future with Labour, says the party's leader, despite his bid for candidacy being blocked by the party's ruling body.

Mr Taurima, one of the most experienced Maori journalists in the country, required a waiver to become a candidate for the party as he had been a member for less than 12 months.

A late-night decision from the party's ruling New Zealand council, released early this morning, declined the waiver after considering an independent report into political bias at TVNZ.

Taurima, the former head of TVNZ's Maori and Pacific programming, resigned from his role at the broadcaster in February after leaked emails showed he and three staff in the Maori unit had used company resources for Labour Party planning and campaigning.

The independent report criticised Mr Taurima over a clear conflict of interest and misuse of resources - including a $343 credit card bill for flying a person to a Labour meeting.

Following news Mr Taurima would not be standing as a Labour candidate this year, party leader David Cunliffe made comments indicating he could be back in the future.

"It's my view that the council's reached the correct decision in the context," he told Radio New Zealand.

"It's also my view that Mr Taurima could potentially have a future in the Labour Party, the Labour movement, but at this time given the circumstances, the council's made the appropriate decision."

While the report had identified "serious issues", it also cleared Mr Taurima of any bias in his reporting, Mr Cunliffe said.

"There were some serious issues raised in the report, but I know that the council considered, really all aspects of the issue, including the wellbeing of Mr Taurima, his potential to contribute in the future to the party, the issues of conflict of interest and the use of TVNZ resources which were raised in the report," he told Radio New Zealand.

"They [council] acknowledge that there was no evidence or suggestion of bias in his reporting, and that was to his credit."

Mr Taurima was seeking a nomination for the Tamaki Makaurau seat.

TVNZ report findings:

*No evidence of political bias in TVNZ's Maori and Pacific programming.

*TVNZ resources, including offices, used for Labour Party campaigning and planning.

*TVNZ's management should have asked more questions when Shane Taurima returned after seeking Labour nomination in the Ikaroa-Rawhiti by-election.

*Taurima was involved in "extensive'' Labour Party political activity soon after returning to the job last year.


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