John Drinnan

Media writer for the New Zealand Herald

TVNZ bias probe stalls Labour's candidate nod

Shane Taurima resigned froom TVNZ last month when it was revealed he had been involved in organsising a Labour Party fundraising hui at TVNZ. Photo / Paul Estcourt
Shane Taurima resigned froom TVNZ last month when it was revealed he had been involved in organsising a Labour Party fundraising hui at TVNZ. Photo / Paul Estcourt

Labour has extended the deadline for selection of the candidate for Tamaki Makaurau electorate to allow for Television New Zealand inquiry into Labour Party activism at the TVNZ Maori and Pacific unit.

The inquiry - whose findings TVNZ said will be published - is looking at whether there was Labour bias at the Maori and Pacific unit when Shane Taurima was general manager from February 2013 to February 2014.

It is looking at whether TVNZ resources were used for political events and whether there was any bias during Taurima's role as an interviewer with Q+A - prior to his joining the Labour Party.

TVNZ has said it was not aware Taurima harboured political aspirations.

But Taurima has long been considered "a sure thing', said a source familiar with Auckland Maori politics

Labour was expected decide its Maori electorate Tamaki Makaurau (Auckland) candidate this weekend but announced Monday that Tamaki Makaurau was one of a handful of electorates for which the selection process had ben set back. Labour general secretary Tim Barnett said that the extension to March 28 was because of "publicity over the past 10 days" over Taurima that might people to put their names forward.

The selection period could be extended further of the inquiry was not complete by March 28, Barnett said.

The issue is potentially embarrassing to Labour and damaging to TVNZ which believed Taurima did not harbour political aspirations after failing to win the win the candidacy for the Ikaroa Rawhiti by-election.

Taurima resigned last month when it was revealed he had been involved in organsising a Labour Party fundraising hui at the TVNZ network centre and participating other Labour Party hui. Faced with National Party attacks the inquiry, led by TVNZ corporate affairs boss and lobbyist Brent McAnulty, former Newstalk ZB talk radio boss Bill Francis and media lawyer Steven Price.

TVNZ also pointed to three Labour activists in the Maori and Pacific unit who were involved in organising hui. It is understood that two of those staff have since resigned.

One of the three was given "whanau support" by the political commentator and former union organiser Matt McCarten. McCarten confirmed he accompanied a staff member members in one meeting with TVNZ but stressed he did not represent them. McCarten started work yesterday in his new post as chief of staff for Labour leader David Cunliffe.

- NZ Herald

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