Twelve Questions
Jennifer Dann poses 12 questions to well-known faces

Twelve Questions with Julian Wilcox

Maori Television presenter Julian Wilcox (Ngapuhi, Ngati Tuwharetoa, Te Arawa) today attends the biggest hui in 30 years at Turangawaewae, hosted by King Tuheitia, on water rights

Opting for TV rather than rugby might have cost Julian Wilcox his big chance at playing for the Hurricanes. Well, maybe ... Photo / Steven McNicholl
Opting for TV rather than rugby might have cost Julian Wilcox his big chance at playing for the Hurricanes. Well, maybe ... Photo / Steven McNicholl

1. What is most significant about the hui today at Turangawaewae Marae, for you as a journalist and a Maori?

It's such an historical event because it was announced by the King. I think that gave it real significance. When the chair of Ngati Kuri said, "we will be there ... every man and his dog will be there" - it's a play on the word kuri, but it indicates there are issues that are pan tribal that the people are saying, "we want a chat about this". The Prime Minister is saying, "In good faith, in good faith", but I think at the end of the hui, there will be a unified position from all hapu on fresh water rights.

2. What has been the impact of Maori Television on mainstream media? How are Maori stories told differently, if at all?

I think there's a better grasp in the mainstream media. There's been a big jump since we started in 2004. Eight years ago, the reporting of the Tuhoe story would've left out a whole lot of the historical significance of the relationship to the Crown.

All of history hasn't been told, everyone's jumped on it.

3. You have interviewed many politicians - what are your politics?

There's no exact answer. Philosophies change. People change. I don't go right, left or in the middle.

People say, "You're Maori, so you must vote Mana or Maori Party." That's not necessarily true. But I'm not going to tell you how I vote.

4. How influential to your path was being a Te Aute College boy?

If I didn't go there, I wouldn't be where I am today. I had no idea of things Maori before I went there. There are portraits everywhere of Maui Pomare, Apirana Ngata. It's almost through osmosis that you develop a sense of Maori and a sense of nation. It wasn't explicitly stated, you must do good things - it wasn't like "you should make a contribution". You just felt compelled to.

5. What did someone once say to you, which you abide by?

It doesn't sound very invigorating. But once a kaumatua said, "Whakaiti, whakaiti, whakaiti", which means, through humility one can find humanity. Broadcasting is about recognition and it's an industry where you can lose your head. This phrase is one I've tried to remember. But I think I've probably failed. To be an exemplar for something means you have to have not failed in practice.

6. What advice will you give your children that you wished you'd received?

My father wanted me to be a great rugby player. I think he wanted me to be an All Black. Then he came to see me play when I was 18 and he realised it wasn't going to happen. So he said, "I don't care what it is you do, just do it well." I say this sometimes when I give talks to young people, "You wanna be a Maori lawyer? We don't need more lawyers. Maori need the best lawyers. The best they can be, to honour your whakapapa and genealogy."

7. What constitutes wild abandonment for you?

Reputation in this business is everything. Wild abandonment doesn't really work. I'm happy getting home and walking in the front door.

8. What would you like to shake off from your past?

How long have you got? I remember being captain of a rugby team and we had these trials, then I got asked to do a TV gig. I think sometimes if I'd turned down that gig I could've been one of the Hurricanes. I might have been on the bench. But even just for one minute, to have been on the field in a Hurricanes jersey ...

9. If you could bring one extinct species back to life, what would it be?

The huia. It was hunted. They reckon what made the huia so special was not just its feathers and beak, but the distinctive call. It's also a gathering bird.

10. What cliche do you abhor?

Bad pronunciation is a bit cliche. I do wish pronunciation of Maori was better among my colleagues. We make sure we pronounce English correctly. We put in a real effort. It gets me. But a few things I really don't like are when rugby players say, "Yeah, nah." And when people start a sentence with "Well". Just start the sentence. You see it on live crosses a lot, "Well".

11. If you were going to run away where would you go?

My father has a place in Tautoro, up north. No one would find you there. Or Te Kaha. I'm from Ngapuhi, so I have no whakapapa connections. But Ngapuhi did go marauding there. Once someone said to me when I was there on holiday, "Oh, you're Ngapuhi? There's a couple of ancestors of yours hanging on that tree."

12. What makes you feel like you're 6 years old again?

Being up the Sky Tower with my kids. I'm scared of heights. I think it brings back that feeling when I was little and climbing up a tree. Oh, and fireworks. Fireworks, heights and watching kids do the kapa haka. We didn't have kapa haka. I went to the same school as Russell Coutts - Brentwood School in Upper Hutt. We did a play about Maui. I was one of only two Maori kids at the school. So I played Maui.

- NZ Herald

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