When New Zealand's only Pacific current affairs show started, the only time journalists could have their stories filmed was on a Saturday.

"It was the only time the cameras were free,'' executive producer for Tagata Pasifika, Taualeo'o Stephen Stehlin says with a laugh.

"We did a lot of weekend stories for that reason and quickly, too, because then the cameras were needed to shoot the news.''

For many years, the much-loved programme was screened under TVNZ.


But a few years ago, it - alongside other ethnic programmes with the state broadcaster - was outsourced and is now made by SunPix Ltd.

Tomorrow marks 30 years since the show first aired in New Zealand in 1987, after calls from members of the Pasifika community for a family friendly programme promoting Pacific regional news and events were made.

Stehlin, who started at Tagata Pasifika six months after it was launched, said in those days, having Pacific news on New Zealand television - and being told by Pacific journalists - was a big deal.

"It gave Pacific people a voice and it was their own voice.

"There was a whole bunch of people who started the programme and it was an initiative from the community,'' he said.

"It was an authentic Pacific Island voice and people grew up with it.''

The programme's first presenter, Foufou Susana Hukui, quickly became a rock star of sorts; gathering a huge following and being recognised on the street.

"People would come up to her and say: 'I can't believe it, it's Susana Hukui!' They were too shocked to talk to her."


Another time, following Fiji's first military coup, the Pacific programme was one of the first media outlets to be allowed back into the island nation.

Their staff would get some of the best coverage of the event, after original coup leader Sitiveni Rabuka recognised Hukui.

"It was absolutely amazing,'' Stehlin said.

"Here's this big scary coup leader who recognised Susana and couldn't be more helpful!''

Over the years the current affairs and magazine-styled show would cover some of the Pacific region's biggest stories; including the Tongan Ashika ferry disaster, the Samoan tsunami in 2009 and the assassination of well-respected Samoan politician Luagalau Levaula Kamu in 1999.

Stehlin praised the many people who had been involved in the programme in the past 30 years and said the fact more Pacific young people were taking up journalism was also encouraging.

"What's emerged is a New Zealand Pacific culture - which is marvellous because it's become a defining feature of being a New Zealander,'' he said.

"We still have our problems as a community, but we know them and we're talking about them.''