By ROSALEEN MacBRAYNE



Maori Television Service launches on Sunday, providing news and programmes in Maori. This week, the Herald examines the people, the programmes and the funding



A marae makeover show and a parody on the X-Files are among the programmes produced by an independent Rotorua company for the new Maori Television Service.



Hula Haka Productions is one of a group of production companies spawned or growing rapidly thanks to the advent of the television service, to be launched on Sunday.

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The launch comes 10 months after Parliament passed enabling laws to bring it into being.



Maori Television's acting chief executive, Ani Waaka, said the calibre of programmes was outstanding.



Hula Haka was launched three years ago by Glen Bates, Mike Jonathan and Nevak Ilolahia in do-it-yourself style.



"We had very humble beginnings. The three of us started out in our house in Rotorua," said Ms Ilolahia, 31, the managing director, who has a background in print, radio and television as a writer, producer, director and presenter.



A walk-in wardrobe was the first editing suite and the master bedroom was the office. Within a few months, the company had taken over the house to the extent that meetings had to be held on the deck.



"It was the only place there was room for everyone," she said.



Now with its own business premises, Hula Haka has a core full-time staff of 10.



Viewers will see its first MTS-commissioned programme, Mitre 10 Marae DIY, on screen on Tuesday at 7pm and another series, Mana Tangata - a candid insight into the lives of Maori role models from all walks of life - will begin at 7pm on Thursday next week.

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When Ms Ilolahia thought of adapting television home and garden rescue programmes to marae, it was an excuse to get into local communities, meet the people, gather oral history ("which is like gold") and film traditions such as art and food gathering.



The co-ordination of 100 or more people at a time was often horrendous, she said yesterday.



Starting last August, the crew visited 13 marae in Northland, Waikato, the Bay of Plenty and on the East Coast. They took with them a painter, a landscaper and a builder, gathering in locals to help do a make-over in four days.



Ms Ilolahia said it was extremely hard work. At one marae, they pulled out 1000sq m of cracked concrete, replacing it with fine lawn, cobbles and new gardens.



Elsewhere, kitchens "that looked like cowboys had built them" and basic old toilet blocks were gutted and modern units installed.



"It is incredible how much work you can get done when everyone comes on board. It was not uncommon for them to be up all night working."



Although it was in the same vein as other do-it-yourself series, the bi-lingual programme offered a lot more depth, she said.



"And while each marae is having its makeover, we whisk away some of its kuia, who also receive a makeover."



Some of the old women, said Ms Ilolahia, had never worn make-up or had a manicure before.



Another series of 13 Marae DIY has been commissioned.



Mana Tangata will show profiles and journey through the lives of well-known Maori, including TV presenter Stacey Daniels, Maori rights campaigner Titewhai Harawira, Cabinet minister John Tamihere, artist June Grant and actor Temuera Morrison.



Another Hula Haka series commissioned by Maori Television is The Wiriwiri Files, which goes into production in May.



A parody on the X-Files, it has Agent Maura investigating strange sightings and peculiar events in Aotearoa.



Armed with his "wiriwiri-cam", he travels in search of the truth, interviewing primary school children in central North Island centres who give their take on Maori myths and legends.



In June, the company plans to film a one-hour special on the annual Matariki Fashion Show at Taumarunui, which is a platform for local talent in weaving and costume design.




* What: Marae DIY.



* When: Tuesday, March 30, 7pm.



Maori TV


WHAT IS IT?



New Zealand's first national indigenous television channel.



It will broadcast news and programmes in Maori, about Maori issues and culture.



The free-to-air service, which will broadcast seven days a week from its Newmarket studio, includes a nightly news bulletin, documentaries, lifestyle and sports programmes.



WHEN?



It will be launched at a dawn ceremony on Sunday.



WHO FUNDS IT?



The Government committed $11.53 million for capital costs this year.



The Government's Maori broadcasting funding agency, Te Mangai Paho, provided $14.5 million this year.



WHAT LANGUAGE?



Primarily in Maori with subtitles.



WHAT'S ON?



Sunday's programme includes:



6am-12.30pm: Live broadcast of the channel's launch.



1.30pm: Documentary on the late Dame Whina Cooper.



2.30pm: The Best of Billy T James



9pm: The 1987 movie, Ngati.



HOW DO YOU TUNE IN?



There are three main ways of tuning in to Maori Television's free-to-air service:



UHF - Most households which receive Prime TV on a UHF aerial should be able to tune in.



Sky Digital subscribers - Go to channel 33.



Sky UHF subscribers - Press button 6 on your Sky remote.



If you need help call 0800 MA TATOU (0800 628-2868).