By JAMES GARDINER

The Holmes programme has been found in breach of broadcasting standards over a report on a Maori land issue which included an "inflammatory" introduction by Paul Holmes.

The Broadcasting Standards Authority has ruled the item unbalanced, partially inaccurate and unfair to the Maori complainants.

Reporter Duncan Garner, now with rival channel TV3, said last night that Holmes had rewritten the introduction and it went to air despite the reporter's objection that it was anti-Maori.

"I was uncomfortable with what went to air," Garner said. "I objected absolutely. I had a feeling it was going to be punished."

Holmes could not be reached for comment.

Television New Zealand, already under fire for its failure to make a statement distancing itself from racist remarks Holmes broadcast on radio last week, has been ordered to broadcast a statement summarising the authority's ruling on complaints by the Bay of Plenty iwi Ngati Pukenga.

The item, screened on November 18, featured non-Maori landowners objecting to Ngati Pukenga registering Kopukairoa mountain, near Tauranga, as wahi tapu (sacred).

In its ruling yesterday, the authority was particularly critical of Holmes' introduction, in which he invited viewers to "prepare to go ballistic".

Holmes said, "We've had the taniwha ... we've had the sand on the North Shore beach and now ... a mountain called Kopukairoa ... "

The authority said the introduction was "framed in a way calculated to incite moral indignation" and the comments were "inflammatory and displayed partiality".

"The item's emphasis was anger on the part of the four landowners who believe property rights had been taken away from them because of Maori spiritual beliefs. The iwi's view was not represented and this perpetuated the partiality of the item."

TVNZ news and current affairs head Bill Ralston accepted the findings and said a statement would be broadcast. "It should also be noted that the complaint was against the Holmes programme as such, not Paul Holmes as an individual."

The authority found an iwi representative interviewed during the item was not given a fair hearing in comparison with the landowners and was not the correct person to be interviewed on the subject.

The fact that most of the land on the mountain was owned by Maori, whose views were not sought, contributed to the lack of balance.

The report "was not accurate in reporting the impact that the registration would have on landowners and, consequently, represented the registration [as wahi tapu] as preventing landowners from developing their land".

"Registration of wahi tapu does not, per se, stop property development," the authority said. "Registration simply ensures that the heritage value of the site is taken into account when the local authority makes planning decisions."

The authority has received more than 80 complaints about Holmes' "cheeky darkie" comments last week.

Chief executive Jane Wrightson said it was "utterly coincidental" that the decision was released so soon after the complaints.