Most New Zealanders will be familiar with the Māori story of how Māui, a demigod, fished up the North Island. Māui is also credited with bringing fire to the world after tricking the goddess of fire, Mahuika, into giving him her fingernails of fire.
Furious at his trickery, she threw a burning toenail on the ground to set the mountain on fire as Māui fled. He changed into a hawk (kāhu) and escaped the flames, but his wings' underside was singed a glowing red.
Kāhu, our majestic native bird of prey, is embodied in lore as a messenger to the gods –smart, cheeky and discerning. So it seemed the perfect mascot to represent NZME's section, introduced eight months ago, devoted to Māori content.
Kāhu is NZME's digital platform that showcases Māori stories and talent drawn from our newsrooms across Aotearoa. It features our exciting young Māori journalists: Leah Tebbutt, Te Rina Triponel, Julia Gabel, Zoe Holland, Astley Nathan and Will Terite; provocative commentators Shane Te Pou, Debbie Ngarewa-Packer and Merepeka Raukawa-Tait; and contributing columnists Stacey Morrison and Aroha Awarau. Kāhu's content is complemented by the best of Māori news from media partners Māori Television, and RNZ, including Moana Maniapoto's award-winning news show, Te Ao with Moana.
On Monday, we launch a refreshed Kāhu simple in design, enhanced by a colour palette reflecting the hawk's natural environment. Kāhu's Instagram account will also be launched as @kahunews.
Introducing Kāhu was a pivotal moment for NZME. The catalyst was Teuila Fuatai's column "Why I found it so hard to write about racism in New Zealand for the Herald", published in June last year. Fuatai had been commissioned to write a news feature on racism in New Zealand and the backdrop was the Black Lives Matter movement that was gaining momentum in Aotearoa.
Fuatai hit immediate roadblocks. A proposed interview with a Black Lives Matter Auckland co-leader was canned when the organisation realised she was representing the Herald.
The official line: "Our declining to participate in an interview is because of the biased view that the Herald chooses to cover race-related issues and how this upholds white supremacy". It was not for them to educate the Herald through show-and-tell examples of racism in its coverage, they declared.
It became uncomfortably clear that this sentiment was felt much closer to home. We had some great Māori content, but it wasn't enough, and little of it was commissioned, written and published through a truly Māori lens.
We decided on a low-key, long-term plan to build trust among our communities, recruit Māori staff, increase content relevant to Māori audiences, and tackle issues important to Māori health, welfare, education, and development.
We have made a start but there is still much to be done. And that's exciting. Our aim is to create a sustainable, authentic platform for Māori storytelling, a process that requires trust and patience.
I am proud of the work done on Kāhu. I am proud that our newsrooms and staff recognise failings of the past and are making meaningful changes. I am proud that NZME has committed to a broader Tiriti (Treaty) approach to commissioning, news gathering and storytelling. I am proud to be leading the charge on this kaupapa (initiative) at NZME. I consider it the most important mahi I've tackled in my 40-year career.
Mā te huruhuru, ka rere te manu
With feathers the bird shall fly