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NAW2017: the NZFC Maori strategy

     He aha te mea nui? He tangata, he tangata, he tangata.
     What is the most important thing? It is people, it is people, it is people.

This probably most widely-known and popular of whakatauki was quoted more than once by New Zealand Film Commission (NZFC) CEO Dave Gibson over a series of hui organized by Te Tumu Whakaata Taonga (TTWT/NZFC) and Nga Aho Whakaari (Maori in Screen Production). The hui were called to discuss the NZFC’s proposal for a new strategy for Māori: a strategy aimed at developing and nurturing of Maori filmmakers and Maori content in New Zealand filmmaking. 

In recent weeks, Rotorua, Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch have hosted these special hui; then TTWT (as they sometimes referred to their body in shorthand) then returned to Auckland for Nga Aho Whakaari’s Hui-a-Tau (annual gathering) this weekend just gone, to report on their progress.

At the hui held in Auckland in August, CEO Dave Gibson and Head of Talent Development Dale Corlett, both began by introducing themselves in the traditional Maori way – outlining their personal ancestry and referring to the physical places (rivers, mountains and so forth) where they were born – in te reo Maori. Their effort was clearly appreciated. In fact they drew a round of applause when they repeated it (with growing confidence evident in both men) when the NZFC team reported back to the N.A.W. hui on Sunday morning. In fact, Gibson was complimented on his improving pronunciation.

Later we discovered that the NZFC has been holding a weekly session in te reo and tikanga for all its staff for the last 18 months.

The NZFC were immediately upfront in acknowledging that, despite being in existence for nearly 40 years now, it has taken till this year for a detailed strategy for Maori film-making to be proposed and developed. Nevertheless, the overall tone of the N.A.W. members was welcoming, and enthusiastic towards the fact that something is finally happening.

When it was decided by the NZFC recently that something needed to be done, and urgently, the first obvious place to go for advice and guidance was the Ministry of Culture and Heritage, under whose umbrella the NZFC sits. This helped inform this work going forward.

After Gibson’s introductory gambit, Corlett offered the three main areas proposed for discussion in the policy strategy: Capability, Representation, and Consultation.

After a quite a long, robust but friendly and constructive discussion, the NZFC asked us to divide into three groups, each to discuss one of the three main proposed strands. One NZFC person moderated each group, and after a good 30 minutes or so, the groups were rotated, so that all present had a chance to address each of the three aspects.

Some of us wondered how useful this procedure might be, given all the words that had already been spoken; but in fact this activity proved extremely productive. It seemed that people perhaps too shy to speak out in the larger gathering felt more free to contribute in a much smaller group, and also people were able to speak to finer detail and not just in broad strokes as earlier. It could be argued that a more representative and varied range of ideas and more shades of opinion became available to the NZFC staff as a result.

All responses, criticisms and suggestions were summarized on pieces of post-it notepad paper, then assembled onto portable post-it boards – possibly to travel back to Wellington in that form – there must have been well over a hundred of these post-it notes.

Since the policy is still undergoing refinement, and consultation with the board is still ongoing, it was not yet possible for the NZFC to be very specific on detail that might be contained in their final proposal. Perhaps an interesting feature though is that of the three main planks initially outlined by Corlett, the third, “Consultation”, could be seen to be morphing into “Partnership”. And certainly there seems to be considerable optimism all round that Gibson will achieve his goal of getting the new strategy in place by the end of this year, and that the Maori screen world will embrace it.



Gibson’s aim/plan/hope seems to be that approval for the new policy could be given by the NZFC board at their December meeting, and that various individual actions could then be implemented over the next year or two, as necessary budget allocations are approved.

I cannot escape the feeling that this strategy and its implementation is of considerable importance to Gibson at a personal level – perhaps he sees it as a major plank of his legacy, as he approaches his final months at the NZFC.

It would indeed be a most significant one.

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