Home > Regular Columns > Talking Heads: Ngā Aho Whakaari, 7 March 2015

Talking Heads: Ngā Aho Whakaari, 7 March 2015

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On 4 April 2016, the Health and Safety at Work Act (HSWA) comes into
force bringing new responsibilities for everyone in the workplace.
The new law is part of a reform package aimed at reducing
the number of serious work-related injuries and deaths in New Zealand
by at least 25 percent by 2020.

“Everyone who goes to work deserves to come home healthy and safe”.

Wide ranging health and safety legislation is about to be enacted and the impact on the New Zealand screen industries. The NZ screen industry is mainly worked by “contractors” who work for themselves and are responsible for their own insurances as well as health and safety. But that does not negate the responsibility of what the act describes as “A PCBU”.

A “PCBU” is a ‘person conducting a business or undertaking’. A PCBU may be an individual person or an organisation for example, a business entity such as a company. An individual, such as a sole trader, can also be a PCBU.

Like every other area of the screen industry Māori screen productions face a major shakeup. But Māori particularly in television production face unique problems. Māori television productions are produced on budget 40% less than mainstream. Māori Television’s demand for unique Māori content increased but funding remained the same.

Those who work on Māori productions are generally paid at a lower rate, with faster turn-a-round and greater demands to produce productions in shorter amounts of time with less resources. This puts a lot of pressure on contractors across the board.

Ngā Aho Whakaari ran a survey of its members late 2015 and found an alarming quarter of Māori screen professionals have been asked to do something which they feel is dangerous. At least 15 percent of Māori screen professionals report that they have been hurt while on a production. It is not good enough and the new legislation will put huge pressure on production companies.

Ngā Aho Whakaari believe Health & Safety covers three areas physical, mental and spiritual.
For the wider population physical and mental health is understood.

But for Māori crew working in particularly Māori situations the ‘spiritual’ aspect can be just as important.

For example going on to a marae for the first time, is considered an important rite of passage, you don’t just rock up to any marae. With a camera crew and equipment your visibility increases and therefore your responsibility. If this is the first time you or any of the crew have been to that marae, then it is normal – in the Māori world – to be formally welcomed.

Shooting on a sacred spot, whether it is a mountain, an old battlefield – particularly if your ancestors were involved – or in or around a burial site are all regarded as areas requiring spiritual cleansing. And you need permission. Not just from the old lady who for the last 40 years has lived in Te Atatu but she’s from that area – you need permission from the local people who live there today.

All of these considerations add time – time to engage, time to talk to local people, time to negotiate and to explain.

To the more worldly concerns of physical “hazards”.

Crew are expected to work in many situations; forests, sometimes alongside of loggers and forestry workers, on farms, on boats, on land, in bush, in and around rivers, up mountains, and the sea. In the air, beside busy highways, on operating farms, over rugged land and beside or near heavy machinery. There may be animals involved.

The contractors themselves out in the field must be cognisant of potential hazards or dangers, so must the Director/Reporter in the field and the production company which sent the crew out.

The producer who knows a crew will be on a boat needs to ensure the boat is seaworthy, the person who owns and who operates the boat need to be vetted. And what is the weather forecast? And can your crew swim? Don’t forget life-jackets! Is there someone in your crew with a current First Aid certificate?

Our crews and production houses need training into their responsibilities under the new legislation. Who is going to carry out this training? And importantly who is going to pay for the training? Māori production houses are already under considerable financial strain and now must engage in further training.

Other concerns highlighted in the Ngā Aho Whakaari survey were that many of the contractors did not have legal representation or adequate insurance coverage. Not a good place to start from.

Systemic weakness in the funding model are highlighted with production companies on precarious profit margins, the broadcaster Māori Television struggling to meet demands, no increase in funding for over eight years to Te Māngai Pāho.

Who then is going to pick up the training needs?

Ngā Aho Whakaari like many of the other guilds will need partner with experts in the area to design programmes to cater to our membership and associates. It won’t happen over-night but it must happen soon. We need to raise awareness and work together to provide support and solutions.

There is an old Māori proverb, “Mā tō rourou me tōku rourou ka ora ai te iwi”. With your contribution and my contribution we will ensure the health of our people.

IMAGE: Hunting Aotearoa crew. Hikoi Productions for Maori Television

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1 Response

  1. Graham Dunster

    When the law changes on 4/4/16 what happens? Carry on as usual and break the new law? Or stop working?