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Happy First Birthday, Maori Television,

Happy First Birthday, Maori Television, 10.30am, Thursday 24 March 2005, Maori Television, Newmarket, Auckland

Speech notes prepared for Parekura Horomia's meeting with Maori Television staff on the eve of the Service's first birthday

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Almost a year ago today I was standing here with many of you - after many years of struggle - as we finally celebrated getting Mâori Television to air!

After the opening as we departed home to our own jobs and lives - you were left here to carry on with the colossal task of turning our dream into a reality.

I thank you for that effort!

I thank each and every one of you for the dedication, time and commitment you have made to the extraordinary challenge of bringing our language, culture and heritage into the homes of New Zealanders.

I know it has not been easy establishing the service from scratch, but thanks to you and others who have gone, the service is still here. Still here despite the critics who decried it and who have since been silenced by its popularity - or diverted into watching and enjoying it instead!!

Where ever I have been I've heard people describing the Mâori Television Service as the most prominent symbol we have of our maturity as a nation - the ultimate sign that we have embraced our diversity and our uniqueness.

The service means so much to those who have worked long and hard to see our language and culture kept alive, but also continue to grow as a lively, dynamic and indispensable part of our country's identity.

Under your guidance the service has shown its potential to be a powerful motivator for our development as a people.

Yes there have been hiccups, yes there have been criticisms, yes, and we have all learnt much from our mistakes and will continue too.

But, through your programming the service is able to reflect the huge momentum amongst our people for economic, social and cultural success.

Mâori succeeding as Mâori - defining our own future on our own terms!

While nearly half of all our people have watched Mâori television, more and more non-Mâori are watching it too. The channel clocked up an 85% increase in ratings!

What an extraordinary feat. And a tribute to you all!

I believe Mâori television presents the real face of Aotearoa New Zealand and that's what is drawing audiences.

The channel has also won international accolades as further evidence of your expertise and professionalism.

The Promotions Department won a gold and silver award last year for their Coast and Churchill Cup promotions - that is unheard of for a new channel particularly winning a Gold award - the only channel in New Zealand to do so.

You set another precedent too with the first ever international event broadcast live in te reo Mâori for the Churchill Cup rugby tournament in Canada.

And last month Mâori Television showed its skill and generosity of spirit when both TVNZ and TV3 lost their satellite links, and asked you to send their stories back to Auckland.

Without Mâori Television and its new technology, neither channel would have had Waitangi Day stories. What a news story that would have been!

You made your mark again as the first channel to broadcast Two Cars One Night.

When no one else was interested in this spectacular short film - you put it to air. It wasn't until it was nominated for an Oscar that everyone else sat up and took notice.

Another first has been your news and current affairs coverage presented in a primetime slot - something that has never been afforded such priority by other channels.

At the time of the first Hui Taumata in 1984, there were some Mâori programmes appearing on TVNZ, namely Te Karere and Koha. Twenty years on, having just had the second Hui Taumata, we now have our own channel, you, the Mâori Television Service; we have Mâori programmes showing on the major channels. And we also have Mâori actors/actresses starring in national and international films. But we should not stop now.

Those of you at the Mâori Media Awards will have heard of my intent over the next 12 months to develop a long-term strategy for Mâori broadcasting.

The strategy will articulate a clear long-term vision that goes beyond the maintenance of language and culture - to also encompass job creation and economic opportunities for Mâori.

It will see an investment in Mâori screen, music and radio production capabilities as well as comprehensive accountability arrangements to guide best practice public broadcasting by Mâori.

I will be asking for your input to the development of the strategy. It would be foolish not to seek Mâori Television expertise; particularly in view of the insights and experiences you have gained over the last year.

I believe New Zealanders have a deep desire for this country to move ahead as one - understanding that we are not all the same; acknowledging the diversity of beliefs and heritage of all our peoples; respecting the indigenous distinction of Mâori and celebrating the particular contribution that this makes to our nationhood.

Mâori Television is at the forefront of this movement - you are the leaders breaking new ground in shaping the way we see ourselves.

I want to close by reiterating my support and thanks to you all and to say how proud I am of your achievements as you celebrate your first year of broadcasting.

My confidence to face the future is buoyed by the optimism I know I share with you - that as remarkable as Mâori Television achievements have been in the last 12 months - the best of your innovation, enterprise and success is still to come.

ENDS

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