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Actors Union Calls For Fair Funding For Māori Stories On Screen


Equity New Zealand, the union representing professional performers, is calling for an overhaul of the funding mechanisms that have left many Māori TV and film producers scrambling for money during the latest Covid alert level restrictions.


Equity president, Jennifer Ward-Lealand says the union supports the call from Ngā Aho Whakaari, the organisation representing Māori in the screen sector, for the same level of financial support and relief that other parts of the screen sector have been able to access in order to cope with the disruptions of the Covid-19 pandemic.


“Last year the government allocated $23.4 million dollars to NZ On Air and the New Zealand Film Commission for the Screen Recovery Fund, and for the current lockdown extended that financial support through the Ministry for Culture and Heritage. But Te Māngai Paho, which funds many of the smaller budget Māori-specific content - particularly for Māori Television - has received no top ups.”


Ms Ward-Lealand says the lack of Covid-19 relief funding exacerbates the inequities in the funding system.


“Te Māngai Paho is already funded at a much lower rate than NZ on Air. So, we have quality TV and film content being made by Māori creatives, written by Māori writers and featuring Māori performers, but they have to do it all with much smaller budgets than those that can access NZ On Air or NZ Film Commission funding”.


The union says the lack of funding also means it is harder for local actors to get work.

“How will we see our own people on our screens, and how will our performers build their careers if they don’t get an equitable shot at telling our country’s stories?”

The union’s call for equitable funding coincides with the news of the cancellation of a third series of TV3’s prime time drama Head High, which was funded by NZ On Air. The award-winning drama centres on a Māori whanau and features many young and emerging Māori and Pacifica actors.


“The decision to cancel a third season is extremely disappointing for all of the performers involved and needs to be thoroughly scrutinised. As a country we need to be meeting our obligations under Te Tiriti o Waitangi. That means TV programs that feature Māori stories need to be funded and broadcast so that we can all enjoy them,” she says.

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