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Ernie Leonard

Actor, Presenter, Producer, Executive [Ngāti Rangiwewehi, Rangitāne]

Ernie Leonard spent time as a soldier, a railways clerk and public relations officer. His first television job was as an actor on Pukemanu, and he became a household name co-presenting wrestling show On the Mat. In 1986 Leonard became the first head of TVNZ's Māori Programmes Department. When he retired, a search of the TVNZ Archives database yielded 38,000 references to him or programmes he'd been associated with.

... there is a grass roots society in New Zealand that needs to retain its art, culture and tradition. It very strongly needs identity — and television is the right medium to help achieve that. There are maraes all over New Zealand, but television is the Te Marae o Te Motu — the marae of the land. It is Nga Iwi Katoa — the marae of the people. Ernie Leonard on becoming head of TVNZ's Māori Department