Whai Ngata worked in Māori broadcasting at Television New Zealand for 25 years, a period when the quantity of Māori broadcasting underwent a major expansion. Starting as a reporter, he rose to become TVNZ's general manager of Māori Programming, a post he held from 1994 until retiring in 2008. Ngata was named an Officer of the Order of New Zealand Merit in 2007. He passed away on 3 April 2016.
Paora Maxwell spent three years as Chief Executive of Māori Television. He began in the job in May 2014 after time heading TVNZ’s Māori and Pacific Programmes Department, and 15 years making shows for his company Te Aratai Productions. Maxwell was set to step down from Māori Television in August 2017.
Tama Poata's wide-ranging contributions to our culture can be glimpsed through his appearances on-screen: from campaigns for Māori land rights (in 1975 doco Te Matakite O Aotearoa) and against the Springbok tour (Patu!), to his many acting roles. He also directed documentaries and wrote landmark 1987 movie Ngati, the first feature written (and directed) by Māori.
The late Hone Tūwhare (1922-2008) remains one of New Zealand's most loved and respected poets. Tūwhare has been the subject of numerous documentaries. He also wrote short stories and plays, and the drama Eel for anthology television series E Tipu e Rea. Tuwhare died on 16 January 2008 in Dunedin.
Rowley Habib — also known as Rore Hapipi — was one of the first writers to bring a genuinely Māori perspective to New Zealand stage and screen. His play Death of the Land is seen as a landmark in the development of Māori theatre. In 1983 Habib won a Feltex Award for land rights drama The Protestors, part of a trio of pioneering one-off plays for television. Habib passed away on 3 April 2016.
Barry Barclay — director of landmark TV series Tangata Whenua and feature film Ngati — was a longtime campaigner for the right of indigenous people to tell their own stories, to their own people. In 2004 he was made an Arts Foundation Laureate, and in 2007 a Member of the NZ Order of Merit. Barclay passed away on 19 February 2008, after publishing his acclaimed book Mana Tuturu.
German-raised Alexander Behse has produced a run of documentaries exploring Māori subjects, from ta moko to te reo Shakespeare, to acclaimed Tūhoe HQ story Ever the Land. Behse got an MA in production from UTS Sydney, and has many TV credits as an editor. He made his directing debut with 2012 TV documentary Nazi Hunter, and was at the helm of award-winning TV series Radar Across the Pacific.
A pioneer of New Zealand film and star of 1940 classic Rewi's Last Stand, Ramai Hayward is credited as Aotearoa’s first Māori filmmaker, camerawoman, and scriptwriter. At the 2005 Wairoa Māori Film Festival she received the inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award for her contributions to Māori filmmaking; the following year Hayward was made a Member of the NZ Order of Merit. She passed away on 3 July 2014.
Billy T James ranks as a key figure in the development of Kiwi comedy. Billy honed his talents as a singer and comedian on stages worldwide, then brought them to a local TV audience on throwback show Radio Times. His self-titled comedy show was a major ratings hit. His turn as the Tainuia kid in Came a Hot Friday is still fondly remembered — as is Billy T's infectious chuckle, black singlet and yellow towel.
Don Selwyn, ONZM, was an actor, casting director and mentor to a host of talented Māori who went on to work in film and television. Selwyn’s long acting resume includes 1970s historical epic The Governor and police show Mortimer’s Patch. He also directed The Māori Merchant of Venice, the first feature film in te reo Māori.