Staunch follows the politicisation of Ariana (Mamaengaroa Kerr-Bell, who made a memorable debut as teenager Grace Heke in Once Were Warriors). Ariana is in trouble with the law. Aided by a sympathetic social worker (Tamati Patuwai) the young Māori woman defends herself against assault charges after a police raid on her home. Inspired by a true story, the TV play was written by director Keith Hunter and Toa Fraser. At the 2002 NZ TV Awards, it won gongs for Best Script, Director, Editor and for its two lead actors. Staunch marked an early credit for Fraser (who later directed No. 2 and Dean Spanley).
I just wanna do my PD and get it over with, so I don’t have to talk to prophets like you.– Ariana (Mamaengaroa Kerr-Bell) to her social worker (Tamati Patuwai)