Light on Pa­cific:

John Pulu and Marama T-Pole (above) are co-hosts on Ta­gata Pasi­fika, a lo­cal se­ries de­voted to is­sues rel­e­vant to New Zealand’s Pa­cific Is­land com­mu­nity. They tell Sarah Nealon what in­spired them to be­come jour­nal­ists and why they push against stereo­type

The TV Guide - - CONTENTS -

TVNZ’s long-run­ning show that of­ten flies un­der the radar.

If you were asked to name one of New Zealand’s long­est-run­ning TV shows, chances are you would say Coun­try Cal­en­dar or per­haps Fair Go.

But how many peo­ple would say Ta­gata Pasi­fika?

While it might not be as fa­mil­iar as pro­grammes about ru­ral life or con­sumer is­sues, this se­ries about mat­ters rel­e­vant to the Pa­cific Is­land com­mu­nity has been around since 1987.

Largely a blend of cur­rent af­fairs and en­ter­tain­ment, the weekly Satur­day morn­ing show cel­e­brates suc­cess sto­ries such as Ton­gan-born sci­en­tist Dr Palatasa Havea, Lon­don-based Kiwi-Samoan chef Mon­ica Galetti and ac­tor Fa­situa Amosa (Dirty Laun­dry, Auck­land Daze) who is of Samoan-Tu­val­uan de­scent.

Ta­gata Pasi­fika also touches on se­ri­ous is­sues such as men­tal health, home­less­ness and di­a­betes.

Past pre­sen­ters of the show in­clude ac­tor Rob­bie Ma­ga­siva (Went­worth, Short­land Street) and Com­mon­wealth Games gold medal­list Beatrice Fau­muina.

Cur­rently, the show is fronted by John Pulu, 31, and Marama T-Pole, who is in her early 40s, and has lately been pre­sent­ing 1 News Tonight.

T-Pole be­came in­volved with Ta­gata Pasi­fika when she be­gan free­lanc­ing for the show in 2004.

Be­fore that she worked in ra­dio and at­tended broad­cast­ing school in Christchurch.

Born in Dunedin, she says she’s what’s known as a ‘South Is­land Is­lan­der’. Her mother is P keh and her fa­ther, a me­chanic turned church min­is­ter, is Tu­val­uan.

“My dad’s first parish was in St An­drew’s which is halfway be­tween Christchurch and Dunedin, just 15 min­utes south of Ti­maru,” says T-Pole.

“I caught the same school bus as Josh (Thom­son) from The Project. He’d pull the same gag ev­ery day where ev­ery time he got off the bus he would pre­tend to fall over in­side the bus.”

T-Pole was in­spired to work in me­dia after be­com­ing con­cerned about the lack of pos­i­tive Pa­cific Is­land role mod­els on tele­vi­sion when she was grow­ing up.

“We’re rep­re­sented in crime sto­ries but that’s not a true rep­re­sen­ta­tion of our com­mu­nity,” says T-Pole, who is a mother to three chil­dren – aged five, three and 11 months.

“Not only for our­selves but for the rest of New Zealand, only see­ing that pic­ture of who we are is quite dis­turb­ing and ab­so­lutely false. It is not who we are as a com­mu­nity.”

How­ever, there was some­one in tele­vi­sion who stood out.

That was Stephanie Taue­vihi, who ap­peared in a youth-fo­cused TV show be­fore later play­ing Short­land Street’s Donna Heka.

“I saw this Poly­ne­sian young woman pre­sent­ing and re­port­ing and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh. There’s me’,” says T-Pole. “It meant so much to see Stephanie Taue­vihi on air. I’d never seen any­one ... Later on April Ieremia be­came a sports news reader for TVNZ and that was quite a big thing for us as well.”

On Ta­gata Pasi­fika, T-Pole and Pulu not only present the show but are also re­porters and di­rec­tors.

Sev­eral years ago the show cov­ered T-Pole’s tra­di­tional Tu­val­uan wed­ding in Auck­land.

T-Pole’s Ta­gata Pasi­fika co-host Pulu joined the show eight years ago after fin­ish­ing his ter­tiary stud­ies.

But it wasn’t his first taste of Ta­gata Pasi­fika. As a teenager he did work ex­pe­ri­ence there dur­ing his fi­nal year of high school.

“As a kid from Tonga who grew up in South Auck­land go­ing to TVNZ, it was an awe­some feel­ing,” re­calls Pulu.

“I told my­self I wanted to work there only be­cause I wanted to burst the bub­ble from grow­ing up in South Auck­land think­ing, ‘This is it’.”

Pulu was born in Tonga and moved to New Zealand with his fam­ily at age nine. His fa­ther worked as a car­pen­ter while his mother stayed at home rais­ing Pulu and his sib­lings.

“I grew up in a time when shows like Po­lice Ten 7, they were push­ing stereo­types of brown peo­ple al­ways do­ing naughty things and be­ing ar­rested and we were get­ting teased a lot at school,” he says.

“So, you know, be­ing mocked for be­ing Pa­cific. I fell in love with Ta­gata Pasi­fika be­cause they were cel­e­brat­ing be­ing Pa­cific and telling awe­some sto­ries by Pa­cific peo­ple. That’s how it all be­gan for me.”

Pulu is pas­sion­ate about his work and it’s clear he finds the job sat­is­fy­ing, par­tic­u­larly on a per­sonal level.

“I use my role as a jour­nal­ist to be an ad­vo­cate for our peo­ple,” he says.

“One of the sto­ries that I worked on that made me re­ally value our job was help­ing a fam­ily move out of a garage and into a proper house. That’s one that al­ways sticks with me. That’s why I do what I do.”

“We’re rep­re­sented in crime sto­ries but that’s not a true rep­re­sen­ta­tion of our com­mu­nity.” – Marama T-Pole

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