Producer Annabelle Lee-Mather and host Mihingarangi Forbes of The Hui. (Image: supplied)

Mihingarangi Forbes: Five whare rules to avoid getting booted from my TV debate

With the first of the Hui Pōti 2020 debates on tonight, Mihingarangi Forbes – who’ll be keeping those vying for votes in the seven Māori electorates in line – shares some words of wisdom.

As one of my impertinent children pointed out this week, I have been a journalist since “LAST CENTURY” (they’re now grounded), which means I have covered a fair few elections in my time. Every one is a challenge for different reasons. But that’s what makes them so exciting.

Early in the 2020 campaign there were suggestions from the new National Party leader Judith Collins that the party might have a flutter in the Māori electorates, but so far not a single horse has entered the stalls. Despite their Treaty of Waitangi policy, the Greens too have failed to back a horse in four of the seven seats, leaving just co-leader Marama Davidson, Elizabeth Kerekere and Ariana Paretutanganui-Tamati to wear the party’s silks. After its catastrophic loss last election, the Māori Party is running on a heavy track, but there is still hope co-leader Debbie Ngarewa Packer could prove to be a dark horse in Te Tai Hauāuru.

The Hui team weekly editorial meeting (Photo: Supplied)

Currently Labour is the odds-on favourite in the Māori electorates, but as we know, things can change quickly in politics. Cast your mind back three years ago to when Bill English looked as though he was going to cakewalk his way to the treasury benches, mea rawa ake (nek minute) – Jacindamania.

The Hui Pōti 2020 electorate debates are a chance for Māori to get a good look at those vying for their votes.

Every Māori broadcaster comes with a kete of experiences, knowledge and tricks. The thing that has prepared me best for wrangling potential politicians in electorate debates is not my decades of experience as a journalist. Nor is it my extensive knowledge of horse-racing clichés. Instead it’s being a mum. Catering to different personalities, ages and skills, juggling competing demands, refereeing, giving good growlings and knowing how to get everyone out the door in a timely manner (still working on this TBH).

All those skills will be deployed when yours truly facilitates seven Māori electorate debates, starting tonight with Tāmaki Makaurau.

So for those taking part, here are the Five Forbes Whare Rules to make sure you aren’t put in time out on national TV.

1. We are whanaunga first, last and always.

Relationships between Māori pre-date and outlast any election campaign. Politicians who forget that will be reminded at the ballot box. Māori voters don’t like it when their candidates fight dirty. That doesn’t mean it’s all polite niceties and no argy-bargy – nothing involving John Tamihere could ever be described as “polite” – but basic whaikōrero rules apply: the kaupapa gets robustly discussed but never at the expense of the whanaungatanga. Patua te kaupapa, kaua ko te tangata.

2. Answer questions honestly or you’ll be in big trouble.

Kaua e teka. Don’t try to bullshit. You will be found out and it will be bad for you when you are.

3. Do your homework.

Remember the seven Ps: poor planning and preparation produces piss-poor performance.

Do your mahi kāinga, people. Know what you want to say, and make sure you say it concisely… no faffing about or holding court. Inevitably there will be a question you may not feel confident about. The best advice on how to handle this doesn’t come from me, but from Nanaia Mahuta, who I once overheard in a Māori Television makeup room reassuring a nervous first-time candidate (her opposition). To paraphrase, she basically said people want to know who you are and how you approach things, so if you get a big-picture policy question and your brain freezes, don’t try to bluff, be yourself – describe how you’d approach it as a parent, as a member of your marae committee, as a business owner … what shapes your thinking, which words from your koroua do you hear in times of stress, what kind of future you do want for your tamariki, basically: who are you?

4. Just like mums, cameras see everything.

Just because you aren’t talking doesn’t mean you won’t be on the telly. Some, such as Marama Davidson or Dame Tariana Turia, deploy their aunty eye rolls to great effect. Others, like Hone Harawira, deftly move to get out of any possible camera shot while Brendan Horan was busy decrying the personal hygiene of Māori … (yeah, I’m not exactly sure where that kōrero was going either, but Hone knew enough to know he didn’t want to be anywhere near it). Don’t try to win an Oscar, but do know that while the cameras are rolling so, potentially, are you.

5. Be a koha not a hōhā.

In these perilous times we find ourselves in, service leadership has never been more critical.

We need visionary leaders who will act with integrity and mana in the best interests of our people. What we don’t need is cynical politicians who will exploit our people’s vulnerabilities for their own self-interest.

Ina te mahi he rangatira. By their deeds a chief is known.

The Hui Pōti 2020 will be streamed live on newshub.co.nz, threenow.co.nz and Facebook and replayed on Saturday and Sunday mornings on Three.

  • Tāmaki Makaurau: Tuesday September 15, 8pm
  • Hauraki-Waikato: Wednesday September 16, 8pm
  • Waiariki: Tuesday September 22, 8pm
  • Ikaroa Rāwhiti: Wednesday September 23, 8pm
  • Te Tai Tokerau: Tuesday September 29, 8pm
  • Te Tai Tonga: Tuesday October 6, 8pm
  • Te Tai Hauāuru: Wednesday October 7, 8pm.




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