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Some of the hosts of Fair Go’s past – L-R: Kim Webby, Kevin Milne, Brodie Kane, Anna Thomas, Haydn Jones, Kerre Woodham (Image: Tina Tiller
Some of the hosts of Fair Go’s past – L-R: Kim Webby, Kevin Milne, Brodie Kane, Anna Thomas, Haydn Jones, Kerre Woodham (Image: Tina Tiller

Pop CultureMay 13, 2024

Goodbye to Fair Go, television’s ‘plucky little battler’ 

Some of the hosts of Fair Go’s past – L-R: Kim Webby, Kevin Milne, Brodie Kane, Anna Thomas, Haydn Jones, Kerre Woodham (Image: Tina Tiller
Some of the hosts of Fair Go’s past – L-R: Kim Webby, Kevin Milne, Brodie Kane, Anna Thomas, Haydn Jones, Kerre Woodham (Image: Tina Tiller

Ahead of the final episode of Fair Go, some of the show’s former presenters look back at what the iconic consumer affairs series meant to them. 

Fair Go, as former presenter Haydn Jones puts it, was “the show nobody wanted to appear on”. You either had to be ripped off or be ripping someone off to end up on Fair Go, and for nearly five decades, the consumer rights series never suffered from a shortage of stories. Whether it was chasing down dodgy roofers, changing insurance laws or working out whether our Weet-bix was too soggy, Fair Go battled for the underdog since 1977, righting wrongs for everyday New Zealanders when nobody else would help. 

While the final primetime episode airs tonight, it may not be the end of the Fair Go brand altogether. “TVNZ have proposed that a new team be established as part of its news and current affairs function, with a specific focus on long-form consumer and current affairs for TVNZ’s digital platforms,” a spokesperson for the network told The Spinoff. “There is an opportunity for this team to continue reporting under the Fair Go brand and viewers will still be able to share their consumer concerns by writing to the Fair Go inbox.”

Regardless, it is the end of an era. As the sun sets on one of New Zealand television’s longest running (second only to Country Calendar) and most enduringly popular television shows, we asked some of Fair Go’s many presenters over the past 47 years to share what working on the series meant to them. 

Kevin Milne (1984-2011): ‘A primetime, high-rating TV show with mana’

“Working on Fair Go in the golden days of television felt like a unique mix between social work and all the razzamatazz of showbiz. It was immensely rewarding knowing how people with issues benefited from Fair Go. But at our end, the days were also loaded with creativity and fun.

Mostly I enjoyed confronting companies that bullied individuals that had a reasonable complaint. Suddenly, it was the companies shaking in their boots. I won’t deny it, I loved the power of Fair Go – though, of course, we had to use it very carefully. 

We lose a fascinating, entertaining TV show when Fair Go is at its best. But far more important is that every New Zealander loses the unique option they’ve had for nearly 50 years: to threaten a business with “well, I’m going to Fair Go”. That works with a primetime, high-rating TV show with mana. That’s all about to go. Sad for so many New Zealanders who have nowhere else to go. Every week I heard the relief in their voices, sometimes tears, when we told them we believed them and we were going into battle on their behalf.”

Kerre Woodham (1988-1990): ‘It was the idea that everybody deserves justice’

“It was the most amazing experience, because I was 21 when I started. I got asked if I’d like to do it one night round the bar at the TV1 club. Keith Slater was the producer, and he said, “do you want to take Amanda Millar’s place?” and everyone snorted with laughter. I said, “I’d love to have a bash”. 

I wasn’t really good enough to be there, to be honest. I was the dumbing down of New Zealand television, they can trace it back to me. There were such good journalists on there, really good investigative journalists. I hadn’t had the experience and I certainly didn’t have the talent of somebody like Amanda Millar or Anna Kenna.

So I did a lot of ‘tits and teeth’ sort of stories. Kevin Milne rang me once when he was doing a review of Fair Go for one of its landmark birthdays, and was kind enough to say, I think we underestimated the contribution you made to the show, because it was those quirky, silly, fun stories that helped make it so watchable. But the grunty, big engine investigations were also pivotal, because people didn’t have a way of getting redress back then. These days, you can uptick, downtick and get on the socials if you were aggrieved, but back then, you just didn’t. 

It was the idea that everybody deserves justice, not just people with friends or people with money or people with the loudest voices. Fair Go was for everyone, for the quiet person, for the people who don’t put their head above the parapet. They knew they could trust Fair Go to do the right thing by them – and it did, so often, thanks to the really hard work of so many amazing journalists that have been on that show.” 

Anna Thomas (1994-2001): ‘You were making a difference to people’s lives’

“Working on Fair Go has been one of my career highlights. I was a reporter in 1994, replacing Sean Plunket, before being given the job the following year co-presenting with Kevvy [Kevin Milne] until 2001. We had an incredibly tight team and had such pride in what we did. Back in the day we did it all, so much research went into each story – and many, many issues were solved which never made it onto the screen. But you felt like you were really making a difference to people’s lives.  

I had chairs thrown at me while exposing a multi million dollar pyramid selling scheme, abuse from all types, including lawyers, but a story I remember quite vividly was in the last few weeks of my pregnancy with my daughter. I exposed a shonky builder who’d ripped off an elderly Auckland couple, and the builder called Fair Go and told them he was going to kill me. Apparently all hell broke loose as everyone tried to find me, concerned I might be kidnapped or go into labour a few weeks early because of the stress… they were about to send up the police helicopter when I appeared. When Lily arrived safely a few weeks later, I was overwhelmed by the outpouring of love from hundreds of viewers around the country who knitted and sent cards, and even a tree. The tree is 24 years old now and in our garden! 

It was an honour and a privilege to work on Fair Go and to be able to play a small part in what became such a New Zealand institution.”

Kim Webby (1998-2000): ‘It gave people hope, but it also gave people a solution’

“For me, it was a really important programme because it was doing some good in the community for people who felt that they didn’t have anywhere else to turn. It was so successful in so many ways. It gave people hope, but it also gave people a really great solution. I think that’s something Fair Go can be really, really proud of.

I really loved our team – Anna Thomas, Pete Cronshaw, Raewyn Rasch was our producer, Lisa Pringle was her deputy and we just had fun. Even though Fair Go tackled serious issues, it didn’t take itself too seriously. There was an opportunity within the programme to be funny, or to sometimes take the mickey out of something, and express our own personalities in terms of the storytelling.

That was a really enjoyable aspect of the programme and a tone that was set right back in the beginning. It was always a little bit irreverent, as well as dealing with the serious investigative side of journalism as well. I loved doing that. It had both the light and the shade.”

Brodie Kane (2014-2016): ‘The plucky little battler every Kiwi needs’

“Genuinely, it would be one of my favourite jobs over the course of my career. I think that was because you were everything: you were the reporter, you were the producer, you were the researcher, you were the lawyer, you were the negotiator. The amount of work that you had to do on these stories, before they even got on the television, was at a level that makes anyone a really solid journalist. You put your heart and soul into every story, and you became really close with wonderful everyday New Zealanders who had been either treated like shit or were brave enough to share their story to help prevent it happening to other people. 

Every story was meaningful and terrifying and rewarding, so it was a really special show to work on. And the team – I have such fond memories of the wonderful Garth Bray and working with Gordon Harcourt and Pippa [Wetzell] and Hannah [Wallis].

It’s always a small team, but it’s the plucky little battler every Kiwi needs.” 

Haydn Jones (centre) with the Fair Go team in 2023 (Kaitlin Aldridge, Gill Higgins, Pippa Wetzell, Garth Bray and Alistar Kata) (Photo: TVNZ)

Haydn Jones (2016-2023): ‘I feel very proud and humbled to be part of it’

“My first memory of Fair Go was as a little kid growing up in Gore. Occasionally we were allowed to eat dinner in the lounge, and Fair Go was one of the go-tos after The Dog Show and Country Calendar. I never imagined that I would actually appear on the show. I worked on 20/20 some years later, which was right beside Fair Go, and I used to think, ‘that’d be an easy show to work on, all the stories just come into your inbox.’ Later, I figured out how careful everyone is. In the age of a fast digital news cycle, Fair Go took particular care to make sure that it got it right. 

No one wanted to be on that TV show. They’d either ripped someone off or they’d been ripped off, so it was the show no one wanted to be on. People were desperate for a remedy, and often it had been years. They needed help, and there were no other avenues. It was the last stop for people.

It was a real joy to present. I was very lucky to host with Pippa [Wetzell] for seven years. She had a real heart for that programme, and a real heart for people. At the heart of all these stories were people who were at the end of their tether, and there were hundreds and hundreds in the inbox. The inbox is going to remain open and people will still be fighting for them, which is important to note. It’s not the end, it’s just a different format. 

It was a real honour working on Fair Go, I feel very proud and humbled to have been a part of it.” 

The final episode of Fair Go screens on Monday May 13 at 7.30pm on TVNZ1 and streams on TVNZ+. 

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