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The Sunday team say goodbye (Screengrab: TVNZ)
The Sunday team say goodbye (Screengrab: TVNZ)

Pop CultureMay 14, 2024

‘As much as we built it, it built us’: How Sunday said goodbye

The Sunday team say goodbye (Screengrab: TVNZ)
The Sunday team say goodbye (Screengrab: TVNZ)

Tara Ward watches as TVNZ’s long-running current affairs show bows out with humility and grace.

We have just 12 days left to view the final episode of Sunday on TVNZ+ in its entirety. From next week, there will be no more full episodes of the award-winning current affairs show on the digital platform of the company that funded it for the last two decades. While the local stories will live on as clips on TVNZ+ and on the 1News YouTube account, Sunday as we know it will be gone. It is one last shake of salt in the open wound of Sunday’s cancellation, which was announced by TVNZ in April due to cost-cutting and falling revenue.

Since 2002, Sunday has produced vital long-form storytelling about New Zealand people and places and created quality investigative journalism that changed both lives and laws. Its legacy in New Zealand society will live longer than 12 days, but as Sunday’s last episode went to air on Sunday night, it was clear this goodbye was never going to be about the show itself. “We want to do what we’ve always done: bring you the stories that matter,” presenter Miriama Kamo told us as the show began.

Miriama Kamo (Screengrab: TVNZ)

And matter they did. The first of Sunday’s two final stories was a heartbreaking piece about the life of Lena Zhang Harrap, a vibrant, vulnerable young woman who was murdered while out walking in Auckland in 2021. We met Lena’s incredible mother Su, and Tejal, a woman followed by Lena’s murderer the day before Lena was killed. The second story introduced us to Tatila Helu, an inspirational Tongan medical student who was driven to become a doctor after her brother’s death, and who is making a difference in her community thanks to the medical school diversity admission schemes that the government is proposing to review.  

Both pieces were Sunday at its best. They were powerful, considered stories about everyday New Zealanders whose lives were anything but ordinary. In a matter of minutes, Sunday transformed these strangers into people we knew, and with its typically understated, sensitive storytelling, gave us room to breathe among the heavy heartbreak and emotion. The show pulled the audience into these New Zealanders’ worlds, showing us what was unfair, what was wrong, where there was hope. It reminded us: this is what we have in common. This is who we are. 

Miriama Kamo (right) with some of the Sunday team (Screengrab: TVNZ)

Even in the show’s closing minutes, Sunday tried its best not to make it about Sunday. In a segment that looked back on some of the most memorable stories in the show’s history, Sunday was still determined to give voice to the New Zealanders it had met over the last two decades. We heard from the people who trusted these journalists with their most vulnerable moments and whose lives had been changed for the better because of it. From the Dilworth sexual abuse scandal to emergency housing in Rotorua to the cost of living impacting on the elderly, Sunday let us tell our stories until the very end. 

Finally, as the clock ticked down on their final episode, the Sunday team gathered in the studio to say goodbye. Sunday was the last long-form current affairs programme on mainstream television, reporter Tania Page told us, as the team took turns to pay tribute to their colleagues. There were no harsh words or anger, only thanks. “We say goodbye to our whare Sunday,” Kamo said. “As much as we built it, it built us, and we are grateful.” It was a farewell full of grace and dignity, but that was Sunday, through and through. Humble, thoughtful, powerful to the last. 

Sunday streams on TVNZ+. This story has been updated to include that local Sunday stories will remain as clips on TVNZ+ for up to a year after airing.

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