Legendary broadcaster John Campbell first fell in love with Taranaki in 2013.
He came with his late best friend, Tim McIntyre, to see the All Blacks versus France, and then brought his family to the region on holiday.
While they visited, Campbell became obsessed with the history, learning as much as he possibly could.
“I read everything I could get my hands on, and once you learn it, you can’t unlearn it: 1.2 million acres of stolen land, of confiscated land,” said Campbell, TVNZ Chief Correspondent.
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“It’s this extraordinary damage done with the Waitangi Tribunal report describing Māori as becoming squatters on Crown land when it was Māori land.”
Campbell has compiled his learning about what he calls his embarrassing ignorance of New Zealand history and colonisation into a long-form article and podcast for TVNZ, called From Egmont to Taranaki.
“This is a personal story of Pākehā me, who didn’t know what I didn’t know, until I began discovering it.
“It’s part roadie, with my late, beautiful best friend, Tim. It’s part eyes opening and ears listening. It’s part expression of regret and shame and gratitude. And hope. And love.
“This is my journey to the history of us.”
Taranaki is a pivotal area in New Zealand’s history, with a series of land wars taking place in the region between 1860 and 1881.
The article and podcast includes Campbell’s interviews with local Māori, such as New Plymouth District Councillor Dinnie Moeahu and Puna Wano-Bryant, who was the chairperson of Parihaka Papakainga Trust during reconciliation negotiations in 2017.
The piece also explores his road trips to the region with McIntyre, who was diagnosed with cancer in 2014.
“We did one extraordinary roadie where we went to Taranaki, and we just went exploring.
“We drove and drove and drove, and we went everywhere we could go, and it was just this magic few days of seeing the place, and I wanted to write about my journey to understanding more, which was way too late in my life.
“It’s ridiculous how little I knew.”
McIntyre, who died on Boxing Day 2021, was Māori, of Ngāti Raukawa and Ngāti Toa descent.
However, Campbell says back in the day he didn’t consider him Māori.
“We thought that in order to be Māori, you had to be full Māori. We’d go, ‘You’re not really Maori, you’re only an eighth or a sixteenth’. It was just ignorance.
“He was just this beautiful man, full of glorious curiosity, my curiosity is kind of journalistic, but Tim’s was much more just a human equation.”
Campbell said he came from a very privileged past, from an upper-middle class Wellington family and had a “white as childhood”.
He talks about people who get offended by the use of te reo or tell Māori to “get over it” when talking about land.
Recently, in support of Te Wiki o te Reo Māori, Whittaker’s released a te reo version of their Creamy Milk Chocolate block called Miraka Kirīmi, which received major backlash.
“Let’s compare Māori words on a chocolate wrapper, with having 1.2 million acres of land taken from you.
“The Crown wasn’t removing land from Pākehā criminals, but removing land from non-criminal Māori, so you create a colonialist construct which treats Māori in a separate and damaging way, and I guess it’s no surprise that should enter the DNA of the country.”
Campbell said his ignorance of Māori history and land confiscation was a product of the education system, as New Zealand history wasn’t taught at schools and there were very few Māori stories or language on TV.
He felt it important to go on this journey as a Pākehā man and document it, as racism was a Pākehā issue.
“There was a Hurricanes board member who was saying stuff that sort of felt like racism to a lot of people, and the only member of the squad that spoke out against it was TJ Perenara.
“And I remember thinking, why is the Māori dude speaking out against the racism? Where are the Pākehā voices saying, ‘Hey, we need to stop here?’”