Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Concern grows over PMC after shock office ‘closure’ and no director

The Sepik storyboard plaque marking the 2007 opening of the Pacific Media Centre
by then Pacific Affairs Minister Luamanuvau Winnie Laban  – gone, relocated?

February 16, 2021

PACIFIC journalists, media researchers, students and other stakeholders have expressed concern about the future of New Zealand’s Pacific Media Centre after more than two months without a director and a recent shock “closure” of the centre’s office.

The centre, founded in 2007 and described by an external review as a “jewel in the AUT crown”, had worked in its current Communication Studies office in the Sir Paul Reeves Building at the Auckland University of Technology’s city campus since it opened eight years ago.

It was abruptly emptied earlier this month of more than a decade of awards, books, files, publications, picture frames and taonga, including a traditional carved Papua New Guinean storyboard marking the opening of the centre by then Pacific Affairs Minister Luamanuvao Winnie Laban in October 2007.

The official line is that it is a “move” for the centre but there is confusion over the actual location of any replacement space.

It is understood that none of the centre’s staff or the PMC Advisory Board members were consulted, nor were they notified before the removal took place. None were present at the removal.

Concern has been expressed over the treatment of taonga – “highly disrespectful and inappropriate”, say some critics.

A social media posting criticising the action drew 150 responses and more than 80 negative comments – most of them from Pacific journalists, media personalities and current or former project students, some describing it as “academic vandalism”.

However, one defending comment said the materials had been relocated to a “new space”.

Television New Zealand Pacific affairs correspondent Barbara Dreaver responded by asking: “Do you want to show us all a photo of this new space you speak of?”

The AUT website still lists the PMC office as being located at the original WG1028 – not level 12 as being cited.

Among many criticisms, the doyen of Tongan publishing Kalafi Moala said: “That’s unbelievable … We are still trying to get over the Gestapo-style deportation of the USP vice-chancellor from Fiji, and now this? How shameful!”

Leading Vanuatu-based photojournalist Ben Bohane said: “Outrageous example of a disposable mentality, but your legacy will remain ...”

Director of the Toda Peace Institute in Tokyo Professor Kevin Clements said:“This is terrible … but typical of NZ universities at the moment.”

Australian columnist Keith Jackson, a retired academic, journalist and former administrator in Papua New Guinea, said: “That’s the kind of behaviour that happens in the worst organisations … Damn shame … But you and I and hundreds of others know you are a consummate pro who built a terrific organisation that affected and informed thousands of people. Sori tru.”

Dr Jason MacLeod, an academic affiliated with the West Papua Project of the University of Sydney, said: “So sad. Another uni with no soul or sense of purpose beyond bottom lines.”

Seini Taumoepeau, an Oceanic creative consultant and former presenter at ABC Australia, said: “Oh, so sorry for the loss – this is heartbreaking.”

Ena Manureva, a Tahitian doctoral candidate, said: “This is shameful given the recommendations of the [recent harassment policies] "review" and AUT promising to do better and this is what you get - an utter failure and shame!

Ami Dhabuwala, a onetime Gujarat Guardian reporter and former PMC Bearing Witness climate project student, said: “This is heartbreaking! PMC was the only thing that got me through my time in AUT! PMC was the best thing that happened to me. Thank you so much for all the support and the work you do.”

The Pacific Media Centre on 18 December 2020 … everything removed in early February 2021 without consultation with the stakeholders.
VIDEO: Cafe Pacific 

Founding director Professor David Robie, who retired late last year, was also critical of the “unconscionable” closure/relocation, saying that no inventory had been drawn up and it was disrespectful of the research publications and artefacts gifted by partner organisations around the Asia-Pacific region.

Concern from collaborating Asia-Pacific groups worried about the status of their projects with PMC has been growing too as there has not been an appointment of an acting or substantive director in more than two months since Dr Robie retired.

The website PMC Online and its YouTube and Soundcloud offshoots for multimedia and the radio programme Southern Cross have not been updated since mid-December.

Pacific Media Centre's office as featured on Facebook … active to empty. IMAGE: Cafe Pacific

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