Embattled minister Clare Curran initiated the meeting with Carol Hirschfeld which led to the latter’s resignation as RNZ’s head of news, newly released text messages show.
The chain of messages reveals little about what the pair discussed during their chat over coffee – the subject of great speculation as the Broadcasting Minister continues to come under scrutiny.
Hirschfeld’s resignation was announced on Tuesday after admitting to misleading RNZ about her encounter with Curran.
She had told them it was a chance encounter, but the state broadcaster received evidence that proved otherwise.
Text messages between the pair, released under the Official Information Act, show Curran first wrote to Hirschfeld – misspelled as “Hirshfeld” in her phone – on November 3 to arrange a “catch up”.
After several failed attempts to find a mutually convenient time, on November 23 the pair arranged to meet on December 5 “somewhere near Bowen House entrance” – later settling on Astoria as the venue.
The text exchange gives no clues as to the topics that were to be discussed.
There have been suggestions that Curran may have wanted to talk to Hirschfeld about any impediments on RNZ’s side to the establishment of a public service TV channel.
Stuff has reported Hirschfeld was supportive of the concept, but both RNZ board chair Richard Griffin and chief executive Paul Thompson were “unenthusiastic” about the idea.
Curran left the meeting off a list that she provided in response to a written parliamentary question, later claiming that it was “unofficial”.
However, she said on Tuesday that it was a mistake to omit the meeting.
Curran’s office had contacted RNZ after Griffin and Thompson defended Hirschfeld’s version of events at a select committee to correct them, and left it for them to deal with.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has defended her minister, saying Curran did correct the record although she should have done so sooner.