Govt should 'pony up' to save Shortland Street - actor

Actor Tandi Wright, shown in this file photo, played nurse Caroline Buxton on Shortland Street...
Actor Tandi Wright, shown in this file photo, played nurse Caroline Buxton on Shortland Street from 1995 to 1999. Photo: Getty Images
A former Shortland Street actor says the country is at risk of losing its "unique voice" if the programme is axed.

Following the cutting of current affairs programmes Sunday and Fair Go, TVNZ has confirmed the local soap opera was also under review.

Actor Tandi Wright played nurse Caroline Buxton on the show between 1995 and 1999. She's also the vice-president of the performers' union Equity New Zealand.

Wright told Morning Report that Shortland Street has entered the fabric of the country.

"I've been an actor for 30 years, of all the work I've ever done, it's Shortland Street that people remember you for. It's because you're in their home, you become almost part of their family."

It wouldn't be the same if the show wasn't five nights a week, and it wouldn't save much money anyway, she said.

"Do you remember the kerfuffle when the show first went to air in 92 and everyone was outraged that New Zealand Kiwi accents were in primetime and we got past that and now it's normal."

And the show was socially progressive and a leader in Māori, Pasifika, and other communities, Wright said.

"My own character, Caroline, had the first kind of in-depth lesbian love affair in the late 90s on Shortland Street, she also had a story line involving euthanasia. It's a great way to explore current issues in a way that is accessible and entertaining," she said.

"What we have to do is have a broader discussion about, do we want to tell New Zealand stories?"

Losing shows like Shortland Street meant being at "risk losing our unique New Zealand voice" becoming a service industry for international productions.

Wright said that could mean New Zealand on Air funding, or finding a way to tax international streaming services.

But the Government needed to "pony up", she said.

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon said the government was looking at "anything and everything" it could do to support evolution in the media industry.

"They may be things more in the margins, but how do we get the settings right so those companies can do the best that they can to innovate and adjust to their consumers."

There were "real challenges" in the media industry and his thoughts were with those losing their jobs, he said.

"It is a major challenge, with shifting consumer habits, changes in digital technology, and obviously for media companies individually it's up for them to innovate and evolve, as it is for companies in every other sector."

Luxon also defended Media and Communications Minister Melissa Lee and said he had confidence in her.