By 1news.co.nz and is republished with permission
1News presenter Melissa Stokes takes a look at just some of the career highlights which led to 1News Pacific Correspondent Barbara Dreaver’s inclusion on the 2024 New Year Honours List. Dreaver has received an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to investigative journalism and Pacific communities.
When I joined the Auckland newsroom as a reporter sometime in the early 2000s – I wasn’t to know that it’d be the start of a professionally joyous time of my life. Surrounded by the likes of Barbara Dreaver, Lisa Owen, Charlotte Glennie, Andrew Potter and later Beth Bates, Adrian Stevanon and Nicole Bremner – we formed a tight crew that still gets together 15 – 20 years later.
Many of our colleagues have left, but Barb (as she is affectionately known around the newsroom) Nicole and I remain, and I think we’d all agree that our friendships go much further than just the stories we do (there’s even a framed photo of Barb and I at my parents’ house). Over the years we’ve experienced many of the joys and sad realities of life.
But Barb attacks life with a vigour that I admire and adore – and brings to her stories what only really talented story tellers can – heart, it’s an often undefinable quantity that makes them stand out, even if you, as the viewer is unsure why.
That’s a very long introduction to say Barb is well loved by many of us in the TVNZ newsroom. We’ve worried when she’s been detained, both in Fiji and Nauru, though would agree heartily with our boss Phil O’Sullivan’s sentiments that “there was an element of sympathy for the people who had taken her into custody – Barb is pretty fierce”.
NY Honours: 1News’ Barbara Dreaver honoured for Pacific storytelling
Melissa Stokes takes a look at just some of the career highlights which led to Dreaver’s inclusion on the New Year Honours List. (Source: 1News)
The kinds of stories that she goes after has meant there have been times when she’s needed security and faced threatening abuse, but as she told me none of that worries her.
“It doesn’t matter to me what happens to me, as long as my stories are fair, as long as my stories are important and let other peoples voices be heard,” she said.
The stories she’s delivered over 30 years reporting on the Pacific and the Pasifika community in New Zealand have changed lives – and at times the law.
In 2018 she exposed a methamphetamine epidemic in Tonga which resulted in the Tongan Government toughening up its drug laws in 2020 and investing $2 million to make fighting the war on meth a priority.
She’s busted an adoption scam in Samoa in 2004, where children who weren’t really orphans were adopted by American parents. The FBI got involved in that one, charging people for baby smuggling.
Barb uncovered a fake security school in Auckland which resulted in historic charges of issuing fake qualifications under the education act.
There’s been many investigations into pyramid schemes targeting the pacific communities, the latest in 2021 was investigated by the Commerce Commission and shut down.
She’s chased bad people down the street, held politicians to account and taken on government agencies. During Covid she told stories of the Pasifika community feeling let down with how they were being treated.
“Its when there’s been great injustice and they just didn’t know where to go and how to get help, and then sometimes you can do a story and investigate and expose great corruption and expose things that never should have happened,” Barb told me.
For Barb its about standing up for what’s right even if it means going up again her own community.
“The question you always ask yourself is, would I do it differently next time and if the answer is no, then you know you’ve stayed true to your craft, you’ve got to go with what’s right and what’s fair no matter the personal impact,” she said.
Sir Colin Tukuitonga, a Niuean-born new Zealand doctor and public health academic said New Zealand needs more journalists like Barb. He said she’s a voice for the Pacific, “that’s brought a broader audience, political leader, government departments, influencers, people like that to really share what its like for pacific families and their children”.
He added: “Barbara’s fierce with trying to tell the truth, she’s empathetic when she’s telling the story of a mother who’s delayed healthcare has led to poor health outcomes, or a family with children, but when she needs to be, particularly when people are wanting to fudge the truth, she becomes quite fierce in her determination. I just think she’s fantastic.”
Barb’s love of the Pacific came from her upbringing in Kiribati, later starting her journalism career in the Cook islands.
She said her job is not just about giving Pacific people a voice, “its also sharing those stories with New Zealand because a lot of New Zealanders are interested. Its just stories about people and their lives.”
She stays in touch with many of the people she’s done stories with. Barb counts the measles epidemic in Samoa as one of the hardest to cover and looks back at meeting a 15-year-old dying of cancer as one of the stories that meant a lot to her.
From taking down scam artists to wonderful Pacific stories, her enduring career has shone a light on our Pasifika communities – and watch out those of you involved in dodgy dealings, Barb might be right round the corner.