TVNZ head of news and current affairs Paul Yurisich has gone on leave as the broadcaster reviews its recruitment processes following the departure of Kamahl Santamaria.

The state-backed TV broadcaster has started an external review of its hiring procedures after Santamaria left his role on Breakfast after just one month. 

News outlets have since reported that Santamaria stood down following a complaint from a female colleague.

Yurisich, head of news at TVNZ since late 2020, was said to have been instrumental in hiring Santamaria. The pair both formerly worked for Al Jazeera in Qatar.

TVNZ confirmed Yurisich’s decision to step back as the recruitment review takes place. 

“Paul Yurisich has decided to take leave during the period of the review process being undertaken by Margaret Robins, which is a general review of policies, processes and practices,” a TVNZ spokeswoman said.

Strongly-worded statement

The decision follows a strongly-worded statement issued by TVNZ chief executive Simon Power earlier this week.

Power said: “It’s my view our general [recruitment] policy hasn’t been followed or applied consistently so needs to be reviewed.”

While not commenting on individual circumstances, he said TVNZ did not tolerate “any form of harassment or inappropriate behaviour in the workplace”.

“If a team member raises an issue concerning the behaviour of another staff member it’s taken extremely seriously, treated confidentially, and investigated swiftly,” he added.

The controversy has drawn the attention of senior ministers. Broadcasting minister Kris Faafoi has called on TVNZ to explain its recruitment processes in the wake of the debacle.

Santamaria’s exit has caused ructions within the state-backed broadcaster, pitting its team of journalists against management as they try to unearth further details of the story. 

The divisions have caused TVNZ staff to leak internal emails, prompting a furious response from executives including story production and operations general manager, Andrew Fernie.