Tainui Stephens was born in Otautahi and educated at St Andrew’s College, University of Canterbury, Wānanga o Ngapuhi and University of Auckland. He worked for four years as an investigating officer with the office of the Race Relations Conciliator in Auckland. In 1984 he joined TVNZ as a reporter/researcher for Koha. In the following years Stephens went on to become a producer and director of many programmes for TVNZ including Kaleidoscope, Weekend, Kohanga Reo, Te Kupenga and Koha. Other major productions have included When The Haka Became Boogie, 28th Māori Battalion, Marae, The Black Singlet Legacy, Toa: Māori Rugby, Waka Huia, and The New Zealand Wars. From 1995-2000, Stephens was Executive Producer of the Māori Programmes Department of TVNZ.
After working for TVNZ for 17 years and making some 700 hours of programmes, Stephens became a founding director of Pito One Productions Ltd, an independent company based in Ngaruawahia which provides Māori broadcasting and education products and services. He is co-producer of River Queen, a feature movie directed by Vincent Ward. He is producer/director of Te Hā o Ngā Tūpuna, a Māori language education resource. He is the presenter/interviewer of He Raranga Kōrero, a weekly archival documentary series for the Māori Television Service (MTS). He is executive producer of Cassino 60 Years On, a documentary about veterans returning to Italy. He is producer of In Spring One Plants Alone, expanding and updating Vincent Ward’s 1980 documentary. He is executive producer of Hunting Aotearoa, a series for MTS about the culture of hunting in New Zealand.
Amongst his various responsibilities, Stephens is Kai Urungi/cultural advisor of New Zealand On Air, board member of the New Zealand Film Commission, former Chair of Nga Aho Whakaari, a trustee of The Māori Radio Spectrum (Te Huarahi Tika) Trust, and occasional programme proposal appraiser for Māori Television Service and Te Mangai Paho. He has been a teacher at Wharekura Māori immersion wananga reo hui and recently worked with Timoti Karetu in producing and directing a television documentary series, He Whare Kōrero, on the history and future of te reo Māori.
Stephens writes opinion pieces and waiata. In the 1980s he wrote a weekly column in the education pages of the NZ Herald. He enjoys his roles as a producer, director, writer and executive producer, but prefers to call himself a storyteller who is fortunate to work in a fascinating and important industry.
- Correspondence from Tainui Stephens, 7 Dec. 1992, 12 Sept. 2004 and 3 Sept. 2005.
- Te Iwi o Aotearoa 43 (1991): 3.