There have been plenty of ups and downs in New Zealand politics over the past six months — from Covid lockdowns to major law reforms and new leaders. Liz Hayes, Rachael Lyon and Aimee Crooks are breaking it all down in their new weekly podcast, Three Gals One Beehive, and making it fun, writes Rebecca Ryan.
When Liz Hayes moved to the Hakataramea Valley, she thought that would be the end of her broadcasting career.
The former TV and radio journalist was able to pick up some communications and PR work that she could do from home in the remote valley onthe north side of the Waitaki River, and took on a big project with her husband Andy — opening boutique accommodation on their farm last year.
But she kept dreaming about getting back into broadcasting in another way.
‘‘I’d always hoped, it was always my bucket list, to do a podcast,’’ she said.
Last year, she hosted Brodie Kane at her luxury accommodation in the Hakataramea Valley, and the pair got chatting about podcasts. Hayes was not sure exactly what her vision was, but knew it would involve politics or media.
Kane, also a former TV and radio journalist, had recently launched her own business, Brodie Kane Media, and was producing and hosting the podcasts Kiwi Yarns and Girls Uninterrupted.
Not long after that conversation with Hayes, former political staffer Aimee Crooks contacted Kane on social media about her desire to see another avenue for people to engage in politics. Kane connected the two women and the concept for the Three Gals One Beehive podcast was formed.
Hayes also reached out to her friend, Rachael Lyon, to be involved. Lyon and Hayes studied together at broadcasting school, and had both worked in the media, before moving into communications and PR.
Spread out across the country — Crooks in Auckland, Lyon in Christchurch and Hayes in the Hakataramea Valley — they connected with Kane via Zoom, bonding over their technical failings and a common passion for politics, to see if they could make something work.
The self-confessed political geeks came up with a vision to create a weekly podcast, wrapping up the big news in politics without any spin or jargon, in an informative, but engaging and fun way.
The first episode of Three Gals One Beehive, produced by Kane, was released in October.
When they first started discussing the podcast, they wondered if there would be enough content to release weekly episodes.
They needn’t have worried.
‘‘The sheer amount of stuff that has just happened week after week after week — and Covid is the news gift that keeps giving, as awful as it sounds,’’ Lyon said.
There could be a lot of intensity when it came to political discussion — and it could get nasty ‘‘really quickly’’, she said.
Lyon, Crooks and Hayes liked being able to present different opinions and discuss them in a respectful and lighthearted way.
‘‘We’re hoping to be a happy, interesting space where people actually can come and it just be lively and entertaining,’’ Hayes said.
While Hayes and Lyon were old friends, neither of them had met Crooks in person. But politics was something they were all passionate about, and the conversation seemed to be flowing naturally.
‘‘We actually haven’t sat in a room together, which is very much reflective of the world today, right? But it’s still an unusual dynamic, or like a friendship to form, when you actually haven’t physically met each other,’’ Lyon said.
Crooks brought a different perspective to the podcast, having worked inside the Beehive, for Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully for four years.
Working at Parliament was an ‘‘amazing’’ experience, and she gained a deeper understanding of the political world.
‘‘The whole system works differently to how you image — or how I imagined,’’ Crooks said.
‘‘Some days it’s like House of Cards and other days it’s like Veep.’’
It was an all-encompassing job — ‘‘there’s not much life outside of the Beehive’’ — and after four years, Crooks decided to take a break.
She has since worked in the wine industry, for a Government agency, and is an operational efficiency manager at Westpac in Auckland at present.
Each podcast episode is recorded with Kane on a Friday, and they start planning from Tuesday, as the political week is unfolding.
It was about finding a balance between breaking down the heavy political topics and keeping things entertaining.
‘‘We want people to engage with that banter and find it interesting without having to stop what you’re doing to listen,’’ Crooks said.
Misinformation was rife on social media and they hoped their podcast would help educate people, and give them the confidence to engage in political discussions.
‘‘My thinking is that if what we do can give someone a laugh, and help them to be better informed, then isn’t that cool? It is a really neat thing to be able to do from our bedrooms or living rooms,’’ Lyon said.
While Crooks, Hayes and Lyon were very politically engaged, for lot of people, it was hard to see how political issues affected their daily lives.
But there seemed to be more interest and engagement in politics since Covid-19 locked everyone’s lives down in March 2020.
‘‘Covid impacts everyone. So I think that’s helped people think, ‘OK, these big political decisions affect my life. What else is affecting my life that’s happening?’,’’ Crooks said.
They were excited about the podcast’s potential — and Kane was pleased with how it was growing.
‘‘Three Gals already have a steady following of listeners who’ve already told us they look forward to this weekly appointment, which is so nice to hear so early on in the piece,’’ she said.
Growing the business of podcasts was a big focus for Kane when she launched Brodie Kane Media. She started by relaunching the podcast she hosted with Caitlin Marett and Gracie Taylor as Girls Uninterrupted, and followed it up by producing and hosting a new podcast, Kiwi Yarns.
New Zealand was still relatively new to podcasts — ‘‘I still have to sort of remind my Dad what I’m doing’’, Kane said.
A lot of the most popular podcasts were repackaged radio shows, and Kane wanted to fill a gap in the market by creating original podcast content.
She loved being able to give people who might not otherwise get the opportunity to host a podcast a platform to use their voice and focus in on particular interests
— and Three Gals One Beehive was the perfect example.
‘‘When we started practising, for me, the first thing I thought was, ‘How nice is it to hear three women having an intelligent discussion about politics?’,’’ she said.
‘‘They just come together so well — and they’re really funny. It’s a really, really refreshing podcast.’’
She looked forward to recording it every Friday — ‘‘I try to sit back, for my own sort of personal listening session’’.
For Hayes, it felt like life had come full circle, and she was thrilled to be back doing something she ‘‘really, truly’’ loved — even though she lived ‘‘the middle of nowhere’’.
‘‘I did think that that side of me was possibly not going to happen again, so this is just so fun.’’
They were looking forward to all getting together to meet in person soon.
The Three Gals One Beehive podcast is available to download on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Audible and iHeartRadio.