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DJ MESSIE’s (Almost Messy) Situation


Written by Nabeelah Khan (she/her) | @nabeelahkhann | Contributing Writer

Illustration by Aiwa Pooamorn (she/her) | Contributing Artist

A conversation with MESSIE, her passport, and the Department of Internal Affairs. 

The last time Tessa Hills aka DJ MESSIE had previously left New Zealand, she was five years old on a family visit to Thailand. Her passport picture from then shows a young Hills with a short black bob, bangs swept across her forehead, staring straight into the camera with a slight smile. 

Little did the up-and-coming DJ know that the next time she’d be leaving the country would be almost two decades later, and it would be for touring alongside UK DJ Fred Again to perform in front of 35,000 people. 

Upon the announcement of four surprise shows spread across Auckland, Wellington and the Coromandel, Fred Again called for Kiwi DJs to submit their samples for a chance to play at his pop-up show at the Coroglen Tavern in Coromandel. 

Luck took a chance on Hills after she was selected to play at the Coromandel gig, the opportunity came after she had initially missed out on tickets to the Wellington show - an experience she recalls as "criminal." 

Fred Again was so impressed by her talent that he invited her to join him across the ditch to Perth to support him at his biggest show ever. 

The week was shaping up to be a dream come true for Hills, a dream that briefly turned into a nightmare as she realised she didn’t have a passport and her flight was in three days. 

“When he offered me to come to Perth I said yes, it was only the next moment that I went 'Oh shit.'”

She immediately texted Fred Again’s team on WhatsApp informing them about her lack of a passport situation. Shortly after, Fred Again posted to social media: “Please please can anyone help us with this!” he took to his Instagram story, tagging the New Zealand government. 

Many fans of Fred Again noticed the cry for help on social media, including the son of the Deputy chief executive of Internal Affairs, Maria Robertson. 

After being made aware of the urgency of the situation, Robertson responded to Hills via email and passed Hill’s application onto a colleague. Robertson stated that she was not involved in the actual application and that the standard process was taken.

Robertson then privately messaged Fred Again over Instagram to confirm that Hill’s passport was getting sorted: "My son got in touch with Tessa after seeing your post, Tessa got in touch with us, she's made her application and we are sorting it with her. We love your music and are thrilled you are backing one of our own to support your gig."

Robertson stated to Newshub that she did not personally intervene with the application, and denied the claim of operating on special interest. 

"It would be a problem if people believe that somehow we have delivered a different service because of who they are. We have not".

Fred Again’s post on social media post even caught the attention of Wellington Central MP Tamatha Paul. “If you don’t get it sorted, let us know,” Paul messaged Hills. “The whole city is proud of you!”

Despite the flurry of support and assistance, the young DJ also faced criticism from the Minister of Internal Affairs, Brooke van Velden. 

Although Hill’s passport was approved through traditional processes, controversy stirred over the influence that Fred Again had over getting the passport granted speedily.

Van Velden said she was pleased that Hill would receive her passport in time, however, the minister also expressed concern that a citizen's privacy might have been violated due to the public sharing of details. Van Velden stated she would probe into the chain of events leading to Hills' passport approval.

"I do not believe that it's appropriate for any official within a passport office to be letting other members of the public know about passport applications… Every citizen should have the same rights, no matter how famous they are or what their status is in our community" the minister told reporters during Question Time at Parliament. 

Chief Executive of the Department of Internal Affairs, Paul James, told Debate Magazine in a statement that the department agrees with the minister’s remarks and that they are working to meet her expectations. 

“DIA staff are required to follow our Social Media Guidelines and PSC Guidance for public servants’ personal use of social media.  The use of personal accounts for work activity is nuanced. The expectation is official accounts should be used as default, and personal channels should be avoided for official business.”

Paul James added that urgent passports are an important service the department offers for New Zealanders, “I am proud of the work our Passport Office does to process urgent passports every day, which makes a real difference in people’s lives.”

Amidst the panic, Hills remained calm. “I wasn’t stressed about it at all,” she says. “It was honestly Fred posting it on his story that kind of stirred the pot.”

Hills states that her experience with the Department of Internal Affairs was “honestly fine”. 

“That’s their job to go through the emergency applications and see who needs to be approved urgently,” Hills says  And I think it was urgent in the sense that this could put New Zealand on the map.”

Hills and her new passport plan to continue repping Kiwis. She currently has multiple shows she’ll be performing over the next few months across Aotearoa, and will be playing at music festivals at the end of the year. 


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