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The Nature Collection

Curated by Peter Hayden
7th October 2009

 The Nature Collection

The Nature Collection

 Peter Hayden

Curated by Peter Hayden


NZ Nature on screen

To celebrate NZ's unique natural taonga, Peter Hayden has curated a highlights collection from three decades of NHNZ productions. Aotearoa's landforms and its magnificent menagerie of natural oddities - birds, insects, trees like nowhere else on the planet - are showcased in 15 award-winning titles. From Discovery Channel and David Bellamy, to Wild South and Our World classics.


The Nature Collection

 Moa's Ark

Why is New Zealand's landscape and flora and fauna so unique? Renowned English naturalist David Bellamy, with his impassioned enthusiasm (of “old man's beard must go” fame) goes on a journey to discover the answer in this four-part series.

 Seven Black Robins

By 1976 there were only seven Chatham Islands' black robins left. It was the world's rarest bird. Here, in a desperate bid to save the species, the birds are taken from one island to another in a dramatic rescue mission. This early Wild South doco was reputation-making for TVNZ’s Natural History Unit.

 Journeys in National Parks

In this five-part series Peter Hayden travels through some of NZ's most varied, awe-inspiring environments. It is the history of people's relationship with these landscapes and a genial Kiwi passion for the environment, that makes a lasting impression. Barry Barclay notably directs the Urewera episode.

 The Lost Whales

For 150 years, southern right whales (tohora) were hunted to the brink of extinction. This award-winning documentary - made for Discovery Channel - features breathtaking and intimate underwater footage of the gentle giants as a team of scientists follows a “lost tribe” in the Southern Ocean.

 Kea - Mountain Parrot

The 'Clown of the Alps' is heralded as the world’s smartest bird. Curiosity almost killed the kea when it was branded a sheep killer and thousands were killed for bounty. Here extraordinary night footage reveals the ‘avian wolf’ in action. The film makes a compelling case for the charismatic kea as a national icon.


Wildtrack was a nature series for children. Produced by TVNZ’s Natural History Unit, it ran from 1981 through several series to the early 90s. It won the Feltex Television Award for best children's programme three years running. These episodes feature everything from dung fungi to washing a bee.

 Emperors of Antarctica

This award-winning film, made for Discovery Channel, tells the epic survival story of the emperor penguin (the real world inspiration behind Happy Feet). Amazing Antarctica footage includes an amusing penguin-falling-through-ice scene (in the first clip) that became a YouTube hit.

 Ghosts of Gondwana

Long isolated and recently settled, New Zealand contains a world of Alice Through the Looking Glass natural oddities: birds, insects and plants like nowhere else. Front-running cinematography and Māori myth enlighten bat-filled tree trunk saunas, “demon grasshopper” weta, and furry kiwi with chopstick bills.

 Journeys Across Latitude 45 South

In this series (part of Our World) Peter Hayden walks, hitches, cycles, paddles a mōkihi and rafts along the 45 south line. From the wilds of Fiordland to the tourist Mecca Queenstown he tells a social, industrial and natural history of this latitude as he goes. A precursor to Heartland and Marcus Lush-presented South.

 Bandits of the Beech Forest

The devastating effects of introduced wasps in New Zealand, particularly on kaka (the forest parrot, here beautifully filmed) remain a serious issue. The ultimately sad film looks at the effect on the ecosystem of the yellow and black marauders, who compete with natives for honeydew and prey upon insects.

 Exhuming Adams

This film investigates the mysterious disappearance of a species of mistletoe. A natural history CSI, the forensic inquiry takes in last witnesses, CGI and preserved bellbird skins. It won directors Brant Backlund and Thassilo Franke the BBC Best Newcomer Award at the prestigious WildScreen film festival 2006.

 Mount Cook - Footsteps to the Sky

From Māori myth to climbing and photography, to gliding around its iconic peak, Aoraki-Mt Cook is vividly captured in this Wild South award-winner. Footsteps re-enacts Tom Fyfe's pioneering route; Sir Ed reminisces about encounters with the mountain; and skier Bruce Grant takes the fast way down.

 Under the Ice

This was the first nature documentary to be filmed under the Antarctic sea ice. Innovative photography reveals the other-worldly beauty of the submarine world, and the surprisingly rich life found in sub-zero temperatures - weddell seals, giant sponge and dragonfish.

 Castles of the Underworld

This film looks at the strange and ethereal world of New Zealand's limestone areas. The rocks and underground caves reveal ancient whale fossils, moa hunter art and evolutionary one-offs (such as giant carnivorous snails, cave weta, albino crayfish) that live in a limestone world.

 The Black Stilt

An acclaimed entry in the Wild South series, this film tells the story of the world’s rarest wading bird, the black stilt. The drama of the stilt’s struggle for survival makes it, “stand out as a classic of its genre” (Russell Campbell). It won the Gold Award at New York’s International Film & TV Festival.


Fiordland is the jewel in the Te Wahipounamu South West New Zealand UNESCO World Heritage Site. Award-winning photography explores the symmetries of life above and below the fiords: kea, mohua, seals, dolphins, and an underwater phantasmagoria of starfish, ancient black coral forests and sea pens.

 David Bellamy - Moa's Ark and Old Man's Beard

In 2009, David Bellamy revisited Whirinaki Forest, which featured in an episode of Moa's Ark ('Stamp of Giants'). The successful battle for Whirinaki’s protection was a conservation landmark. Bellamy was interviewed by NZ On Screen’s Andrew Whiteside on the 25th anniversary of the success.

More Natural Goodness

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Find out more about NHNZ: "delivering world-leading factual television to networks from National Geographic to Animal Planet"

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Get lost amongst more NZ natural history stories, facts and trivia at Te Ara: the online Encyclopedia of New Zealand.

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Forest & Bird is New Zealand’s largest independent conservation organisation. Join the good fight to help our birds'n'bush!

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Department of Conservation are charged with conserving NZ's "natural and historic heritage for all to enjoy now and in the future”.

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"You are being shagged by a rare parrot." Comedian Stephen Fry and zoologist Mark Carwardine encounter an amorous kakapo.

"Old Man's Beard Must Go!"

Watch David Bellamy's famous 1989 tirade against native bush menace clematis vitalba, aka suffocating climber old man's beard.

Special thanks to:

NZ On Screen would like to thank Peter Hayden for compiling this remarkable collection. We also wish to acknowledge Natural History New Zealand for their generous collaboration.