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Curated by the NZ On Screen team
1st August 2014



 NZ On Screen team

Curated by the NZ On Screen team


The Governor to The Worm

Our representatives in parliament have had some of their most memorable moments captured on camera. This collection showcases the governors’ screen legacy: from stirring addresses (Kirk), feisty debates (Muldoon, Lange), revolutions, nukes, and schnapps elections, to political punches (Jones), young leaders (Clark), and formative waterbed moments (Key).


New Zealand Politics on Screen 2014

 Nationwide: Labour Party Youth Conference

A 24-year-old Helen Clark (replete with long flowing locks) features in this NZBC current affairs footage from the annual conference of Young Labour. Twenty five years before she will become NZ’s first elected female Prime Minister, Clark is a politics lecturer making her way in the party machine.

 Lookout: Bob Jones

This Lookout special follows colourful property tycoon Bob Jones hustling on the 1984 campaign trail, and spruiking his newly-formed New Zealand Party. The party was ultimately short-lived and won no seats, but achieved its goal of denying National a third term by splitting the vote.


This feature-length documentary chronicles the 1996 election campaign in Wellington Central, and the dawning of MMP. Richard Prebble joins new party Act; one contestant is sacrificed by their own party. At the 1999 NZ Film Festival, Campaign won sellout audiences.

 Frontline - Five Days in July

Ten years on from the tumultuous 1984 General Election, Richard Harman’s award-winning TVNZ doco examines the extraordinary financial and constitutional crisis that resulted from outgoing PM Robert Muldoon’s initial refusal to yield power to the incoming Lange-led Labour government.

 Inquiry - The Late Mr Norman Kirk

September 1974 saw the loss of Norman Kirk — dead at 51 after 20 months as PM. For this NZBC current affairs show, reporters Joe Coté and George Andrews head to the provinces to find out how Kirk is remembered by the ordinary people. Pacific leaders Gough Whitlam and Albert Henry also appear.

 Sons and Daughters: Brian Edwards Interviews John Kirk

Brian Edwards interviews John Kirk, son of late PM Norman Kirk. While proud of his father, he pulls few punches in describing how his family suffered from the demands placed on Big Norm which competed with his role as a husband and father. John Kirk’s own career as an MP would not be as illustrious.

 NZBC Network News  - Prime Minister Norman Kirk's Death

This NZBC news item aired the day after legendary Prime Minster Norman Kirk passed away. Tributes roll in from everyone from Kissinger and Muldoon to the Queen, and reporter George Andrews outlines Kirk’s life and rapid political rise, including the mark he made on the international stage.

 Eyewitness News - Devaluation

These remarkable interviews — filmed on 16 July 1984, two days after the General Election — see Harman talking to Muldoon, then to PM-in-waiting David Lange. Lange has the moral high ground but no power to act until he is sworn in; while a defiant Muldoon acts as if the election never happened.

 Helen Clark: The Road to Power

Friends, family and former foe joined Helen Clark for this two-part documentary, which charts her journey from Vietnam protestor to long-reigning PM and the UN. In this excerpt, Clark and biographer Denis Welch talk about how Clark was advised to make various image changes once she became Labour Party leader.

 Fish out of Water

This early TV3 reality TV doco saw six Kiwi teenagers marooned on an island for eight days to fend for themselves. They included future National MP for Auckland Central, Nikki Kaye, who defies the producers’ “private school girl” pigeonholing by taking the leader’s role and clubbing an eel.

 The Men on the Hill: Keith Holyoake

Before he was a British MP and Pavlova Paradise author, politics lecturer Austin Mitchell was a NZBC broadcaster. In this episode of his parliamentarian interview series he chats to Keith Holyoake, “Chairman of Directors of the Board that runs the biggest business in New Zealand, the Government.”

 Encounter - Take a Girl like You

With her election in 1975 at age 23, Marilyn Waring became NZ’s youngest MP. This doco follows her as she settles into parliamentary life. Her relationship with PM Rob Muldoon is already cautious. (It will be more fraught eight years later when she spurs his ill-fated calling of an early election).

New Zealand Politics on Screen 2011

 Frost Over New Zealand - The Leaders

Superstar English TV interviewer David Frost talks to Prime Minister Norman Kirk. ‘Big Norm’ is statesman-like as the amiable discussion ranges from supporting beneficiaries, to opposing nuclear testing. It’s an act that proves hard for opposition leader Jack Marshall (or NZ politics since) to follow.

 Close Up - Big Dealers (feat. John Key)

A reporter heads into “the pit” (trading room) and chronicles the working life of an 80s ‘forex’ dealer: 25-year-old squash-playing accountancy graduate, John Key. The future Prime Minister is a now-familiar grinning and earnest presence amongst the cowboys playing for Porsches in the heady pre-crash world.

 Here Is the News

Once upon a time politicians decided in advance which questions they would answer onscreen, and the Kiwi accent was a broadcasting crime. Here is the News examines three decades (up to 1992) of TV news, including its relationship with politicians (caution: the fifth clip includes dancing cossacks).

 The Governor

NZ TV's first (and only) historical blockbuster examined the life of colonial politician Governor George Grey. The Feltex Award-winner won audiences and controversy; its historical revisionism foregrounded Māori and undercut Grey's “Good Governor” persona with laudanum, lechery and land confiscation.


This acclaimed doco series maps the sweeping social and economic change in New Zealand society in the 1980s and early 1990s. It collects together interviews with all the major players alongside comprehensive archive footage (including David Lange’s uranium-sniffing 1985 Oxford Union address).

 Reluctant Revolutionary

Writer/director Tom Scott mines a wealth of interviews to trace David Lange's rise from pudgy doctor's son to lawyer, to Prime Minister leading the country through radical change. Scott asks how a man as gifted as Lange allowed his Government to collapse around him after five years in office.

 Tonight - Robert Muldoon interview

This infamous May 1976 battle of wills between journalist Simon Walker and PM Robert Muldoon sees the latter piqued by Walker’s interrogation of his assertions regarding the Soviet naval presence in the Pacific: “I will not have some smart alec interviewer changing the rules half way through.”

 The 1984 Leaders' Debate

Six days out from the 1984 snap election, PM Sir Robert Muldoon and Leader of the Opposition David Lange face off in a TVNZ leaders’ debate. A tired Muldoon’s parting shot — “I love you, Mr Lange” — is a startling admission of defeat and one of the more remarkable moments in NZ political history.

 Choice! 2002: Havoc and Newsboy's Election Special

Mikey Havoc and Newsboy (Jeremy Wells) take a typically sly glance at the 2002 general election in this one-off special, broadcast from inside "a giant stainless steel question mark on the neutral electorate of Rangitoto Island." The analysis ranges from The Worm to Don Brash’s six-cylinder Ford.

 Robert Muldoon: The Grim Face of Power

No-one else has dominated the NZ political landscape the way Sir Robert Muldoon did — or been subjected to the level of TV scrutiny he was in this controversial series made by Neil Roberts: “A voice like a buzz saw, the aggression of a street fighter, and the political cynicism of a south seas Machiavelli.”

 Rangatira: Pita Sharples

This edition of the series on Māori leaders, looks at academic and politician Dr Pita Sharples, a key figure of the Māori cultural renaissance. The future Māori Party co-leader discusses his past, present and future, and his ideas regarding kaupapa Māori (with his cherished taiaha never far away).

 Eyewitness News - Bob Jones punches reporter Rod Vaughan

In July 1985 New Zealand Party leader (and ex-pugilist) Bob Jones and president Malcolm McDonald surprised many by announcing the nation's then-third most popular party was taking a recess. TVNZ went searching for comment, and after chartering a helicopter, found Jones fishing near Turangi ...

 A Week of It - Series One, Episode One

This pioneering political satire series entertained and often outraged audiences in three series in the late 70s. The writing team took irreverent aim at topical issues and public figures of the day; amongst notable impersonations was McPhail's famous aping of PM Rob Muldoon.

 Eyewitness News - Snap Election Setup

In one of NZ politics’ more notorious episodes, PM Rob Muldoon, his slender majority in tatters, calls a snap election, with unallied party president Sue Wood beside him. Amidst suggestions he was drunk, the announcement marked the beginning of the end for an era Muldoon had dominated.


Written by Tom Scott and Greg McGee, Fallout was an award-winning mini-series dramatising events leading up to NZ’s 80s anti-nuclear stand. Here, newly-elected PM David Lange (Aussie actor Mark Mitchell) is pressured from all sides (including a bullish US administration) to clarify his ‘no nukes’ stance.

 Public Eye - Episode One

Inspired by the UK series Spitting Image, this satire series features latex puppets based on drawings by cartoonist Trace Hodgson and built by a team headed by future Weta FX maestro, Richard Taylor. Here Ruth Richardson and Winston Peters box, and Helen Clark attempts to enforce a pornography ban.

 The W Three Show - National Final

The pressure is on as intermediate school contestants compete in the 1980 final of this children’s quiz show. Future MP, minister and Speaker of the House, Lockwood Smith asks the questions; subjects include geometry, Shakespeare, anatomy, and, appropriately for the quizmaster, cabinet ministers.

 Dame Cath Moves Up - A Personal Portrait

Dame Catherine Tizard has been many things: mother, marriage celebrant, and Her Majesty's rep in NZ. Here Tizard takes reporter Marcia Russell through her life, from a Waikato farming town, through marrying her uni lecturer, and leading Auckland as mayor, to her Governor-General role.

 New Zealand Day at Waitangi

In 1973 PM Norman Kirk announced that the anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi would be a national holiday: New Zealand Day. The inaugural 1974 day featured a royal entourage, the Aotearoa pageant (from giant moa to the Age of Aquarius), and Kirk’s iconic speech to the nation.

 bro'Town - Morningside Story

One of the pop culture pleasures of this hit comedy series was its Kiwi take on the Simpsons celeb cameo. Here PM Helen Clark joins other personalities in the crowd for the school musical. Aunty Helen plays on her arts champion image and chimes in for the chorus, “... Morningside for life!”

 In a Land of Plenty

The tagline runs: “The story of unemployment in New Zealand”; this documentary takes as its starting point the consensus from The Depression onwards that economic policy should focus on achieving full employment, and explores how this was radically shifted by the 1984 Labour government.

 McPhail and Gadsby - Best of Series Five

This 1983 'Best of' from the David McPhail and Jon Gadsby sketch comedy show featured highlights from series five including: 'This Is Your Life with Robert Muldoon'; Lin Waldegrave’s popular impersonation of music show host Karyn Hay; and a Goodnight Kiwi take-off in 'Goodnight from the Beehive'.

 Face to Face with Kim Hill - David Lange

Kim Hill interviews former PM David Lange. Aged 60 and battling ill health, Lange talks about “the loneliness of politics”, achievement; and about facing his own mortality. Lange says he is not haunted by death, but celebrates his time with his daughter Edith. Lange died two years later, in 2005.

 Gallery - Norman Kirk the First 250 Days

In this episode David “Mr Current Affairs” Exel politely interrogates Labour PM Norman Kirk on his first 250 days in office; ranging from England's changing role in the Commonwealth to Kirk's weight loss. Dairne Shanahan comments on the PM’s image and Ross Stevens notes broken election promises.

 Someone Else's Country

This doco looks critically at the radical economic changes implemented by the 1984 Labour Government — where privatisation of state assets was part of a wider agenda that sought to remake New Zealand as a model free market state. Here the trickle-down ‘Rogernomics’ theory is counterpointed by its social effects.

 The Hollow Men

Also directed by Alister Barry, this doco is about the National Party and the 2005 election; it was inspired by Nicky Hager’s eponymous book (written from leaked party emails). Don Brash’s infamous Orewa speeches, Exclusive Brethren “attack” pamphlets and Iwi/Kiwi billboards all feature.

 Pounamu - Apirana Turupa Ngata

Ngāti Porou leader, land reformer, politician and scholar Sir Apirana Ngata is the subject of this episode from the Pounamu series, about leading Māori figures. Ngata was the first Māori university graduate, a Minister of Native Affairs, and advocated that Māori had to co-exist with Pākehā.


In the tradition of novelty songs, ‘Culture?’ was catchy to the point of contagion. Fuelled by carnival keyboards, it was The Knobz response to Rob Muldoon’s refusal to lift a 40% sales tax on recorded music — and to his typically blunt verdict on the cultural merits of pop music (“horrible”).

 Fourth Estate - Programme 21

Media commentary show Fourth Estate ran for 12 minutes on Friday nights in the mid-80s; no media outlet (and especially not broadcaster TVNZ) was safe from the ruminations of journalism lecturer Brian Priestley et al. Here the subject under scrutiny is coverage of the 1987 general election.

 Pounamu - Tahupotiki Wiremu Ratana

This episode of the Pounamu series features a re-enactment of part of the life of Prophet Tahupotiki Wiremu Ratana. Ratana was, and remains, a key influence in Māori politics and religion. For years virtually all Māori MPs were followers of the Ratana faith and supported the Labour Party on his instruction.

 Spin Doctors - Election Special

It’s election time in this episode from the weekly satire series about a PR firm (the writing team included James Griffin, Tom Scott and Roger Hall). Ethics be dammed, Giles Peterson and Associates will take on any client or candidate — as long as they can master the intricacies of The Worm.

 University Challenge - Final 1987

Peter Sinclair presides over this quiz show final with students from Waikato and Auckland universities competing for bragging rights (and 80s personal computers). Auckland captain (and future Labour MP) Charles Chauvel sagely stays away from undergraduate humour — unlike his fellow contestants.

 Marae - 2008 Māori Election Special

Marae (now Marae Investigates) is the longest running Māori current affairs show, and the Marae Digipoll a respected meter of matters Māori. A high point of the show is the post-election mustering of successful Māori candidates — this 2008 edition features the five Māori Party and two Labour Party MPs.

 Queer Nation - Marilyn Waring

The main feature of this Queer Nation episode focuses on Marilyn Waring, an MP from 1975 - 84. She talks candidly about the personal cost of being in parliament, especially when she was outed as a lesbian. Waring also shares her opinions about the Civil Unions Bill and why she's opposed to it.

 Terry and the Gunrunners - Episode Two

In this episode of the beloved 80s kids’ adventure series, 12-year-old Terry Teo has stumbled on a gunrunning operation. Meanwhile, the mysterious, but dim, Thompson and Crouch report to their boss (played by ex-PM Sir Robert Muldoon); and Billy T James turns out to be a very cultured bikie.

 The Neville Purvis Family Show - Episode

The controversial first use of the f-word on NZ TV no longer exists — but extant segments from the showcase for Arthur Baysting’s sleazy, comedic alter-ego include a launch by PM Rob Muldoon, a performance by Limbs Dance Company, a visit to the Close to Home set, and some Mark II Zephyr worship.

 More Issues - A Compilation

On the heels of Issues (1990), More Issues offered satirical takes on local and international current affairs. It poked fun at the advent of news-presenting personalities (eg. Paul Holmes), and celebs and politicians of the day (including David McPhail's reprisal of a conniving Rob Muldoon).

 Rangatira: In the Blood / He Toto i Tuku iho - Donna Awatere-Huata

This doco chronicles the colourful life of Donna Awatere-Huata: activist, ACT MP, education and literacy programme promoter, opera singer, businesswoman, author, Ngā Tama Toa member, ‘81 Tour protest leader, daughter of war hero-turned-murderer. It was filmed prior to her conviction for fraud.

Manhire on the message of the medium

Manhire on the message of the medium

NZ Herald blogger and Listener columnist Toby Manhire intros the collection and muses on screen politics. Read more >

Elections on TV

Elections on TV looks at electioneering on the small screen, from campaign adverts to coverage of the big night. Read more >