The 1951 waterfront dispute, the occupation of Bastion Point, halting the 1981 Springbok tour, the campaign to become nuclear-free, the foreshore and seabed controversy…New Zealand has a long history of public protest. This collection pays homage to the Kiwi fighting spirit, and willingness to stand up for a cause. From in-depth documentaries, to profiles of some of our most recognised activists, it also includes a great line-up of New Zealand’s protest songs.
Merata Mita’s Patu! is a startling record of the mass civil disobedience that took place throughout New Zealand during the winter of 1981, in protest against a South African rugby tour. Testament to the courage and faith of both the marchers and a large team of filmmakers, the feature-length documentary is a landmark in Aotearoa's film history. It staunchly contradicts claims by author Gordon McLauchlan a couple of years earlier that New Zealanders were "a passionless people".
This 1997 Inside New Zealand documentary looks at the evolution of modern Māori political activism, from young 70s rebels Ngā Tamatoa, to Te Kawariki's protest at Waitangi Day in 1995. Directed by Paora Maxwell, it is framed around interviews with key figures (Syd Jackson, Hone Harawira, Ken Mair, Mike Smith, Annette Sykes, Eva Rickard, Joe Hawke). The interviewees explore events, and the kaupapa behind their activism, from thoughts on sovereignty, and the Treaty of Waitangi, through to symbolism (tree felling, land marches) and being kaitiaki of the environment.
This documentary explores the 1970s/80s protest movement through six key activists and their children. Green MP Sue Bradford's daughter Katie protested with her mother at age six. Te Whenua Harawira, born during the 1978 Bastion Point occupation, led the 2004 Foreshore and Seabed hikoi. Also: Che Fu, son of Polynesian Panthers founder Tigilau Ness; Toi Iti, son of Tuhoe activist Tame Iti; and Joseph Minto, whose Dad John organised protests against the Springbok Tour. It won Best Māori Language Programme at the 2008 Qantas Film and TV Awards.
The non-violent action preached and practiced by Māori prophets Te Whiti and Tohu at Parihaka in Taranaki forms one of the most compelling episodes of New Zealand’s 19th century history, as they resisted Pākehā confiscation of their land and home. Tim Finn was inspired to write this paean to the pair after reading Dick Scott’s influential book Ask That Mountain. Band Herbs provide the accompaniment. Fane Flaws and cinematographer Alun Bollinger’s video was shot over a night at Auckland Art Gallery and takes Colin McCahon’s striking Parihaka triptych as its centrepiece.
In 1951, New Zealand temporarily became a police state. Civil liberties were curtailed, freedom of speech denied, and the Government used force against its own citizens. Featuring interviews with many who were involved, this film tells the story of the infamous lockout of waterside workers, and the nationwide strike which followed. 1951 won Best Documentary at the 2002 New Zealand Television Awards, and John Bates was named Best Documentary Director.
Actor Rawiri Paratene was 16 years old when he joined Māori activist group Ngā Tamatoa (Young Warriors) in the early 1970s. "Those years helped shape the rest of my life," says Paratene in this 2012 Māori TV documentary, directed by Kim Webby. The programme is richly woven with news archive from the 1970s, showing protests about land rights and the Treaty of Waitangi, and a campaign for te reo to be taught in schools. Several ex Ngā Tamatoa members — including Hone Harawira, Tame Iti and Larry Parr— are interviewed by Paratene, who also presents the documentary.
In the 1950s thousands of Pacific Islanders came to Aotearoa to meet a labour shortage. They faced racism, and in the 1970s, notorious dawn raids by police. In 1971 a group of young gang members and students set up the Polynesian Panthers to stand up for the rights of the Pasifika community. They ran food co-ops, homework centres, and lobbied for support services. In this Dan Salmon-directed documentary, presenter Nevak Rogers explores the inspirations, events (Bastion Point, Springbok Tour) and legacy of the movement co-founded by her uncle Will 'llolahia.
In this video, languid Pacific Island imagery (poi, hibiscus, tamariki, breaching whales) and gorgeous reggae pop are contrasted with images of French nuclear testing. There are punchy 'no nukes' slogans and graphics, but a great performance from Herbs does the work effortlessly in this simple, well-crafted video. 'French Letter' was originally released in 1982 and began an eleven week stay on the Kiwi singles charts — despite very little radio play. It was rereleased in 1995 to protest the resumption of nuclear testing: "Let me be more specific - get out of the Pacific!"
Amidst a tale of despair in the city, a staunch 'no nukes' message is delivered with aplomb by Che Fu in this performance-based promo for his collaboration with hip hop legend DLT. "Come test me like a bomb straight from Murda-roa / How comes I got cyclops fish in my water / A Nation of Pacific lambs to the slaughter / Three eyes for my son and an extra foot for my daughter". Acclaimed music video director Kerry Brown uses bold urban Pacific imagery to accompany this chart-topping track with its deceptively catchy chorus: "Living in the city ain't so bad ..."
In 1977 protesters occupied Bastion Point, after the announcement of a housing development on land once belonging to Ngāti Whātua. 506 days later police and army arrived en masse to remove them. This documentary examines the rich and tragic history of Bastion Point/ Takaparawhau — including how questionable methods were used to gradually take the land from Māori, while basic amenities were withheld from those remaining. The documentary features extensive interviews with protest leader Joe Hawke, and footage from seminal documentary Bastion Point Day 507.
Television news becomes the news in this brief report from TVNZ. In this excerpt, newsreader Tom Bradley explains why the beginning of that night's six o'clock bulletin was delayed for 10 minutes. Earlier a small group of Māori protesters occupied the Auckland studio. They were angered by a decision to suspend Māori language news show Te Karere during the summer holiday period. Police were called and escorted the protesters from the set. Veteran activist Ken Mair said the group believed Māori and Pākehā news should be treated in the same way.
Documentary series Revolution mapped the social and economic changes in New Zealand society in the 1980s and early 1990s. This first episode focuses on NZ's radical transformation from a heavily regulated welfare state to a petri dish for free market ideology. It includes interviews with key political and business figures of the day, who reveal how the dire economic situation by the end of Robert Muldoon's reign made it relatively easy for Roger Douglas to implement extreme reform. Revolution won Best Factual Series at the 1997 Film and TV Awards.
In the tradition of novelty songs, ‘Culture?’ was catchy to the point of contagion. Fuelled by carnival keyboards, it was The Knobz response to Prime Minister Rob Muldoon’s refusal to lift a 40% sales tax on recorded music (originally instituted by Labour in 1975), and Muldoon's typically blunt verdict on the cultural merits of pop music (“horrible”). The giddy, hyperactive video comes complete with Muldoon impersonator (Danny Faye), and casts the band as the song’s 'Beehive Boys'. In the backgrounder, Mike Alexander writes about his time as the band's manager.
Some argue that if the 1981 Springbok rugby tour of New Zealand had been halted from the outset, the impact on the hearts and minds of South Africans would not have been as profound. This Leanne Pooley-directed film aims to show how events in Aotearoa (captured in Merata Mita's documentary Patu!) played out in South Africa; how the tour protests energized blacks, shamed the regime, and provoked democratic change. Says Archbishop Desmond Tutu: "You really can't even compute its value, it said the world has not forgotten us, we are not alone."
Herbs released this ‘no nukes’ single the same year David Lange smelt uranium, while debating nuclear weapons at the Oxford Union. The video mixes on-the-beach Pasifika dancing with shots of the band performing at Western Springs, and protests against US nuclear warships and submarines visiting Kiwi waters. DIY visual effects show the band looming over Mt Eden Prison, and nuclear explosions punctuate the laid-back reggae beat. From 1984’s Long Ago album, the song was written by then frontman Willie Hona, keyboardist Tama Lundon and Rob Van De Lisdonk.
This documentary presents insight into the man most New Zealanders know as the Māori radical with a moko. Delving beyond the sensational headlines, it presents Tame Iti in the context of his whānau and beliefs. Iti tells his own story: from growing up in his beloved Urewera, and his role in organisation Ngā Tamatoa, to heroes (Rua Kenana, Che Guevara), moko, match-making and a late-starting art career. Iti’s children reflect on an activist father who “is a kid at heart”. Chelsea Winstanley's documentary screened on TV2, before Iti’s arrest during the infamous 2007 ‘Urewera raids’.
In the vein of 'We are the World' and 'Do They Know It’s Christmas', 'Don’t Go' rallied NZ musicians to express their opposition to the proposed 1985 All Black tour of South Africa. Don McGlashan, Chris Knox and Rick Bryant were the front row for this one-off single: a catchy number written by McGlashan, Frank Stark and Geoff Chapple. The video — directed by Alison Maclean and shot by Stuart Dryburgh — never attempts to get in the way of the message, placing the ensemble cast in front of red, white and black backdrops (interspersed with rugby imagery).
This all star cover of Mutton Birds classic ‘Anchor Me’ was made to mark the 20th anniversary of the sinking of Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior. After Hinewehi Mohi’s haunting introduction, singers including Anika Moa, Kirsten Morrell (Goldenhorse) Che Fu, and Milan Borich (Pluto) walk towards the camera across a washed out landscape. Nuclear blasts, pollution and Greenpeace vessels can all be seen, while doves pull rainbows across the screen.
As Syd Jackson’s daughter Ramari puts it, there are some who sit on the couch and moan, and others who get up and take action. Winner of Best Māori Programme at the 2003 NZ TV Awards, this episode of Ngā Reo profiles the late fighter for Māori, women's and homosexual rights. The "warrior" intellectual helped put Treaty debate on the agenda, and led Māori activist group Ngā Tamatoa and the Clerical Workers Union. His nephew, broadcaster Willie Jackson, credits his uncle with rousing "the sleeping giant" of Māori activism in the 70s. Jackson would die in September 2007.
TV movie Rage recreates the 1981 Springbok tour, which saw violent clashes between protestors and police. Ryan O'Kane (Second Hand Wedding) plays the protestor whose girlfriend (Maria Walker) is actually an undercover cop who has infiltrated the anti-tour movement. The script was written by Tom Scott — who protested, in-between writing a humour column in The Listener — and his brother-in-law Grant O'Fee, who was a detective sergeant in Wellington. Rage was nominated for five NZ TV Awards, including Best One-Off Drama, Director (Danny Mulheron) and Actor (O'Kane).
In early 1974, NZ had more than just the Commonwealth Games on its mind. Norman Kirk’s Labour government was promoting social and ecological issues and the NZBC's 24 radio stations launched a yearlong 'I Care' campaign for the protection of the environment. A contest to find a theme song was won by John Hanlon whose credentials as a conservation crooner had been established with his eco-anthem 'Damn the Dam'. The launch in Petone was presided over by conservation minister Joe Walding, an understated logo was unveiled, and Hanlon performed his winning song.
This song is from New Zealand’s troubled winter of 1981. The Springbok Tour gave the term “riot squad” currency throughout the country — but the Auckland live music scene and the police were already enduring a very fraught relationship. This number from Auckland ska/soul band The Newmatics, released on the band’s Broadcast OR double 7" EP, was actually written about a 1980 police raid on XS Cafe in Airedale Street. The Keystone Cops music video is classic early 80s TVNZ Avalon and features actors Ross Jolly and Michael Wilson as two thirds of the 'blue shadow'.
After the passing of a family member, the Bell family discovered a selection of late 19th century photographs tucked away in a closet. Taken by a man named William Partington, the photos documented local Māori around the Whanganui River area, and were subsequently of incredible cultural and financial value. The owners of the photographs opted to sell them at auction. Local iwi on the other hand, felt it important that their whakapapa returned home. Winner of an Aotearoa TV Award, this documentary tells the story of finding compromise when dealing with precious taonga.
Young Geoff Garlick reckons he's developed a game-winning move - the 'Garlick Thrust' - for his schoolboy rugby team, but the Saturday he hopes to show it off to his dysfunctional family they're more interested in the Springbok match. The national loss of innocence the '81 tour represented is captured in an end scene, where Geoff and his weeping Dad (Michael Noonan) are intercut with clips of a notorious stand-off between tour protestors and rugbyheads. Written by playwright Bruce Mason, this was one of a three TV dramas written as he was battling cancer.
This edition of the Rangatira series chronicles the colourful life of Donna Awatere Huata: activist, opera singer, psychologist, businesswoman, author, Ngā Tama Toa member, ‘81 Tour protest leader, daughter of war hero-turned-murderer. Awatere Huata’s decades of dedication to Māori causes, including the promotion of literacy and education programmes, are reflected upon by Dr Ranginui Walker, Sir Roger Douglas, Tame Iti and Hana Te Hemara. Filmed here debuting in parliament as an ACT MP, Awatere Huata was later to be expelled from the party and convicted of fraud.
'Azania' is an impassioned anti-apartheid song written for the Auckland reggae band by law student Ross France. Led by original Herbs vocalist Toni Fonoti, it helped to establish the band’s political credentials at a time when New Zealand was split by the 1981 Springbok Tour. Azania was the name given to a post-revolutionary South Africa by the Pan African Congress. There are name checks for black African leaders Steve Biko and Nelson Mandela; and the chant “Angola! Mozambique! Zimbabwe! Azania!” was quickly incorporated into anti-tour protest marches.
In 1885 the NZ Government used legislation to take ownership of sections of Bastion Point (Takaparawhau) for defence purposes. This ancestral Māori land belonging to Ngāti Whātua was never returned, and in 1976 Crown announced plans to sell off land for housing. Joe Hawke led a group of peaceful protesters which occupied the land for 507 days, until they were forcibly removed by 700+ police and soldiers. This documentary, which screened as part of the Perspective current affairs series, examines some of the issues behind the protest that polarised a nation.
In 1973 Alister Barry joined the crew of a protest boat (The Fri) to Mururoa Atoll, where the French Government were testing nuclear weapons. Barry records the assembly of the crew, the long journey from Northland, and their reception in the test zone; when The Fri was boarded and impounded by French military he had to hide his camera in a barrel of oranges. The Fri was a key part of activism that was formative for environmental group Greenpeace, and anti-nuclear sentiment in NZ. Barry's debut film screened primetime on NZ TV and gained international attention.
More than 20 years on, 'Treaty' remains as infectious as it does relevant, mixing haka, hip hop and funk to present a message on Māori sovereignty. Channelling the colours of the Tino Rangatiratanga flag, the video creates a fitting backdrop for lyrics delivered via the stirring vocals of Moana and the Moahunters, verses by rapper Bennett Pomana (Upper Hutt Posse, Dam Native), and elements of traditional performance. According to director Ross Cunningham, the set design was inspired by Ralph Hotere illustrations from a book of Hone Tuwhare poems.
This 1992 TV One documentary follows the All Blacks on their first post-apartheid visit to South Africa. The footy tour tomfoolery of producer Ric Salizzo’s earlier All Blacks docos is subbed off for reflections on politics and sport from players — including ex-All Black Ken Gray, who refused to tour the republic in 1970 and joined protesters in 1981. Not all goes to script for a “new South Africa”: the Afrikaans anthem is played before the Ellis Park test, and the All Blacks win. Future South Africa cricket star Herschelle Gibbs is a young coloured player mentored by the ABs.
This classic alternative national anthem by Auckland post-punk trio Blam Blam Blam became a theme song for New Zealand’s long, troubled winter of 1981 as the country was wracked by social and political division and the Springbok Tour. Poet and playwright Richard von Sturmer wrote the lyrics while the music was by Blams member Don McGlashan. The video features a band performance shot on the roof of TVNZ’s Shortland Street studios and shows a curious penchant for celebrity lawn mowing. The performing Marmite and Vegemite jars are, however, the real deal.
In this short Gallery interview — broadcast in June 1973 — Peace Media representative (and future TVNZ news boss) Bill Ralston talks about dwindling supplies for two private vessels that had left Aotearoa, to protest upcoming French nuclear testing at Mururoa Atoll. Ralston accuses Prime Minister Norman Kirk of being “a little bit heartless” for not assisting. Actually Kirk was realising plans for the HMNZS Otago to join the vigil. Protest yacht Fri was later stormed by French commandos, and the protests made world news. French nuclear testing in the Pacific finally ceased in 1996.
The powerhouse, largely Māori cast of this teleplay includes Jim Moriarty, Merata Mita, Billy T James (as a Marxist) and, in his acting debut, Zac Wallace (star of Utu). The Protesters explores issues involving race and land ownership in the aftermath of the Springbok Tour and Bastion Point. A group of Māori and Pākehā protestors occupy ancestral land that the government wants to sell. While waiting for the police to arrive, they debate whether to go quietly or respond with violence. Though some wounds are healed, The Protesters ends on a note of division, reflecting the era it was made in.
In April 2011, singer Tiki Taane was handcuffed, arrested and spent a night in the cells after performing a number by American rappers NWA as police visited his performance at Tauranga’s Illuminati club. The charges were later dropped and Taane remained resolutely unapologetic. This defiant song, recorded a month later at the same venue, is his musical response to the ordeal. Armed only with an acoustic guitar — the protest singer’s weapon of choice — he asserts his refusal to be silenced while firing a broadside at police, the media and politicians.
Pacific 3-2-1-Zero is a record of a performance of the eponymous work by renowned percussion group From Scratch. The work was devised in 1981 as a protest against nuclear testing and waste dumping in the Pacific. Ring-leader Phil Dadson, his players and their instruments — from whirling PVC pipes to biscuit tin lids — are arranged in the shape of the peace symbol. From Scratch's rhythms are cut with footage and facts of nuclear testing by director Gregor Nicholas to make for a resonant statement. The film won the Grand Prix at Midem’s 1994 Visual Music Awards.