In a career spanning four decades, director/producer Colin McRae has worked in news and current affairs, made documentaries and spent time as TV3’s Head of Sport. He conceived and produced award-winning series The New Zealand Wars. An association with Māori Television has seen him produce Native Affairs for six years, and play a leading role in its Anzac Day and election coverage.

I’ve enjoyed every day I’ve gone to work. Colin McRae

Native Affairs - Series 11, Episode Three

2017, Associate Producer - Television

Māori Television’s award-winning news and current affairs show took its bold name from a colonial government department. This 2017 episode profiles four non-conformists: Mongrel Mob boss Rex Timu’s war on P; Raihania Tipoki's waka protest against East Coast oil surveying; Taranaki mother Tina Tupe's preparations for her own tangi; and globetrotting screenwriter David Seidler. Seidler makes an annual trip to a Tarawera cabin – he has a Kiwi son to a Māori woman – and talks about his Oscar-winning movie The King’s Speech, and his admiration for kapa haka.

NZ Wars - The Stories of Ruapekapeka

2017, Producer - Web

Five years after the Treaty of Waitangi's signing, tension between British and Māori was at boiling point. In the middle of nowhere in Northland, chief Te Ruki Kawiti devised a plan to fight back. His masterpiece was Ruapekapeka, a state of the art pā with underground tunnels, deep trenches and artillery bunkers. Journalist Mihingarangi Forbes visits the site to investigate how Māori — outnumbered four to one — survived a 10 day British bombardment. Produced by Great Southern Television and Radio NZ, NZ Wars won awards for Best Documentary, Māori Programme and Presenter.

Pacific Stories

2014, Producer - Television

This Māori Television documentary pays tribute to the nearly 20,000 Kiwis who fought against the Japanese in the Pacific during WWll. Using interviews with soldiers, locals and historians, director Iulia Leilua tells stories of bravery and brutality in New Caledonia, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, Fiji and Papua New Guinea. Seaman Jack Harold recalls helping sink a Japanese submarine at Guadalcanal, while former Papua New Guinea Governor-General Sir Paulias Matane shares childhood memories of living in fear. New Zealanders fought in the Pacific for two years. 

Kōwhiri

2008, 2011, Producer - Television

Native Affairs

2007 - ongoing, Producer - Television

Māori Television’s flagship news show began in 2007, with a kaupapa of tackling current affairs from a Te Ao Māori perspective. Coverage of Waitangi Day, elections, plus investigations (eg into the Urewera Raids, Kiwi troops in Afghanistan, and management of the Kōhanga Reo National Trust) saw Native Affairs win acclaim, plus Best Current Affairs Show at the 2011 Aotearoa Film and TV Awards. Reporters have included Julian Wilcox, Mihingarangi Forbes, Renee Kahukura-Iosefa and Maramena Roderick. In 2015 the one-hour running time was reduced to 30 minutes.

Nobody's Heroes

2007, Producer, Director, Writer, Camera

Pecking Order (TV documentary)

2006, Director, Writer, Producer - Television

Snotties

2005, Producer - Television

Artsville

2005, Producer, Director, Writer - Television

Launched in 2005, Artsville was a long-running documentary slot showcasing New Zealand art and artists. The subjects ranged from painters and comic artists, to theatre and dance companies. Pieces varied from hour-long documentaries to multiple items compiled together, all for a late night slot on TV One. Among the directors commissioned were Mark Albiston (award-winner Magical World of Misery), Shirley Horrocks (Questions for Mr Reynolds) and Andrew Bancroft (Book to Box Office). Artsville was repeated on Freeview channel TVNZ 6 (now defunct).

Bring It On

2004, Producer, Director, Writer

Tātau Tātou

2004, Producer, Director, Writer

Dreams of Gold

2000, Producer, Director, Writer - Television

Legends of the All Blacks

1999, Producer, Writer - Television

This six-part All Blacks history showpiece series was commissioned by TVNZ in time for the lead-in to the 1999 Rugby World Cup. Broadcaster Keith Quinn and a six-person crew set off on "one of the most enjoyable and stimulating experiences" of Quinn's career. With Quinn as a genial guide (as both fan and expert), the episodes are framed around the All Blacks’ great rivalries with Britain, South Africa, and Australia; the Rugby World Cup; All Black captains and coaches, and a fascinating episode dedicated to the shift to professionalism after the 1995 World Cup.

The Immigration Explosion

1999, Producer, Director, Writer

Legends of the All Blacks - The Legend Begins: The Battle with Britain

1999, Producer - Television

Screened in the lead-up to the 1999 World Cup final, this keenly-watched series explores the history of our most famous sports team. Episode one is framed around All Black encounters with England, Wales and Scotland. In these excerpts, Quinn tracks down 60s test prop 'Jazz' Muller (whose home is a shrine to touring days), explores prop Keith Murdoch’s infamous 1972 tour expulsion; visits the marae of George Nepia, examines rugby’s far-from-egalitarian status in England; and various All Blacks recall the rare shame of losing, amidst a history of victory.

The Gospel According to David

1998, Producer, Director, Writer

The New Zealand Wars 1 - The War that Britain Lost (Episode One)

1998, Producer - Television

This excerpt from the first episode of James Belich’s award-winning history of Māori vs Pākehā armed conflict looks at growing Māori resentment, after the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi. The focus is on Ngā Puhi chief Hōne Heke, who sees few concessions to partnership. He is especially incensed by the refusal of the British to fly a Māori flag alongside the Union Jack. His celebrated acts of civil disobedience directed at this symbol of imperial rule flying over Kororāreka (now Russell) lead to the outbreak of war in the north.

The New Zealand Wars 2 - Kings and Empires (Episode Two)

1998, Producer - Television

In this excerpt from James Belich's award-winning history of Māori vs Pākehā armed conflict, tensions simmer in 1850s Taranaki and Waikato, between land-hungry settlers and Māori who don't want to sell. This resolve to retain their land results in what Belich calls "one of the most important developments in Māori political history" — the birth of the King Movement. But a new governor determined to reassert British authority exploits disunity between Māori factions, and a disputed sale at Waitara culminates in "New Zealand's great civil war of the 1860s".

The New Zealand Wars 3 - The Invasion of the Waikato (Episode Three)

1998, Producer - Television

In this excerpt from James Belich's popular and acclaimed history series, George Grey returns to the governorship in the wake of the costly Taranaki war. Now bitter, secretive and reluctant to share power, he talks peace while secretly planning to strike at the heart of the King Movement in Waikato. As gunboats patrol the Waikato river and a great road is painstakingly built to take his army south, Grey fabricates plots and conspiracies, convincing London to send more troops and ships, until the military balance of power tips in his favour.

The New Zealand Wars 4 - Taranaki Prophets (Episode Four)

1998, Producer - Television

In this excerpt from James Belich's high-rating Aotearoa history series, the focus returns to Taranaki, where charismatic chief Tītokowaru had been promoting peace. But settler demands for land and confiscations exhaust his goodwill, and he declares war. Vastly outnumbered, Titokowaru embarks on a devastatingly effective guerrilla campaign, which is aimed at provoking his foes to attack him on his terms. As emotions rise, Tītokowaru's war escalates with the attack on Turuturumōkai Redoubt, an act of cannibalism, and his taunt "I shall not die ..."

The New Zealand Wars 5 - The East Coast Wars (Episode Five)

1998, Producer - Television

This excerpt from the final part of James Belich's award-winning history series focuses on Tūhoe prophet Rua Kēnana — the target of the last action of the New Zealand Wars in 1916, 73 years after hostilities began. He creates an independent community at Maungapōhatu in the Ureweras, complete with a remarkable meeting house. But any whiff of domestic dissent is intolerable for a Government fighting a war overseas. Armed constabulary are sent to apprehend Rua on trumped up charges, with fatal results for two of his followers.

Cave Creek: The Full Story of a National Tragedy

1998, Writer, Research - Television

On 28 April 1995, the collapse of a viewing platform at Cave Creek, in Paparoa National Park on the West Coast, caused 17 students and a Department of Conservation Field Centre manager to plunge 40 metres into a chasm. 14 died, and four were injured. The documentary (from which NZ On Screen has three excerpts)  explores what happened and why, with accounts by family members, survivors, and DoC staff. Made three years after the tragedy, the programme looked at its lasting impact on those left behind. It won Best Documentary at the 1998 NZ Television Awards. 

The New Zealand Wars

1998, Producer - Television

Five-part series The New Zealand Wars took a new look at the history of Māori vs Pākehā armed conflict. It was presented by historian James Belich, who with his arm-waving zeal proved a persuasive on-screen presence: "we don't need to look overseas for our Robin Hood, our Genghis Khan, Joan of Arc, or Gandhi". The popular series reframed NZ history, and its stories of Hōne Heke, Governor Grey, Tītokowaru, Te Whiti, Von Tempsky and Te Kooti, easily affirmed Belich's conviction. The New Zealand Wars was judged Best Documentary at the 1998 Qantas Media Awards.

Rangatira: Pita Sharples

1997, Producer - Television

This edition of the Rangatira (‘chief’) 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 visits his Takapau home, acknowledges his pivotal time at Te Aute College, talks candidly about the pressures his tireless schedule places on his whānau, demonstrates his cherished taiaha, and goes ten pin bowling. In extensive interviews he enthuses about realising the dream of kaupapa Māori (education, language, prison) cultures, and on the importance of kapa haka.

Assignment

2001-2003, Producer - Television

Hour-long prime time current affairs slot Assignment replaced TVNZ's long-running Frontline in 1995, after Frontline had won controversy for a couple of its stories. A number of Frontline veterans moved across to the new series, including Susan Wood, Rod Vaughan, and Rob Harley. Vaughan and Harley would both win local media awards for their Assignment investigations. At the 1996 TV Guide New Zealand Film and Television Awards, Assignment was judged Best News and Current Affairs Programme. 

Frontline - Five Days in July

1994, Producer - Television

Ten years on from the tumultuous 1984 General Election, this award-winning TVNZ current affairs doco examines the financial and constitutional crisis that resulted from Robert Muldoon’s initial refusal to yield power. Reporter Richard Harman, who conducted pivotal interviews at the time, talks to key players to piece together the events of five remarkable days. They also saw the opening salvoes between David Lange and US Secretary of State George Shultz over nuclear ship visits, and foreshadowed Roger Douglas’ controversial remaking of the NZ economy. 

Frontline

1990 - 1994, Producer - Television

Frontline replaced Close Up as TVNZ’s flagship, primetime current affairs show in 1988. Fronted by Ross Stevens, and made at Avalon at a time when TVNZ management had relocated to Auckland, it produced the controversial 1990 doco For the Public Good which explored the relationship between business and the Labour Government. In the fallout, TVNZ was sued, staff were sacked and the office moved to Auckland. In 1994, a special about the Winebox tax allegations saw Frontline back in the news. Other presenters included Lindsay Perigo, Anita McNaught and Susan Wood. 

That's Fairly Interesting

1989, Field Director - Television

This 80s relic was a homegrown take on US show That's Incredible!, with spectacular stunts and supernatural happenings replaced with subjects that were more kiwiana kitsch than wow! It was the first show from production company Communicado; presenters included Tim Shadbolt, Neil Roberts, Sue Kedgley, Phil Gifford and Phil Keoghan. In a Vanity Fair interview to illustrate Kiwi's "enormous understatement" Jane Campion famously quipped: "You know, they used to have a program on TV in New Zealand, That's Fairly Interesting. [...] In America, it's That's Incredible!"

Eyewitness News

1988, Producer - Television

The nightly Eyewitness News debuted in 1982 having evolved out of TV2’s twice weekly current affairs show of the same name. Screening at 9.30pm, it moved to TV One before being axed in 1990 in favour of a later One News bulletin. Two of the key moments in the political turmoil of 1984 played out in front of its cameras — PM Robert Muldoon’s calling of the snap election and his devaluation interview which sparked an economic and constitutional crisis. Reporter Rod Vaughan also received his infamous bloody nose from Bob Jones while on an Eyewitness story.

Top Half

1986 - 1987, Producer - Television

Local news was a staple of pre-network 1960s NZ television, and retained its popularity in the network era. The amalgamation of TV1 and SPTV in 1980 produced regional shows The South Tonight and The Mainland Touch in the South Island, and Today Tonight in Wellington. Top Half covered the area spanning from Turangi to North Cape. It was presented for six years by the "dream team" of John Hawkesby and Judy Bailey (latter succeeded by Natalie Brunt in 1986). Amid some controversy, regional news on TVNZ was eased out by Holmes and the arrival of a new era of TV.