Derek Kōtuku Totorewa Wooster was born in Otorohanga in 1945. After training as a teacher in Hamilton, he worked as a primary school teacher. Wooster also developed a passion for drama and this led to a stint as a theatre director, actor and tutor in the late 60s and 70s.
In 1979, Wooster joined Television New Zealand as a production trainee at Avalon studios on the edge of Wellington — back “when television was truly about New Zealanders telling their own stories and it was important to learn your craft”.
Wooster honed his television production skills on a range of iconic Kiwi programmes in the 1980s — including Radio Times, Mastermind, Stars on Sunday, Miss Universe New Zealand, University Challenge and the Benson and Hedges Fashion Design Awards.
Over the next three decades, he rose through the ranks as a producer, single camera director, multi-camera director and live-to-air director, writer, reporter and trainer.
He counts Te Māori: Te Hokinga Mai — a two-part chronicle of the return of the landmark Māori art exhibition which toured the United States — as a personal favourite. Other highlights include working with musical director Bernie Allen and artists Prince Tui Teka, Billy T James, Dalvanius Prime and the Yandall Sisters.
Wooster has produced and directed the biennial national kapa haka festival, including live coverage of the competition finals, and won a film and television award for Best Multi-Camera Director for his work on the prestigious event in 1998.
He has been a finalist for Best Entertainment Programme twice (Radio Times and Prince Tui Teka), Best Factual Series twice (Marae in 1993 and 1996) and Best Live to Air Director (Benson and Hedges Fashion Design Awards); and has also been nominated several times for Best Current Affairs Programme for Marae. He won the Te Ohu Kaimoana Journalism Award in 1996.
Besides creating Marae, Wooster was a producer and studio director of the long-running Māori current affairs show for some 17 years. He credits working with presenters Derek Fox, Shane Taurima and Hone Edwards as high points.
In 1991 Wooster was director, producer, and vision switcher for the first Māori Sports Awards broadcast, hosted by Rawiri Paratene, and held at Tūrangawaewae Marae, Ngāruawahia. His international experience includes executive producing the host broadcaster of APEC in New Zealand (1999) and Brunei (2000).
In 2006, Wooster produced and directed Tīaho Pō to commemorate the life of the Māori Queen, Te Arikinui Dame Te Atairangikaahu, including excerpts from a concert held at Tūrangawaewae Marae to celebrate 40 years of her leadership of the Māori King Movement.
Three months later, when thousands of mourners made their way to Tūrangawaewae to farewell their leader, Wooster produced and directed live TVNZ coverage of her tangihanga. Simultaneously screened on Māori Television, throughout the Pacific and on the TVNZ website, the broadcast was viewed by hundreds of thousands.
Wooster is a founding member of Ngā Aho Whakaari, the national representative body for Māori working in film, video and television in New Zealand; a former treasurer for the Screen Directors Guild of New Zealand; and co-author of a MCN Broadcasting Discussion Paper. He has also been a television broadcasting tutor for Fiji TV and Auckland University of Technology.
Since 2000, Wooster has been a trustee for Te Huarahi Tika Trust (originally known as the Māori Charitable Spectrum Trust) whose role is to increase the participation of Māori in the knowledge economy, particularly the information and telecommunications sectors. In 2005, he was made a director of Hautaki Limited — the trustee of Te Huarahi Tika Trust's commercial arm, Hautaki Trust — and his participation alongside others has led to the formation of mobile network 2degrees.
A former Tainui representative on the Federation of Māori Authorities, he also holds a number of positions on Māori incorporations and ahu whenua trusts throughout Te Rohe Pōtae (King Country).
Wooster was deputy head of department of Māori programmes at Television New Zealand from 2001 until 2009, when the position was disestablished.
He then set up his own company, PaddleFeet Productions. “I very rarely wore shoes to school and Pākehā kids called me paddlefeet because compared to theirs, mine covered an expansive portion of ground!”