Described by New Zealand Geographic as the "doyen of New Zealand diving", Wade Doak was an author, marine ecologist and conservationist. Along with Kelly Tarlton he was a pioneer of underwater exploration and filming in Aotearoa. Behind and in front of the camera, he contributed to documentaries for Wild South and production company NHNZ, and showcased Aotearoa’s undersea world to wide audiences.
...that day the dolphins seemed to be running the whole film show themselves. While Jan wriggled into the dolphin suit the film crew were surrounded by dolphins. I’ve never seen them behaving in such an intimate manner, really hamming it up: cruising straight towards the camera on the surface, several fins converging on the lens like a Jaws fantasy, making delicate arching leaps right alongside the inflatable... Wade Doak on filming 1978 documentary First Move, in his 2012 book Gaia Calls
Shipwreck told dramatic stories of mystery, heroism and tragedy at sea, as it explored eleven notable shipwrecks in New Zealand's maritime history. In each episode tales of buried treasure, massacre, death and survival are evocatively retold. Wrecks covered included The Boyd,The Ariadne and The Orpheus, the worst martime disaster in the nation's history. Shipwreck was presented by actor Paul Gittins (Epitaph). The Greenstone Pictures production won Best Information Programme at the 2000 Qantas Media Awards.
In this 1992 Wild South documentary, pioneering underwater photographers Wade and Jan Doak investigate how fish have evolved over 400 million years on the Northland coast. They explore ocean dwellers off the Poor Knights Islands, where myriad nimble life forms thrive — from radar-like sensory systems and kaleidoscopic colouring, to the intricacies of jaw and fin shape. The Doaks conduct novel experiments to showcase them on camera in this Natural History New Zealand production. This episode was narrated by nature documentary filmmaker Peter Hayden.
This dramatised documentary looks back to 1955, when a female bottlenose dolphin began appearing regularly in Hokianga Harbour, close to the town of Opononi. Opo became a national celebrity, but died in controversial circumstances on 9 March 1956, the suspected victim of bombing by local fisherman. Directed by Steve La Hood (Numero Bruno, Swimming Lessons), the film recreates events of the summer and explores the belief of local Māori that Opo was a messenger sent by Kupe to unite the people. It includes interviews and extensive archival footage of Opo.
Fiordland is the jewel in the Te Wahipounamu South West New Zealand UNESCO World Heritage Site, a status underpinned by primeval scenery and a reputation as one of the world’s great wilderness areas. This film explores the symmetries of life above and below the fiords, where water cascades from mountain peaks and rainforest, into the black depths of ice age carved valleys. Award-winning photography reveals the mirror world: kea, mohua, fur seals, bottlenose dolphins, and an underwater phantasmagoria of starfish, ancient black coral forests and sea pens.
TVNZ’s Natural History Film Unit was founded in Dunedin around 1977. The first Wild South documentaries began filming a year later. The slot's initial focus was on New Zealand’s perilously endangered birds, eg the Chatham Island black robin (then the world’s rarest bird). The results won local and international notice, and a loyal audience. Wildtrack was a sister series showcasing natural history for young viewers. Wild South ended in 1997 when the Natural History Unit was purchased by Fox Studios; it later became internationally successful production company NHNZ.
In 1969, the arrival of network television ushered in a new era of regional news to replace Town and Around, whose four editions had served local audiences in the 1960s. Christchurch and Dunedin now got different shows, both called The South Tonight. The DNTV-2 edition covered Otago/Southland; it was presented by Derek Payne and produced by Bruce Morrison. The show disappeared in 1975 but, following the amalgamation of TV1 and South Pacific Television, re-emerged in the early 1980s (initially as 7.30 South), this time with Jim Mora in the front seat.