The broadcasting career of so-called 'Mr Country Calendar' Frank Torley spanned almost half a century. He worked on the iconic rural series as reporter, producer and narrator, and a number of other programmes besides. In 2002, he was awarded the ONZM for services to broadcasting. Torley died of cancer on 27 March 2016, just weeks after Country Calendar celebrated its 50th year on air.
Reporter turned producer Tony Trotter was a key figure in the long history of rural show Country Calendar, pulling the programme out of the studio and towards a wider audience. Spotting the talent of Country Calendar reporter John Gordon, Trotter got him to front the quirky A Dog's Show. Later Trotter won two Feltex awards producing for TVNZ’s fledgling Natural History Unit. He passed away on 9 March 2016.
Fred Barnes founded Country Calendar in 1966. The show would become one of the longest running on the planet; and as presenter, Barnes became one of New Zealand's most widely-known TV personalities. After commanding rural broadcasting for state television and radio, Barnes trained journalists in Malaysia and headed Radio New Zealand's overseas programming division. He died 13 March 1993, at 72.
Julian O'Brien, who shepherds the team of reporter/directors on Country Calendar, knows something about the job. He spent nine years in the field, before returning as the show's producer. O'Brien began as a newspaper journalist, and his broadcast career also includes stints directing current affairs, documentaries and corporate videos.
Trevor Spitz, who died in March 2012, was a key player in the 1989 launch of channel TV3. The musician turned promoter had begun working in television in the 70s as a talent scout and producer of entertainment shows, and won success — and controversy — with hit television export That's Country. He was influential in the careers of many performers, including comedic duo McPhail and Gadsby and singer Suzanne Prentice.
Jim Hickey spent more than two decades using his dextrous vocabulary to predict the likely path of sun, rain and wind. A longtime TV One fixture as weather forecaster on the primetime news, Hickey has also brought his distinctive presentation style to a host of other shows, including Country Calendar and A Flying Visit.
Ray Columbus, OBE, began hosting television shows at the tender age of 19. After Columbus and the Invaders topped Australasian charts with 1964 single 'She's a Mod', Columbus spent time as a musician in America. The song was covered multiple times. He later returned to Aotearoa to resume a long career as recording artist, TV presenter and talent manager. Columbus passed away in late November 2016.
Lani Tupu, sometimes credited as Larney Tupu or Lani John Tupu, is the first Samoan to have starred in a Kiwi television series; in 1985 he segued from theatre onto the screen, to play doctor David Miller on period TV drama Country GP. The New Zealand-raised Samoan then relocated to Australia, where his many screen roles include Lantana, sci fi success Farscape, and a TV reboot of Mission Impossible.
The consummate all-rounder, Murray Wood began arranging and performing music for television in the 1970s. Later he founded computer sales company MagnumMac, and spent seven years as managing director of Canterbury Television. Wood died in the collapse of the CTV building, in the earthquake of February 22 2011.
Lynda Topp is half of the Topp Twins, the singing sisters who have plucked their way across the country and the globe with their unique brand of comedy and country music. 2009 Topp Twins documentary Untouchable Girls is the most successful local doco released to date in local cinemas. In 2014 the twins presented TV series Topp Country, which became the third most watched local programme of the year.