Aotearoa's wildlife and unique landscape provided the inspiration for Meet the Locals, a partnership between TVNZ and the Department of Conservation. The series ran for six seasons from 2007, most of them on digital channel TVNZ 6 (then on TVNZ 7 for its final season). The four-minute episodes saw DOC staff doing everything from visiting a range of animals and snorkelling in marine reserves, to tramping and taking kids out on trips to the great outdoors. Nicola Toki (née Vallance) presented the series until 2010; later James Reardon and Les Judd took the reins.
In this five part series presenter Peter Hayden travels through some of New Zealand's most varied, awe-inspiring and spiritual environments. Though there is superbly filmed flora and fauna, geology and other standard natural history documentary staples, it is the history of people's relationship with these sublime landscapes and a genial New Zealand passion for the environment, that makes a lasting impression. At the 1988 Listener Film and TV Awards Hayden won Best Writer in a Non-Drama Category for the series.
Why is New Zealand's landscape and flora and fauna so unique? In four-part series Moa's Ark, renowned English naturalist David Bellamy, with his impassioned enthusiasm and trademark beard (of "old man's beard must go" fame) goes on a journey to discover the answer. Directed and produced by Peter Hayden, this 1990 TV series was produced by Television New Zealand's award-winning Natural History Unit (now independent production company NHNZ). Read more about the series here.
Like the eponymous native plant this children's puppetry programme stuck to the socks of many kiwis of a certain vintage. Produced in Dunedin by TVNZ's Natural History Unit (now independent production company NHNZ) Bidibidi followed the adventures of a sheep on a South Island station for two series. Bidibidi was adapted from the children's book by Gavin Bishop. Each programme interspersed puppet scenes and musical numbers with the expected first-rate NHU-shot footage of birds and other animals that Bidibidi meets en route, from kea to skinks and bitterns.
The iconic all-things-rural show is the longest running programme on New Zealand television. With its typical patient observational style (that allows stories of people and the land to gently unfold) it’s an unlikely broadcasting star, but New Zealanders continue, after 50 plus years, to tune in. Amongst the bucolic tales of farming, fishing and forestry, there are high country musters, floods, organic brewing, falconry, tobacco farming, as well as a fencing wire-playing farmer-musician, a radio-controlled dog, and Fred Dagg and the Trevs.
This 2002 Touchdown series followed rangers working for the Department of Conservation and Ministry of Fisheries. The series covered work with threatened species — ranging from kākāpō, kiwi and native lizard recovery programmes, to Hector’s dolphin in marine reserves. Other episodes included management of Abel Tasman National Park, and mountain rescue work at Aoraki/Mount Cook. Ten 30 minute episodes screened on TV One. According to the Department of Conservation's annual report for 2002, the series attracted high ratings and received excellent reviews.
Actor/presenter Peter Elliott traces Captain James Cook’s first voyage around New Zealand in this four-part series, which was named Best Documentary Series at the 2002 NZ Television Awards. Starting from the North Island’s east coast, he ventures north before hitching rides down the island’s western side, nipping through Cook Strait on his way down to Lyttelton. The conservation history of Fiordland is explored, as are the rugged seas of the West Coast. Among the many ships Elliott journeys on is Spirit of New Zealand, a square rigger quite similar to Cook's HMS Endeavour.
This popular reality series follows the lives of dogs and their handlers, who work for the Departments of Conservation and Corrections, plus the Police, Civil Aviation and Search and Rescue. The canine squads help protect Kiwi streets, prisons, borders and mountains. Made for TVNZ by Cream Media and then Greenstone TV, nine series had been made up until 2018. Dog Squad also screens in Australia on Channel 7 (under the title Dog Patrol). Dominion Post writer Jane Clifton praised the show's “doggy-adorableness factor” and the “sheer novelty of the situations encountered.”
Popular Greenstone series The Zoo aired for over a decade. The show went behind the bars at Auckland Zoo to meet monkeys, rhinos, kiwi, humans, and more. A family-friendly hit, initially for TV2, it sold widely overseas. The show spawned a number of spin-offs and best of DVDs, including two Zoo Babies specials, Trent's Wild Cat Adventures — plus Two by Two at the Zoo (2005) and The Zoo: This is Your Life (2011), which each featured one animal per episode. The Zoo won the viewers' vote for Favourite Documentary Series at the TV Guide Awards, seven years running.