This 1960 National Film Unit documentary visits the Cook Islands, a group of volcanic isles and coral atolls administered by New Zealand. Ron Bowie's film surveys the challenges of island life (sourcing fresh water, lack of timber for housing) as well as agriculture (coconuts), recreation and schooling. Though patronising — describing Rarotongan people as “the cheerful islander” — the narration confronts some impacts of modernity (eg the shift to European diet for dental health), and anticipates young people will be the islands' biggest export.
Winter is going. This impressionistic take on spring in Aotearoa focuses on details of regeneration, from the mountains to the sea. Director Ron Bowie and cameraman Grant Foster capture signs of the season: ice melt like tadpoles under snow grass, gannets nesting on their Cape Kidnappers tenement, fern koru unfurling, kōtuku and royal spoonbills perched in Ōkārito trees like Dr Suess characters, willow buds and kōwhai flowers. And of course, lambs and daffodils. The camera aptly obeys the title to end. Patrick Flynn (Don’t Let it Get You) composed the score.
This short National Film Unit documentary travels to Westland to meet the kōtuku or white heron. In Aotearoa, the kōtuku is known for its beauty and scarcity (the bird’s only NZ breeding colony is near Okarito Lagoon). The black and white film joins the ranger to go whitebaiting, as kōtuku arrive in spring. Kōtuku’s special place in Māori mythology is recounted, and legendary ornithologist Robert Falla checks out chicks in a crowded ponga fern nest. Directed by John Feeney, the film premiered in Christchurch in front of Queen Elizabeth, on her Coronation Tour.
Award-winner Hidden Places: Ōkārito marked an early milestone for the Natural History Unit (later to become NHNZ) — it was part of the first series made by the unit. The 15 minute episode follows birds, such as white heron, Russian godwits and royal spoonbills, all of them flocking to Ōkārito's "unique world of sea, lagoon, rivers and forests". Logging of kahikatea, the tallest endemic forest tree, also features. Robin Scholes, later to produce movie Once Were Warriors, wrote and directed this episode. It won Best Documentary at the 1979 Feltex Television Awards.
This Touchdown series profiles the working lives of rangers who work for the Department of Conservation and Ministry of Fisheries, whose office is "the great New Zealand outdoors". This opening episode meets three rangers looking after threatened taonga: Al Hutt is a sea shepherd to Akaroa's Hector's dolphins; lizard hunter Keri Neilson rescues a chevron skink on Great Barrier Island; and Steve Sawyer defends dotterel nests from cats, hedgehogs, stoats and boy racers on the Wherowhero Lagoon beach (near Gisborne). The series screened on TV One in early 2002.
Renowned ornithologist and Dominion Museum head Robert Falla goes into the field to present this first edition of National Film Unit’s Land of Birds. His subject is the kōtuku or white heron, nesting in swamp forest by Ōkārito Lagoon, Westland — the only New Zealand breeding colony. In Māori lore the heron is the sacred 'He kotuku rerenga tahi' or 'bird of single flight', owing to its rare sightings. Grant Foster’s beautifully shot survey of the kōtuku’s Ōkārito summer housing screened on TV in 1972, and won a 1973 Feltex Award for Best Natural History Programme.
Tokelau is a New Zealand territory, spanning three small South Pacific atolls. In the 1960s the New Zealand Government expressed concern about overpopulation, and instigated the Tokelau Islands Resettlement Scheme. This National Film Unit documentary surveys Tokelau society and culture from a New Zealand perspective, and follows the journey of a group of Tokelauans who chose to migrate to Aotearoa (where they adapt to telephones and horses near Te Puke). It was one of three NFU documentaries directed by Derek Wright on Pacific Island subjects.
This bloopers reel from Pasifika youth show Fresh begins with a series of pieces to camera gone wrong: sibling presenters Nainz and Viiz Tupai (Adeaze) get the giggles introducing 'Fresh Games', Laughing Samoan Tofiga Fepulea'i gets his man breasts ready for action, and Pani and Pani get lyrical about raisins. 'Fob Outs' (outtakes set to Outkast’s 'Hey Ya') include Scribe missing a beat, All Black Jerome Kaino getting tongue-tied, choreographer Parris Goebel pulling faces, actors Robbie Magasiva and David Fane mugging for the camera, and Nicole Whippy getting funky.
Real Pasifik is a roving celebration of Pacific food and culture. Inspired by chef Robert Oliver’s acclaimed cookbook Me’a Kai, the show follows Oliver as he travels across the Pacific, aiming to inspire resort chefs to showcase indigenous cuisine. In this opening episode of the first series, Oliver heads to the Cook Islands where he visits a marae for a kai blessing, before tasting goat and taro from an an umu (earth oven). He goes lagoon spear fishing, samples pink potato salad (aka ‘mayonnaise’) and serves up a banquet of locally-cooked food to assembled VIPs.