In the Nature of Things saw Christchurch teacher Ron Walton deliver science lessons to children. Along with The Night Sky’s Peter Read, Walton made made science pop. The pair were two of NZ’s best known broadcasting personalities of the era, fondly remembered by a generation of Kiwi kids, as well as overseas viewers (Things was a rare NZBC title that sold to the US and other territories). From a (gentler) time well before the pyrotechnics of MythBusters, here Walton — armed with just a pointer, chart and elemental props — puts vitamins under the microscope.
“Through falling leaves I pick my way slowly…” In 1970 a musical paean to getting your nature buzz topped the charts. ‘Nature’, by The Fourmyula, became a Kiwi classic: in 2001 an APRA poll voted it the best local song of the past 75 years. This 2010 Close Up report, from Auckland’s Montecristo Room, sees presenter Mark Sainsbury introduce the band's second performance of 'Nature' in Aotearoa (the band were overseas when it topped the charts). He quizzes composer Wayne Mason, and drummer Chris Parry recalls encountering The Clash while working in the English music scene.
A girl is murdered and her body dumped in the forest. Nature's Way is a short film that explores the mind of a murderer who thinks he's gotten away with it. In Jane Shearer's haunting Cannes-nominated film, the dense native bush acts as witness to what the killer has done. In the absence of dialogue, Matthew (Out of the Blue) Sunderland's paranoid protagonist, sublime cinematography by award-winner Andrew Commis (The Rehearsal, Beautiful Kate) and an eerie, spare soundtrack by Rachel Shearer evoke the themes of utu at the suburban fringe.
This Wild South edition joins two legendary New Zealand wildlife documentarians — photographer Geoff Moon and sound recordist John Kendrick — on a 1988 trip to Kāpiti Island. Rangers are learning about, and looking after, the sanctuary’s manu (birds), who are “biological refugees” from the mainland, escaping introduced predators. Dogs monitoring kiwi, a kākā census, and tīeke (saddleback) nest boxes are featured. The two old mates narrate the visit, which includes Moon building a bush hide, and footage of a pioneering 1964 tīeke relocation from Hen Island.
Made for the UN's first 'Earth Summit' in Stockholm in 1971, the film explores what the future holds for NZ’s environment. Director Hugh Macdonald (This is New Zealand) presents an impressionistic ecosystem: mixing shots of native natural wonder, urbanisation, and pollution with abstract montages and predictions from futurologists — such as Cousteau’s “underwater man”. Before climate change heated up 21st Century Doomsday debates, this film (made for the Ministry of Works!) places stock in individual responsibility. The score aptly enlists the French nursery rhyme ‘Are You Sleeping?’.
Philatelists will delight in this artful National Film Unit production, where stamps are used as a perforated frame for showcasing a pictorial parade of NZ landscapes. The film offers an impressionistic take on the theme, with the landscapes (natural and human) further coloured by poetry and music. Coming from a time before electronic mail, Landscape in Stamps features readings from the work of international poets with scenic sympathies (Whitman, Frost, Thoreau, and more), and the music of composers Vaughan Williams, Handel, Beethoven and Mendelssohn.
‘Moa's Ark' set sail 80 million years ago. David Bellamy becomes an ancient mariner and retraces the voyage of the islands of New Zealand (using contemporary science as his guide). In this first episode he finds out why New Zealand is called the Shaky Isles, gets face to face with the "living fossil" the tuatara, is inspired by meat pies, and discovers geography as he competes in the annual Coast to Coast race over the Southern Alps — with directional and gorse eradication aid coming from legendary race organiser Robin Judkins.
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.
Peter Hayden travels through some of New Zealand's most awe-inspiring environments in this five part series, made to celebrate the centenary of our first national park. This episode looks at the national park closest to our largest city and contemplates that relationship, featuring stories of life on the islands of the Hauraki Gulf. A highlight is the transfer of the rare saddleback or tieke (a lively wattlebird) from Cuvier Island to the ecological time-capsule of Little Barrier Island — "with Auckland's lights twinkling in the background". Catherine Bisley writes about the Journeys series here.
In this episode of the Journeys series, Peter Hayden travels west to east across two national parks and some of New Zealand's most sublime landscapes: from giant, ancient kahikatea forest to hotpools and creaking glaciers. Reflections by ecologist Geoff Park (author of Ngā Uruora) on the coast-to-mountains forest, and the exploits of early surveyor Charlie 'Explorer' Douglas are woven through Hayden's journey, ending with Hayden's personal highlight of the series: climbing Hochstetter Dome with the legendary mountaineer (and Edmund Hillary mentor) Harry Ayres.