Packed with creatures and landscapes that quite simply boggle the mind, the Nature Collection showcases New Zealand's impressive menagerie of nature and wildlife films. Many of the titles were made by powerhouse company NHNZ, which began around 1977 as the Natural History Unit, a small, southern outpost of state television. In this backgrounder, Peter Hayden — who had a hand in more than a few of these classic films — guides viewers through just what the Nature Collection has to offer.
This wee gem from the 60s Sunday night magazine show records a pivotal New Zealand conservation moment. Wildlife Service ranger Don Merton experiments with rescue techniques to save the endangered North Island saddleback (tieke), a wattlebird surviving on Hen Island. Aided by electronics expert John Kendrick (of National Radio bird call fame) he uses calls to lure the spry birds into mist nets before moving the precious cargo to cat-free Cuvier Island. The world-leading skills developed here were to be crucial in saving the black robin and kakapo from extinction.
Introduced to New Zealand in 1851, red deer soon became controversial residents: sport for hunters, but despised by farmers and conservationists for the damage they caused. First targeted by government cullers in the 1930s, by the 60s they were shot by commercial operators for venison export. Directed by Bruce Morrison and Keith Hunter, this award-winning documentary catches up with the hunt in the 70s, when deer for farming – dramatically caught alive, from helicopters – was a multi-million dollar gold rush. Different versions of the film were made for overseas markets.
In this episode of the Journeys in National Parks series, presenter Peter Hayden looks at the primeval, remote wilderness of Fiordland National Park. We learn of how the god Tu-te-raki-whanoa crafted the fiords out of sheer cliffs with his adze, "so the sea might run in and there'd be quiet places for people to live". On boats and along the Milford Track, Hayden traces the "memory trails" of the few who have braved the area: Māori pounamu collectors, sealers, cray fishermen, early naturalists Georg and Johann Forster, and pioneering conservationist Richard Henry.
Director Alyx Duncan set out to make an experimental documentary about her childhood home. What eventually resulted was this acclaimed and award-winning "fictional essay", her first full length feature. Blurring the line between documentary and drama, she cast her conservationist father and Chinese born step-mother as characters partially based on themselves. As they journey from a small NZ island to a big Chinese city, Duncan examines their cross cultural relationship and explores nostalgia, childhood, dreams, environmentalism, globalisation and the meaning of home.
In this five part series, photographer, conservationist and publisher Craig Potton is a New Zealand coast tour guide. Each episode focuses on a region, taking in scenic splendour, while celebrating and taking the pulse of its biodiversity. Along the way Potton frames photos and meets the coasters: from scientists, sailors, swimmers and artists, to iwi, boaties and bach owners. As well as presenting, Potton conceived and wrote the series, produced by South Pacific Pictures. Wild Coasts followed the award-winning and ratings success of Potton’s 2010 series Rivers.
In this full-length Heartland episode, Gary McCormick travels to New Zealand's southernmost community: the town of Oban on Stewart Island's Half Moon Bay. Another gently discursive ramble through time and geography is held together by a focus on the island's annual Festival of The Sea, and appearances by a range of locals from fishermen to conservationists. The highlight of this marine mardi gras is the drag competition ‘Miss Catch of the Day', where hairy blokes dress like sheilas and walk on stage. Thankfully Gary keeps his pants on.
Nationwide replaced Gallery as part of the NZBC’s first foray into nightly current affairs. In 1974 and 1975, it ran for 20 minutes on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays (with Inquiry on Wednesdays and World Scene on Fridays). It was produced by Rod Vaughan; The reporters included Ian Fraser, Keith Aberdein, David Beatson and conservationist Guy Salmon. Prime Minister Norman Kirk famously took great offence at a series of skits featuring Fraser and John Clarke involving remits at the 1974 Labour Party conference. Nationwide was replaced by the equally short-lived Tonight in 1976.
Mitch (Keith Aberdein) moves to Tongariro National Park to help wrangle wild horses threatening ecology and traffic. He meets Sara, who shares an obsession for a fabled silver horse. They clash with rangers and deer recovery guns-for-hire (Bruno Lawrence is the black-clad villain) determined to eradicate the horses, and a showdown on the Desert Plateau ensues. In the notoriously fraught production a stable of Kiwi acting legends perform a melange of western and freedom-on-the-range genre turns (with the conservationists oddly set up as the bad guys).
From 2009 to 2013, The Erin Simpson Show was a staple of TVNZ’s after school programming. The magazine format took in interviews (including Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez), mini-soaps, competitions, social media and reports covering fashion, sport and entertainment. Presenter Erin Simpson hosted over 770 episodes, and was a familiar face to a generation of Kiwi kids. The show’s many reporters included actor Kimberley Crossman, singer Ruby Frost, rugby player Isaac Ross, and conservationist Nicola Toki. The show was produced by Whitebait TV (now Whitebait Media).