Collection

Nuclear-free New Zealand

Curated by NZ On Screen team

On 8 June 1987 Nuclear-free New Zealand became law. This collection honours the principles and people behind the policy. Prime Minister Norman Kirk put it like this: "I don't think New Zealand's a doormat. I think we've got rights — we're a small country but we've got equal rights, and we're going to assert them." In the backgrounder, journalist Tim Watkin explores the twists and turns of Aotearoa's nuclear history.   

Our Nuclear Defence

Short Film, 1976 (Full Length)

This short film, made by Alister Barry and Rod Prosser, draws together real and satirically imagined elements of the mid-70s anti-nuclear debate as preparations are made for the USS Truxtun’s visit to Wellington. The new National government has reversed Norman Kirk's nuclear-free policies and the whiff of duplicity hangs heavy in the air as politicians, unionists and protestors jibe for position on land and at sea. Made with assistance of unions and members of the screen industry, the film features embedded footage shot from the Truxtun’s ‘unwelcoming’ flotilla.

Frontline - Five Days in July

Television, 1994 (Full Length Episode)

Ten years on from the tumultuous 1984 General Election, this award-winning TVNZ current affairs doco examines the financial and constitutional crisis that resulted from Robert Muldoon’s initial refusal to yield power. Reporter Richard Harman, who conducted pivotal interviews at the time, talks to key players to piece together the events of five remarkable days. They also saw the opening salvoes between David Lange and US Secretary of State George Shultz over nuclear ship visits, and foreshadowed Roger Douglas’ controversial remaking of the NZ economy. 

Captain's Log - Episode Two

Television, 2001 (Full Length Episode)

For this 2001 series Peter Elliott retraced Captain James Cook’s first voyage around Aotearoa. The second episode heads from Mercury Bay to Cape Reinga. Elliott diverts from Cook’s wake to Waitemata Harbour to investigate New Zealand boatbuilding history, and sail a Team New Zealand America’s Cup yacht with Tom Schnackenberg. Elliott then boards HMNZS Te Kaha to "hoon" up the coast to rejoin The Endeavour's path. In the Bay of Islands he meets Waitangi waka paddlers, crews on tall ship R Tucker Thompson, and dives to the Rainbow Warrior wreck off the Cavalli Islands.

Nuclear Reaction

Television, 1995 (Full Length)

This documentary comprehensively plots NZ's progress from enthusiastic supporter of the atomic bomb in the 1940s to proudly nuclear free by the late 1980s. New Zealand — the birthplace of "father of the atom" Ernest Rutherford — willingly participated in British tests at Christmas Island in the 1950s (and looked eagerly for uranium in the Buller Gorge) but as testing increased in the Pacific, Prime Ministers Holyoake, Kirk and Lange voiced opposition — and Moruroa, nuclear ship visit protests and the Rainbow Warrior bombing fuelled the anti-nuclear cause.

Anchor Me

Greenpeace, Music Video, 2005

This all star cover of Mutton Birds classic ‘Anchor Me’ was made to mark the 20th anniversary of the sinking of Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior. After Hinewehi Mohi’s haunting introduction, singers including Anika Moa, Kirsten Morrell (Goldenhorse) Che Fu, and Milan Borich (Pluto) walk towards the camera across a washed out landscape. Nuclear blasts, pollution and Greenpeace vessels can all be seen, while doves pull rainbows across the screen.

A Ship Sails Home

Short Film, 1962 (Full Length)

This NFU film follows the maiden voyage of HMNZS Otago. Built at a Southampton shipyard, she was the first ship made for the Royal New Zealand Navy. The anti-submarine frigate is shown undergoing sea trials in 1960, before a haka on the Thames and a bon voyage from Princess Margaret send the Otago homewards. There are visits to ports in the Mediterranean, Suez, Singapore and Australia (where the crew enjoy shore leave) before arrival in Dunedin in January 1961. The Otago later supported protests against nuclear testing at Mururoa; she was decommissioned in 1983.

Hotu Painu

Television, 1988 (Full Length)

Pita Turei's wide-ranging documentary explores the history of nuclear testing in the Pacific — and its relationship with French colonialism in Tahiti (which locals claim has made them strangers or "Hotu Painu" in their own land). There is compelling testimony of serious health effects from previous tests; and Turei's cameras follow a Greenpeace protest flotilla to Moruroa as the French keep watch. Interwoven throughout is the bombing of the Rainbow Warrior and its aftermath, as DGSE agents are tried and the ship finds a final resting place at Matauri Bay.

Richard Harman

Journalist, Producer

Veteran newsman Richard Harman began his career at Auckland University student mag Craccum. As a long-time political reporter for TVNZ, he reported on the Rainbow Warrior bombing and the passing of the baton from Muldoon to Lange — also the subject of his award-winning documentary Five Days in July. In 1999 Harman founded company Front Page, where he launched current affairs shows Agenda and The Nation

Sam Pillsbury

Director

Sam Pillsbury's The Scarecrow was the first Kiwi movie to win invitation to the prestigious Cannes Film Festival. Starting at government filmmaking body the Natonal Film Unit, the part-Kiwi, part-American dlrector worked in documentary — including helming the controversial Birth with Dr. R.D. Laing — before making a run of feature films and TV movies, both in New Zealand and North America.