In the mid 1970s the Chatham Island black robin was the world's rarest bird. With only two females left, the conservation ante was extreme. Enter saviour Don Merton and his Wildlife Service team. Their pioneering efforts ranged from abseiling the birds (including the 'Eve' of her species, 'Old Blue') down cliff faces, to left-field libido spurs. This 1988 Listener Film and TV award-winner united two earlier Wild South documentaries, and updated the robin’s rescue story to 1987. It originally screened on Christmas Day 1987, before being modified for this 1989 edition.
This series of five stand-alone, observational documentaries was made by TVNZ and screened in late 1988. According to producer Alan Thurston, the aim of its fly on the wall approach was to let the story unfold without reporter presence so the audience could “share the experience rather than be told about it”. The subjects were adoption and a birth mother’s search for her daughter, the changing face of Auckland’s Ponsonby Road, life on Pitt Island, a Graham Dingle trek for young offenders and a community centre in the Wellington suburb of Porirua.
In this 1992 Wild South documentary, pioneering underwater photographers Wade and Jan Doak investigate how fish have evolved over 400 million years on the Northland coast. They explore ocean dwellers off the Poor Knights Islands, where myriad nimble life forms thrive — from radar-like sensory systems and kaleidoscopic colouring, to the intricacies of jaw and fin shape. The Doaks conduct novel experiments to showcase them on camera in this Natural History New Zealand production. This episode was narrated by nature documentary filmmaker Peter Hayden.
Producer Lloyd Phillips won an Academy Award in 1981, for short film The Dollar Bottom. South African-born Phillips was raised in New Zealand, where his first feature, Battletruck, was shot. He went on to establish a globetrotting Hollywood career, working on The Legend of Zorro, 12 Monkeys, Inglourious Basterds and Vertical Limit (also shot in New Zealand). Phillips died of a heart attack on 25 January 2013.