This best of special culls history and highlights from 40 seasons of the longest running show on NZ television. Farming, forestry and fishing are all on the roster, but this edition is as much about observing people and the land. There is footage of high country musters, helicopter deer capture, floods and blizzards, as well as radio-controlled dogs and mice farmers. Longtime Country Calendar figures like John Gordon and Tony Trotter share their memories, and the show sets out to catch up again with some of the colourful New Zealanders that have featured on screen.
When TV began in New Zealand in 1960, posh English accents on screen were de rigueur. As veteran broadcaster Judy Callingham recalls in this sixth episode of Kiwi TV history: "every trace of a New Zealand vowel was knocked out of you." But as ties to Mother England weakened, Kiwis began to feel proud of their identity and culture. John Clarke invented farming comedy legend Fred Dagg, while Karyn Hay showed a Kiwi accent could be cool on Radio with Pictures. Sam Neill and director Geoff Murphy add their thoughts on the changing ways that Kiwis saw themselves.
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.
Invercargill mayor Tim Shadbolt ventures into the wilds of Borneo for this full-length Intrepid Journeys episode. His time in the jungles of Malaysia's Sabah region proves to be both beautiful and frightening; his sleeping arrangements are "pure unadulterated hell". After pushing himself to the limit climbing Mount Kinabalu and encountering a lethal pit viper snake, Shadbolt is moved by visits to sea turtles on Turtle Island, and the Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre in Sepilok. Orangutans are endangered in the area because they are losing their forest habitat to palm oil plantations.
Lew Pryme's life was a wild ride that took in everything from rock and roll to rugby before it was cut short by AIDS in 1990 (he was 51). This moving documentary interviews an ailing Pryme reflecting on his journey and (still secret) sexuality; it follows him from Waitara to becoming one of the most popular hip-swinging music stars of the 60s. He went on to manage singers Mark Williams, Rob Guest and Tina Cross; and in the early 80s he became the first executive director of Auckland Rugby Union, introducing cheerleaders and 'pizazz' to Eden Park.
This 1983 documentary looks at the (then booming) export of deer antler velvet from New Zealand farms to Asia where the “horns of gold” are highly valued as an aphrodisiac and cure-all tonic. The doco captures the hazards of the trade: from bulldogging (hunters leaping from helicopter skids onto wild deer), to volatile markets in Hong Kong and Korea. The players include a triad of Asian middlemen “who make the millions”, and Kiwi deer entrepreneur Tim Wallis, who led a delegation of farmers to China in 1981 to discover the secret of the Eastern love potion.
Actor Nicola Murphy made her big screen debut in 1995 in the offbeat fantasy Jack Brown Genius. She followed it by playing Rose in the acclaimed Magik and Rose, before co-starring opposite American actor Judge Reinhold in rural romance Wild Blue.
Philippa Campbell debuted as a producer with 1995 tele-play Swimming Lessons, after time as an actor, stage director, script editor, and and head of the script unit at TVNZ's drama department. Campbell went on to produce the debut movies of playwrights Anthony McCarten and Toa Fraser, plus acclaimed coming of age tale Rain and comedy horror Black Sheep. In 2013 she was Emmy-nominated, as producer of TV drama Top of the Lake.
New Plymouth born Katie Wolfe has made the transition from actor to director. After leading roles in Marlin Bay, Cover Story, and Mercy Peak she stepped behind the camera in 2002, directing on Shortland Street. In 2008 she directed her first short film This Is Her, which screened at festivals around the globe. Wolfe's adaptation of Witi Ihimaera novel Nights in the Garden of Spain screened on TV in January 2011.
Michael Haigh gave up teaching to become a professional actor. A founding member of Wellington’s Circa Theatre, his TV legacy is the gruff office worker Jim in Roger Hall’s Gliding On — one of NZ television’s great comic characters and a role that won him a Feltex Award. He played Jim for five years and appeared in a number of other TV series and films (almost inevitably playing a policeman). Michael Haigh died in 1993.