In 1865, Wellington became the Kiwi capital. In the more than 150 years since, cameras have caught the rise and fall of storms, buildings, and MPs, and Courtenay Place has played host to vampires and pool-playing priests. Wind through our Wellington Collection to catch the action, and check out backgrounders by musician Samuel Scott and broadcaster Roger Gascoigne.
On a Tuesday evening in April 1968, the ferry Wahine set out from Lyttelton for Wellington. Around 6am the next morning, cyclone-fuelled winds surged in strength as it began to enter Wellington Harbour. At 1.30pm, with the ferry listing heavily to starboard, the call was finally made for 734 passengers and crew to abandon ship. The news coverage and documentaries in this collection explore the Wahine disaster from many angles. Meanwhile Keith Aberdein — one of the TV reporters who was there — explores his memories and regrets over that fateful day on 10 April 1968.
Brian Edwards was working as a television reporter when the Wahine sank on 10 April 1968 in Wellington Harbour. Twenty-five years later Edwards presented this TV3 documentary about the tragedy, which remains New Zealand's worst modern maritime disaster. Wahine - The Untold Story interviews passengers and crew, and features harrowing rescue footage and stills. Interviewees criticise the way the evacuation was handled — "we'd been lied to continually" — while helmsman Ken MacLeod remembers the challenges of trying to keep the Wahine on course.
This Weekly Review features a speedboat and hydroplane regatta in Evans Bay in a stiff northerly as boats capsize in the choppy seas; the inter-provincial rowing eights on a flat-as-a-millpond Petone foreshore on the other side of Wellington Harbour in which Auckland's West End wins; and the reopening of the National Art Gallery by the Prime Minister Peter Fraser after eight years' occupation by the Air Force. The £40K national collection (mainly portraits and landscapes) is unpacked and reframed, and a Frances Hodgkins painting examined.
Wellington is given the Baraka 'time-scape' treatment in this short film by Richard Sidey, made while studying at Massey University. There's no characters or conventional narrative, but the life cycle of a city is captured in a Koyaanisqatsi-like compilation of day and night-time scenes. Clouds scud by in hyper-time-lapse and slow-motion, and Wellington landmarks (harbour, bucket fountain, turbine etc) are seen anew, cut to a soundtrack by percussion group Strike. The tone poem won best student film at the American Conservation Film Festival 2007.
Made in an era before “coolest little capital” and Absolutely Positively Wellington, the title of this NFU promotional film — Promises, Promises — nods to the capricious charms of the harbour city. A reflective narration is scored by a saxophone soundtrack as the film tours from the stock market, school fair, and swimsuit shopping, to Trentham and up hillside goat-tracks. The opening of Parliament is cut together with a Lions versus France rugby match at Athletic Park, while Scorching Bay is jam-packed with sun-seekers (it must have been filmed on a good day).
A beautiful Wellington day greets passengers from the Southern Cross at the start of this 1950s magazine film. Seen here on her maiden voyage around the world, the cruise ship Southern Cross was built to carry immigrants from Europe. Meanwhile, students at what was then New Zealand's only fully residential teachers' college (near Auckland) are seen studying, before taking time off for dancing and sport. A trip to New Caledonia rounds up the report with the unveiling the Cross of Sacrifice, a memorial to the 449 Kiwis who died without a grave in the South Pacific during WWII.
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.
In the 1950s, driven by a desire to power around the shallows of the Mackenzie Country's braided rivers, inventor and "South Island sheep man" Bill Hamilton developed an improved method of jet boat propulsion. This NFU film explains the concept and Hamilton demonstrates the 'turbo craft': cruising Lake Manapouri, waterskiing Lyttelton Harbour, and heading up the Whanganui. Then it's spin outs and shooting rapids (and deer) with Commander Philip Porter from the icebreaker USS Glacier...who clearly loves the smell of the Waimakariri in the morning.
Made in 2008, this documentary chronicles the Wahine disaster, from the ship leaving Lyttelton to the last survivor being pulled out of the water. Interviewees share their experiences — some make it ashore in life rafts at Seatoun, others are washed up on the “battlefield” of the Pencarrow coast. The Wahine’s crew offer insight into the conditions the ship was sailing in, and of their gradual realisation that it couldn’t be saved. The TV One programme also features animated scenes of the ill-fated journey, which mimic the black and white news footage of the disaster unfolding.