'No 8 wire' Kiwi ingenuity is defined by problem solving from few resources (No 8 wire is fencing wire that can be adapted to many uses, an ability that was particularly handy for isolated NZ settlers). Embodied in heroes from Richard Pearse to PJ, Kiwi ingenuity is a quality dear to our national sense of self. It has been memorably celebrated, and sometimes satirised, on screen.
This collection celebrates the legendary moments that New Zealanders — huddled around the telly — gawked at, chortled with, and choked on our Choysa over as they played out on our screens. "There's a generation who remember where they were when JFK was shot", but as Paul Casserly asks in his collection primer, "where were you when Thingee's eye popped out?"
Made by feature film pioneer Roger Mirams (Broken Barrier), this 1951 film promotes New Zealand outdoor recreation. Coming decades before bungy jumps and hobbits, this was an early effort to brand NZ as an adventure sport playground, taking in snow sports, deer-stalking, pig hunting, fishing and yachting. Regular filmgoers may have found Miram's footage familiar; most of it came from items he'd shot for Sydney-based company Movietone News. Some shots dated from as early as 1948, when he left the NFU to found company the Pacific Film Unit.
“Only 40 hours by air from San Francisco and six from Sydney, Auckland New Zealand is on your doorstep.” In 1952, NZ tourism was also a long way from a core contributor to the national economy. A flying boat and passenger ship deposits visitors in the “Queen among cities” for this National Film Unit survey of Kiwi attractions. The potted tour takes in yachting, the beach, postwar housing shortage, school patrols, dam building and the War Memorial Museum, before getting out of town into dairy, racing and thermal wonderlands, where “you can meet some of our Māori people”.
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.
Auckland is known as the City of Sails and each Anniversary Day, the Waitemata Harbour hosts the world’s largest one-day regatta. The culture of yachting on the Hauraki Gulf gets full-blown homage in this 1968 National Film Unit film. The short documentary sets up sailing as a way to escape the bustle of the city, and follows the tacks and jibes of a race — “The hum of straining rigging, the sting of flying spray on the lips … the feeling that only a yachtie knows as his craft lifts and surges.” The narration is by Tim Eliott, who had recently helped found Wellington's Downstage Theatre.
This 2003 TVNZ documentary looks at the life of New Zealand’s most celebrated sailor, Sir Peter Blake. The film ranges from Blake's Waitematā sailing childhood to Round the World racing; from leading Team New Zealand to double America’s Cup victory, to the setting up of Blakexpeditions. The documentary uses archive footage and interviews with crew, mates and family to eulogise the adventurer with the windswept blonde mane and moustache. It was made in the wake of Blake’s 2001 death, while on an Amazon expedition to raise environmental awareness.
The Hum is about sailing legend Geoff Stagg, and his yacht Whispers. Directed by Tony Williams and written by Martyn Sanderson, the doco is a paean to the lure of sailing, focusing on Stagg’s colourful personality, and his veteran ocean-racing crew, as they take on the Wellington to Kapiti Island and down to the Sounds race. Fortunately for the film they deliver on reputation. Dolphins, Strait squalls, streaking, ciggies, and some fierce 70s moustaches are all in a weekend’s sailing. Stagg would go on to head renowned Farr Yacht Design (now Stagg Yachts).
In this excerpt from TVNZ's 1980s science and technology series, reporter Jim Hopkins visits a West Auckland boatyard where one of the world's biggest single-masted yachts is being built. Construction of the multi-million dollar, 122 foot long Aquell (later Vainqueur), is state of the art for the times although decades of subsequent America's Cup boats have taken some of the lustre from revolutionary materials like Kevlar and carbon fibre. Then again, not every yacht comes complete with twin 350 horsepower diesel engines, two bedrooms and an onboard jacuzzi.
Subtitled A Journalist's View, this award-winning documentary makes the case that Scott Watson shouldn't have been imprisoned for murdering Ben Smart and Olivia Hope — because he couldn't have done it. Returning to Endeavour Inlet, veteran director Keith Hunter talks to witnesses, and argues the prosecution fumbled vital details of the murderer's yacht and description, then advanced a new theory without evidence to back it. Hunter went on to write 2007 book Trial by Trickery, further critiquing what he calls “New Zealand's most blatantly dishonest prosecution”.