New Zealand's relationship with Antarctica and the explorers and scientists who went there is the focus of this episode in The Years Back series, with Bernard Kearns as guide. Early last century NZ was the starting point for most polar expeditions, including Robert Falcon Scott's fatal attempt to reach the Pole. Footage of Scott on the ice is featured, and as well as clips of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s epic survival tale. Of course the Sir Edmund Hillary-led 50s Kiwi expedition is shown: Hillary made a defiant dash for the Pole on tractors, arriving 4 January 1958.
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.
The fierce cold and awesome isolation of Antarctica is evoked in this 1980 NFU survey of scientific projects and life on New Zealand’s Ross Dependency. Geological and wildlife work is counterpointed by domestic details: a “housewifely” cleaning regime, an impressive liquor order, time-marking beards, and radio chatter at odds with the desolation. There’s poignant footage of one of the last sightseeing flights before the Erebus disaster; and the doco grapples with the uneasy possibility that research may lead to exploitation of the continent’s natural resources.
John Knowles has held many leadership roles in broadcasting, and worked around the world. Ask Knowles to name his highlight and he’s very clear — being TVNZ's Head of Sport at precisely the right time. In 1979 he was one of the only television reporters to visit Antartica, to report on the Mount Erebus disaster.
Canadian Joe Cote was travelling the world on his OE when love led him to New Zealand in 1965. He landed a job at the NZ Broadcasting Corporation soon after; initially he wasn't allowed on air because of his accent. In 1970 Cote moved into TV, presenting current affairs show The South Tonight. He also worked on Gallery and Inquiry. Cote became the inaugural presenter for National Radio's Morning Report in 1975.
Jane Andrews founded Jam TV with Melanie Rakena in 2002. The partnership has resulted in a run of award-winning shows that brought fresh energy to local factual programming. Jam shows Off the Rails, South and the long-running Intrepid Journeys achieved high ratings and critical acclaim. In 2010 the Andrews directed and produced Radar's Patch won a Qantas award for Best Information/Lifestyle Programme.
Clinical psychologist Nigel Latta first made his mark on Kiwi television in 2008 with Beyond the Darklands, based on his book Into the Darklands, about New Zealand criminals and how they came to be. Latta hosted the show for five seasons, alongside three lighthearted, politically incorrect series about teenagers and other humans. 2014 saw the launch of wide-ranging issues show Nigel Latta.
Mark McNeill has been making documentaries for over 20 years. Along the way he has shown a knack for offbeat factual programming, including work with Te Radar and psychologist Nigel Latta. In 1999 McNeill launched company Razor Films. He and Latta went on to reshape The Politically Incorrect Parenting Show for a primetime Australian slot. In 2018 McNeill become the first Kiwi producer to make a series for Netflix.
Arwen O’Connor, co-founder of production house Ruckus Media, wanted to get into TV from an early age. After turning her hand to a myriad of behind the scenes roles – runner, caterer and wardrobe assistant – the lightbulb moment came when she was offered a job as production manager on Ice TV. Production has been a perfect fit, as O'Connor carves out a successful career as a factual/documentary producer.