Collection

Nuclear-free New Zealand

Curated by NZ On Screen team

On 8 June 1987 Nuclear-free New Zealand became law. This collection honours the principles and people behind the policy. Prime Minister Norman Kirk put it like this: "I don't think New Zealand's a doormat. I think we've got rights — we're a small country but we've got equal rights, and we're going to assert them." In the backgrounder, journalist Tim Watkin explores the twists and turns of Aotearoa's nuclear history.   

Collection

Politics

Curated by NZ On Screen team

New Zealand's representatives in parliament have had some of their most memorable moments captured on camera. This collection showcases their screen legacy: from stirring addresses (Kirk), feisty debates (Muldoon, Lange, Olympic boycotts), revolutions, nukes, and snap elections, to political punches (Bob Jones), and young leaders (Clark). Listener writer Toby Manhire writes about Kiwi politicians on screen here.

The Rainbow Warrior Affair

Television, 1986 (Excerpts)

In July 1985 French government agents bombed Greenpeace vessel The Rainbow Warrior while it was moored at an Auckland wharf. The boat was set to protest French nuclear testing at Mururoa; photographer Fernando Pereira was killed. This TVNZ documentary, which screened in April 1986, explores the international incident and its fallout. This excerpt, featuring dramatic reconstructions, covers the arrival of the spies in New Zealand and their movements up to and after the bombing. Witnesses and key figures, such as Prime Minister David Lange, are interviewed.

Our Nuclear Defence

Short Film, 1976 (Full Length)

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.

One Network News - Paul Holmes Meets Margaret Thatcher

Television, 1993 (Full Length)

In 1993 Paul Holmes travelled to the UK to meet Margaret Thatcher, who had recently authored "clear and vivid" memoir The Downing Street Years. In this hour-long interview, the outspoken former PM talks NZ anti-nuclear policy (bad), Communism (evil), and sanctions in South Africa (pointless). The horrors of Bosnia, she argues, show what happens when consensus politics win out over strong leadership. An iron lady explosion is only narrowly avoided after Holmes probes Thatcher on David Lange’s comment that meeting her was like being addressed by a Nazi orator.

Revolution - 2, The Grand Illusion

Television, 1996 (Full Length Episode)

Award-winning series Revolution examined sweeping changes in 1980s New Zealand society. This second episode argues that in its first term in office, the Labour Government promoted neoliberal reform via illusory ideas of consensus and fairness, while PM David Lange mined goodwill from its indie anti-nuclear policy (famously in an Oxford Union debate, see third clip). The interviews include key figures in politics, the public service and business: an age of easy lending and yuppie excess is recalled, while those in rural areas recount the downside of job losses.

Spike Milligan - Nuclear-free public service announcements

Commercial, 1976 (Excerpts)

In these never-aired commercials, comic genius Spike Milligan urges New Zealanders to sign the Campaign Half Million petition against the introduction of nuclear power. Instead he advocates wind power while standing in breezy Wellington. The ads were never shown, though they did end up in a TV news story on the decision to ban them, thus gaining prime time exposure. The petition, organised for the Campaign for a Non-Nuclear Future, eventually gained 333,087 signatures, representing 10% of New Zealand's population at the time.

The Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls

Film, 2009 (Trailer and Excerpts)

Part concept film, part biopic, part historical record and part comedy, Leanne Pooley’s documentary was made to mark the Topp Twins' 50th birthday. New Zealand's favourite comedic, country singing, dancing and yodeling lesbian twin sisters tell their personal story: from their 'coming out' to Jools' brush with breast cancer. The film features archive material, home movies and interviews with the Topps' alter egos. Alongside local box office success and dozens of international awards, Girls won the People’s Choice award for favourite documentary at the 2009 Toronto Film Festival.

NZBC Network News - Prime Minister Norman Kirk's Death

Television, 1974 (Full Length)

This NZBC news item went to air the day after legendary Prime Minster Norman Kirk passed away. There are tributes (some off-screen) involving everyone from Kissinger, Muldoon and Trudeau to the Queen, and an interview with Deputy PM Hugh Watt. Reporter George Andrews outlines Kirk’s life and career, including footage of Kirk recalling his time working on the Devonport Ferry, and having to break a promise about a Springbok Tour. Andrews charts Kirk's rapid political rise, including becoming the country’s youngest mayor, and the mark he made on the international stage.

Herbs - Songs of Freedom

Film, 2019 (Trailer)

Reggae band Herbs hold a special place in the history of New Zealand pop music, mixing feel-good rhythms with burning social and environmental issues. The original line-up consisted of five musicians from across the Pacific. Their string of hits in the 80s and 90s helped Aotearoa forge a new Pacific identity. For this documentary director Tearepa Kahi (Poi E: The Story of Our Song, Mt Zion) captures the band's reunion, and interviews key members about the protest movement that lit a fire under the group, their chart topping success, and famous collaborations.