On Christmas Eve 1953 a volcanic eruption caused a massive lahar to flow down Whangaehu River. The Wellington-Auckland express crossed the rail bridge at Tangiwai minutes later; it collapsed, and carriages plunged into the flooded river. Out of 285 people, 151 died, in New Zealand's worst rail accident. This 2002 documentary examines events and the board of inquiry finding that the accident was an act of God. This excerpt attacks the story that Cyril Ellis could have warned the train driver what lay ahead, and argues there was a railways department cover-up at the board of inquiry.
In the late 80s the creation of a new public park in central Wellington became an act of cross-cultural collaboration, and an infamous battlezone between artist, council and naysayers. Following positive feedback over her design, council staff decided that redevelopment of Pigeon Park (an old pa site) would be led by Māori artist Shona Rapira Davies. This doco follows the passionate, stroppy Rapira Davies, as she fights cost overruns, landscape architects and passersby, and for her vision (which involved handcrafting Te Aro park's 20,000 plus ceramic tiles).
The second part of this 1982 series on the history of aviation in New Zealand hang glides to the 30s golden age where world famous flying feats (from the likes of Aussie Sir Charles Kingsford Smith and NZ aviatrix Jean Batten) inspired a surge in aero and gliding clubs and the beginning of commercial domestic flights and aerial mapping. War saw Kiwis flying for the RAF and modernised an ageing RNZAF, taking it from biplanes to jet aircraft. Presented by pilot Peter Clements, the series was made for TV by veteran director Conon Fraser and the National Film Unit.
A Political Game charts not only intense rugby rivalry between South Africa and New Zealand, but also the politics of racism that came increasingly to the fore. The signs were there during the Springboks first tour of New Zealand in 1921: a South African reporter was outraged white New Zealanders had supported a Māori side. In 1976 an All Black tour of South Africa sparked an African boycott of the Montreal Olympics; the 1981 tour saw violent protests. Starting with the historic All Blacks win in 1996, this excerpt jumps back in time to chart conflicts on and off the field, up until 1949.
The Wellington region is the focus of this 1958 edition in the long-running NFU series. The newsreel shows the rapidly developing town of Porirua, where farmland is being converted into state housing. Meanwhile in Taita the Hutt Valley Youth club provides entertainment for bored young people on Sunday afternoons. Highland dancing vies with skiffle and rock and roll, and Elvis-style quiffs date the teen spirit. Such clubs were set up after the 1954 Mazengarb inquiry into juvenile delinquency. And at Athletic Park a classic All Black line-up wallops the Wallabies 25-3.
Men of the Silver Fern was a four-part celebration of all things All Black, made in 1992 for the centenary of the NZRFU (now known as New Zealand Rugby). This first episode covers the early period from when Charles Monro kicked off the sport in NZ in Nelson on 14 May 1870, through the establishment of rules, provincial unions and the New Zealand Rugby Football Union. The programme surveys the front-running international tours — from the 1884 Flaxlanders to the 1888 Natives, 1905 Originals and 1924 Invincibles — where the All Blacks’ "winning reputation" was forged.
Des Monaghan has made an enormous contribution to the television industry as a TV producer and network executive in both New Zealand and Australia. Starting as a trainee producer with the NZBC, Monaghan produced a range of pioneering current affairs shows such as Town and Around, Gallery and Compass. In more recent years, Monaghan set up Australasian production company Screentime, whose slate includes popular shows Popstars, Underbelly, Police Ten 7 and Beyond the Darklands.
In a Hollywood studio, with This is Your Life creator Ralph Edwards prominent in the audience, Bob Parker surprises expat Nola Luxford with a high speed tour of her life. After outlining Luxford's early acting career in Hastings and Hollywood, Parker introduces radio and Olympic colleagues from her time as a pioneering US-based broadcaster — before memorable tributes from servicemen she looked after during World War II (while running a legendary New York organisation for Anzac servicemen). The so-called 'Angel of the Anzacs' would die in October 1994.
This documentary reviews that 1983 Royal Tour downunder by Prince Charles and Princess Diana. The tour was notable for the presence of royal baby William; images of the son and heir playing with a Buzzy Bee on the lawn of Government House in Auckland were published around the world. The royals also visit the ballet, banquet, waka, hongi, plant kauri, and see Red Checkers and firemen’s displays. Prince Charles’s duties include announcing an extra holiday for school kids and he meets younger bro Edward on his gap year (tutoring at Wanganui Collegiate).
New Zealand’s greatest war hero was the subject of this 1985 episode of This is Your Life. Charles Upham was one of only three people to receive the Victoria Cross twice and the only combat soldier. The reserved Upham has little to say about himself when confronted with Bob Parker’s red book, but is full of praise for those he served with. And they are on hand in numbers to honour their former comrade. There are stories of bravery and humour from the battles in Crete and Egypt to Colditz Castle where Upham was held after being wounded and captured.