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The Black Robin - A Chatham Island Story

Television, 1989 (Full Length)

In the mid 1970s the Chatham Island black robin was the world's rarest bird. With only two females left, the ante for a conservation rescue story would be hard to up. Enter saviour Don Merton and his Wildlife Service team. Their pioneering efforts included abseiling the precious birds down cliff faces, and left-field libido spurs for the talismanic 'Eve' of her species: Old Blue. This classic Wild South edition united three award-winning films that were foundational for the Natural History Unit (now NHNZ): Seven Black Robins, The Robin's Return, and Black Robin.

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Heartland - Chatham Islands

Television, 1993 (Excerpts)

Gary McCormick travels to the furthest corner of New Zealand and hangs out with fishermen, farmers, and ghosts. He reads the weather report on the islands' radio station (where the forecast is more rain); explores the vibrant nightlife, endures a Ministerial speech at the opening of a new wharf facility, and goes hunting at night for a local delicacy: weka. This instalment of the series is notable for some especially beautiful location photography by Swami Hansa.

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Collection

The Matariki Collection

Curated by NZ On Screen team

Celebrate iconic Māori television, film and music with this collection, in time for Māori New Year. Watch everything from haka to hip hop, Billy T to the birth of Māori Television. Two backgrounders by former TVNZ Head of Māori Programming Whai Ngata (Koha, Marae) look at Matariki, and the history of Māori programming on New Zealand television.   

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Seven Black Robins

Television, 1980 (Full Length)

By 1976 there were only seven Chatham Islands' black robins left. It was the world's rarest bird. In a bid to save the species, the surviving birds are taken from one island to another more hospitable island in a desperate rescue mission. This is part of an incredible conservation success story led by Don Merton and a NZ Wildlife Service team. Along with Black Robin, and The Robin's Return this documentary was one of the acclaimed Wild South series of 'rare bird' documentaries, upon which the formation of TVNZ's Natural History Unit was based.

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Moriori

Television, 1980 (Full Length Episode)

This Feltex Award-winning documentary follows two grandchildren of Tommy Solomon — the last full-blooded Moriori — on a pilgrimage to Rēkohu in the Chatham Islands, to rediscover their heritage. They learn about 1000 years of Moriori settlement: Polynesian origins, pacifist beliefs (tragically tested by 19th Century Māori invasion), carvings and a seafood-based way of life. Years before Michael King’s 1989 book Moriori: A People Discovered and Barry Barclay film Feathers of Peace, this 1980 doco launched a revival of Moriori culture, and revised popular misconceptions.

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Face to Face with Kim Hill - Michael King

Television, 2003 (Excerpts)

Kim Hill interviews historian and writer Dr Michael King at the time of the release of his acclaimed book The Penguin History of New Zealand, in 2003 (the year before King's death). King talks about his optimism about Māori and Pākehā relations. He says one of the reasons he writes books is because "information dissolves prejudice". He offers a theory that you can have two indigenous peoples in one country - that Māori are our first people and Pākehā are our second people.

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The Crown in New Zealand

Television, 1970 (Full Length)

There have been many royal visits since Prince Alfred first came to NZ in 1867 for pig hunting and picnicking. Made for TV (it screened in March 1970), this NFU title surveys tours from George V in 1901 to Queen Elizabeth II in 1963, via archive footage and photos. It also looks at NZ’s changing relationship to the “distant mother country”. Tours include the Prince of Wales in 1920 (he is said to have shaken 20,000 hands), the Duke and Duchess of York in 1927 (the footage is silent so there’s no speech from the future King George VI), and Queen Elizabeth II’s 1953-54 Coronation Tour. 

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Moa's Ark : To the Lifeboats

Television, 1990 (Full Length)

Predators (possums, rats, rabbits, deer) may have forced many of Moa's Ark's cargo to abandon ship and to live on off-shore island lifeboats, but in visiting them (and recently-established mainland 'islands'), Bellamy tells some of the most dramatic conservation stories in the world. He gives dues to Don Merton’s pioneering leadership in clip four. Includes footage of kokako and its haunting song, cheeky kaka parrots, tieke (saddleback), hoiho (yellow-eyed penguin), black robin, fierce-looking giant weta, and the Castle Hill buttercup (the world's rarest).

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On an Unknown Beach

Film, 2016 (Trailer)

Mixing three separate strands, On an Unknown Beach is a so-called “‘speculative documentary" about journeys into landscapes of ruin. Sonic artist Bruce Russell explores the ruined Christchurch CBD, scientist Di Tracey captures compelling underwater footage while examining coral damage on the seabed, and poet David Hornblow undergoes hypnotherapy to explore his consciousness and past experiences with addiction. The film was made by Adam Luxton and Summer Agnew, whose 2005 documentary Minginui (2005) focussed on an ex-forestry town in the North Island.

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Series

Wild South

Television, 1978–1997

TVNZ’s Natural History Film Unit was founded in Dunedin in 1977. The first Wild South documentaries were filmed a year later. The slot's initial focus was on New Zealand’s perilously endangered birds, eg the Chatham Island black robin (then the world’s rarest bird). The results won local and international notice, and a loyal audience. Wildtrack, a sister series showcasing natural history for young viewers was also produced. Wild South ended in 1997 when the Natural History Unit was purchased by Fox Studios; it later became internationally successful production company NHNZ.