This 1995 documentary comprehensively plots New Zealand's progress from enthusiastic supporter of the atomic bomb in the 1940s to becoming proudly nuclear free by the late 1980s. The birthplace of "father of the atom" Ernest Rutherford willingly participated in British tests at Christmas Island in the 1950s (and looked eagerly for uranium in the Buller Gorge). But as testing increased in the Pacific, Prime Ministers Holyoake, Kirk and Lange voiced opposition. Moruroa, nuclear ship visit protests and the Rainbow Warrior bombing fuelled the anti-nuclear cause.
Billy Taitoko James is a Kiwi entertainment legend. His iconic ‘bro’ giggle was infectious and his gags universally beloved. This collection celebrates his screen legacy, life and inimitable brand of comedy: from the skits (Te News, Turangi Vice), to the show-stealing cameos (The Tainuia Kid), and the stories behind the yellow towel and black singlet.
Broadcast on Christmas 1992, this epic episode of What Now? was both a festive special, and a best of compilation from the show’s first decade on air. The set gets ever more crowded as a long line of past hosts join current presenters Simon Barnett and Catherine McPherson, and help make the Christmas carols more stirring. Eddie Sunderland and Fifi Colston explain a few arts and crafts, in between showcases of the show's best sketches to date. Hiding somewhere on the set is Mr Claus himself, narrowly avoiding detection.
Going further off the rails and further south, idiosyncratic TV host Marcus Lush continued his ratings-winning collaboration with Jam TV in this five-part series about the history, environment and wildlife of Antarctica. The show also investigates and celebrates New Zealand's many connections with Antarctica, from involvement in the historic quests of Scott and Amundsen, to continuing ties with Scott base on Ross Island, where Lush spends Christmas with the community of long-term residents.
Raoul Island is nearly 1000 kilometres northeast of New Zealand. For this Christmas Day 1988 report, TV One's Kurt Sanders paid a visit to the four-person NZ meteorological team serving there (plus Smelly the dog — “the unchallenged King of the Kermadecs”). Sanders follows future One News weather presenter Karen Olsen (then Karen Fisher) as she milks the cow, and heads through the nikau to take readings in the crater of Raoul’s active volcano. The uniquely-evolved island is now the Department of Conservation's most remote reserve.
This Christmas 1989 episode of the TVNZ teen magazine show sees newbie reporter Nadia Neave on Stewart Island to meet a crayfisherman, an artist and a conservation worker. Reporter Kerre McIvor (nee Woodham) quizzes David Lange about quitting as PM, as he prepares to drive in a street race. Natalie Brunt interviews Cher songwriter Diane Warren. Dr Watt (DJ Grant Kereama) looks at solvent abuse, and future Amazing Race host Phil Keoghan joins a trio of young actors (including Tandi Wright) to give tips on overseas travel. Graeme Tetley (Ruby and Rata) was a series writer.
No ordinary Christmas tale, The Monster’s Christmas throws viewers into a world of friendly creatures, talking hot pools and witches with gym equipment in their cave lairs. Child find Lucy McGrath revels in the role of a plucky girl who encounters a one-eyed monster with smoke billowing from his head. The monsters need her help to steal their voices back from an evil witch. The stylings of the live action creatures were influenced by the volcanic North Island locations, and designed by Janet Williamson and cartoonist Burton Silver. Yvonne Mackay (Kaitangata Twitch) directs.
In the mid 1970s the Chatham Island black robin was the world's rarest bird. With only two females left, the conservation ante was extreme. Enter saviour Don Merton and his Wildlife Service team. Their pioneering efforts ranged from abseiling the birds (including the 'Eve' of her species, 'Old Blue') down cliff faces, to left-field libido spurs. This 1988 Listener Film and TV award-winner united two earlier Wild South documentaries, and updated the robin’s rescue story to 1987. It originally screened on Christmas Day 1987, before being modified for this 1989 edition.
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 were taken from one island to another more hospitable island in a desperate rescue mission. This was part of an incredible conservation success story led by Don Merton and his NZ Wildlife Service team. Seven Black Robins and Project Takahē captured viewers' imaginations as part of an acclaimed series of 'rare bird' films that screened on TV series Wild South. They helped forge the reputation of TVNZ’s Natural History Unit (later NHNZ).
“These three birds are over half the world population of their species.” Peter Hayden’s narration lays bare the stakes for the Chatham Island black robin, and the Wildlife Service team (led by Don Merton) trying to save them. Merton’s innovative methods include removing eggs from nests – to encourage the last two females to lay again – and placing them in riroriro (grey warbler) foster homes. The black robin documentaries helped forge the reputation of TVNZ's Natural History Unit. Paul Stanley Ward writes about the documentaries here, and the mission to save the black robin.