Packed with creatures and landscapes that quite simply boggle the mind, the Nature Collection showcases New Zealand's impressive menagerie of nature and wildlife films. Many of the titles were made by powerhouse company NHNZ, which began around 1977 as the Natural History Unit, a small, southern outpost of state television. In this backgrounder, Peter Hayden — who had a hand in more than a few of these classic films — guides viewers through just what the Nature Collection has to offer.
This wee gem from the 60s Sunday night magazine show records a pivotal New Zealand conservation moment. Wildlife Service ranger Don Merton experiments with rescue techniques to save the endangered North Island saddleback (tieke), a wattlebird surviving on Hen Island. Aided by electronics expert John Kendrick (of National Radio bird call fame) he uses calls to lure the spry birds into mist nets before moving the precious cargo to cat-free Cuvier Island. The world-leading skills developed here were to be crucial in saving the black robin and kakapo from extinction.
Introduced to New Zealand in 1851, red deer soon became controversial residents: sport for hunters, but despised by farmers and conservationists for the damage they caused. First targeted by government cullers in the 1930s, by the 60s they were shot by commercial operators for venison export. Directed by Bruce Morrison and Keith Hunter, this award-winning documentary catches up with the hunt in the 70s, when deer for farming – dramatically caught alive, from helicopters – was a multi-million dollar gold rush. Different versions of the film were made for overseas markets.
Craig Potton — renowned photographer and conservationist — is New Zealand coastal tour guide in this five part South Pacific Pictures’ series. In this excerpt from the opening episode Potton gets choppered in by his mate, legendary pilot Richard ‘Hannibal’ Hayes, to explore the edges of the Fiordland wilderness. The duo camp on Hayes’ ex-navy vessel moored in Breaksea Sound; and retrace Captain Cook’s star-gazing route in Dusky Sound (where Cook brewed the first beer in NZ). Then Potton frames the epic limestone landscape of Chalky Inlet through his camera lens.
Director Alyx Duncan set out to make an experimental documentary about her childhood home. What eventually resulted was this acclaimed and award-winning "fictional essay", her first full length feature. Blurring the line between documentary and drama, she cast her conservationist father and Chinese born step-mother as characters partially based on themselves. As they journey from a small NZ island to a big Chinese city, Duncan examines their cross cultural relationship and explores nostalgia, childhood, dreams, environmentalism, globalisation and the meaning of home.
In this five part series, photographer, conservationist and publisher Craig Potton is a New Zealand coast tour guide. Each episode focuses on a region, taking in scenic splendour, while celebrating and taking the pulse of its biodiversity. Along the way Potton frames photos and meets the coasters: from scientists, sailors, swimmers and artists, to iwi, boaties and bach owners. As well as presenting, Potton conceived and wrote the series, produced by South Pacific Pictures. Wild Coasts followed the award-winning and ratings success of Potton’s 2010 series Rivers.
In this full-length Heartland episode, Gary McCormick travels to New Zealand's southernmost community: the town of Oban on Stewart Island's Half Moon Bay. Another gently discursive ramble through time and geography is held together by a focus on the island's annual Festival of The Sea, and appearances by a range of locals from fishermen to conservationists. The highlight of this marine mardi gras is the drag competition ‘Miss Catch of the Day', where hairy blokes dress like sheilas and walk on stage. Thankfully Gary keeps his pants on.
Mitch (Keith Aberdein) moves to Tongariro National Park to help wrangle wild horses threatening ecology and traffic. He meets Sara, who shares an obsession for a fabled silver horse. They clash with rangers and deer recovery guns-for-hire (Bruno Lawrence is the black-clad villain) determined to eradicate the horses, and a showdown on the Desert Plateau ensues. In the notoriously fraught production a stable of Kiwi acting legends perform a melange of western and freedom-on-the-range genre turns (with the conservationists oddly set up as the bad guys).
Te Araroa is a 3000 kilometre walkway running from Te Rerenga Wairua (Cape Rēinga) to the southern tip of Te Waipounamu (the South Island). It opened in late 2011, and was quickly acclaimed as one of the world’s great walking treks. Each hour long episode of this series sees entertainer Pio Terei go on a hīkoi along a segment of the trail, crossing picturesque landscapes and meeting the people who inhabit them, from bagpipe blowers, stuntmen and eel catchers to “knitting ninjas” and conservationists. Two seven-part series were produced by Scottie Productions.
Renowned landscape photographer, publisher and conservationist Craig Potton takes viewers up New Zealand rivers in this South Pacific Pictures series, made for Prime TV. Each episode focused on a significant Aotearoa waterway, and the ecology and people connected with it. Episodes featured the Clutha River in the deep south, Clarence River near Kaikoura, Rangitata River in Canterbury, Mokihinui River on the South Island's west coast, and Waikato River in the central North Island. The Rangitata episode won Potton Best Documentary Script at the 2011 SWANZ Awards.