New Zealand artist Michael Smither (well known for his idiosyncratic realist paintings, such as Rocks with Mountain) is a man of many theories and ideas. This film, made for TV, documents his experiments rebuilding eroded beaches around Taranaki with driftwood. Only partially successful, these experiments nonetheless reveal Smither as something of a visionary. They contrast with the New Plymouth City Council's own efforts to check sand erosion; and over two decades later, Smither's less orthodox methods look the more sensible, and sustainable.
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.
This documentary tells the epic story of helicopter deer culling in the Southern Alps. Introduced deer had become destructive environmental pests; in the 60s entrepreneurs shifted culling from ‘man alone’ to machine-driven hunting, as deer were shot then later captured alive from helicopters. Deer Wars — Top Gun in choppers, over the beech forest — revisits the heady ‘gold rush’ days, when heli-cowboys calculated often fatal pay-offs between risk and reward. It features interviews with survivors and fearsome footage of men hanging from helicopters and leaping onto deer.
Produced by Front of the Box Productions for Māori Television, Takatāpui was the world's first indigenous gay, lesbian and transgender series. Even though it was a magazine-style show, it wasn't afraid to delve into some of the tough issues affecting takatāpui communities in New Zealand. This first full-length episode looks at the early erosion of takatāpui by colonisation and includes a number of interviews with takatāpui, specifically Waikato University writer and lecturer, Ngahuia Te Awekotuku.
This edition of the NFU’s long-running Weekly Review series firstly looks at making of apparel for the 1950 Empire Games, including singlets "dyed in the traditional black". Then it’s down to Wellington Zoo to meet their new elephant, Maharanee; and across the harbour to examine earthmoving efforts to alter the Hutt River's course and save Barton’s Bush from being swept away. Lastly, it’s up Mt Egmont (aka Mt Taranaki) to follow good keen rangers trapping possums and shooting goats — some hiding up trees — to protect the native forest and slopes from erosion.
As writer and presenter of The World Around Us, and producer of Looking at New Zealand, Conon Fraser was an early television celebrity. He joined the National Film Unit in 1969 and continued to make films documenting his adopted country’s landscape and history, and New Zealanders’ way of life. Fraser died on 17 June 2014, aged 84.
Veteran Australian-born producer Phil Wallington has 50 plus years of screen credits. A 1989 shift to New Zealand following 23 years at Australia’s ABC news saw him take on a run of executive producer roles on current affairs shows; he helped produce the controversial 1990 Frontline report on Labour Party campaign funding. The Top Shelf producer is also a regular media commentator.
Kenneth Cumberland won fame with ground-breaking 1981 doco series Landmarks, presenting his view of the story of New Zealand. The achievements of this English-born geography professor were many: establishing and heading Auckland University’s geography department, writing on soil erosion, producing 13 editions of an Australasian school atlas, and helping plan Auckland’s development. Cumberland died April 2011.