The devastating effects of introduced wasps in New Zealand, particularly on kaka (the forest parrot, here beautifully filmed) remain a serious issue. The horde of yellow and black marauders has left scientists struggling to protect animal and human victims. This film looks at the effect on the ecosystem of wasps, who compete with natives for honeydew and prey upon insects. Bandits of the Beech Forest won the Environment Prize for Best Film Illustrating Protection, Preservation or Conservation of Bird Life at the Festival du Film de l'Oiseau.
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 1962 National Film Unit short uses the relationship between Māori and manu (birds) as a platform to celebrate New Zealand bush birds — from food source and key roles in myth, to their general character. Legend of Birds was filmed on Kāpiti and Little Barrier Islands. Many of the images were captured by noted nature photographers Kenneth and Jean Bigwood, and the score is by composer Larry Pruden. The narration includes a rap-style tribute to the kākā parrot: “squarks about his indigestion, population and congestion … politics the current question”.
This short Loading Docs documentary from 2017 follows conservationist Corey Mosen as he heads into the forest with a special canine — his border collie cross Ajax. The pair play a vital role in the mission to ensure the survival of the kea, the world’s only mountain parrot. Despite being one of the world’s most resourceful and intelligent birds, kea are under threat (eg from predation), with as few as 2000 left in the wild. Corey and Ajax locate kea nests in the steep alpine forest and spread awareness of a bird that Mosen reckons is pretty "neat and special".
In this episode of the long-running nature programming slot on TV One, naturalist David Bellamy visits New Zealand’s “dinosaur forest” — Whirinaki. Bellamy brings his famed nature-boy enthusiasm to “a living cathedral that dates back 200 million years”. He explores the North Island forest’s “big five”: 60m+ rimu, mataī, kahikatea, miro and tōtara trees; and the ecosystem that they reign over, from kākā parrots to giant tree ferns. The intro is by Gael Ludlow and features the fondly-remembered Jean Michel Jarre synthpop track that was Our World’s signature.
Veteran producer Michael Stedman, ONZM, was commander of Dunedin's Natural History Unit and head of programme production for TVNZ — at the same time. In 1997 he helped arrange the deal that saw the unit sold to Fox Television and renamed NHNZ, while still keeping its main base in New Zealand. Stedman became managing director of one of the world's largest producers of wildlife and factual programming.
Veteran wildlife cameraman Robert Brown has filmed everything from polar bears to pukeko in places from the Arctic to the Antarctic. He shot the rare bird stories that led to the formation of state television's Natural History Unit (later NHNZ), and contributed to classic BBC David Attenborough series, such as Life on Earth and The Living Planet. In 1981 he won a Feltex Award for his work on Wild South.
Rod Morris has more than three decades experience as a wildlife photographer and filmmaker. After working on the quest to save the Chatham Island black robin, he joined TVNZ's Natural History Unit (now independent company NHNZ) in 1980. His name is found on more than 30 books, and his photography has helped spur generations of Kiwis to share his passion for the natural world.
Stephen Downes had never shot a film before meeting director Robert Sarkies in an Otago University cafe; he wound up framing a trio of Sarkies’ short films, plus his breakout feature Scarfies. With a zoology degree under his belt, Downes has also forged a prolific career as an international wildlife filmmaker, from capturing kaka parrots in his lens to "chasing wild ass" in India. He is co-founder of 5 to 9 productions.