Long before Ghost Chips, even before "don't use your back like a crane", life in Godzone was fraught with hazards. This collection shows public safety awareness films spanning from the 50s to the 70s. If there's kitsch enjoyment to be had in the looking back (chimps on bikes?!) the lessons remain timeless. Remember: It's better to be safe than sorry.
Made for the Forest Service by the National Film Unit this instructional film demonstrates essential firearms safety. Like later cautionary tales (eg. cult bush safety film Such a Stupid Way to Die) the film dramatises what can happen when things go wrong, before a hunter imparts "the five basic safety rules" (with obligatory ciggie hanging from lower lip). The rendering of the lesson might be hokey (compared to the explicit traffic safety ads of the '90s and '00s) but the message is deadly serious, as ongoing hunting tragedy headlines attest.
When the takahē was rediscovered in the Murchison mountains in 1948, it made world headlines as a back from extinction story. This documentary checks in on the big flightless birds three decades later, with their future under threat (by deer, stoats and breeding failure). Doctor Geoffrey Orbell recalls the 1948 expedition. Project Takahē was the first Wild South documentary made by TVNZ’s Natural History Unit (later NHNZ). The images of takahē – blue, green and red, plodding in the snowy tussock – marked the first time most New Zealanders had seen the bird in the wild.
This documentary turns the lens on acclaimed photographer Andris Apse. The Latvian war refugee later joined the Forest Service, where he was inspired by lensman John Johns and Fiordland; a chance break taking scenic shots for Air New Zealand empowered Apse to pursue his passion: wilderness photography. From his Okarito home and in the wild, Apse muses on the rugged demands of capturing an image and the "stubborn determination" of his craft. From Time to National Geographic, his photos have helped define Aotearoa as a theatre country of epic, elemental landscapes.
This 1963 film looks at how the development of high country aviation is taking on the challenges presented by the South Island’s rugged geography. Piloted by war veterans, small aircraft parachute supplies into remote locations for Forest Service hut building and service lighthouses. Meanwhile helicopters and airlines open up opportunities for industry (venison, tourism, forestry, topdressing) and recreation (fishing, hunting). Good keen men, smokos and Swannies abound in this classically-filmed National Film Unit documentary.
Presented by Kiwi TV pioneer Shirley Maddock, Islands of the Gulf was New Zealand’s first locally made documentary series. In this episode Maddock makes the 50 mile seaplane flight from Auckland to Great Barrier. Accompanied by ever present birdsong, she proves an eloquent, attentive guide to ‘The Barrier’. She recounts the SS Wairarapa tragedy and pigeon post, tramps to old kauri dams, and surveys the quirks of transport for the 240 people then living on the rugged bush-clad island, from the Land Rover-driving nurse, to a Chrysler taxi once owned by Al Capone.
Strange things are going down at the Bailey farm in this deadpan short film. A pile of mysterious crates requires some serious detective work: small-town cop Darryl Kitchen (Roy Snow from Go Girls), ably assisted by best mate Brian and a stash of sandwiches, is up for the challenge. Officer Kitchen's dedication to getting his catch includes a chase that could be used in police recruit videos. Serve and Protect won audience choice awards at both New Zealand's Show Me Shorts Film Festival, and Nevada's High Desert fest — among the 16 festivals it was invited to around the world.
This award-winning NFU short focuses on the tuatara, sole survivor of a reptile species extinct for 135 million years. An NZ Wildlife Service (now Department of Conservation) team search for the reptiles on Stephens Island sanctuary (aka Takapourewa) as they hunt for insects. Voiceover is eschewed in favour of natural sound, and composer Jack Body’s evocative soundtrack. The tuatara are weighed and measured; they can grow up to 80 centimetres, weigh over a kilogram and live 150 years. There were about 100,000 tuatara on Stephens Island when the film was made in 1981.
Four-part series Standing in the Sunshine charted the journey of Kiwi women over a century from September 1893, when New Zealand became the first country to grant women the right to vote in parliamentary elections. This third episode, directed by Melanie Rodriga, looks at women over a century of work — plus education, equal pay, family, art, and Māori life. Interviews are mixed with archive material – including a mid-80s 'girls can do anything' promotion – and reenactments of quotes by Kiwi feminist pioneers. Writer Sandra Coney also authored a tie-in book for the series.
The ‘Young Giant’ is Kaingaroa Forest: the largest plantation in the Southern Hemisphere, and one of the largest exotic forests in the world. 1,300 square kilometres produce “50 million cubic feet of timber a year” for pulp, paper, and building. Directed by Brian Cross, and made by the NFU for the forest’s then-managers — the New Zealand Forest Service — this documentary showcases the industry in the pines: scrub clearance for forest extension, burn-offs, machine planting, pruning, felling, grafting, and kiln-drying cones to extract seeds for sowing.