NZ On Air began funding local content in 1989. Timing in with the launch of a new funding system, this collection looks back at the 20 most watched NZ On Air-funded programmes over the years (aside from news and sports). Ratings information is only available from 1995, so this is how things have shaped up from 1995 to 2016 — plus some bonus titles. Most of the Top 20 has been captioned. Ex NZ On Air exec Kathryn Quirk tells us here how the complete list rated, while original NZOA boss Ruth Harley remembers how it all began.
Made by feature film pioneer Roger Mirams (Broken Barrier), this 1951 film promotes New Zealand outdoor recreation. Coming decades before bungy jumps and hobbits, this was an early effort to brand NZ as an adventure sport playground, taking in snow sports, deer-stalking, pig hunting, fishing and yachting. Regular filmgoers may have found Miram's footage familiar; most of it came from items he'd shot for Sydney-based company Movietone News. Some shots dated from as early as 1948, when he left the NFU to found company the Pacific Film Unit.
Māori Television hit the airwaves on 28 March 2004. This collection demonstrates how the network has staked its place as Aotearoa's indigenous broadcaster. The kete is overflowing with tasty morsels — from comedy, waiata, hunting and language learning, to award-winning coverage of Anzac Day. Māori Television HOD of Content Development Nevak Rogers backgrounds some MTS highlights here, while Tainui Stephens unravels the history of Māori on television here: choose from te reo and English versions of each backgrounder.
This award-winning series took Wellington chefs Al Brown and Steve Logan out of their fine-dining restaurant, to experience the local in 'locally sourced' kai. In this second episode, Al and Steve head to Tangahoe up the Whanganui River, looking for wild pig with a couple of good keen men — Baldy and Moon. Logan is with the dogs on the boar hunt; while Al's on veggies at the markets, before hitching a flying fox to sample some freshly baked organic kumara bread en route up river. The bush tucker result? Cider braised pork belly with kumara and corn mash.
The third part of this NFU series on aviation in New Zealand jets off post-World War II, where wartime aircraft and crew provided a base for the National Airways Corporation (later Air New Zealand). The romance of travelling via flying boat made way for mass global air travel; and NZ tourism and airports rapidly became more sophisticated. Presenter Peter Clements looks at how the NZ environment spurred innovation (ski planes, top-dressing, heli deer hunting), and traces the lineage of contemporary garage aircraft makers to DIY first flyers like Richard Pearse.
Roger Mirams helped launch legendary independent company Pacific Films in 1948, and went on to co-direct Broken Barrier in 1952 with John O'Shea — the only Kiwi feature made that decade. In 1957, Mirams set up a Pacific Films branch in Melbourne. Over the next five decades he won a reputation in Australia for his children's TV shows. Mirams was still working in his 80s; he passed away in February 2004.
Aged 17, Max Quinn joined the NZ Broadcasting Corporation as a trainee cameraman. At 25 he was filming landmark television dramas like Hunter’s Gold. In 1980 he moved into directing and producing. Since joining Dunedin’s Natural History Unit (now NHNZ) in 1987, Quinn's many talents have helped cement his reputation as one of the most experienced polar filmmakers on the globe.
After acting on award-winning Australian series Love My Way, Stephen Hunter won the part of bumbling dwarf Bombur in Peter Jackson's three-part adaptation of The Hobbit. Morrinsville-raised Hunter moved to Australia in 2004, and has written and voiced radio commercials on both sides of the Tasman. Remembered for a memorable journey by flying fox in a Toyota advert, he also acted in Australian comedy Review with Myles Barlow. and crime series Janet King.
Since joining state television as a sound operator in the 60s, Ron Pledger has gone on to win a reputation for his assured coverage of a wide range of live events, from concerts to This is Your Life to the state funeral of Sir Edmund Hillary. A life long music lover, Pledger was awarded an MBE in 1992, helping recognise 40 years of service in a military band.
Veteran producer and production designer Grahame McLean helped organise the shoots of a run of landmark Kiwi productions, from The Games Affair to Sleeping Dogs. Later he brought TV success Worzel Gummidge down under, and became the first — and will likely long remain one of the few — New Zealanders to direct two feature films back to back.