On 8 June 1987 Nuclear-free New Zealand became law. This collection honours the principles and people behind the policy. Prime Minister Norman Kirk put it like this: "I don't think New Zealand's a doormat. I think we've got rights — we're a small country but we've got equal rights, and we're going to assert them." In the backgrounder, journalist Tim Watkin explores the twists and turns of Aotearoa's nuclear history.
Daniel Herlihy’s naval career spanned 44 years, making him the longest continuous serving member of the New Zealand Navy. He joined in 1949, at the age of 14. Even before seeing active service in Korea he’d been involved in keeping New Zealand ports running, during the infamous 1951 waterfront dispute. Following significant action off Korea’s coasts, Daniel was later involved in the Suez Crisis and the Malayan Emergency. Later, while commanding a coastal patrol vessel, he took part in action against illegal Taiwanese fishing boats. At 82, Daniel recalls many details.
This NFU newsreel begins with a potted history of Korea, from the founding of the “land of the morning calm” to the devastation wrought from the 1950 invasion of South Korea by communist North Korea. The Asian country was of interest to New Zealanders as Kiwi troops (‘Kayforce’) were stationed there, helping defend the south under United Nations command. Kiwi soldiers are shown playing footy, and on leave in Tokyo, before the gunners see action supporting an infantry advance across the 38th Parallel, and a NZ Navy frigate takes on a shore battery.
John Barry Fenton was just 15 when he joined the New Zealand Navy in 1949. When the Korean War broke out the next year, Fenton was part of the crew aboard the frigate HMNZS Pukaki, as it headed north for patrol duties. He describes the monotony of shipboard life in a war mostly fought on land. Returning to New Zealand, Fenton undertook further training before returning to Korea for a second tour of duty, this time aboard HMNZS Hawea. The ship mainly patrolled the area around the mouth of the Han River to stop enemy ships entering or leaving.
This episode of TV2’s 1980 weekly after school show features performances by resident band Kairo (covering the Doobie Brothers) and the Montgomery Sisters. In the field, Tracy Barr joins naval frigate HMNZS Waikato as it sails from Devonport Naval Base, under the Auckland Harbour Bridge and up the Waitemata Harbour to collect ammunition at Point Kauri, and then heads out to sea for gunnery practice. On board, Tracy chats to the captain, a chef and a laundryman (who irons 150 shirts every day) — the results of the exercise seem to be a military secret.
This NFU film follows the maiden voyage of HMNZS Otago. Built at a Southampton shipyard, she was the first ship made for the Royal New Zealand Navy. The anti-submarine frigate is shown undergoing sea trials in 1960, before a haka on the Thames and a bon voyage from Princess Margaret send the Otago homewards. There are visits to ports in the Mediterranean, Suez, Singapore and Australia (where the crew enjoy shore leave) before arrival in Dunedin in January 1961. The Otago later supported protests against nuclear testing at Mururoa; she was decommissioned in 1983.
This trippy animation follows the spirit of a person killed in a motorway car accident. The life force (wairua) runs through forest and beaches on its journey to Te Rerenga Wairua (Cape Rēinga). En route it meets tourist buses and other spirits, before reaching the gnarly pohutukawa and making the leap towards Hawaiki-Nui. There's a real native joy in seeing contemporary 80s animation enliven ancient Māori spiritual concepts. Joe Wylie (Toy Love's Bride of Frankenstein) was in charge of the animation team; The Clean provide the soundtrack to the all-stops-out finale.
The remote Antipodes Islands lie 860 kilometres southeast of Stewart Island. This 1980 documentary follows a Wildlife Service team surveying the islands’ inhabitants who are making all the strange noises – fur seals, albatrosses, petrels, parakeets and snipe, elephant seals and prolific penguins. It also investigates threats to their survival: mice and overfishing in the southern ocean. Winner of a Silver Medal at New York's International Film and Television Festival, this early Wild South episode helped establish the reputation of TVNZ’s Natural History Unit (later NHNZ).
In 1973 Alister Barry joined the crew of a protest boat (The Fri) to Mururoa Atoll, where the French Government were testing nuclear weapons. Barry records the assembly of the crew, the long journey from Northland, and their reception in the test zone; when The Fri was boarded and impounded by French military he had to hide his camera in a barrel of oranges. The Fri was a key part of activism that was formative for environmental group Greenpeace, and anti-nuclear sentiment in NZ. Barry's debut film screened primetime on NZ TV and gained international attention.
In this short Gallery interview — broadcast in June 1973 — Peace Media representative (and future TVNZ news boss) Bill Ralston talks about dwindling supplies for two private vessels that had left Aotearoa, to protest upcoming French nuclear testing at Mururoa Atoll. Ralston accuses Prime Minister Norman Kirk of being “a little bit heartless” for not assisting. Actually Kirk was realising plans for the HMNZS Otago to join the vigil. Protest yacht Fri was later stormed by French commandos, and the protests made world news. French nuclear testing in the Pacific finally ceased in 1996.