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.
The Adventure World TV series saw Sir Ed lead an A-Team of mates on a run of adventures. The concept was dreamt up by Bob Harvey, who enlisted Roger Donaldson to direct The Kaipo Wall and an (unproduced) Everest trip. Sir Ed and his climbing mate Mike Gill then went DIY and made two half hour films. This mission to climb The Needles — a rock stack off Great Barrier Island — was the first. Peter Mulgrew sails them over, Murray Jones goes parkour on the rocks and scales a kauri, Graeme Dingle surfs a dingy, and Sir Ed is the self-described “peppery co-ordinator”.
“The Barrier’s a hard country, but a very pretty country. Everybody who’s moved out here are individuals.” This presenter-free item from magazine show Weekend heads to the Hauraki Gulf outpost, to meet some rugged individuals. The show travels the unsealed roads (circa 1988) to encounter Hank the motelier, a rock painter, and a pig rider; and drops in to the post office, golf club, and garage barber — plus a hall where rugby, horses and beer are on the dance floor. Weekend won Listener awards for Best Factual series for three years running.
This documentary tells the story of four men men who survived 119 days adrift at sea in an upturned trimaran. John Glennie's boat Rose Noelle capsized in the Pacific in June 1989, and washed up four months later on Great Barrier Island. Director Mark Beesley mixes raw interviews and spare reenactment to convey the physical and emotional ordeal; the quartet were sometimes trapped inside a cramped section of the boat for days on end. The epic survival-at- sea tale won Best Documentary at the 1997 TV Awards. The story was later retold in 2015 telemovie Abandoned.
This Simmonds Brothers short zips through five generations of their family history, from Croatia to the Kapiti Coast, plus a shipwreck near Auckland. Described as a 'documation', the voices of yarning family members are married to their cartoon likenesses, to comic and ultimately moving effect. The film opens with Mariano and Elizabeth Vella's great great granddaughter and moves to a dramatic re-enactment of the Dalmatian settlers' so-called "very nice honeymoon" on the steamer SS Wairarapa, when it was wrecked off Great Barrier Island in 1894 (131 people died).
This Touchdown series profiles the working lives of rangers who work for the Department of Conservation and Ministry of Fisheries, whose office is "the great New Zealand outdoors". This opening episode meets three rangers looking after threatened taonga: Al Hutt is a sea shepherd to Akaroa's Hector's dolphins; lizard hunter Keri Neilson rescues a chevron skink on Great Barrier Island; and Steve Sawyer defends dotterel nests from cats, hedgehogs, stoats and boy racers on the Wherowhero Lagoon beach (near Gisborne). The series screened on TV One in early 2002.
This black comedy sees Kiwi blokes Barry (Tim Gordon) and Kev (Jason Hoyte) set off into the sunrise for a day’s fishing. The ‘men alone’ glories of Godzone in a runabout are disrupted when they discover their attitudes towards domestic violence and sexuality are at odds. Director Adam Stevens adapted the story from a scene in Atrocities, a play written by Hoyte and Jonathon Brugh (aka Sugar and Spice). In 2001 Beautiful went to the New York, Melbourne and Montreal film festivals, before screening at Sundance; it won Best Short Film at the 2003 NZ Film Awards.
Ken Bliss’s brief description of his father’s service in the Boer War is just one of the stories that make this interview essential viewing. Ken’s own military career began when he was called up at 18, in 1941. Too tall to be a pilot in the RNZAF, he became a radio mechanic and served in the war against the Japanese in the Pacific. Forming a surf lifesaving team on Bougainville to rescue American servicemen who couldn’t swim was an unexpected wartime duty. And having survived the war, a missed train in 1953 meant Ken also survived the Tangiwai disaster.
Pirate radio hit Kiwi airwaves on 4 December 1966 when Radio Hauraki broadcast from the Colville Channel aboard the vessel Tiri. Made by Sally Aitken, this film reunited the original pirates for the first time in 30 years to recall their battle to bring rock’n’roll to the youth of NZ. Featuring rare archive footage, the tale of radio rebels, conservative stooges, stoners, ship-wrecks and lost-at-sea DJs was originally made as a student film. It was bought by TVNZ and screened in primetime to praise: “Top of the dial, top of the class” (Greg Dixon, NZ Herald).
This docudrama recreates the story of Radio Hauraki: a bunch of rebel DJs whose cause was bringing rock’n’roll to the radios of 60s NZ youth. Their fight for the right to broadcast involved a pirate vessel in the Hauraki Gulf. Director Charlie Haskell films the recreations from the point of view of late DJ Rick Grant, and cuts them together with interviews with the protagonists, animation and Hard Day’s Night-style japes. Based on Adrian Blackburn's book Radio Pirates, the telefilm debuted on TV One on 27 July 2014. It was nominated for a Moa Award for Best TV Feature.