In 1865, Wellington became the Kiwi capital. In the more than 150 years since, cameras have caught the rise and fall of storms, buildings, and MPs, and Courtenay Place has played host to vampires and pool-playing priests. Wind through our Wellington Collection to catch the action, and check out backgrounders by musician Samuel Scott and broadcaster Roger Gascoigne.
Labour Day commemorates the struggle for an eight-hour working day. Kiwi workers were among the first in the world to claim this right — in 1840, carpenter Samuel Parnell won an eight-hour day for workers in Wellington. This collection brings together 20 titles that involve Kiwi working life: from economic revolutions and an industrial dispute negotiated live on air (Post Office Go Slow), to public service comedy Gliding On and a portrait of union leader Ken Douglas.
Ian Mune is Leo Moynihan, secretary of the carpenters’ union, who — with orange mini and leather jacket — has to navigate the shark-infested waters of 70s industrial relations. In this episode, earthquake regulations, a shifty minister and stand-over tactics from worksite agitators, count amongst Moynihan’s workplace problems. At home he has to introduce lecturer girlfriend Sarah to his young son. The NZ-Australia co-production (with ABC) was the first drama series made by TV One’s drama department. It won Feltex awards for best drama and Mune’s performance.
In Moynihan, secretary of the carpenters’ union Leo Moynihan (Ian Mune) — with orange mini and leather jacket — has to navigate the shark-infested waters of 70s industrial relations. The first NZ-Australia co-production (with ABC) was devised by union organiser Earle Spencer and Jane Galletly (a rare credit in the then-male dominated industry). It was the first series made by TV One’s drama department; it won viewers as well as Feltex awards for best drama and Mune’s performance. The changing face of Wellington, including an under-construction Beehive, features.
Made by Philip McDonald (Such a Stupid Way to Die) for the National Water and Soil Conservation Authority, this award-winning short explores the impact of people on New Zealand’s water cycle. Shots of irrigation, industrial waste and run-off from dairy farming show Godzone’s 1972 waterways to be far short of 100% pure — the closing national anthem played over polluted rivers underlines the point. A young Sam Neill (then working at the National Film Unit) cameos as an eau-so-suave drinker in a scene showing the disconnection between water use and where it comes from.
The video for Shihad’s 'Wait And See' has the band shot in sepia, and trapped in industrial landscapes. Caught in the confines of a factory, the band face tentacles growing out of the walls and a mystery typewriter that seems central to proceedings. Mimicking surveillance footage, the video is made up of fast cuts and shaky shots. The song features on their EP Blue Light Disco, and was later rerecorded for number one album The General Electric. In 2000 the clip won director Reuben Sutherland the first of two consecutive Best Music Video gongs, at the Coca-Cola NZ Music Awards.
Pictorial Parade was a long-running series produced by the National Film Unit. This brace from 1966 tees off with ‘Championship Golf,’ where a jaunty commentary narrates the final game (at Auckland’s Middlemore golf course) of a touring four-match series, played between US champ Arnold Palmer and left-handed local hero and 1963 British Open winner, Bob Charles (30 years-old here). The next clip, ‘Sounds of Progress,’ is an instructional film from the Department of Health, drawing attention to the dangers of industrial noise, with advice on how to avoid it.
In 2000 the Employment Relations Act was passed into law in New Zealand, replacing the Employment Contracts Act. The bill proved controversial: some suggested it placed unfair obligations on employers, while others claimed it restored much-needed rights to workers that had been undermined. This Assignment episode explores both angles. Among them, business owner John Holm argues that he shouldn’t be told how to treat his employees, while union leaders and Alliance Party MP Laila Harré all argue that without the bill, workers will continue to be exploited.
This 2006 documentary is a portrait of one of New Zealand politics' most contradictory figures: unionist Ken Douglas. At the time of filming Douglas occupied numerous board positions (eg Air New Zealand, the NZ Rugby Football Union), but early on he was a truckie and Marxist. Rob Muldoon branded him 'Red Ken'. For 15 years until 1999 he led the Council of Trade Unions. Directed by Monique Oomen for Top Shelf Productions, the film is framed around interviews with Douglas and his colleagues, and asks whether he is a turncoat or a strategic realist moving with the times.
NFU drama Men and Super Men is a barbed chronicle of a workplace where harmony is a distant dream. Intended as a how-not-to guide for ‘management bodies’, the film sees patronising factory supervisor Ferguson (actor Eddie Wright in fine form) trying to increase productivity by constantly changing systems. Meanwhile a trio on the factory floor (Paul Holmes, Peter McCauley and Close to Home’s Stephen Tozer) react with bullying and barely suppressed defiance. It was an open secret when the film was made that some of the characters were inspired by NFU staff.