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Island of Spirits

Television, 1973 (Full Length)

This 1973 film sees poet Alistair Te Ariki Campbell explore the history of Kāpiti Island — from being a stronghold for Māori chief Te Rauparaha, to whaling station and its present form as a bird sanctuary. The film chronicles Campbell’s first visit to the legendary motu, where he feeds a kākā parrot a date from his mouth, and witnesses a remarkable scene where a weka kills a Norway rat. With impressionistic sequences set to verse, director Peter Coates’ ‘poetic realisation’ of the island was called “a remarkable contribution to NZ television” by Listener critic David Weatherall.

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Wild South - Sanctuary

Television, 1990 (Full Length)

This Wild South edition joins two legendary New Zealand wildlife documentarians — photographer Geoff Moon and sound recordist John Kendrick — on a 1988 trip to Kāpiti Island. Rangers are learning about, and looking after, the sanctuary’s manu (birds), who are “biological refugees” from the mainland, escaping introduced predators. Dogs monitoring kiwi, a kākā census, and tīeke (saddleback) nest boxes are featured. The two old mates narrate the visit, which includes Moon building a bush hide, and footage of a pioneering 1964 tīeke relocation from Hen Island.

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Kākāpō - Night Parrot

Television, 1982 (Full Length)

Flightless and nocturnal, the kākāpō is the world's heaviest parrot. By the 1970s the mysterious, moss-coloured bird was facing extinction, "evicted" to Fiordland mountains and Stewart Island by stoats and cats. Thanks to special night vision equipment, this documentary captured for the first time the bird's idiosyncratic courtship rituals, and the first chick found in a century. Marking the directing debut of NHNZ veteran Rod Morris, the film screened on series two of Wild South. It was a runner-up for Best Film at a major international wildlife festival in the US city of Missoula.

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New Zealand Mirror No. 1

Short Film, 1950 (Full Length)

New Zealand Mirror was an National Film Unit 'magazine-film' series geared towards the UK market. Accompanied by nationalistic, upbeat narration, this first episode covers 'New Zealand Birds', and efforts to harness 'Rotorua's Natural Heat'. It visits a game park to see Kiwi ("definitely queer birds") where, in a Disney-esque scene, two children meet a one-legged Kiwi with a bamboo peg-leg; and boats over to Kāpiti Island to meet rockhopper penguin, tui, kaka and weka. In Rotorua, geothermal cooking, backyard geysers, and heated baths and pools are explored.

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The Big Art Trip - Series One, Episode 13

Television, 2001 (Full Length Episode)

The final episode in Series One of The Big Art Trip starts in Dunedin. Hosts Douglas Lloyd-Jenkins and Nick Ward explore found art and ceramic sculptures with artist Jim Cooper and visit jewellery artists Ann Culy and Rainer Beneke, before heading to the Kaka Point home of poet Hone Tuwhare (where he lived until his death in 2008). They head to Invercargill to meet classical singer Deborah Wai Kapohe, who takes them op-shopping and performs her original folk songs. Last stop is Cosy Nook in Southland where they meet painter Nigel Brown.

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Our World: The Best Kept Secret - Whirinaki Forest

Television, 1984 (Full Length)

In this episode of the long-running nature programming slot on TV One, naturalist David Bellamy visits New Zealand’s “dinosaur forest” — Whirinaki. Bellamy brings his famed nature-boy enthusiasm to “a living cathedral that dates back 200 million years”. He explores the North Island forest’s “big five”: 60m+ rimu, mataī, kahikatea, miro and tōtara trees; and the ecosystem that they reign over, from kākā parrots to giant tree ferns. The intro is by Gael Ludlow and features the fondly-remembered Jean Michel Jarre synthpop track that was Our World’s signature.

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Legend of Birds

Short Film, 1962 (Full Length)

This 1962 National Film Unit short uses the relationship between Māori and manu (birds) as a platform to celebrate New Zealand bush birds — from food source and key roles in myth, to their general character. Legend of Birds was filmed on Kāpiti and Little Barrier Islands. Many of the images were captured by noted nature photographers Kenneth and Jean Bigwood, and the score is by composer Larry Pruden. The narration includes a rap-style tribute to the  kākā parrot: “squarks about his indigestion, population and congestion … politics the current question”.

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Bandits of the Beech Forest

Television, 1996 (Full Length)

The devastating effects of introduced wasps in New Zealand, particularly on kaka (the forest parrot, here beautifully filmed) remain a serious issue. The horde of yellow and black marauders has left scientists struggling to protect animal and human victims. This film looks at the effect on the ecosystem of wasps, who compete with natives for honeydew and prey upon insects. Bandits of the Beech Forest won the Environment Prize for Best Film Illustrating Protection, Preservation or Conservation of Bird Life at the Festival du Film de l'Oiseau.

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Moa's Ark : To the Lifeboats

Television, 1990 (Full Length)

Predators (possums, rats, rabbits, deer) forced much of the cargo of 'Moa's Ark' to abandon ship and live on off-shore island lifeboats. Moa's Ark presenter David Bellamy visits them (and recently-established mainland 'islands'), and tells some of New Zealand's most dramatic conservation stories. In the fourth clip, he praises the pioneering leadership of Don Merton. The episode includes footage of kōkako and its haunting song, cheeky kaka parrots, tieke (saddleback), hoiho (yellow-eyed penguin), black robins, fierce-looking giant wētā, and the Castle Hill buttercup (the world's rarest).

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Kāpiti Hono Tātati Hono - My Island, My Home

Television, 2007 (Full Length)

This documentary explores the stories of the people who live at Waiorua Bay on bird sanctuary Kāpiti Island. John Barrett talks about his Kāpiti tīpuna, from bloody iwi battles, whaling and farming, to his whānau's consciousness of their kaitiakitanga (guardianship) role. It looks at DIY island life (exercycle-powered water pumps) and its development as an unique eco-tourism destination where kākā parrots and kererū flock, and kiwi and dodo-like takahē wander freely. Says Amo Barrett: "we've got a treasure here that we should share with others".