Packed with creatures and landscapes that quite simply boggle the mind, the Nature Collection showcases New Zealand's impressive menagerie of nature and wildlife films. Many of the titles were made by powerhouse company NHNZ, which began around 1977 as the Natural History Unit, a small, southern outpost of state television. In this backgrounder, Peter Hayden — who had a hand in more than a few of these classic films — guides viewers through just what the Nature Collection has to offer.
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).
This Wild South documentary opens with the haunting call of the kōkako ringing out over the forest canopy at dawn. The film tells the story of Aotearoa’s "avian squirrel" and its struggle for survival — living with introduced cats and rats, while the remnants of its North Island rainforest home face logging. The songbird is framed as an icon of both conservation loss and hope. The script is by poet Brian Turner. The use of composer Hirini Melbourne’s score (with lyrics in te reo) was praised by award judges at British nature film festival Wildscreen.
Television talent show franchises like Got Talent and X Factor won huge global popularity in the first two decades of the 21st Century. In 2016 the format got an Aotearoa twist with this Māori Television series: each contestant’s routine had to include kapa haka. Hosted by Kimo Houltham, this first episode sees Norris Studios (jazz ballet), Mana Wairua (contemporary), and Sovreign (hip hop) compete to see who has "haka flair". Manu Wairua’s World War II-inspired act and Sovreign’s rākau (Māori weaponry) skills saw the judges send them to the quarter finals.
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".
The world's rarest parrot and immigrant desert "pests" feature in this Meet The Locals Conservation Week special. Presenter Nicola Toki (née Vallance) travels to Invercargill to visit rescued kākāpō chicks, before disinfecting her clothes so she can return the birds to their pest-free home on Codfish Island. Heading north, she takes to the skies to help herd Kaimanawa wild horses, which are wreaking havoc on rare plants, and joins kids on a trip to wildlife sancturary Tiritiri Matangi. The Department of Conservation and TVNZ collaborated to make the series.
Nearly mammal free, pre-human New Zealand was a land of birds, many of them found nowhere else. In Birdland, Jeremy Wells (Eating Media Lunch) explores all things avian in Aotearoa. In this opening episode he visits Hauraki Gulf island sanctuary Tiritiri Matangi and Christchurch’s Peacock Springs. Putting the wry into wrybill, Wells muses on manu matters from twitching to tākahe poop. Dominion Post’s Linda Burgess praised Mike Single's "marvellous camera work", and Wells’ celebration of ordinary people "who work to protect and enhance what we still have".
Why is New Zealand's landscape and flora and fauna so unique? In four-part series Moa's Ark, renowned English naturalist David Bellamy, with his impassioned enthusiasm and trademark beard (of "old man's beard must go" fame) goes on a journey to discover the answer. Directed and produced by Peter Hayden, this 1990 TV series was produced by Television New Zealand's award-winning Natural History Unit (now independent production company NHNZ). Read more about the series here.
Ada (Holly Hunter) has been mute since she was six. She travels from Scotland with her daughter (Anna Paquin) and her grand piano to colonial New Zealand, for an arranged marriage. When her husband, a stoic settler (Sam Neill) sells the piano to Baines (Harvey Keitel), Ada and Baines come to a secret agreement. She can win her piano back key by key by playing for him, as he acts out his desire for her. An especially big hit in Europe, Jane Campion's Oscar-winning tale of sexual emancipation in the bush is the only NZ film to have won the top award at the Cannes Film Festival.
Nancy Brunning was on the staff of Shortland Street for the first episode in 1992. In 1999 she stole the screen as a young gang girl in Once Were Warriors sequel What Becomes of the Broken Hearted? She won a second NZ screen award for drama Ngā Tohu: Signatures, and played the family matriarch in 2016 film Mahana. Brunning died in November 2019, shortly before winning Aotearoa's top playwriting award.