The Robin's Return

Television, 1982 (Full Length Episode)

“These three birds are over half the world population of their species.” Peter Hayden’s narration lays bare the stakes for the Chatham Island black robin, and the Wildlife Service team (led by Don Merton) trying to save them. Merton’s innovative methods include removing eggs from nests – to encourage the last two females to lay again – and placing them in riroriro (grey warbler) foster homes. The black robin documentaries helped forge the reputation of TVNZ's Natural History Unit. Paul Stanley Ward writes about the documentaries here, and the mission to save the black robin.

Daughters of the Pacific

Television, 2005 (Full Length)

This 2005 documentary tells the story of four New Zealand-born women whose parents come from villages in Samoa, Tonga and Niue. Social worker and photographer Emily Mafile'o, students and mothers Pule Puletaua and Lanni Liuvaie, and playwright Louise Tu’u face the challenges of combining two cultures to forge an identity in Aotearoa — from family, language, food and religion, to flatting and hair cutting rituals. As narrator Sandra Kailali says, "to be true to both is hard work: success in one often comes at a cost to the other." 

The Black Robin - A Chatham Island Story

Television, 1989 (Full Length)

In the mid 1970s the Chatham Island black robin was the world's rarest bird. With only two females left, the conservation ante was extreme. Enter saviour Don Merton and his Wildlife Service team. Their pioneering efforts ranged from abseiling the birds (including the 'Eve' of her species, 'Old Blue') down cliff faces, to left-field libido spurs. This 1988 Listener Film and TV award-winner united two earlier Wild South documentaries, and updated the robin’s rescue story to 1987. It originally screened on Christmas Day 1987, before being modified for this 1989 edition.

New Streets - South Auckland, Two Cities

Television, 1982 (Full Length)

Reporter Neil Roberts ventures into South Auckland in this TVNZ documentary, and finds two rapidly growing but very different communities. Otara and Mangere are becoming New Zealand’s industrial powerhouse, but a huge influx of Māori and Pacific Island workers and their families are struggling to adapt in a brand new city that was farmland just decades earlier, and lacks amenities for its new citizens. Meanwhile, to the east, Howick and Pakuranga are also booming but their more upwardly mobile, prosperous and very Pākehā citizens seem to be living in a world of their own.

Meet the Locals: Conservation Week Special

Television, 2009 (Full Length Episode)

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.

North - First Episode

Television, 2011 (Full Length Episode)

This 2011 series has idiosyncratic host Marcus Lush roving over the northern tip of the North Island (from Auckland up). The first episode finds the self-confessed Jafa exploring all things Manukau Harbour: “this is something I’ve always wanted to do – arrive in Auckland by ship!”. Lush meets lighthouse lovers,  learns about shipwrecks and World War II Japanese subs, goes shark tagging, travels by waka to a small island, and talks Mangere Bridge with comedian Jon Gadsby. North was the follow-up to JAM TV’s award-winning 2009 series South, also fronted by Lush.

Tagata Pasifika - 20th Anniversary Special

Television, 2007 (Full Length Episode)

Actor Robbie Magasiva and discus champ Beatrice Faumuina oversee this hour-long Tagata Pasifika 20th birthday celebration. Presenters past and present survey changes in the Aotearoa PI community over the show’s run: from education, arts and culture (Ardijah, OMC, Michel Tuffery’s corned beef bulls and the Naked Samoans), to political pioneers (Mark Gosche, Winnie Laban), and sports heroes (All Black icons Jones, Lomu and Umaga). Among those talking about the show’s importance to NZ Pasifika culture are Helen Clark, Annie Crummer and many others.

Seven Black Robins

Television, 1981 (Full Length)

By 1976 there were only seven Chatham Islands black robins left. It was the world's rarest bird. In a bid to save the species, the surviving birds were taken from one island to another more hospitable island in a desperate rescue mission. This was part of an incredible conservation success story led by Don Merton and his NZ Wildlife Service team. Seven Black Robins and Project Takahē captured viewers' imaginations as part of an acclaimed series of 'rare bird' films that screened on TV series Wild South. They helped forge the reputation of TVNZ’s Natural History Unit (later NHNZ).

Rob Whitehouse

Producer

Rob Whitehouse began his producing career in style with The Scarecrow, the first Kiwi film to win official invitation to the Cannes Film Festival. In tandem with late producing partner Lloyd Phillips, he brought Hollywood down under for Battletruck and big-budget adventure Savage Islands, and made mini-series Heart of the High Country. Since then he has produced and financed films in the US, UK and beyond.

Damon Fepulea'i

Director, Editor

Writer and director Damon Fepulea'i trained as an editor before turning to directing. His credits include Dawn Raids and Life After Footy, two documentaries exploring Pacific Islanders experiences in New Zealand, and comedies Jono and Ben, Funny Girls and Mean Mums. His short film Watermark was invited to 20 international film festivals.