Long before Ghost Chips, even before "don't use your back like a crane", life in Godzone was fraught with hazards. This collection shows public safety awareness films spanning from the 50s to the 70s. If there's kitsch enjoyment to be had in the looking back (chimps on bikes?!) the lessons remain timeless. Remember: It's better to be safe than sorry.
Open Door is a community-based TV series where groups or individuals make a documentary about an issue that concerns them. This episode on Autism features interviews with parents of young children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. The parents talk about how their children were diagnosed, how best to help them, how to be fair to their siblings, working with the school system, and dealing with public attitudes to Autism. There are currently around 40,000 New Zealanders diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
This full-length documentary recreates three fatal fires to find out the characteristics of a killer fire, and reveal how it goes about its business: how easily fires start, what feeds them, and how ill-prepared most people are to fight a fire. Interviews with survivors — some of them talking publicly for the first time — firefighters, and investigators are interwoven with footage of real (condemned) houses set alight. Fatal Fires screened in TV One's Danger Zone series, which included DIY Disasters and Dangerous Waters.
Eric the Goldfish was the star of a campaign used to promote awareness of the role of broadcasting funding agency NZ On Air (formed in 1989), and to encourage people to pay the broadcasting fee. The campaign used humour and CGI to spread the message, taking the point of view of a pet goldfish watching a family, who are watching TV. Although it attracted attention for its cost, the campaign was rated an "outstanding success" by its funders, and Eric entered popular culture. In 2017 Eric was reincarnated as the name of NZ On Air’s online funding application system.
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).
“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.
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.
Hosted by Charlotte Dawson, How’s Life? saw a rotating panel of guests responding to letters from viewers in an effort to help them navigate their day to day struggles. In this episode, the panel is made up of Paul Henry, Suzanne Paul, a pre-Outrageous Fortune Robyn Malcolm and ex Department of Work and Income boss Christine Rankin. The issues under discussion include a difficult five-year-old, strangers sneezing on your food, and a teenager who doesn't approve of their ex's new boyfriend. There is also meningococcal awareness advice from Auckland District Health Board.
Bob Parker did 12 years as guardian of the big red book, presenting and writing This is Your Life. Other presenting roles include Young Farmer of the Year and This is New Zealand (made in NZ for American cable television). He also appeared as a "weird dancing man" in the feature film Snakeskin. After doing time as mayor of Banks Peninsula in 2001, he began a six year stint as mayor of Christchurch in 2007.
Philip Sherry, MNZM, remains one of New Zealand’s longest serving newsreaders — including flagship bulletins for the NZBC, TV One, South Pacific Television, TV3 and Radio NZ. Sherry began television newsreading in 1963. After work in Canada and London he returned home, co-anchoring innovative twin city bulletin News at 10 with Tom Bradley. He joined TV3 for its launch in 1989, then did time in politics.