This 1972 National Film Unit production promotes New Zealand’s national parks, from the oldest — Tongariro (established in 1887) — to Mt Aspiring (1964). Besides slatherings of scenic splendour, the film shows rangers clearing tracks, 70s après ski activity on Ruapehu, and school children at Rotoiti Youth Lodge: skylarking, river crossing, and cornflake eating en masse. When this film was made there were 10 National Parks (there are now 14). “In all their variety they’re the heritage of everyone who’s heard the call and felt the freedom of the unspoilt land.”
In this full-length episode, Lisa Chappell travels to Malaysia at the edge of South East Asia, and starts to wonder if she might be an inside-at-home, rather than intrepid, traveller. The geographically-impaired, self-confessed snake-phobic actor journeys into one of the world's oldest rain-forests, meets the nomadic Orang Asli people and enjoys a walk, 45 metres above the forest-floor. Things go downhill when she injures her back on a boat trip and tries to finish the trip early, before rediscovering the travel bug, shortly before flying out of Kuala Lumpur.
This documentary, made by TVNZ’s Natural History Unit (now NHNZ), charts the progress of the nor'west wind from its formation in the Tasman Sea across the Southern Alps to the Canterbury Plains and the east coast of the South Island. Along the way it dumps metres of precipitation on West Coast rain forest and snow on the Alps, then transforms to a dry, hot wind racing across the Plains. The film shows the wind's impact on the ecosystem and farming and muses on the mysterious effect it can have on humans. It screened as part of the beloved Wild South series.
Invercargill mayor Tim Shadbolt ventures into the wilds of Borneo for this full-length Intrepid Journeys episode. His time in the jungles of Malaysia's Sabah region proves to be both beautiful and frightening; his sleeping arrangements are "pure unadulterated hell". After pushing himself to the limit climbing Mount Kinabalu and encountering a lethal pit viper snake, Shadbolt is moved by visits to sea turtles on Turtle Island, and the Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre in Sepilok. Orangutans are endangered in the area because they are losing their forest habitat to palm oil plantations.
This NFU documentary gets in the saddle to follow the professional riders in the world’s southernmost road cycling race. Held in October 1981, the Tour of Southland went from lowland towns like Lumsden to the spectacular trans-Southern Alps road to Milford. Chopper shots and pre-GoPro camera mounts follow riders through Fiordland National Park rainforest. As cyclists rest aching muscles, an unusually philosophical narrator wonders “but is it worth it?”. Date stamps include cigarette sponsorship and a Cortina support fleet. The film screened in cinemas alongside Smash Palace.
Fiordland is the jewel in the Te Wahipounamu South West New Zealand UNESCO World Heritage Site, a status underpinned by primeval scenery and a reputation as one of the world’s great wilderness areas. This film explores the symmetries of life above and below the fiords, where water cascades from mountain peaks and rainforest, into the black depths of ice age carved valleys. Award-winning photography reveals the mirror world: kea, mohua, fur seals, bottlenose dolphins, and an underwater phantasmagoria of starfish, ancient black coral forests and sea pens.
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.
Manapōuri hydroelectric power station is New Zealand’s largest. This 1970 NFU film — made for the Electricity Department — follows workers clearing a path for power through epic Fiordland mountains and rainforest, building roads and power pylons, and stringing a cable along the “hard and dirty” 30 miles to the aluminium smelter at Bluff. Sixteen men were killed constructing ‘the line’ before power was first generated in 1969. At the same time the scheme generated mass protests (the ‘Save Manapōuri’ campaign) at the proposal to raise Lake Manapōuri's level.
Described by New Zealand Geographic as the "doyen of New Zealand diving", Wade Doak is an author, marine ecologist and conservationist. Along with Kelly Tarlton he was a pioneer of underwater exploration and filming in Aotearoa. Behind and in front of the camera, he has contributed to documentaries for Wild South and production company NHNZ, and showcased Aotearoa’s undersea world to wide audiences.