This short 1979 National Film Unit documentary heads up the steep bush-clad West Coast valleys from Rūnanga, to profile the men at work at five private coal mines. Director Conon Fraser (Looking at New Zealand) showcases the remarkable DIY resourcefulness required by the small groups of miners. The rugged individuals work the seams, push bins along steep incline railways and dump the loads down vertiginously steep flumes. At the time this film was made waning prospects for the unique way of life were looking up, as high oil prices spurred demand for coal.
Mid-1980s series Then Again revisited high profile moments in Kiwi history, mixing archive material and interviews with those who were there. This item from a 1986 episode looks back at the Strongman mine explosion of 19 January 1967, which killed 19 men at New Zealand's largest underground coal mine. Twenty years on reporter Jim Hopkins visits the still-working West Coast mine, to see if ghosts still linger. An official inquiry found that the state-run coal mine had neglected safety procedures; the Government paid compensation to families of the victims.
This People Like Us episode profiles Apirana Mahuika, before he became leader of Ngāti Porou. Having left lecturing at Massey University to return to his East Coast hometown of Tikitiki, Mahuika talks at his farm 'laboratory' about tamarillos, gangs, and coming home. He hopes his progressive farming (trialling kiwifruit and wine) will encourage young Ngāti Porou to remain and find jobs. A key figure in many Treaty of Waitangi claims and lead negotiator of Ngāti Porou's claim, Mahuika died in February 2015; Tau Henare said "his passing will cut a swathe through the forest".
On 19 January 1967, an explosion rocked the Strongman coal mine on the West Coast, causing the deaths of 19 miners. This documentary, part of a series investigating NZ disasters, sees TV personality Leigh Hart examining what happened that day in Rūnanga, and how it affected the community. Interviewees include Hart’s own family: his Dad, who was in the mine at the time, his mother, and his Uncle Terry, who was part of the rescue team. This two-minute excerpt includes a reenactment of the disaster, and Leigh examining the outside of the old mine.
This classic wartime newsreel profiles the coal mining towns of Westland. It compares the town of Rūnanga, where mining has brought prosperity and a strong community life, with Denniston, which is set in rocky, inhospitable land high up a West Coast mountainside. Its tone is patriotic: “Here then are the men who feed New Zealand with the raw material of industrial prosperity ... They work in the darkness of the mines, buried away from the fresh splendours of the air above them.” The Weekly Reviews were screened in cinemas 1942 - 1950.
For this 1987 Kaleidoscope report, architectural commentator Mark Wigley uses Kiwi resort towns as fuel for an essay on local architecture. He visits Waitangi, arguing that Aotearoa should have followed the "rich ornamental example" of the Whare Rūnanga, instead of the restraint of the Treaty House. He praises Paihia’s "cacophony of bad taste" motels. In part two, he compares Queenstown and Arrowtown, and admires a gold dredge and the Skyline gondola. Wigley, then starting his academic career in the United States, would become an internationally acclaimed architectural theorist.
Twenty-five plus years spent working in Māori tourism proved valuable when Karen Te O Kahurangi Waaka-Tibble moved into television production. The Rotorua local was used to managing people and events, so making TV shows was a natural fit. Now general manager for Kura Productions, Waaka-Tibble has produced nine seasons of children's te reo show Pūkoro, and was line producer on movie Mt Zion.
A veteran figure in Māori broadcasting, Waihoroi Shortland has also been an actor (Rain of the Children, Boy), scriptwriter (Crooked Earth) and Māori advisor (The Piano). In 2003 he won the NZ Film Award for Best Actor, after playing Shylock in movie The Māori Merchant of Venice. In 2015 he became the first chair of Te Mātāwai, the organisation charged with revitalising te reo on behalf of Māori.