Collection

NZ Disasters

Curated by NZ On Screen team

This collection looks at some of New Zealand's most significant national tragedies. Spanning 150+ years, it tells stories of drama, caution, hope and recovery — from the 1863 wreck of the Orpheus at Manukau Heads, to Tarawera, the Wahine, Erebus, Pike River and Christchurch. In the backgrounder, Jock Phillips writes about the collection, and the "common sequence" to disaster.

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.

Island of Strange Noises

Television, 1981 (Full Length)

The remote Antipodes Islands lie 860 kilometres southeast of Stewart Island. This 1980 documentary follows a Wildlife Service team surveying the islands’ inhabitants who are making all the strange noises – fur seals, albatrosses, petrels, parakeets and snipe, elephant seals and prolific penguins. It also investigates threats to their survival: mice and overfishing in the southern ocean. Winner of a Silver Medal at New York's International Film and Television Festival, this early Wild South episode helped establish the reputation of TVNZ’s Natural History Unit (later NHNZ).

Frontline - The Wahine Disaster 25 Years on

Television, 1993 (Excerpts)

This special report from late 80s/early 90s current affairs show Frontline looks at the Wahine disaster, on its 25th anniversary. Fifty-one people died on 10 April 1968 after the interisland ferry struck Barrett Reef near Wellington, in a huge storm. The first part ('From Reef to Ruin') features archive footage and interviews with survivors and rescuers. In the second part ('Fatal Shores'), reporter Rob Harley examines whether the ferry could have been better equipped, and more lives saved. A third part ('Strait Answers') is not shown here due to copyright issues with some of the footage. 

The General Grant ... Where It Isn't

Film, 2003 (Full Length)

In 1866 the General Grant sank off the remote subantarctic Auckland Islands, with 2576 ounces of gold on board. In 2000 two kina divers and a one-legged tractor driver headed south on a quixotic quest for the buried treasure. The unlikely lads reckon they know where the booty is (despite it eluding 15+ previous search efforts). Their mission turns out to be rugged, illegal, and possibly clueless (as their homespun theories are tested), but that doesn't deter the spirit of the adventurers. First time filmmaker Samuel Richards came along for the fool's gold ride.

Rock the Boat: The Story of Radio Hauraki 1965-1970

Television, 1996 (Full Length)

Pirate radio hit Kiwi airwaves on 4 December 1966 when Radio Hauraki broadcast from the Colville Channel aboard the vessel Tiri. Made by Sally Aitken, this film reunited the original pirates for the first time in 30 years to recall their battle to bring rock’n’roll to the youth of NZ. Featuring rare archive footage, the tale of radio rebels, conservative stooges, stoners, ship-wrecks and lost-at-sea DJs was originally made as a student film. It was bought by TVNZ and screened in primetime to praise: “Top of the dial, top of the class” (Greg Dixon, NZ Herald).

Captain's Log - Episode Two

Television, 2001 (Full Length Episode)

For this 2001 series Peter Elliott retraced Captain James Cook’s first voyage around Aotearoa. The second episode heads from Mercury Bay to Cape Reinga. Elliott diverts from Cook’s wake to Waitemata Harbour to investigate New Zealand boatbuilding history, and sail a Team New Zealand America’s Cup yacht with Tom Schnackenberg. Elliott then boards HMNZS Te Kaha to "hoon" up the coast to rejoin The Endeavour's path. In the Bay of Islands he meets Waitangi waka paddlers, crews on tall ship R Tucker Thompson, and dives to the Rainbow Warrior wreck off the Cavalli Islands.

Mikhail Lermontov

Television, 1986 (Full Length)

On 16 February 1986 a Russian cruise line, the Mikhail Lermontov, struck rocks off Cape Jackson in the Marlborough Sounds. The ship carried 408 mostly elderly Australian passengers, and a crew of 330. The ship drifted and eventually sank in Port Gore; one Russian sailor died. This Lynton Diggle-directed documentary was shot in the months that followed, as the camera followed dive teams into the black depths of the vessel. Their task in hazardous conditions was to salvage oil from the wreck, and preserve Marlborough's coastline.