Series

Shipwreck

Television, 2000

Shipwreck told dramatic stories of mystery, heroism and tragedy at sea, as it explored eleven notable shipwrecks in New Zealand's maritime history. In each episode tales of buried treasure, massacre, death and survival are evocatively retold. Wrecks covered included The Boyd,The Ariadne and The Orpheus, the worst martime disaster in the nation's history. Shipwreck was presented by actor Paul Gittins (Epitaph). The Greenstone Pictures production won Best Information Programme at the 2000 Qantas Media Awards.

Shipwreck - The Wreck of the Orpheus

Television, 2000 (Full Length Episode)

On 7 February 1863, the worst maritime disaster in New Zealand history occurred. British warship HMS Orpheus ran aground on a notorious sandbar at Manukau Heads, with the loss of 189 of the 259 onboard. Directed by John Milligan (Trio at the Top), this documentary was part of a series examining the country’s worst wrecks. Presented by Paul Gittins, it discusses the disaster, its cause, and the consequent investigations. While the British admiralty laid blame on the harbourmaster, local Māori interpreted the wreck as utu, for a breach of tapu by a Pākehā settler the previous day.

Shipwreck - The Tragedy of the Boyd

Television, 2000 (Full Length)

This episode of Greenstone Pictures' documentary series about maritime misfortune recounts the fate of the Boyd — a shipwreck created by a bloody act of revenge. Presenter Paul Gittins travels to Whangaroa Harbour in the Far North where, in 1809, local Maori slaughtered more than 60 passengers and crew. This savagery — and the cannibalism that followed — severely strained early Maori-Pakeha relations for decades. Gittins carefully examines the lead-up to the attack and former Race Relations Conciliator, and local resident, Hiwi Tauroa provides further context.

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.

A Very Nice Honeymoon

Short Film, 2006 (Full Length)

This Simmonds Brothers short zips through five generations of their family history, from Croatia to the Kapiti Coast, plus a shipwreck near Auckland. Described as a 'documation', the voices of yarning family members are married to their cartoon likenesses, to comic and ultimately moving effect. The film opens with Mariano and Elizabeth Vella's great great granddaughter and moves to a dramatic re-enactment of the Dalmatian settlers' so-called "very nice honeymoon" on the steamer SS Wairarapa, when it was wrecked off Great Barrier Island in 1894 (131 people died).

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.

The Wahine Disaster

Television, 2008 (Full Length)

This award-winning documentary chronicles how events unfolded for passengers on the morning the ferry Wahine hit rocks in Wellington Harbour on 10 April 1968. Aside from interviews with survivors and crew, there are memories from two key rescuers — tugboat Captain John Brown and policeman Jim Mason — who both saved many people from rough seas. Writer Emmanuel Makarios argues that a distance of 20 feet would have made all the difference in avoiding disaster. This 2008 programme was made and narrated by Sharon Barbour, later to become a BBC reporter in England. 

Destination Disaster: The Sinking of the Mikhail Lermontov

Television, 2000 (Full Length)

This award-winning documentary is an account of the last days and sinking of Russian cruise liner Mikhail Lermontov. On 16 February, 1986, she ran aground on rocks in the Marlborough Sounds. Passengers were successfully evacuated, but a Russian crew member lost his life, and several were injured. Evidence is given by those who were there, with a particular emphasis on presenting the stories of the Russian crew, who were largely unavailable to the media at the time. A minute into clip nine, one young Russian agent bears a striking similarity to Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Special Investigators - Episode Eight

Television, 2006 (Full Length Episode)

Special Investigators was an observational documentary series which followed agents from various safety enforcement agencies, as they searched for the causes of plane crashes, mishaps at sea, and other fatal incidents. In this episode from the 2006 season, a Maritime New Zealand investigator interviews two Bay of Plenty teens who survived a tragic fishing trip. Their friend drowned after the runabout they were passengers in flipped while crossing breakers, at Maraetai Bay. The investigation is mixed with recreations and video footage of the accident scene.

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.