In this excerpt from James Belich's popular and acclaimed history series, George Grey returns to the governorship in the wake of the costly Taranaki war. Now bitter, secretive and reluctant to share power, he talks peace while secretly planning to strike at the heart of the King Movement in Waikato. As gunboats patrol the Waikato river and a great road is painstakingly built to take his army south, Grey fabricates plots and conspiracies, convincing London to send more troops and ships, until the military balance of power tips in his favour.
Tangata Whenua was a groundbreaking six-part series from 1974, on Māori. Barry Barclay directed, and historian Michael King was writer and interviewer. Each episode (remarkably screening in primetime on Sunday nights) chronicled a different iwi and included interviews with kaumātua — a first for New Zealand screens. This episode looks at the people of Waikato, and focuses on the Kīngitanga (Māori King Movement), examining why a movement formed in the Waikato in the 19th century to halt land sales and promote Māori authority has contemporary relevance.
Made by Philip McDonald (Such a Stupid Way to Die) for the National Water and Soil Conservation Authority, this award-winning short explores the impact of people on New Zealand’s water cycle. Shots of irrigation, industrial waste and run-off from dairy farming show Godzone’s 1972 waterways to be far short of 100% pure — the closing national anthem played over polluted rivers underlines the point. A young Sam Neill (then working at the National Film Unit) cameos as an eau-so-suave drinker in a scene showing the disconnection between water use and where it comes from.
This NFU documentary showcases the hydroelectric power-generating might of the Waikato River. The ‘man harnesses nature’ narrative — shown via concrete, steel and earthmoving for dam building — highlights the path of the power: to drive farms, factories and Wellington’s electric trains. Director Cecil Holmes later wrote that post-war NZ was "a desperately poor country"; the film aimed to highlight Government efforts to overcome power shortages. After the 'satchel snatch' smear campaign of 1948, Holmes left for a highly regarded screen career in Australia.
More than 430,000 people watched television coverage of the Māori Queen's tangi. Broadcast across three networks and streamed around the world, the coverage began with the coronation of the successor to Te Arikinui Dame Te Atairangikaahu. Cameras then traced Dame Te Atairangikaahu's final journey from Turangawaewae along the Waikato River by waka, to her final resting place on Mount Taupiri. The presenting team, led by veteran journalist Derek Fox, was chosen by both TVNZ and Māori Television Services.
Taking viewers on a tour of the Volcanic Plateau in the central North Island, this aerial jaunt is enough to make anyone want to take to the skies. After taking off from Rotorua, the award-winning NFU short treats us to soaring shots of the Waimangu Volcanic Rift Valley, Ruapehu, and 'The Frying Pan', the world's largest hot lake. As well as the impressive scenery, the voiceover (supposedly by the pilot) offers up a brief history of the geysers and fumaroles littering the plateau, and a mention of how the Waikato River has been interrupted by "that necessary monster: progress".
These New Zealanders was the first National Film Unit series produced for television. Presented by Selwyn Toogood (in one of his first TV roles), it looked at six Kiwi towns in the 1960s. In this episode Toogood visits the Waikato coal mining town of Huntly and learns about efforts to develop industry and opportunities for the local labour force, at a time when coal is being stockpiled. Existing businesses — the brickworks and an earthmoving equipment manufacturer — demonstrate the benefits of being located in Huntly.
Mai Time was an influential magazine show for Māori youth, screening for a decade on Saturday mornings on TV2. This episode looks at the place of ta moko (tattoo), interviewing Robert Ruha, a 27-year-old with a full-face moko. Mai Time crew visit Otara Music Arts Centre, a Matariki exhibition at Whaingaroa (Raglan), and then artist Lisa Reihana finds “more mean art by the sea”: Brett Graham and Rachel Rakena’s Aniwaniwa exhibition at the 52nd Venice Biennale. Aptly, the artwork explores the 1947 flooding of the village of Horahora for a hydroelectric scheme.
NFU-produced TV series These New Zealanders explored the character and people of six NZ towns, 60s-style. Fronted by Selwyn Toogood, it was one of the legendary presenter's first TV slots. In this episode Toogood dons the walk shorts and long socks and visits Taupō, extolling the lake district as a place of play (camping, fishing, swimming, jet-boating) and work (the development of Lochinver Station for farming). Toogood does a priceless vox pop survey of summertime visitors, including the requisite quizzing of an overseas couple about whether they like it here.
New Zealand Mirror was a National Film Unit 'magazine-film' series aimed at showcasing NZ to a British market. A clock collector from Whangarei is a quirky choice to open this edition of Kiwi reflections — his display includes a clock that goes backwards. The ensuing segments are more in keeping with Maoriland and Shaky Isles postcard expectations: The annual Ngāruawāhia waka regatta includes novelty canoe hurdle races. And there are dramatic shots of 6000ft high “cauliflower clouds” from Ruapehu’s 1945 eruption and of the crater lake turned to seething lava.