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.
When Mount Tarawera erupted on 10 June 1886, it took over 100 lives. It was also thought to have destroyed the Pink and White Terraces on Lake Rotomahana, then hailed as the eighth wonder of the natural world. This documentary follows a team of New Zealand and American scientists — led by Kiwi geologist Cornel de Ronde — as they scour the lake floor, to see if any traces of the legendary structures remain. Also examined are the area's history, and the lead-up to the eruption. In 2018 de Ronde robustly criticised a theory that the remains of the terraces were now partly on land.
Ken Bliss’s brief description of his father’s service in the Boer War is just one of the stories that make this interview essential viewing. Ken’s own military career began when he was called up at 18, in 1941. Too tall to be a pilot in the RNZAF, he became a radio mechanic and served in the war against the Japanese in the Pacific. Forming a surf lifesaving team on Bougainville to rescue American servicemen who couldn’t swim was an unexpected wartime duty. And having survived the war, a missed train in 1953 meant Ken also survived the Tangiwai disaster.
Produced by Front of the Box Productions for Māori Television, Takatāpui was the world's first indigenous gay, lesbian and transgender series. Even though it was a magazine-style show, it wasn't afraid to delve into some of the tough issues affecting takatāpui communities in New Zealand. This first full-length episode looks at the early erosion of takatāpui by colonisation and includes a number of interviews with takatāpui, specifically Waikato University writer and lecturer, Ngahuia Te Awekotuku.
Future Labour MP Charles Chauvel joins the ‘academic-quiz-show-as-kindergarten-for-aspiring-politicians’ tradition (see: Lockwood Smith hosting W Three) in this 1987 University Challenge final. An ever youthful Peter Sinclair (C’mon, Mastermind) presides, with Waikato and Auckland universities competing for bragging rights (and 80s personal computers). Subjects cover the arts and sciences, with each correct starter earning bonus questions. Chauvel captains Auckland, and sagely stays away from undergraduate humour in his intro — unlike his fellow contestants.
Canterbury and Waikato compete in the 1988 final of TVNZ’s student quiz show, with host Peter Sinclair testing the breadth of a tertiary education (the Billy Joel lyrics round is a rare nod to pop culture). Writer Jolisa Gracewood captains Canterbury; her colleague Tony Smith is the show’s MVP (atoning for his cavalier attitude to shirt buttons); and retired Russian lecturer and PhD-student Alex Lojkine is the oldest competitor to be on the show (defying its unstated premise as an undergrad joust). The prize pack offers insight into domestic computing of the day.
Tangata Whenua was a groundbreaking six-part documentary series that screened (remarkably in primetime) in 1974. Each episode chronicled a different iwi and included interviews by historian Michael King with kaumātua. These remain a priceless historical record. The Feltex Award-winning script was by King and director Barry Barclay. The NZBC said the series had "possibly done more towards helping the European understand the Māori people, their traditions and way of life, than anything else previously shown on television". Paul Diamond writes about Tangata Whenua here.
Michael King was widely recognized as a leading chronicler of Aotearoa and its people. King wrote over 30 books, ranging from Māori culture to the bestselling The Penguin History of New Zealand. In 1974 he presented landmark documentary series Tangata Whenua. Later his books fuelled documentaries about writers Frank Sargeson and Janet Frame, while King himself was the subject of 2004's The History Man.
Keith Slater started his journalism career at South Pacific Television before becoming a director, then taking the helm as Auckland Bureau Chief in TV3's newsroom. Along the way he produced shows like Fair Go and Country Calendar, but his heart belonged to current affairs, where his list of credits included TV3's primetime news, 60 Minutes, 20/20, Nightline and Campbell Live. Slater passed away in June 2017.
Veteran newsman Richard Harman began his career at Auckland University student mag Craccum. As a long-time political reporter for TVNZ, he reported on the Rainbow Warrior bombing and the passing of the baton from Muldoon to Lange — also the subject of his award-winning documentary Five Days in July. In 1999 Harman founded company Front Page, where he launched current affairs shows Agenda and The Nation.