NZ On Air turns 25

Broadcasting funding agency NZ On Air celebrated its 25th year of existence in 2015. Established in 1989, NZ On Air has funded many of the television shows featured on NZ On Screen. Compiled to mark the 25th anniversary, this Spotlight collection features TV funded in the agency's first year. With one representative from each genre, there’s the Billy T James sitcom, Richard Driver documentary Hokonui Todd and beloved kids puppet show Bidibidi. Tainui Stephens' classic Māori Battalion documentary represents Māori programming, and long-running TVNZ series Tagata Pasifika tags ‘minority interests’.

NZ On Air 25th anniversary logo

The Billy T James Show (sitcom) - excerpts

Television, 1990 (Comedy)

In these excerpts from his last TV series — a family based sitcom — Billy T has to deal with his radical older daughter who wants to get a moko, a teenage boy trying to smuggle beer into his younger daughter’s birthday party, a defamation writ, and another tribe becoming his landlord. There are varying degrees of help from his wife (Ilona Rodgers), his aggressively dim Australian brother-in-law (Mark Hadlow) and his daughter’s painfully politically correct pakeha boyfriend (Mark Wright), as well as cameos from Temuera Morrison, Martin Henderson and Blair Strang.

Māori Battalion - March to Victory

Television, 1990 (Documentary, War, Māori)

Māori Battalion - March To Victory tells the story of the New Zealand Army's (28th) Māori Battalion, which fought in campaigns during World War ll. Director and writer Tainui Stephens sets out in the feature-length documentary to tell the stories of five men who served with the unit, and also "capture how they felt about it". Narration by actor George Henare, remembrances, visits to historic sites, archival footage, and graphic stills create a respectful and stirring screen testament to the men who fought in the Battalion. Stephens writes about the film in the backgrounder.

Bidibidi - First Episode

Television, 1990 (Nature, Children)

Like the eponymous native plant this children's puppet programme stuck to the socks of many kiwis of a certain vintage. Produced in Dunedin by TVNZ's Natural History Unit (now NHNZ), Bidibidi followed the adventures of a sheep on a South Island station for two series. Adapted from the children's book by Gavin Bishop, the show interspersed puppet scenes and musical numbers with actual wildlife footage. This first episode sees Bidibidi chasing a rainbow with advice from Stella the kea; includes beautifully shot images of a menagerie of native birds.

Hokonui Todd

Television, 1991 (Documentary)

Hokonui Todd is a portrait of African statesman Sir Garfield Todd (1908 - 2002). Todd was an outspoken supporter of black right to self determination in Rhodesia (which became Zimbabwe in 1980, after a bloody civil war). Here Todd and wife Gracie reflect on their lives: from their "egalitarian" New Zealand upbringing; their arrival in Rhodesia as missionary farmers; Todd's time as Prime Minister; being imprisoned by Ian Smith's racist white regime (along with daughter Judith); to emerging as a "conscience of the country" burdened with postcolonial troubles.

Tagata Pasifika

Television, 1987 - ongoing (News/Current Affairs, Series, Magazine, Lifestyle)

Tagata Pasifika is a magazine-style show with items and interviews focusing on Pacific Island communities in Aotearoa. Debuting on 4 April 1987, it features coverage of Pacific Island cultural events like the Pasifika festival, plus longer documentaries. It is the only show focusing on PIs on mainstream New Zealand television. After TVNZ announced that its Māori Maori and Pacific shows would no longer be made in-house, Tagata Pasifika veterans Stephen Stehlin, Ngaire Fuata and John Utanga took over production in 2015 through their company SunPix. Website TP+ launched in 2018.