Sunday, August 07, 2016

Weekend Diversion: Old Auckland

Auckland has been obsessed with the problems of growth for years, and that’s grown more intense as its population has increased, traffic has become more congested, and the price of housing has soared. Much of this hand-wringing has been boring, even for Aucklanders, especially the battle over the Unitary Plan (something that’s boring for nearly everyone). But dealing with growth is nothing new for Auckland, as these 1960s videos from Archives New Zealand show.

I started this because I was watching TVNZ’s “Q+A” programme last weekend, and at the end they showed archival footage of how Auckland was dealing with growth in the 1960s. So, I went to the Archives NZ YouTube Channel, and while it took awhile, I found the video the footage had come from. That’s the first video, up top.

The YouTube description for the video, “Pictorial Parade No. 98 (1960)”, sums it up the video well: “'Expanding Auckland' shows the tremendous development and expansion in Auckland as the city prepares to become the home of half a million New Zealanders by 1965.”

This video was followed up in the second video today, “Pictorial Parade No. 154 (1964)”. In this video, Auckland was celebrating hitting half a million people. Today, Auckland’s population is nearly three times that—and still growing. The city is expected to hit 2 million before 2040—probably before 2030.

The final video is “This Auckland (1967)”, which, according to the YouTube description is “An impression of Auckland, New Zealand's largest city, and its subtropical summers; its streets and traffic, gardens, harbour, and people.” This one is so very much of its time, including the groovy music soundtrack and camera work. To be honest, I’m including it mainly because I think it’s kind of funny by today’s standards of video production.

These films began in 1942 as a way for the New Zealand government to share information of the war effort, though they had made some earlier. The National Film Unit, as it was called, produced a series of films called Weekly Review, later becoming Pictorial Parade. A short history of what happened to the National Film Unit is provided by Archives New Zealand:
Production of the Weekly Review ceased in August 1950 after allegations that it was politically biased. Four hundred and sixty episodes in all were produced. In 1952 a monthly magazine film entitled Pictorial Parade was first screened and this became the Unit’s main output until production ceased in 1971. The Unit also made documentaries at the request of government departments, films for national organisations, as well as many important films on its own initiative.
And that’s why the videos I’ve shared have been pretty old. The need for a filmed review diminished with the rise of television, and then the increase in the number of TV channels. When the government sold the National Film Unit in 1990, all short documentaries were then privately produced, and not all of those are available to the public or free for re-use. Someday, maybe.

Meanwhile, these old videos are a valuable resource for understanding what New Zealand used to be like. And that’s precisely why I share them.

That’s it for this video collection.

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