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Natural History New Zealand Ltd (trading as NHNZ) is a New Zealandmarker-based factual television production company that creates atound 60 hours of television programming each year in the genres of nature, history, science, adventure and people.

NHNZ has filmed above and below every ocean and every continent, including Antarcticamarker - where it has produced more films than any other company. The results have earned NHNZ over 200 international awards, among them Emmy Awards, the industry’s highest accolade, and the prestigious Wildscreen Panda.

In addition to its base in Dunedinmarker, New Zealand, NHNZ has offices in Beijing and Washington DC and, majority ownership of Singapore based production company Beach House Pictures. It works closely alongside major networks around the world such as Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, Discovery Science, A&E Television Networks, National Geographic Channel, Travel Channel, NHKmarker (Japan), France 5 and ZDFmarker (Germany). As a result NHNZ's programmes are seen in more than 200 countries and territories by hundreds of millions of viewers.


The early years

NHNZ grew out of the Natural History Unit of TVNZ. The company was formed in 1977 and screened its first documentaries a year later. In 2008, NHNZ celebrated 30 years of television production making it one of the world’s longest standing production companies.

The unit's first documentaries made were a series of four 15-minute programmes called Hidden Places and which featured various New Zealand habitats, notably Okaritomarker, White Island, Fiordlandmarker, Mackenzie Country and near-to Dunedin – Sinclair Wetlandsmarker, firmly established the unit. From the outset the programmes made were ambitious, but the programme that captured the attention of international wildlife film-makers was undoubtedly the story of Don Merton's rescue of the New Zealand black robin from the brink of extinction. Several programmes were made chronicling this success story – Seven Black Robins, The Robins Return and finally Chatham Island a Black Robin Story. For a more detail about the origins of these early programmes see Morris & Smith .

A focus on New Zealand stories continued during the 1980s and early 1990s, with children’s series Wild Track and the series Wild South becoming cultural icons which is still fondly remembered by New Zealanders. 1990 saw the production of a series presented by David Bellamy, in association with the New Zealand Heritage Foundation, called Moa’s Ark. This was the first time NHNZ had worked with an international ‘star’.

The early 1990s were not easy times for television in New Zealand. Levels of production in Dunedin (not just in the natural history unit) were severely curtailed. However, the ambitious nature of the documentaries continued – and one of the company’s special areas of expertise was born – Antarctica.

Focus areas

NHNZ has been making documentaries in Antarcticamarker for over twenty-five years. The first in 1982, featuring the private life of Adelie penguins, paved the way for a further 23 titles. Icebird and Under the Ice were early offshore successes for the company, and were both produced by Neil Harraway.

The pair of documentaries Emperors of Antarctica and The Longest Night chronicled the over-wintering activities of scientists from Antarctica New Zealand, produced by Max Quinn in 1992, were joined by a third Solid Water Liquid Rock produced by Mike Single. This trilogy helped to establish the fruitful and long running relationship with Discovery Channel in the USA. Throughout the 1990s and into the early 2000s a string of documentaries were made by both Max and Mike, while an exceptional icy dive team was led by Jeanie Ackley and Ed Jowett. With Mike winning an Emmy for outstanding cinematography for The Crystal Ocean, and Max’s trilogy Ice Worlds completed, NHNZ’s place as a leading documentary film maker in the inhospitable Antarctic was cemented.

A second area of expertise lies in underwater filming. Two major marine based series Deep Blue, and Shark Gordon were filmed at locations throughout the Pacific. Shark Gordon was made for Animal Planet, and featured shark specialist Ian Gordon. Whales have also featured in many documentaries including The Lost Whales about the rejuvenation of the population of southern right whales in New Zealand's sub-Antarctic islands, and Killers I Have Known about Dr Ingrid Visser's investigations into the life and habits of New Zealand orca.

Successful series

One of the most successful series NHNZ has made for Animal Planet is The Most Extreme, for which production spanned five years from 2002 to 2007. The show counted down the top ten animals on any given theme. The forerunner to The Most Extreme was Twisted Tales, two series produced in 1999 and 2000 which took a single animal group like The Frog or The Bat and focussed on their relationship with people through time, and around the world. Twisted Tales: The Bat earned Ian McGee an Emmy Award in 1999 for Outstanding Achievement in a Craft in News and Documentary Programming - Writers. The following year, Ian and co-writer Quinn Berentson were again nominated for an Emmy Award in the same category for Twisted Tales: The Rat.


Like many other medium sized production companies, NHNZ has diversified its portfolio of programmes. Over the past decade, genres for television broadcast have included Health (Kill or Cure series); Science (X=Force the Science of ... series; Mega Disaster series); Adventure (Adventure Central series); People (Tribal Life series; The Diva Mummy). With Tuna Wranglers, NHNZ tested the waters of the current popularity of reality shows about the daily lives of blue-collar workers pitting themselves against nature in extreme environments. Engineering programmes have also proven popular with the company making a string of shows from Asia and China under the Man Made Marvels and Megastructures banners.

Managing Director Michael Stedman’s work building relationships in China led to the establishment of an office in Beijing in 2002, which has helped NHNZ become one of the leading production companies operating in China. From earlier productions, including Wild Horses of China and Jade Hunters to China Circus and Inside China, the company’s good relations with the Chinese government and broadcasters have seen it gain unique access to China’s people and institutions.

Emerging media

In 2007 NHNZ established an Emerging Media team to maximise opportunities for either selling or reversioning the company’s footage for broadcast via a variety of platforms, including Mobile phone clips and online video (Streaming media). NHNZ Moving Images sells Footage from the company’s programmes as well as outtakes and, also represents the work of around 20 internationally renowned filmmakers including storm shooter Geoff Mackley and Yusuf Thakur. The online catalogue is available at

See also


  1. nhnz - welcome
  2. Wild South, Saving New Zealand’s Endangered Birds. Rod Morris & Hal Smith, TVNZ & Century Hutchinson NZ Ltd, Auckland. 1988 ISBN 0-908690-38-X
  3. Moa’s Ark the Voyage of New Zealand. David Bellamy & Brian Springett. Penguin Books (Viking), Auckland. 1990 ISBN 0-670-83098-4

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