Episode 2 - Work

Episode 2 - Work

As New Zealanders, we’re famous for our strong work ethic and ingenuity. In episode two we uncover a collective, diverse history of WORK through the memories and home movies of ordinary Kiwis.

From the roots of our primary industries to the front land of new technology, the reign of unions and share club fever, Decades In Colour reveals the myriad of ways we “made ends meet” from the 1940s to the 1980s.

Preview by Melenie Parkes

We often hear talk of the ‘good old days’ and wonder, ‘were they really that good’?  

Certainly, if you were a jobseeker in the 40s, 50s, 60s or 70s, your prospects were better. It was a boom time and jobs were plentiful; people could pick and choose from multiple offers. However, if you were a woman, your options were very limited, as we discover in this episode of Decades In Colour.

Decades In Colour: Work brings us the story of employment in New Zealand, reflecting on traditional farm work, industries that were just starting out and jobs that don’t even exist anymore.

Tourism was in its infancy in 1973 when Stuart and Jan Landsborough built a maze in Wanaka on the site that would expand to become Puzzling World. Through their home movies, we see the painstaking process of building the “world’s first psychologically designed maze.” We can also admire the natural beauty of Wanaka before it became the tourist hotspot it is today.

For Peter, finding meaningful work was a case of right time, right place. He didn’t think it was possible to find full time employment as a photographer in 1958, but when Kodak released vibrant colour processing he saw an opportunity. Crowds of people gathered to see his photos on display in a shop window, eager for a glimpse of life as it was truly lived, in colour.

Wallace gives us a behind-the-scenes peek at the Ports of Auckland in the 1980s and he has some interesting stories to tell about life on the wharf and its inherent dangers.

While jobs were plentiful in New Zealand, so was the ‘she’ll be right, mate’ attitude. There’s footage of factory workers operating dangerous machinery without any safety measures, and usually with a cigarette dangling from their lips.

It wasn’t just men and women hard at work though, dolphins at Napier’s now defunct Marineland are here too, flipping mid-air to earn their daily fish.  

“Being an island nation plays a large part in determining the work that we do,” says narrator Judy Bailey and no more is that evident than in Ray’s story.

In 1968, he and his family travelled to Fiordland to help man the “tiny little pimple of a lighthouse” at Puysegur Point. The footage he collected is perhaps some of the most dramatic. We’re on-board with Ray for the two-mile tractor drive over rugged terrain to reach the tiny lighthouse, which looks more like a kid’s play-hut. Clothes flap angrily on a washing line perched at the very edge of the world.

It’s a special insight into a time that has now passed; there are no manned lighthouses left in New Zealand. Just like the ‘good old days’ when people could find a job in a day, they’re just the stuff of memories and home movies.