Forgotten Films Come to Light

Rare film footage that has lain forgotten in archives for generations has been compiled into a series of three video movies on the kauri industry and are now on permanent show at The Kauri Museum, at Matakohe in Northland.

They have been launched across five interactive television screens at a ‘premiere’ with House Speaker, the Rt. Hon Lockwood Smith, making a keynote address, citing the movies as a vital educational resource.

The Kauri Museum Curator, Betty Nelly, says the movie display is “a technological advance to tell the story of the past.”

The videos, on DVD are the work of Kiwi film-maker Tom Williamson.

Kauri – The Timber tells of how the huge trees were felled in the bush and transported to the sawmills; Kauri – The Gum relates how the swamps were worked and the product was collected and sold while Kauri – Heart of the Forest, Soul of a Nation, tells how attitudes changed from ruthless timber extraction to total protection.

“The kauri DVDs started for me when I received a commission from the Department of Conservation to make a video record of work begun in 1999 to stabilise the driving dam on the Kaiarara stream on Great Barrier Island,” Mr Williamson said.

“But the audience needed to know something about the kauri logging days to know why driving dams were used at all, and therefore why it was important to preserve the best and largest surviving example of an uniquely New Zealand idea.

“There were several important chunks of kauri history missing so I approached The Kauri Museum. That led to searches in the national archives, Alexander Turnbull Library and National Film Unit and there I found material that had not been seen for four and five generations.”

Ms Nelley said the story of how the kauri resource was exploited “is essential to understanding New Zealand’s history. There are several fine books on the subject, but this new video history taps into libraries and archives and presents the past in ways never published before.

“Interviews with survivors who worked during the last days of the tree felling, and with people involved in restoring the damage today, offer very personal perspectives on the events of the last 150 years.

“These videos on display are hugely important. We cannot stop still – we have to be forever reaching out and continually strengthening the Kauri story and to be searching, researching and filling any gaps in the story. We aspire to be  the centre of excellence for Kauri research.

 For me personally the ‘film stars’  are Northland people i.e. Bruce Alexander  on Kauri Timber  or Milan Jurlina on Kauri gum who are some of the last  living who share the most amazing stories from those industries.

 The dvd (Kauri – the history) is available exclusively from The Kauri Museum

Betty Nelley, Curator, The Kauri Museum

5 Church Road, RD 1/ Matakohe  0593/ Northland

Ph: 09 431 7417/ Fx: 09 431 6969/E-mail:  bnelley@kaurimuseum.com:    www.kaurimuseum.co.nz/  Web