Weekend Rewind: Kiwi ingenuity on screen

By Nicky Harrop

NZ On Screen’s Nicky Harrop gets out the No.8 wire and celebrates our most endearing national trait.
From the heart of New Zealand's rural sector, Godfrey and Ivan Bowen revolutionised sheep shearing in one elegant swoop.
From the heart of New Zealand's rural sector, Godfrey and Ivan Bowen revolutionised sheep shearing in one elegant swoop.

Ah, us Kiwis, we love a challenge don't we aye? Especially one that involves taking the contents of our backyard sheds, kitchen drawers or unconventional minds, putting them together with next to no money, and creating something that casually ends up changing the world - not to get too flash-bloody-Harry about it though. From the nation that puts MacGyver to shame, the following highlight some of our most ingenious indigenous moments.

The achievements of Ernest Rutherford are noted and many: Nobel Prize winner, atom-splitter, father of nuclear physics. Described by Einstein as "a second Newton", Rutherford's journey began as a Marlborough Sounds farm boy, bringing him all the way to leading Cambridge University's legendary Cavendish Laboratory. Made in 1972, Rutherford of Nelson focuses on his colonial upbringing and education, and how it encouraged him to experiment. Rutherford famously said of Kiwi ingenuity, "we don't have the money, so we have to think".

Watch Rutherford of Nelson here:



While the Wright Brothers are largely credited for inventing and flying the first plane, evidence suggests a Waitohi farmer may well have beaten them to it. Around 31 March 1903 (several months before the Wrights) Richard Pearse climbed into a monoplane he had built from bamboo and scrap metal and flew for about 140 metres - before swiftly crashing into a gorse bush. The exact date and amount of control he maintained has been oft-debated, but our vote is firmly behind a Kiwi being the first to fly. TV doco Richard Pearse tells his story.

Watch Richard Pearse here:

Richard Pearse

From the heart of New Zealand's rural sector, Godfrey and Ivan Bowen revolutionised sheep shearing in one elegant swoop. Starting in the late 1940s, the brothers developed a method involving rhythmical sweeps of the handpiece dubbed the 'Bowen Technique'. It would soon take Godfrey around the world, see him invited to Buckingham Palace and described by The Guardian as having arms that "flow with the grace of a Nureyev shaping up to an arabesque" (albeit with 23 inch biceps). Bowen would use the technique to set a world record in 1953, shearing 456 sheep in nine hours. Here he runs through the 'blows' (strokes) designed to achieve "maximum speed, quality work with a minimum of physical effort."

Watch Shearing Technique here:



Kiwi running coach Arthur Lydiard established a training system that used long runs to build stamina to complement speed, putting his charges through lengthy trots across the Waitakere Ranges. As a result, many credit (or blame) him for popularising jogging throughout the world. Here, record holder Dick Quax - one of many Lydiard protégés - examines his technique, dissecting the science, practice and race-day strategy to a soundtrack of 80s-tastic synthpop.

Watch The Right Track here:



Inventor John Britten developed and built a revolutionary racing motorcycle, The Britten V-1000. Pursuing his dream from his Christchurch garage all the way to Daytona International Speedway, the Kiwi underdog came second against the biggest and richest manufacturers in the world. Literally first rendering his design with a hot glue gun and a roll of number eight wire, Britten went on to establish his own company which has since completed 10 bikes that can now be found in museums and collections all around the world.

Watch Britten - Backyard Visionary here:

Britten - Backyard Visionary

AJ Hackett pioneered both extreme sport and a whole new universe of terror with the arrival of commercial bungy jumping. This This is Your Life special celebrates the thrillseeker's achievements, with the last (and definitely most Kiwi-centric) word going to his mother Margaret: "I'm buggered if I consider him famous. He's just AJ."

Watch This is Your Life - AJ Hackett here:



You can see more Kiwi Ingenuity here, in NZ On Screen's Collection.

- NZ Herald

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