As the Melbourne Cup gets set to run this week – and the New Zealand Cup later this month – NZ On Screen's Zara Potts looks back at the culture that once defined New Zealand.

The 'Rugby, Racing and Beer' ethos was once what defined us as New Zealanders. Picture a bloke in a pub with a pint and a copy of 'Best Bets' in his shorts pocket and you're getting close to the stereotypical image that many Kiwis grew up with.

But times have changed, and the days of the six o'clock swill are now just memories, and rugby, racing and beer are still relevant – but for many Kiwis, it's just more likely to be craft beer and a once-a year flutter on the Melbourne Cup.

Speaking of the Melbourne Cup – arguably, our best horse to have won that race was the thoroughbred from Timaru, the phenomenal Phar Lap. He was known as the greatest stakes winner in Australasia and even now – 86 years since his suspicious death – his name is often uttered with reverence. The name Phar Lap refers to lightning that moves quickly across the heavens, and this was one horse who certainly lived up to his name.


Find out more about Phar Lap in Tales From Te Papa here:

No such pedigree for Honky the Wonder Horse in this clip from bro'Town. The satirical episode focuses on a cast-off racehorse called Honky who is in training to run in the Morningside Cup. What could possibly go wrong?

Watch bro'Town - Honky the Wonder Horse here:

There is, of course, a classic kiwi song called 'Rugby, Racing and Beer' that became an unofficial national anthem in the 1960s. Although it was a parody and strictly tongue-in-cheek, it does reflect our national heritage by highlighting various footy-playing, boozing and betting 'role models' for young Kiwi blokes at the time. Watch out for some great nostalgia-inducing shots of packed terraces at good old Athletic Park, when obviously Health and Safety regulations were a lot looser!

Watch Looking at New Zealand here:

With a chorus that would do any football terrace proud, Bliss by Th' Dudes became one of the great Kiwi drinking songs when it was released. The song was actually written to parody the hard-drinking pub culture, but as happens with these things, the song itself became a part of the boozy culture.

Shot in Wellington's Cricketers' Arms, the video offers a snapshot of bar culture in early 80s New Zealand, and there's not a an RTD or craft beer in sight.

Sing along to Bliss here:


But back to the track for a moment, and while Phar Lap still lives on as perhaps our greatest racehorse, there have been others that have given him a run for his money. Sir Patrick Hogan once took one of the biggest risks of his career: sight unseen, buying a racehorse – with an unpromising future and a nasty personality – for $160,000. That horse was Sir Tristram, and he turned out to be the greatest thoroughbred stud stallion in New Zealand racing history.

Watch excerpts from Sir Tristram's Story incredible story here:

The dark side of our booze culture is explored in this documentary that confronts attitudes to alcohol in New Zealand. There is a clear divide between those who are at the frontline of alcohol related issues, such as the police, ambulance and Women's Refuge, and those who are not. The challenging nature of this documentary saw a complaint laid against it by Lion Breweries who claimed it lacked balance and was salacious in nature. The Broadcasting Standards Authority disagreed with the salacious claim but agreed that it did 'lack balance'. See what you think.

Watch Booze Culture here: