In the week commemorating the Pike River mine tragedy, NZ On Screen's Zara Potts looks back at why November has not been a good month, historically, for New Zealand.

There have been some good things in November – the recent Armistice centenary for one. But historically, November has not been a good month for New Zealand.

The almanacs show that the eleventh month has had more than its fair share of tragedy. This last week has seen the anniversaries of two of New Zealand's worst tragedies – the Pike River disaster and the 1947 Ballantynes fire in Christchurch.

The Ballantynes fire of 18 November 1947 was — until the 2011 earthquake — Christchurch's biggest disaster. It claimed 41 lives (mostly employees) and was, at that time, one of the greatest civil tragedies New Zealand had known. The fire started in the basement of the department store and quickly spread throughout the building. This newsreel shows the battle to beat the blaze: from the mass of hoses on Cashel St, to a fireman swapping a ciggie for a cup of tea.


Watch Christchurch Fire here:

Sixty-three years later, on the 19th of November 2010, dawned another dark day for New Zealand. On the West Coast of the South Island, 29 men were trapped in the Pike River mine after a series of explosions occurred. At the time, the disaster was NZ's worst single loss of life since the Erebus crash in 1979 — although it was eclipsed only four months later by the 2011 Christchurch Earthquake. News this month of the mine re-entry was welcomed by the tight-knit West Coast community.

Watch the trailer for The Women of Pike River here:

Erebus. It's a name that holds a sorrowful place in the collective memory of New Zealanders. Next year will see the 40th anniversary of the Air New Zealand DC-10 crash into Mt Erebus, Antarctica. The crash killed all 257 people on board the sightseeing flight. It was the worst civil aviation disaster in NZ history and, at the time, the fourth worst in the world. In a tragic coincidence, 29 years to the day after Erebus, another Air New Zealand plane crashed into the sea off Perpignan, in France, killing all seven on board.

Watch excerpts from Flight 901 – the Erebus Disaster here:

It was a different kind of tragedy that occurred in the sleepy Otago town of Aramoana on November 13 1990. David Gray shot and killed 13 of his neighbours in a 22-hour rampage. The crime shocked the nation as we watched it unfold in real time on our television screens. In this Duncan Sarkies film, the events of that terrible day are dramatised to gut-wrenching effect.

Watch the trailer and extras from Out of the Blue here:

November 5 1881, was one of New Zealand's darkest days. After a campaign of passive resistance, invading constabulary ended Te Whiti and Tohu's non-violent action at Parihaka in Taranaki. Despite being met by the pa's children holding white feathers of peace, the troops expelled the community and destroyed their homes. This moving documentary follows a group of Taranaki children undertaking an emotional, modern day pilgrimage to the South Island jails where their ancestors were exiled and forced to labour.

Watch the trailer for Tātarakihi - The Children of Parihaka here: