Taonga: Treasures of Our Past  retells precious Maori stories of romance, betrayal, politics and war, survival and heroism. Many of the stories have never been told on television before, and are brought to life with a mix of documentary footage and dramatisation using such well known actors as Ian Mune, Rawiri Paratene, Taungaroa Emile and Miriama McDowell. Taonga was a finalist for Best Camera and Best Director at the 2006 Qantas Awards.

Taonga is the Maori word for a treasured thing, whether tangible or intangible. In this series, the many letters, manuscripts, photos, artifacts, heirlooms and the stories left behind, provide the starting point for each episode.  The series takes snapshots across 150 years of our history through the eyes of Maori who lived it. Using drama & documentary, their past is brought to life through each characters distinct story and the telling of it from their first-person perspective, or what the creators call, their “spirit” voice.

Arapeta Awatere’s poems and diary entries take us on a controversial journey of service, love, passion and betrayal. He was born a warrior, rose to command the 28th Maori Battalion, became a respected elder, city councilor and statesman, yet died in 1975, a prisoner convicted of murder in Mt.Eden prison.

In contrast, no greater battle was fought than that by Maui Pomare, His many Taonga, reports and manuscripts reveal a man who fought for the very survival of his people, a race that many believed was doomed to extinction due to disease and the traditions of Tohunga, or Maori priests.

Maori woman feature strongly, with the tale of Te Rangi Topeora standing proud as a Warrior Priestess at the forefront of battle in the mid 1800’s. She left behind her cloak and the story of a passionate woman who was a vengeful lover and an intelligent strategist.  Before converting to Christianity, Topeora resolved one of her many husbands’ affairs by killing and eating his mistress. No woman would go near him again!

Our ancestors’ unique stories are varied and diverse with all of them leaving behind not only precious Taonga, but a snapshot of our New Zealand past.


Promotional Trailer

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Production Details

Producer: Robin Shingleton

Exec producer: Andrea Lamb

Network exec: Jude Callen

Directors:  Pietra Brett-Kelly, Michael Bennett, John Callen, Peter Bell, Kathryn Akuhata-Brown, Maawhi Torrance, Brad Haami

Compile director: Lynette Shingleton

Researchers: John Callen, Louise Callen, Kathryn Akuhata-Brown, Roz Mason, Michele Heron

Research assist: Huia Lloyd, Rapai Te Hau, Te Waari Carkeek

Writers: Roz Mason, Peter Bell, John Callen, Michael Bennett, Riwia Brown, Louise Callen, Kathryn Akuhata-Brown, Mark Everton

Offline editor: Irena Dol, Lynette Shingleton

Online editor: Brenton Cumberpatch

Maori consultant: Ngamaru Raerino

Production manager: Jeanette Searle

Production coordinator: Summer Wharekawa

Production assistants: Melinda Butt, Sarah Murphy

DOP: Rewa Harre

Sound: Mike McCree

Narrator: Robin Kora

Production accountant: Liz Goddard

Financial controller: Glenda Paterson

Funded by: NZ On Air & Te Mangai Paho