A funding boost to the country’s archival sector means thousands of hours of old television footage will now be saved from deterioration.
The Government’s pumping $1.3 million into the project every year, until 2024.
In a combined effort from Ngā Taonga, Archives New Zealand, and the National Library, decades worth of tapes and film reels will be digitised, providing a valuable resource on New Zealand Life.
Honaina Love, Ngā Taonga Chief Executive, said without the funding to preserve the footage, it would’ve taken the organisation 200 years to carry out the task on their own.
“We went to the Government and said we’re going to lose these important collections, we can’t wait 200 years. We need to start doing this now.”
If funding for the project hadn’t been secured, the chances of losing invaluable Kiwi content forever was high.
“If we don’t get the images, it’s lost.”
Some of New Zealand’s most iconic television and radio shows fill the shelves of a temperature controlled vault at Nga Taonga’s Avalon base.
“[We have] some of our earliest tv programmes, right through to Shortland Street in this vault.
"Waka Huia is a really important programme and that's here as well. [There’s] a lot of our broadcast radio, things like the Spectrum series from RNZ are here as part of this collection,” explained the project’s leader, Louise McCrone.
Around 500,000 tapes will be preserved containing more than 350,000 hours worth of content.
The team are in a race against time, as the technology to transfer footage is no longer created, the part for the machines used are becoming scarce, and the people who know how to carry out the process are retiring.
“Unless we digitally preserve them now, we are going to lose access to all of that amazing taonga,” said Ms McCrone.
Ms McCrone also said the condition of some of the tapes also adds further time pressure.
“[Some] material has lived under beds, sometimes it's in a garage, sometimes it's come to us from a garage sale. And New Zealand’s climate is very encouraging of mould on this kind of material.”
The vault at Ngā Taonga contains everything from old 1 NEWS broadcasts, to the Tux Wonder Dogs series.
The most precious of the collection to Honiana Love; the Waka Huia tapes.
“The amount of korero that was captured over the years, the amount of knowledge that is included in that collection is irreplaceable now, as those people have passed on.”
Once the content is in a digital format, the plan is to create an online platform so New Zealanders can access it.
“We preserve this collection for future generations so that the next generations coming after us can engage with this material can see what we were thinking, what we were doing, see that knowledge that has been captured,” said Ms Love.
The funding only covers 75 per cent of the collection across all three organisations, and it’s hoped the extra 25 per cent will be secured as the 2024 expiry date on the cash draws near.