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NZ On Screen marks 50 years since Wahine Disaster with new collection

10 Apr 2018
Keith Aberdein, an NZBC reporter on the scene of the Waihine Disaster 50 years ago, reflects on he experience as NZ On Screen releases a commemorative collection.

Footage from New Zealand’s worst modern maritime disaster has been curated into a new collection, released today by NZ On Screen.  

The collection includes footage and news material from the Wahine Disaster, which occurred half a century ago today in Wellington Harbour with the loss of 51 souls. Also in the collection are later investigations into the tragedy and eyewitness accounts and images that still have the ability to shock. 

Keith Aberdein was a New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation reporter who interviewed survivors on the day. He went on to write scripts for a run of dramas including The Governor and Utu. He also acted in classic movie Smash Palace. 
Keith wrote the introduction for the new collection and says he’ll never forget what he saw.

“I’m haunted by one image from that bad day on the beach. It may give a sliver of insight into the way we once were, and were soon not to be,” he says. 

“Standing alone looking out towards the dead ship and the straggle of survivors coming ashore was another young cameraman. The rain had killed his camera long since. But it wasn’t rain streaming down his cheeks. It was tears.”
He also shares his disappointment about the way the historic footage was cared for after the event.

“That day, as ever, a lot of film ended up on the floor.  It wasn’t collected or catalogued."

“That day, as ever, a lot of film ended up on the floor,” he explains. 

“It wasn’t collected or catalogued. Even items that went to air were usually paper-bagged and condemned to a room for the lost and lonely. The dedication of the news librarians couldn’t ultimately save the future. 

“It's therefore something of a miracle how much material survives.”
To view the collection and read Keith’s full account of his memories of the day, please visit


NZ On Screen does not own the rights to most of the audiovisual content on the site. NZ on Screen has been granted permission to show it for free under licence through the generosity of the copyright holders. You may not reproduce video content, photographs and images from the site. Content sources can be found at the bottom of each title’s page. Specific permissions for commercial use of material owned by NZ On Screen (text and ScreenTalk interviews) may be sought by contacting [email protected] or +64 4 385 4825.