The final script was developed collaboratively from the original proposal by a team including, Logan Brewer (the Producer of the Ceremonies), Charlie Strachan, Dr Pita Sharples, Temuera Morrison, Mary Jane O'Reilly and myself. During this process I visited a number of people including Sir Keith Sinclair, Judith Binney, C K Stead, Rev Kingi Ihaka, to get their opinions on our precis of our history.
The script for "the Peopling of Aotearoa, NZ" had 5 phases:-
Para Matchitt accepted my invitation to design the Maori response to the arrival of the European within the pageant, Barbara Darragh designed the costumes while I designed the other details along with a team of experts including sailmakers and engineers.
Some of my highlights were...
Naturally, there were also a few disappointments - the main one being the scrapping of a significant section of the final act after its failure in the dress rehearsal, the potentially magical "holographic" appearance of "Rangitoto" in the centre of the arena - a very simple effect that required very complex staging.
Essentially the plan was for laserlight to scribe the cone of Rangitoto into a mist of water. After many months of rehearsals with members of local fire departments and much successful early development with a local laser company we engaged an Australian company to produce the optical device required for the effect. On testing the effect for the first time on the night of the dress rehearsal we discovered that too much of the laser's intensity was lost within the optical setup. The weakened laser beam produced a cone only barely visible to the naked eye and invisible to the TV cameras. There was not enough time to fix the problem with the Opening Ceremony only a few days away. Much work by many people had gone into the creation of the effect and it was heartbreaking to say the least when we decided to cancel it.
That said, the Opening proved to be a success due as much as anything to the great team that Logan brought together, not forgetting, the magnificent Maori Welcome organised by Dr Pita Sharples and the committed efforts of the 1000s of volunteers.
For our efforts, and on behalf of the 1000s, mostly volunteers, who made the event a success, we were awarded Queen's Service Medals.
History of the Proposal for the 1990 Games Opening and Closing Ceremonies
Four years before the Commonwealth Games, in early 1986, I began working on ideas for a possible Opening and Closing event. In October 1986 I submitted a proposal for the ceremonies to Tom Aldridge (Chief Executive Officer), Malcolm Beattie (Marketing Director), Bob Harvey (Cultural Co-ordinator) and Bill McCarthy (Acting Head of Sport, TVNZ).
The idea in this proposal related to Formal Opening and Oath-Taking part of the Ceremony, the "presentation" of the Queen's Message.
It involved the "arrival" of the four stars of the Southern Cross in the Opening Ceremony, as escorts of the Queen's Message, and their subsequent "return" back to the heavens at the Closing having completed their roll as guardians of the Games.
The proposal was a year too early for the committee. While waiting, I developed an idea with Jean Betts for the Cultural Display, a 45 minute section within the Opening Ceremony. It would describe the history of "the Peopling of Aotearoa, NZ". The idea was based on Sir Keith Sinclair's "History of New Zealand".
Jean was studying Polynesian history at the time and introduced me to the Polynesian navigational idea of "etak", where the voyaging canoe is conceived of as stationary beneath the stars while it is the islands that move. This became the seed of the idea for the cultural display.
In December 1987 I received an official request from Tom Aldridge to submit a proposal and budget for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies. Having heard that Mary Jane O'Reilly, a friend with whom I had worked before, was interested in working on the Games and was not planning to submit a proposal, I invited her to join forces. She liked my ideas and we felt our partnership would strengthen our chances of being involved.
Our Proposal included the Queen's Message/Southern Cross idea along with the Cultural Display "script".
Logan Brewer was appointed as the producer of the ceremonies and our proposal for the Cultural Display was accepted while the Queen's Message/Southern Cross idea was dropped.
I was contracted as Concept Designer for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies while Mary Jane was contracted as Choreographer. We invited the composer Wayne Laird to complete the team.
We subsequently worked for 18 months on the ceremonies.