In a Land of Plenty

Year: 2002
Country: New Zealand
Running time: 112 mins
New Zealand
Screenplay/Research: Alister Barry
Production Co: The Community Media Trust/Vanguard Films
Script Advice: Russell Campbell, Andrea Bosshard, Gerd Pohlmann
Photography/Editor: Shane Loader
Additional Photography: John Miller, Martin Long, David Holly, John Irwin,
Mark Prebble, Andrea Bosshard, John Kirk
Sound Recording: Diane McAllen, Geraldene Peters, Gerd Pohlmann,
Shane Loader
Sound Mix: Mark Austin
Online editor: Lea McLean
Narration: Ian Johnstone
Alister Barry describes his new documentary In a Land of Plenty as ‘the story of unemployment in New Zealand,’ and it serves as a strong companion piece for Someone Else’s Country, his wildly popular history of the Rogernomics era. This time round, Barry is out to demonstrate how the mass unemployment of the 1980s was not an accident, but a deliberately planned strategy of the market reforms. ‘The New Right reformers had a fundamentally different set of values than the traditional New Zealand ones,’ Barry says.

Under the New Right, the control of inflation became a fetish object – which meant that full employment and participation in society was no longer to be treated as the benchmark of good and successful government in this country. At heart, In a Land of Plenty is a film about how ordinary people deal with power, and how they are dealt to by the powerful. Once again, Barry tells his story through the artfully chosen speeches and statements (by politicians and ordinary people alike) that he has patiently retrieved from the archives.

‘Fortunately,’ Barry says, ‘TVNZ’s Film and Television Archive has somehow survived as an element of public television, and they have really good shot lists and transcripts of all current affairs and news, and these are available at relatively modest cost in printout form. Since I have good filing systems and knew what I was hoping to find, much of the searching was able to be done on paper.’

A lot of this footage is priceless, capturing the endless capacity for self-delusion among the prophets of Rogernomics. Much of the material would be hilarious, if the consequences were not so tragic – and Barry has edited it all into a powerful piece of history that puts to shame the dreck that our TV channel bosses demand that television current affairs must all too often be in this country. — Gordon Campbell