Heartland was a long-running series where, in each episode, affable presenter Gary McCormick explored a Kiwi community. Location and local legend are relayed as McCormick (or occasionally Annie Whittle, Maggie Barry, or Kerre Woodham) interacts with the natives, most famously, tiger slipper-shod Chloe of Wainuiomata. The popular, award-winning series, was inspired by a collaboration — Raglan by the Sea — between McCormick and director Bruce Morrison; it connected mostly-urban Kiwis with faraway corners of the country, and a homely sense of shared identity.
"Bluff'll be here forever." Heartland host Kerre Woodham heads south to the port town of Bluff for the 65th wedding anniversary of Fred and Myrtle Flutey, and visits their famous paua shell museum (after their death, the Flutey's paua collection was relocated in 2008 to Canterbury Museum). As well as taking part in the celebrations and learning the secrets of a happy marriage, Woodham talks to local fishermen, women rugby players and long time residents, including the memorable Sylvia Templeton-Warner.
Gary McCormick travels to the furthest corner of New Zealand and hangs out with fishermen, farmers, and ghosts. He reads the weather report on the islands' radio station (where the forecast is more rain); explores the vibrant nightlife, endures a Ministerial speech at the opening of a new wharf facility, and goes hunting at night for a local delicacy: weka. This instalment of the series is notable for some especially beautiful location photography by Swami Hansa.
The Aupōuri Peninsula - in Maui's legend, the tail of the fish - runs along the top of the North Island, edged on one side by Ninety Mile Beach. In Te Hapua, the most northerly community on the mainland, Gary McCormick helps out at the marae as preparations begin for a cultural festival for the district's primary schools. The students will perform kapa haka, Dalmatian dances and take-offs of Shortland Street. This Heartland episode evocatively melds footage of children practicing and performing, with oyster farmers catching fish for the hangi.
Heartland host Gary McCormick visits Fendalton, Christchurch — which has a reputation as one of the country's more well-to-do and refined suburbs, and is one of the older residential districts of the city. McCormick takes tea and sandwiches on the lawn with elderly resident (and possessor of some archetypal 'rounded vowels') Bessie Seymour Parker; visits grand homesteads and English country gardens; and meets some private school teenagers, as Fendalton lives up to its 'posh' — some might say 'snobby' — reputation.
Heartland host Gary McCormick visits French Pass in the Marlborough Sounds, where he attends the local sports day, and visits a couple who have lived on remote D'Urville Island for 46 years. Pat and Phil Aston met on the mainland, but have lived their whole married life on D'Urville, where Phil has helped her nine children through Correspondence School, and Pat has done everything from fishing to putting up power lines. At the French Pass sports day, McCormick takes in an Army battle re-construction and an assortment of running races.
Heartland host Gary McCormick discovers the scenic and rustic charms of Glenorchy, near Queenstown. McCormick meets Rosie Grant, who has lived in the same cottage since 1916, and shares her home with 17 cats; checks out Paradise House, the first guest accommodation in the area, now owned by Dave Miller; and plans to have a day at the races. But the film crew's plans go awry when the settlement suffers serious flooding, and stories of sand-bagging, stock rescue and property recovery replace the more typical Heartland fare.
Occasional Heartland host Maggie Barry visits the Southland town of Gore, where she checks out horse-shoeing with the New Zealand Farriers Association, visits the local freezing works, and attends the legendary Gold Guitar country music awards (with performers including Suzanne Prentice). Not such a controversial visit to Gore by a TV crew as the one some years later by Havoc and Newsboy's Sell-Out Tour.
Heartland host Gary McCormick visits 'New Zealand's last frontier' - Haast on the West Coast. It's whitebait season, and Haast's population has increased five-fold. McCormick talks to whitebaiters on the Arawata River, a DoC Ranger, and local residents preparing for the annual Whitebaiters' Ball. When McCormick asks what the best line for getting a girl to dance is, one of the locals tells him to say, "I've got a Valiant". On a more serious note, the programme also touches on the tensions between some residents and conservationists.
Heartland host Gary McCormick travels to the Hokianga in Northland, where he attends the annual Horeke rowing regatta. Locals compete in tug-of-war, and ironman (swimming, running and ... wood-chopping). McCormick also visits the Motuti Marae, then drives on to Panguru where he interviews local resident and Māori land march leader Dame Whina Cooper. A little unusual for the Heartland series, the programme (gently) reflects on Māori and Pākehā race relations in the area. On a lighter note, there are some fine examples of the mullet hairstyle.
"Space - big hills, snow-capped, blue skies ... that's the Maniototo, Central Otago." So says local poet Ross McMillan, describing the landscape that inspires much of his work. The Maniototo plain has also inspired writing from James K Baxter, Janet Frame, and the host of this Heartland episode, Gary McCormick. McCormick finds a strong sense of community amidst the poetry of isolation: whether in the shearing shed, the sports field or the ice-skating rink. He also talks to local high-schoolers, some resigned to having to leave the area to find work.
In this Heartland edition Gary McCormick heads south to the port town of Lyttelton, where some say you can't claim to be local unless you've been in town all your life. There he looks around a freighter and finds time to talk to a smorgasboard of passionate locals, some of whom wish yuppies from Christchurch would stay home. He visits ex-Seaman's Union President Bill 'Pincher' Martin, who recalls the tense days of the 1951 lockout. Meanwhile cameraman Matt Bowkett captures some evocative footage from the surrounding hills, and among the action of a busy port.
Heartland host Gary McCormick visits South Island town Omarama, which is "about as remote as you can get in New Zealand, as it sits in the centre of the South Island at its widest point." McCormick talks to sheep farmers battling pest rabbits and the invasive weed Heiracium Hawkweed, checks out a fishing competition, and attends the Omarama Rodeo. At the rodeo he meets the Church family of rodeo riding brothers, listens to a spot of yodelling, and takes in the children's sheep riding display.
Occasional Heartland host Annie Whittle visits Patea, and finds the town in rehearsal for the story of its own life. A decade in the making, Poi E - The Musical chronicles Patea's triumphs and tragedies following the closure of the local freezing works in 1982. Whittle talks to Dalvanius Prime — the musician behind both the original number one song, and the Poi E musical — about the impact the closure had on the township. The programme ends with a rousing live version of 'Poi E'. Prime would pass away in October 2002.
Heartland host Gary McCormick finds himself in the middle of a local conflict when he visits Port Chalmers in early 1993. Port Otago Limited is working on a major port development project that includes excavations on Observation Hill, and reclamations in Carey's Bay. Many locals are opposed to the project and tensions are running high. Local residents interviewed for the programme include celebrated artist Ralph Hotere, and McCormick also visits Hotere's art studio.
Heartland host Gary McCormick visits the West Coast mining town of Reefton. He takes an early morning trip down Surprise Mine, getting an insight into the tough life of a coal miner. He also meets the miners' wives, who talk about the perils of trying to wash ingrained coal dirt out of clothes, and living with men who are frequently injured in the course of their work. McCormick also attends the First Light Festival, held to mark the fact that Reefton was the first town in the southern hemisphere to have electric lighting.
Occasional Heartland host Kerre Woodham visits the annual Easter races at Riverton in Southland. Riverton is New Zealand's second oldest town, and the close knit locals have a big passion for horse-racing. Woodham talks to owners, trainers, jockeys and punters, as well as the judges of 'Best Dressed Lady at the Races', who are looking for a nice line in matching hats, bags, shoes and gloves. The documentary contains some good examples of the Southland rolled 'R' from some of the locals who are interviewed.
Gary McCormick goes to Ruatahuna, heartland of the Tūhoe people: the ‘children of the mist'. The film focuses on preparations and staging of the annual Tūhoe Festival. McCormick interviews local and national figures who express their feelings about their Tūhoe heritage. The grievances of the past are highlighted along with pride and hope for the future. This episode goes beyond the affable romanticism of much of the series to examine the uncomfortable edge of race relations in New Zealand.
Gary travels to New Zealand's southernmost community, the town of Oban in Half Moon Bay on Stewart Island. Another gently discursive ramble through time and geography is held together by a focus on the island's annual Festival of The Sea. The highlight of this marine mardi gras is the drag competition, ‘Miss Catch of the Day', where hairy blokes dress like sheilas and simper on stage. Thankfully, Gary keeps his pants on.
Heartland host Gary McCormick hunkers down in the Catlins ("New Zealand the way it used to be"), the wild southern coast stretching between Invercargill and Balclutha. After watching the action at school sports day, he discovers a rural community revolving around family, church and pub. Interviewees include a Metallica-loving teenager who has just bought his second car, for cruising; and spoon collector Kitty 'Granny' Burgess. He also visits a rugged Long Point farm to check out rare yellow-eyed penguins (hoiho), who look very punk during moulting season.
Heartland visits the heart of the North Island: the Waimarino district, at the foot of Mount Ruapehu. Host Gary McCormick hits town in time for the yearly Waimarino Easter Hunt. In Ohakune he talks to a policeman about a strange case of streaking near the town's famously oversized carrot, helps out a veteran baker, then sets off on an early morning pig hunt. Vegetarians be warned: many expired members of the animal kingdom make guest appearances in this episode.
This show was possibly the most controversial edition of the Heartland series. After an obligatory historical preamble, explaining the state house roots of this working class dormitory suburb, Gary hits the rugby league club, local homes and Tupperware parties for some seriously extra-terrestrial encounters with Wainui-o-Martians. Chloe Reeves, with her squeaking voice, romantic dreams, and tiger slippers, proved to be unforgettable and became a national figure. In the second clip future All Black Piri Weepu holds a school road safety lollipop (around 6.40).
Anson Grieve Productions
Anson Grieve Productions