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 McIvor) 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.
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 practising and performing, with oyster farmers catching fish for the hangi.
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 '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 and a Department of Conservation Ranger, visits a "secret whitebaiters' town" and helps local residents prepare 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". The programme also touches on the tensions between some residents and conservationists.
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.
In this full-length Heartland episode, 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 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.
This show was possibly the most controversial edition of the Heartland series. Gary visits the sometimes maligned working class dormitory suburb, and hits sports fields, local homes and Tupperware parties. In this full-length episode he meets everyone from cheerful league coaches and builders remembering the challenges of getting supplies up the hill, to the woman many would not forget: Chloe Reeves, with her squeaking voice, distinctive fashion sense and tiger slippers. There is also a fleeting glimpse of future All Black Piri Weepu holding a school road safety lollipop.
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.
"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 Gary McCormick, the host of this full-length Heartland episode. 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.