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.
In this full-length episode Gary McCormick arrives in Ruatahuna, heartland of the Tūhoe people, the so-called ‘children of the mist'. The episode 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.
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.
Occasional Heartland host Annie Whittle visits Patea in this full-length episode, 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 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.
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.
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 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 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.
"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.