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.
In this full-length episode, 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, visits an equally overized collection of salt and pepper shakers, then sets off on an early morning pig hunt. Vegetarians be warned: many expired members of the animal kingdom make guest appearances.
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.
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.
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 (one of them at his freezing works job), 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.
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.
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.
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.
In this full-length Heartland episode, Gary McCormick travels to the Hokianga in Northland, where he attends the annual rowing regatta in the town of Horeke. Locals compete in ironman (swimming, running and... woodchopping), before McCormick delves into the region’s logging past and sees local bone carvers at work. He also visits the Motuti Marae, then drives on to Panguru where he interviews local resident and Māori land march leader Dame Whina Cooper. The programme (gently) reflects on Māori and Pākehā race relations in the area.