Islands of the Gulf was (narrowly) New Zealand’s first locally made TV documentary series — written, presented and produced by the country’s first female producer, Shirley Maddock. Intended as a one-off programme about the islands of the Hauraki Gulf, it ran to five half-hour episodes examining everyday life in the area, at a time when Kiwi faces were still a novelty on screen. Aviation legend Fred Ladd provided aerial footage. Maddock’s tie-in book was extensively reprinted and, in 1983, she revisited the area in a documentary for TVNZ. in 2018 Maddock's daughter presented an updated series.
Presented by Kiwi TV pioneer Shirley Maddock, Islands of the Gulf was New Zealand’s first locally made documentary series. In this episode Maddock makes the 50 mile seaplane flight from Auckland to Great Barrier. Accompanied by ever present birdsong, she proves an eloquent, attentive guide to ‘The Barrier’. She recounts the SS Wairarapa tragedy and pigeon post, tramps to old kauri dams, and surveys the quirks of transport for the 240 people then living on the rugged bush-clad island, from the Land Rover-driving nurse, to a Chrysler taxi once owned by Al Capone.
In this episode from New Zealand television’s first local documentary series, pioneering producer Shirley Maddock visits the Hauraki Gulf island of Waiheke — just 11 miles from downtown Auckland. A time-consuming boat trip has kept it as the preserve of holidaymakers and retirees, but faster transport is on the way. In a nicely judged delve into island life, Maddock is eloquent and engaging as she meets local identities, visits a wedding, a 21st, and the primary school sports day — and ponders Waiheke’s past, present and future, as Auckland inevitably reels it in.