New Zealand's first-ever documentary series remade

Elisabeth Easther will narrate a remake of the 1964 documentary series Islands of the Gulf.
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Elisabeth Easther will narrate a remake of the 1964 documentary series Islands of the Gulf.

New Zealand's first-ever locally produced documentary series, Islands of the Gulf, is being remade 52 years later. 

Islands of the Gulf was originally produced in 1964 by broadcaster Shirley Maddock and photographer Don Whyte for what is now TVNZ.

NZ on Air, or the Broadcasting Commission said Islands of the Gulf was New Zealand's first-ever locally produced documentary series.

Now, 52 years later, Maddock's daughter Elisabeth Easther will host a TVNZ remake of the series, which is scheduled to air on TVNZ in early 2018.

READ MORE: NZ documentary series get $8 mililon funding boost

Easther meets locals and finds out what has changed in the intervening decades.

In 1964 Maddock explored the Hauraki Gulf by boat, in Landrovers, on foot and by seaplane whilst documenting her journey at a time when the way of life on the islands was a resourceful one, largely cut-off from the outside world.  

She explored islands including Tiritiri Matangi, Kawau, Rakino, Motutapu, Motuihe, Rangitoto, Ponui and Waiheke, and interviewed everyone from farmers to gumdiggers and from rangers to nurses.

Maddock was New Zealand's first-ever female television producer and was made an officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 1999 for services to radio and television broadcasting.

Maddock passed away in October 2001 when she was 72 years old. 

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"Mum turned the camera's attention on people and places that had previously been tucked away," Easther said. 

Easther is an actress, playwright and part-time journalist who is well-known for her role as Carla in Shortland Street.

Easther tracked down several of the people or their relatives who were in the original series.

One of these characters was Bob Burns. 

In 1964 Burns told Maddock that if the ferries to Waiheke become any faster, Waiheke would become a dormitory suburb of Auckland.

"While Burns has been gone for many years, his son Jim came and spoke to me in the exact same spot my mum interviewed his dad all those years ago, at the end of the old Matiatia wharf," Easther said.

As Burns predicted, Waiheke has changed a fair bit, Easther said. 

"House prices have risen and the wedding scene on Waiheke would have been hard to imagine in Mum's day - the current record is 22 in one day."

But Waiheke people have remained the same, she said. 

"They are resourceful and ready to help their neighbours in times of need even if their reason for living on an island is to find solitude." 

Maddocks wrote a book called Islands of the Gulf to accompany the 1964 documentary series, which went on to become a bestselling classic. 

Whyte's photographs seen in the book are considered the most complete photographic record of the Hauraki Gulf in the 1960s.

A new edition of the book was launched last Saturday to coincide with the remake of the documentary series. 

 - Stuff

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