Darn, now they’ll all come South


How annoyed everyone must be.

It’s quite understandable, too. You work hard at downplaying the virtues of one of the most beautiful parts of the planet and what happens next? Some Johnny-come-lately spills the beans on national TV and before you know it, the place is in danger of being overrun by outsiders. Worse still, maybe even Aucklanders.

Generations of folk who’ve worked hard to preserve New Zealand’s best-kept secret must have been close to tears last weekend when Marcus Lush presented the opening essay of his seven-part travelogue South (One, Sundays, 7pm).

Synopsis? Try stunning scenery, earthy characters, a little more stunning scenery, a few more pithy types – and to round it all off, some completely stunning scenery.

Nothing will be the same again, I tell you. Before you know it, the Waitutu track will be lined with expresso vendors and kebab stalls. Traffic lights will be installed in Garston. Half of Auckland’s North Shore will be putting their homes on the market as you read this.

And that’s just the start. By the time Lush has walked along the banks of the Dart, the drift will become a stampede.

It might have been easier to ignore if the production had been mundane and the presentation wooden. But no chance of that. Between Lush, co-producer and director Melanie Rakena and editor Campbell Farquhar, South appeals greatly for its arthouse-style camera work, its story-telling substance and, of course, the engaging manner of its presenter.

From the moment it starts, it’s hard to look away.

Not even the arson of production company Jam TV’s Auckland offices, which ruined a good few hours of footage, seems to have made a dent in South’s allure.

The Bluff-based former Aucklander Lush, certainly, is a perfect fit. If the award-winning travel show Off the Rails cemented his likeable-Kiwi persona, the first episode of South suggests only that his stakes are about to skyrocket again.

Lush’s co-star, however, is the Southland and Otago landscape. If it doesn’t pain you too much, look out for upcoming vistas from Fiordland’s remote south-western reaches, Lush’s journey in the Milford Wanderer through Preservation Inlet and the sounds, the trip to the once-controversial Manapouri Dam, and the 99th annual Tuatapere sports day – in which Lush competes.

There’s also a raft journey down the entire length of the Clutha to savour and a coastal trek into the Catlins, another spot likely to leave the uninitiated spellbound with its beauty.

Oh well, I guess it couldn’t have been kept a secret forever. And maybe we shouldn’t be too worried about the Aucklanders coming south, anyway. If their rugby team is anything to go by, they’ll almost certainly head in the wrong direction.