Exploring Queenstown’s forgotten prison


A 1980s Hollywood film set, abandoned for years on a windswept Queenstown hilltop, has been captured in a series of striking photographs by a group of urban explorers.

Walt Disney filmed teenage adventure blockbuster The Rescue at various locations around New Zealand in the mid-80s.

The story tells of five kids who infiltrate a North Korean prison to rescue their captive Navy Seal fathers.

For the key backdrop, moviemakers spent a reported $1 million constructing a replica North Korean jail.

Now, almost 30 years after the film’s release, the set remains abandoned.

Derelict, graffiti-tagged, and surrounded by high barbed-wire fences, the makeshift prison has not been seen by the general public for years, with the road to Deer Park Heights, near Queenstown, shut off.

The photographs were taken by radical urban explorers, Urbex Central, and posted to their website.

They explained that the mission in tracking down the “almost mythological” movie set was not without its difficulties.

“Since access to the mountain had been closed for the last five years, I had to go in the hard way, straight up the sheer face of the mountain,” the explorers wrote.

“A few cuts and bruises later navigating dense bush, deer and goat I finally reached the top.

“What greeted me felt so out of place, an old North Korean prison surrounding by beautiful Queenstown scenery, awesome!”

Deer Park Heights has also been used for other major Hollywood film locations, including The Lord of the Rings and X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

The secretive group Urbex Central says: “When we see a sign that says ‘Danger: Do Not Enter’, we understand that this is simply a shorthand way of saying ‘Leaving Protected Zone: Demonstrate Personal Accountability Beyond This Point’.”

The group gained notoriety for sneaking in to well-known earthquake-damaged Christchurch buildings, including Christ Church Cathedral, and documenting what it saw.

Members have snuck into abandoned prisons and navy bases, churches, schools, hospitals, and power stations across New Zealand.