Spectrum 495. Tourist town

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Tono kōrero mai

Spectrum was a long-running weekly radio documentary series which captured the essence of New Zealand from 1972 to 2016. Alwyn Owen and Jack Perkins produced the series for many years, creating a valuable library of New Zealand oral history.

In this episode, Jack Perkins visits the tourist town of Te Anau, the gateway to Fiordland. An audio guide gives information about Milford Sound in English, Japanese, German and Spanish. Jack speaks to a woman at Fiordland Travel about the tourist season and life in Te Anau. Long-time resident George Burnby explains that Te Anau has room to expand. Jack describes the changes he’s noticed in the area since he last visited 10 years ago. George talks about life in Te Anau 40 years earlier when it was mostly a Ministry of Works camp. Mrs Burnby says the children missed out on organised sports and frequently suffered from a skin rash "duck itch" in the summer, as the only place they could swim was in the lake.

The road from Te Anau to Milford Sound was an engineering marvel started during the Great Depression and completed in 1954. George recounts his experiences working on the road in the 1940s.

Helicopter cowboys work in the highly competitive job of deer recovery. Pilot Dick Deaker explains that the job attracts reckless, competitive, risk takers. About a decade earlier the competition was so fierce, people became violent and destructive. The events were dubbed "the helicopter wars." Jack plays a recording from 10 years earlier when he, Dick and forest ranger Max Evans to shoot chamois from a helicopter for population control. The animal needed to be controlled because it was destroying the habitat of the notornis and kākāpō.

Jack talks to several tourists at the Te Anau backpackers hostel. A Canadian couple remarks that the town is much less touristy than Queenstown or Wanaka and the locals are very friendly. A Bavarian man is unimpressed because everything is very expensive and most trips are booked out for weeks.

Living on the edge of a National Park is a mixed blessing. Conservation groups want to make sure Te Anau doesn’t grow too rapidly. Entrepreneur Wilson Campbell wants to develop a ski field on Mount Luxmore, but his efforts are handicapped by people who don’t live in the area. Dick says Te Anau is a very masculine place and women do not stay long. Mrs Burnby says the town has grown enough to keep women around but she worries Te Anau will turn into another Queenstown as people pursue profits.

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Year 1985

Reference number 18339

Media type AUDIO

Collection Sound Collection

Credits RNZ Collection
Perkins, Jack (b.1940), Producer
Deaker, Dick, Interviewee

Duration 00:27:58

Date 1985

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