To The Back of Beyond

2013 To-The-Back-Of-BeyondThere are probably only a handful of hunters who have spend more time at Mason Bay that I have. My first visit was in 25 years ago in the days when a few cunning sheep which missed the final muster still roamed. Looking at the fences, ditches and buildings I had thought about the people who had lived and worked in this remote part of New Zealand.

“To The Back of Beyond” takes us on a journey which unravels many of the mysteries of Mason Bay. From William Walker in 1879 to Tim TeAika and his family in 1986 the hardships faced in farming such an isolated place as Island Hill Run are hard to comprehend today.

Using well constructed sequences of modern filming woven around b/w photos, historic 8mm film and personal interviews, the tale these tough and hardy people unfolds. In a place where nothing is wasted and best use is made of everything that washes ashore, the resilience of the people has to be admired. From getting supplies once every three months to building your own airstrip to supplementing income with ambergris, possum skins and later venison and a safari operation, TeAika must have worked some long hours for little reward given the high costs of getting anything to the farm.

This DVD covers it all. Most spectacular is the aerial photography which opens up the expanse of Island Hill in a way that cannot be seen from the ground. The filmmakers have also included coverage of the changes of vegetation and the stabilisation of the sand dunes by marram grass. Regardless of your views on the merits of the eradication program being undertaken it shows interesting comparisons. The movie gives some indication of deer in their heyday at Masons but don’t expect anything like that today. Just a glimpse of the trophies taken during the 60’s & 70’s is worth the watch. Recreational hunters have substantially reduced deer numbers since the area was opened up for hunting in 1989.

South Coast Productions have done a top job of producing this record of a small but extremely interesting part of New Zealand. Their dedication in recording so much detail in one hour is something which will be appreciated not only by deerstalkers but everyone interested in the history of Stewart Island and New Zealand.