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Mayor's love affair


Posted 01-11-99

The Sunday Star-Times (Auckland)
01-03-99
By Page 4
1 non-Xena graphic

COMMENTARY
The mayor of Waitakere has written a book on New Zealand's mountains and beaches. In this review of the book, it is mentioned in passing that XENA is filmed at Te Henga Beach.

REPRINT

PRIMARY SOURCE

   UNTAMED COAST: Auckland's Waitakere Ranges and West Coast Beaches
   By Bob Harvey, Exisle Publishing, $ 39.95.
   Reviewed by IAIN SHARP

   TIM SHADBOLT once appeared in a cheese commercial, gleefully repeating the
line: "So long as I'm mayor, I don't care where."
   I can't imagine today's mayor of Waitakere, Bob Harvey, making an utterance
like that. Untamed Coast provides ample proof of his long-lasting love affair
with the region over which he presides.  
   Harvey has a sure grasp of Waitakere history from the tribal claims of Te
Kawerau a Maki in pre-European times to modern-day paparapenting off the
southern headland. He's a storehouse of information on the region's key figures
-- the Bethell family, the Whites, the Manders, the McElwains, Henry Atkinson
("father of Titirangi"), Captain Thomas Wing ("harbourmaster, mariner and
surveyor").
   He seems to know all the local poets, potters, painters and park rangers. His
personal reminiscences stretch over five decades and include cycling to Piha
from Auckland as a boy, digging for toheroa at Muriwai, swimming the Manukau
Heads, competing in local surf carnivals, nearly coming to grief on the
notorious Kaipara Bar during a fishing trip.
   Generally, his tone is one of bubbling enthusiasm. Surveying Whatipu Beach,
he exclaims, "Here is New Zealand's Atlantis." A section on tracks across the
ranges is titled Ten Terrific Waitakere Walks.
   "On this wild and isolated coastline you can find yourself again," he says.
"Away from the stresses of urban life, in the secluded groves, cliff caves and
small beaches, you can let nature heal your city wounds."
   But he's also aware of the danger of inflicting rural and maritime wounds.
The "untamed" part of the title is to be taken seriously.
   Near the beginning of the book, Harvey tells how a jogger became separated
from his group during a run across the Waitakeres and ended up walking in
circles through the bush for four days, "hopelessly disoriented", reduced to
eating fern root and wasps.
   Along the coastline, there are rips that can carry swimmers far out to sea.
There are also holes where bathers can perish a short distance from shore. A
frightening appendix titled Claimed by the Coast lists nearly 80 shipwrecks.
   The scenery is breathtaking, though -- as moviemakers are increasingly
discovering. The area around Te Henga Beach is home to Xena, Warrior Princess.
The Piano and the television series Black Beauty were also filmed in the region.
   Harvey's text is supported by some superb colour photographs by English
immigrant Ted Scott, who has lived in Titirangi since 1981. Harvey has also
uncovered a wealth of historical photographs depicting sailors, sawyers, pioneer
settlers, railway workers, pheasant hunters, picnickers, lifesavers, aviators
and early racing drivers.
   New Zealand abounds in marvellous landscape from Ninety Mile Beach to the
subantarctic islands. The Waitakere coastline might not be everyone's first
choice. But Bob Harvey has done a first-rate job of explaining what makes his
neck of wood special.

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