The Last Resort
Reviewed by Graeme Tuckett - Dominion Post. Radio New Zealand
Reviewed by Graeme Tuckett - Dominion Post. Radio New Zealand
Errol Wright and Abi King-Jones put together The Last Resort as a labour of love: Love of the medium, love of their subject, and above all, out of an undying love for this country and its rich, dense history.
Starting out in 2004 with the indefinable aim of 'telling people what's happening to our land', the film makers travelled extensively through New Zealand before they alighted on one perfect unfolding story that might encapsulate their concerns.
At Mahia, along the North Island's East Coast, the Blue Bay Campground- one of those council owned treasures that had hosted a million iconic Kiwi Christmas' over the last fifty years- was being sold to a property 'developer'; a bloke from the city who intended to build a few dozen beachfront mansions where a hundred tents and caravans had once huddled together.
Ranged against him were a disparate group of New Zealanders: long term and long time residents of the campground, locals who'd lived in the area for a few years or a few generations, and local Iwi, whose families had gifted the motorcamp's land to the crown a century before, for use as a public park. The alliance of mostly European campground users, and the local Maori created a resistance movement that saw the dispute all over the national media within weeks, and which tells us any number of things about race-relations in this country- both good and bad- that Don Brash's billboards never touched on.
Counterpointing the Bluebay Campground story, Errol and Abi get us inside Government select committees, the offices of the Business Round table, the studies of numerous historians and commentators, and a number of hui and wharenui, to show us some of the complexities, subtleties, characters and issues that surround the very topical larger questions of land-sales and land use in New Zealand today.
The Last Resort is a hell of an achievement: A subtle but fiercely angry film that refuses to simplify its themes for mass-media consumption (or television sales). I've watched this film four times now, and each viewing has left me with different sympathies and different criticisms. It's supposedly box-office poison to write Everybody should see this film', but for The Last Resort we should make an exception: if you live in New Zealand, no matter what your politics or preconceptions, you owe it to yourself to see this film at least once.
Defiantly defending our beaches
Reviewed by Margaret Agnew - The Press
The classic kiwi holiday - camping by the beach - is under threat. It's not so much Paradise lost, as Paradise sold.
Not many documentary films make the transfer from film-festival circuit to a run at the theatres. When they do, usually they're the doco version of a blockbuster - either starring Al Gore or directed by Michael Moore. So, when a little New Zealand documentary scores a run in theatres all over the country, it's something special.
The Last Resort is a close look at the effects of a beachside camping ground being sold to a housing developer in the tiny settlement of Mahia, in northern Hawks Bay. The former camp owner Grahame Nash predicts grimly, that over time, more and more people will fall for the big dollar like I did. The classic Kiwi camping ground of Blue Bay will soon be a 44-house luxury estate, full of houses the locals can't afford.
As well as hearing from experts such as historian Harry Evison and lawyer Moana Jackson, there are some eloquent and heartfelt interviews with residents and long-time campers, upset and dismayed at what is happening. One unhappy camper compares it to the way the land was taken from the maori and quotes Desmond Tutu. Another mutters it rips your jandal, man . These eloquent Kiwis are genuinely upset, whether they've been camping at Blue Bay for four generations or only recently discovered the spot. And then there's the expat Aussie who came to Mahia in 1972 to escape coastal suburbia only to discover it has arrived at his back door. Stephen Dawe, chief executive of the Overseas Investment Commission (OIC), talks of foreign investors in glowing terms as having a fresh set of eye's that turn a backwater into something more dynamic . Contrast that with comments of a former employee of the OIC who seems embittered by his time there, granting consents for such fresh sets of eyes as that of convicted murderer Tommy Suharto, son of the former dictator of Indonesia, who bought Lilybank lodge in the Mackenzie Country. Poignantly, the late Rod Donald appears several times and the film is dedicated to his memory.
The soundtrack which is patchy in places, nevertheless makes good (often ironic) use of tunes such as Fred Dagg's We Don't Know How Lucky We Are and What A Wonderful World. The Last Resort is reminiscent of filmmaker Stefen Lewis's The Waimate Conspiracy, in which a 139-year-old land claim is settled. That was fiction - there's no happy ending to be found here.
Moving and disturbing in equal measures, the issues covered in The Last Resort should be of concern to all New Zealanders.
Tale of Kiwiana lost - moving, poignant
Reviewed by Mark Orton, Otago Daily Times
If you have ever had the pleasure of camping by the sea or spent a summer at the family crib, or even thought that you might one day purchase your own piece of coastal tranquillity then The Last Resort is a must see.
During the media fuelled furore surrounding the seabed and foreshore debate and the resulted hikoi, a lot of untruths and exaggerations were made. Indeed, it is probably debatable as to whether Joe public ever fully understood the true implications of the protest or the underhand solution reached by the government.
The Last Resort succeeds primarily because it breaks this issue and the ramifications of overseas investment into bite-sized pieces that are not only easy to digest, but are delivered by informed and engaging subjects.
The vehicle to draw the viewer in is the sale of a campground used by campers and holidaymakers for the past 60 years to a developer with plans to subdivide the land into a gated community for the wealthy. As the campers are packed up and moved on and the trees begin falling, we start to find out that the “progress” being delivered to Mahia is paralleled throughout New Zealand. This is more complicated than simply a question of taste; the very tenets of Kiwi identity are on trial here.
Told through a succession of talking heads, the presentation is quite bland to begin with. However, it is worth persevering as the filmmakers gradually reveal their trump cards and in the process create a moving, thought-provoking and poignant tale of Kiwiana lost.
This is not the tale of the enemy within, rather the film quite obviously sides with the disenfranchised Kiwi (both Maori and Pakeha) who feels powerless to halt the global conquest by the uber-wealthy of our precious public domains.
The Last Resort is relatively devoid of any cinematic embellishments. The camera is shaky, interviews are conducted on the fly and little attempt has been paid to a cohesive stylistic look. The real beauty is in the attention to detail in research. Wright and King-Jones have assembled a tremendous cast of people from the left and right of the political spectrum and cleverly played them off against one another.
The Last Resort is an indigenised budget version of The Corporation. If you delighted in that tale of white collar-crime then you should be fascinated if not a little concerned at the level of greed exercising deceit behind the scenes in Godzone.