When Andrew Hardman arrived in New Zealand for his dream holiday he had one ambition above all others: "to breathe the air that was Shortland Street".

The 35-year-old from Bacup, Lancashire, reckons he is the UK's biggest fan of the Kiwi soap, which celebrated its 20th birthday on Friday. And he was delighted to discover that a street in downtown Auckland shared the name of his favourite TV show.

Hardman, who says he hopes he is the world's biggest Shorty fan, has been watching from his home in Bacup, near the Yorkshire Dales, since the first episode aired on British screens in 1993.

The soap was axed in the UK in 2003, but continued to air on an Irish network which Hardman can tune into.


He has recorded almost every episode and buys Kiwi women's' magazines so he can keep up with gossip on the show's cast.

His memorabilia collection includes books, DVDs, T-shirts, posters, calendars, a CD of the theme song, stamps, a fridge magnet and autographed photos of the cast - but he says he'd love a scrub uniform top.

He even starts emails with "kia ora", the greeting Shortland Street receptionists use when answering the phone.

Hardman, a probate adviser for a bank, is "totally bonkers" about the soap because its storylines mirrored those of everyday life, he said.

"It has storylines which I have related to, [like] coming out, losing a loved one, and having financial troubles."

Friends and family were aware of his love of the soap, although they found the Kiwi accent hilarious, he said.

Hardman celebrated the soap's anniversary by watching the feature-length episode online, when the international block was removed for two days last week. He says he dreams of one day touring the studios and meeting the cast and crew.

"I can dream, can't I?"