NZ On Screen's Nicky Harrop looks back at some films that captured the spirit of life on the islands.

Long-time playground of the City of Sails, the Hauraki Gulf islands have seen some major changes over the years. While Waiheke and Great Barrier have experienced population growth, some islands have scaled back their amenities, in a bid to aid conservation efforts. Others still remain uninhabited – for now.

Made in 1946, this Auckland tourism film features some classic footage of Kawau Island. Shown sun-drenched and filled with well-dressed tourists, it conjures up an almost French Riviera vibe, with Mansion House providing hotel-style accommodation, and a range of leisure activities on offer.

Watch an excerpt from Auckland City of Sunlight here:

From 1964, this episode from New Zealand's first local TV documentary series visits Waiheke, shining a spotlight on a quite different island to that of today. At the time of filming, a lengthy boat trip has kept it the domain of retirees and the occasional holidaymaker, but faster transport, and change, is on the way. We meet local identities, visit a wedding and a 21st, and are left to ponder Waiheke's past, present and future, as Auckland inevitably reels it in.

Watch Islands of the Gulf - Waiheke here:

The culture of yachting on the Hauraki Gulf gets full-blown homage in this 1968 National Film Unit short. Setting up sailing as a way to escape the bustle of the city, it follows the tacks and jibes of a race — "The hum of straining rigging, the sting of flying spray on the lips … the feeling that only a yachtie knows as his craft lifts and surges."


Watch Spindrift here:

Filmed in 1987, this clip from Journeys in National Parks follows a group of school children on a day trip to Rangitoto, exploring flora, fauna, caves and lava fields. A kaumatua reveals the origins of the island's name, and discusses the history of Maori occupation in the Gulf.

Watch an excerpt from Journeys in National Parks here:

From 1988, magazine show Weekend heads to Great Barrier Island, travelling unsealed roads to meet some colourful characters. We encounter Hank the motelier, a rock painter, and a pig rider; and drop in to the post office, golf club, and garage barber. An islander sums it all up nicely: "The Barrier's a hard country, but a very pretty country. Everybody who's moved out here are individuals."

See Weekend - Great Barrier Island here:

Predating Survivor, 1996 TV3 reality doco Fish Out of Water left Kiwi teens to fend for themselves on uninhabited Rakitu Island. Among the group was future National MP Nikki Kaye. Kaye later argued she was meant to represent the "private school girl who couldn't survive without a hairdryer". Instead, she quickly emerged as a leader.

Watch an excerpt from Fish Out of Water here: