Film to document Great South Rd's rich history

Film to document Great South Rd's rich history

When Auckland's Great South Rd comes to mind, most people probably think car yards, fast food and a way of beating motorway traffic.

But two men are embarking on a 200-kilometre trek to learn more about its history for an upcoming documentary.

They are walking from what's considered the southern end of the old Great South Rd in Waikato to the northern end in Newmarket in Auckland.

It's a passage with a rich history, originally built to bring British troops into the Maori Waikato Kingdom.

"On this side of the river, the Maori King had power; on the other side, the colonial government had power," says historian Scott Hamilton. "So we're going to walk from this place, which was the furthest extension of colonial power, into the seat of colonial power

in Auckland."

Paul Janman and Mr Hamilton will be filming their journey for a documentary, walking and talking to historians, artists and locals.

It will take them around 10 days, but the benefits, they say, are worth it.

"Sometimes you have to get blisters to really get people to listen to you, perhaps," says Mr Janman. "And I guess that's perhaps something that's easily overlooked – you know, our history, our conflicts."

What they're beginning to learn is already surprising them – for instance, discovering more than 100 years ago the Great South Rd was used by hawkers to sell goods, and that those hawkers were refugees from Lebanon and Syria.

"They were the target of quite a lot of racist vitriol and xenophobia," says Mr Hamilton. "And when we discovered the story of the Syrian hawkers, we were just fascinated by the parallels of today, when we have another refugee crisis involving Syrians.

While Great South Rd's route has changed over all these years, the remnants can still be seen.

People can track the pair's progress on their Facebook page, Fragments of the Great South Road.

They're hoping to finish their documentary in time for the New Zealand International Film Festival next year.

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