Marcus Lush interview

by Fiona Rae / 15 August, 2009
Marcus Lush has a new TV show that is about to blow the lid on the south.


"I'm in love," proclaims Marcus Lush at the beginning of his new TV series. Lest we think he has suddenly become reality TV fodder, he qualifies the statement: "... with the south". The seven-part series, prosaically called South, is set to do for Southland and Otago what Off the Rails did for trains. It begins at Lush's beloved Bluff and traverses the history, geography, flora and fauna of this gorgeous region.

You say you're in the love with the south, but is that a dilemma, because if you love something, you usually want to keep it a secret? I don't know if you do love something you have to keep it a secret. I think the people in Southland want other people to enjoy and celebrate the south as much as anything. I think the south has been under-recognised and often when we're looking at the stories of New Zealand we're focusing on North Island stories. But the history here is stunningly interesting and I wanted to capture some of that. They're stories that have to be told and stories that were just jumping out of the box.

Like what? I don't want to give too much away, but the stories of discovered wildlife, of the great adventurers, the great heroes, the explorers, that sort of stuff, they're just stories that are New Zealand stories. What blew me away was how close and how touchable the history was with the Chinese cottages on the Clutha River and all sorts of stuff. I had no idea of South Island history and now the gold mining, everything, I'm completely obsessed with it.

Has television ignored the south for too long? I generalise, that's my stock in trade, but all the production companies are based in the big cities and they decide to go somewhere and they get a researcher, who's also in the big city, and they'll speak to some friends and they'll come up with the stories that haven't got that freshness because you've seen them before, you've seen them in commercials. It's a bit like the curse of the Paua House in Bluff, you know? Lovely family, lovely place, but in the end you think that Bluff only had the Paua House. I think the real story was never the Paua House, it was the Fluteys who lived there and they were remarkable people.

Do you have an absolute favourite part of the south? Obviously Bluff. And Foveaux Strait to Stewart Island, but I get really drawn to Alex and that part of Central. And I've got to say Fiordland and Dunedin as well, so my favourite place is where I am at the moment. I've got to most of the places on my wish list, but I'm still hearing stories about amazing places and getting to them. So you know, too long in Fiordland and you pine for the warm plains of the Maniatoto, but too long there and you're pining for the wetness and the birds of the fiords.

What effect does the south have on you? Because it has got such a wide hemisphere of light and sky I find it quite uplifting. I don't feel hemmed in by it. I feel euphoric and it's quite spiritually uplifting.

How weird is it coming to Auckland? It's like time travel. It's like having your head in a vice. People talk about different stuff, and I won't make a judgment call on that ...

Like house prices and parking? Yeah, and people in the media and all that obsession, I suppose. I get involved in conversations that sometimes I feel like I need a shower afterwards.

What do they talk about in the south? I don't know ... rural activities, the freezing works, muttonbirding, it seems to have more of a rhythm.

Were you there when the big earthquake hit? I was in Auckland, but there was a 5.2 earthquake yesterday morning.

You were saying on your radio show that you can predict earthquakes. I don't know what that skill is about, but over the years I have had an uncanny knack of predicting when earthquakes are going to happen. I said, "There's going to be an earthquake in a day or two", and then of course, there was the biggest in the world.

How do you know? I just have a sense.

Are you freaked out? We all have a gift - maybe part of it is just that I've got in sync with the rhythm of how often earthquakes are. Maybe they happen quite regularly. It's of no use, I don't know where they're going to be within the country.

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