Film­ex­plores Auck­land’s un­der­ground


A man’s ob­ses­sion with Auck­land’s cave net­work has been ex­plored in a new doc­u­men­tary.

Auck­land cave sci­en­tist and ex­plorer Peter Cross­ley are the sub­ject of Meet Peter, a film by Gemma Dun­can which looks at Cross­ley’s 50-plus years of cav­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

In 2013 Dun­can se­cured $10,000 worth of fund­ing from the New Zealand Film Com­mis­sion to shoot the doc­u­men­tary.

The film is now com­plete and has been se­lected to screen at the Doc­u­men­tary Edge Fes­ti­val in Auck­land this month.

It fol­lows Cross­ley as he crawls through dark, damp and hid­den spa­ces be­neath sub­ur­ban Auck­land.

Now liv­ing in London, Dun­can said she was in­trigued by Auck­land’s caves be­cause they were an as­pect of her home turf she hadn’t heard of be­fore.

‘‘I’ve al­ways been in­ter­ested in the places and spa­ces we can’t im­me­di­ately see,’’ Dun­can said.

‘‘In the same way, I love the idea that the London Un­der­ground has aban­doned sta­tions that the gen­eral pub­lic are not al­lowed to visit. I hope to keep mak­ing films about the ‘un­seen’.’’

Cross­ley said there were more than 200 lava caves in Auck­land but only about 20 to 30 could be phys­i­cally en­tered.

How­ever they were all on pri­vate land mean­ing his in­volve­ment with the film was never about en­cour­ag­ing people to ex­plore the caves.

‘‘This was a chance for me to push for­ward the her­itage value of the caves and hope that people do re­mem­ber them so that they are not for­got­ten and de­stroyed.’’

A lava cave is cre­ated when a vol­cano spews lava in streams that cool and harden on the out­side, but keep flow­ing on the in­side un­til it is de­pleted and a cav­ern is formed.

Cross­ley said Maori used some of them as burial caves.

‘‘So there is quite a lot of tapu, sa­cred­ness, as­so­ci­ated with them.’’

How­ever not ev­ery­one has re­spected the caves through the years, with some even us­ing them as a place to dump rub­bish.

Now the big­gest danger to them was builders and de­vel­op­ers, Cross­ley said.

‘‘At least the big­ger ones are pro­tected and you’re not al­lowed to de­stroy them or do any­thing to do them.’’

Orig­i­nally from England, Cross­ley be­gan cav­ing as a stu­dent in the 1960s.

Meet Peter screens at the Q Theatre on Queen Street on May 30 and June 2.

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