Sea Patrol: articles

Mission bids sad farewell to Sea Patrol

TONIGHT the final season of Sea Patrol opens with a dedication to Mission Beach and its residents, thanking them for being "their home".

Sea Patrol was filmed in the north Queensland coastal town for two months out of each of the past five years, a tenure that was book-ended by cyclones Larry in March 2006 and Yasi 11 weeks ago.

Producers Hal and Di McElroy and cast members Lisa McCune (pictured), Ian Stenlake and Kristian Schmid were in town for a "thank-you" screening and free sausage sizzle last week.

It was the first time they'd been back since Yasi hit and they were shocked by the devastation.

"Everyone told us that in the first few days it was just brown; it looked like a bushfire had gone through," Di says.

"Part of it will never recover," Hal adds. "It will never be the Mission Beach we remember. It will survive and prosper but it will be different."

But chatting to some of the 400 or so locals who attended the outdoor screening, many were of the opinion the loss of the TV drama would have a similar, if not bigger effect on local spirits and finances.

"Yasi was nothin', we're actually gonna miss Cyclone Lisa (McCune)," said one smitten man, with a conspiratorial nod and half-chuckle that if he told me his name, he'd be "the laughing stock".

But Alister Pike, who runs the Dunk Island Sport Fishing charter business, was more than happy to go on record.

"Millions they brought in each year," says Pike, who moved to the beach in 1967 as a youngster with his parents, who also still call it home.

"Socially, for the psyche of Mission Beach it's been very good these are good people," he says, cocking a look over at Stenlake and Schmid.

"Look, I don't make friends easily, and I do count Ian as a friend. So for me, it will be sad for them not to come up each year. It was sad for them to come back today and see the place like it is. If they'd seen it in the raw form they would have been absolutely shocked."

McCune remembers what it was like arriving in the area after Cyclone Larry.

"But coming back this time and knowing the area and the people, it has had more impact; you have a connection to the place," she says.

Schmid nods. "Our welcome to Mission Beach was driving through Innisfail in 2006. Houses were off their stumps, roofs were gone," he says. "The attitude of the locals their resilience is pretty amazing."

Stenlake also has been touched by that attitude. "It's stoic," he says. "They're still staring directly into the face of adversity. What's happened to their lives and their careers is quite possibly the most challenging thing they will ever have to face."

But come hell or high water, Hal and Di would love nothing better than to set their next drama series in Mission Beach.

They say they fell in love with the town when scouting for locations and have no intentions of selling their luxury apartment overlooking the township and Dunk Island.

"We absolutely love this town. We would love to shoot something up here," says Di, while Hal adds they intend to have a holding there "for a long time".

"We believe in the district and believe in the location, the destination; we believe in the people," Hal says.

The five years that Sea Patrol was shot in the area proved to them not only that it was logistically possible, but that it is an area "ripe with stories".

"It is so unique," Hal says. "It's a crossroads for so many activities there's such a cross-section of people."

In the interim, the final series, which literally kicks off tonight with a bang, continues to showcase the beauty of the region and the lifestyle it offers.

Surveying the crowds enjoying the episode at Castaways resort, Hal is smiling: "If we can just bring attention back to Mission Beach and remind the world and Australia that it is still alive and kicking and it's a wonderful place that would be a good outcome."

By Geoff Shearer
April 26, 2011
The Courier-Mail