First episode of Shortland Street goes to air

25 May 1992

Nurse Carrie Burton talking to Dr Ropata
Still from first episode of Shortland Street (Te Ara)

‘You’re not in Guatemala now, Dr Ropata.’ This politically incorrect rebuke of new staffer Dr Hone Ropata (Temuera Morrison) by Shortland Street clinic’s director of nursing Carrie Burton (Lisa Crittenden) was an early hint that this would be no orthodox medical drama series.

Another was the reason for the inexplicable absence of Dr Chris Warner (Michael Galvin), who was much better qualified to perform a difficult breech delivery than Dr Ropata – he was in a compromising position with his aerobics instructor at the time.

Ropata left the Auckland clinic not long after Morrison found even more fame as Jake the Muss in the gritty 1994 film, Once were warriors. Warner has continued to ride his luck, surviving several life-threatening scenarios to become the longest-serving original cast member. In 2022, Shortland Street was New Zealand’s longest-running television drama series.

Shortland Street was ethnically diverse from the outset, and its storylines subsequently embraced gender diversity. An annual cliffhanger (literally in 2000) episode just before Christmas became a convenient way to write out characters. Explosions (2001, 2013, 2016, 2019) and car crashes were particularly useful in this respect. The Ferndale Strangler (2007) also winnowed the cast.

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