River Queen: The latest word from the production of the upcoming Samantha Morton flick hit New Zealand Herald today...

Patea Beach residents could be forgiven for thinking they were under invasion yesterday as the River Queen army hit town - complete with cannon, colonial soldiers, bullock teams, horses, tents and flying flags.

Cast and crew were on site at Patea Beach, in South Taranaki, to film scenes with stars Cliff Curtis and Samantha Morton against a backdrop of a colonial army going about its business.

The $13 million-plus production tells an intimate story set in an epic context in which young Irish woman Sarah (Morton) and her family find themselves on both sides of the lines during the turbulent wars between Europeans and Maori in 1860s New Zealand.

An army camp of white tents and fluttering Union Jacks were set up at Patea Beach, where crew members worked to prepare props including cannon and clinker-built boats for two days' filming.

Producer Don Reynolds said the site was the location of the main garrison for colonial forces arriving to fight in the film's Taranaki war.

He said Patea Beach was chosen for its 1880s breakwater, which fitted with the period portrayed in the film.

"The site actually had a camp here. There are pictures in the museum here (South Taranaki District Museum) of tents pitched like this on the headland," he said.

After finishing at Patea, the crew and cast will move on for a final week's filming before going into post-production.

The film was about a year away from premiere, Mr Reynolds said..

Gisborne bullocky Doug Katae was on hand for filming yesterday with offsider (a bullock-driving term) Kapa Mete of Wairoa.

Gisborne truck driver Allen Hope had transported the three pairs of bullocks to Patea and all three men were dressed in colonial army costume to perform as extras in River Queen.

Mr Katae said bullocks were appropriate for the film's time period, because they were used in early New Zealand.

He said bullocks were used in developing countries because they could go where horses could not.

"The bullocks have a cloven hoof, which can go through a bog, whereas horses' hooves create suction and get stuck."