Phar Lap, Crowded House, Russell Crowe, Kimbra... and now these guys. The cast of reality show The G.C. are just the latest talent we've lost to Australia. Scott Kara gets acquainted with the whanau on the Gold Coast
There are dozens of girls with dangerously short skirts writhing around on the dance floor. Every now and then, with their hands in the air, they shimmy down towards the floor, and then undulate all the way back up. It's like a cross between some sort of mating ritual and a "girls just wanna have fun" dance.
Welcome to the Gold Coast, people. Tonight, TimeOut is at East, a swanky, popular club in Broadbeach - or Broadies as the local neffs (bros), mumsies (their girlfriends), and aunties (single girls) refer to it.
This place is heaving since it's "ladies night" and all. It's a favourite hangout of 23-year-old scaffolder, property investor and ladies man, Tame Noema, and the rest of the stars of The G.C., TV3's new reality series which delves into the lives and loves of a bunch of young Maori as they work and party hard on Australia's Gold Coast.
"I would move back to New Zealand if I could afford to live there. I miss home heaps," says Tame (or Tommy as he is often called). "I miss the diving, the hunting, the outdoors, everything. But this place is the place I have to be. I came to the G.C. for the money, to chase the dream - and the aunties."
And, as he points out in the opening episode at 8pm on May 2, it doesn't matter if they are young, old, "banging", or ugly, he does okay with the ladies.
"Five aunties, five nights. It's not amazing, but it's not bad," he smiles cheekily.
One of the show's other buff stars, Ngahere "Nuz" Ngatai, a good looking Maori boy originally from Rotorua and part of Howard Morrison's clan, is up on stage performing at East as part of R&B group Sex 'N Chocolate (sadly the group hit the headlines last year when singer Tony Williams was found murdered on Christmas Eve).
They are like a Maori showband-meets-Michael Jackson or Usher. And it's no wonder Nuz is cut like a Maori Mr Universe.
"I don't have a 9 to 5 full-time job," he says. "So from Monday to Friday I don't do anything other than go to the gym and work on my house [45 minutes up the road in Brisbane]."
Then on the weekend, he sings and dances, including a Sunday afternoon residency at Koi which is booked out three weeks in advance.
So, much like the rest of The G.C. crew, Nuz is living his dream.
Despite the promotional photos of the show's stars, they do wear clothes. When TimeOut hooks up with them earlier at a hotel in Surfers Paradise, the neffs are wearing shirts (with glimpses of their tattoos), and the girls add a touch of glamour, revealing far less skin than they do on the show - though plunging necklines are obviously part of the uniform.
As well as Tame and Nuz, there's part-Maori, part-Italian property investor Jade Ruwhiu and scaffolder and fellow property hotshot Zane Houia. They are here with their respective "mumsies" Jessi Nugent and Rosie Arkle (who are both glamour models, though Jessi also dabbles in real estate).
The two couples share an apartment with Tame on the 40th floor of a Broadbeach high rise - nicknamed The Whare - where much of the action of The G.C. takes place.
Then there's 30-year-old Cole Smith, a former soldier in the New Zealand Army and martial arts exponent turned personal trainer, whose goal is to open his own gym.
Rounding out the lads are cocky wannabe rapper Nathan "Nate" Waikato and dapper model-turned-personal trainer and mentor Alby Waititi (a second cousin of film-maker Taika).
The other two G.C. girls are 28-year-old singer, solo mum, and fast talker Jade-Louise Harawira Dewes, who, though not Maori by blood was brought up in a whangai situation ("Even though I'm the Australian adopted one I know more te reo than my little sisters"), and DJ Tuini (real name Elyse Minhinnick) who was born in New Zealand but raised in Australia and knows little about her Maori heritage.
They are a likable, friendly bunch, and excited about the show starting next month. But because it's a revealing look into their lives - for example Jade and Jessi's tumultuous relationship is exposed warts and all - they are a little nervous.
"But I like rarking people up a bit," says Zane, "so yeah, I'm ready."
"I don't mind being an open book," adds Jade-Louise, who is also a cousin of pop star Stan Walker. "[But] I don't want my son to be too exposed. The show was an opportunity for me to push my music and it was also an opportunity to be myself, to be honest, claws and all. If they don't like me, sweet.
"But at the same time, I know there will be some backlash, things I don't like, and awkward moments, but there are also really awesome things."
New Zealand has never had a telly show like The G.C. before. The $420,000 NZ On Air-funded series is like a cross between hit MTV show Jersey Shore and British "scripted reality show" The Only Way is Essex. However, it's not as trashy as J.S. or its sordid British off-shoot Geordie Shore.
"It's totally different," says Rosie. "There is a lot more depth to The G.C.. The guys on Jersey Shore have no real dreams like the Maoris do here."
Yes, the Gold Coast gang like to party hard but they also work hard and are doing well. They are careful not to bag New Zealand, because they love their home, but Australia has more opportunity and better earning potential.
And as we find out, some of them have heartfelt goals in life - which can't really be said for Jersey's The Situation or JWoww. Take Tame. Though he is unashamedly hungry for money and aunties, his main mission in life is to work hard and earn as much as he can to help his parents.
"At the end of the day my ultimate goal is to retire my parents and help them out and I'll do whatever it takes to make that happen.
"Growing up, we struggled big time. I just want them to be able to stop working for a change and enjoy life."
Not that the gang have to sacrifice their leisure and party time because as well as saving and investing their money they earn enough to live a "luxury life".
Tame says his pay packet each week comes complete with additional extras such as tool, travel and "crib" allowances, among other perks.
"We get a lot that you don't get when you're busting your arse back home, and it's because of that we can live the lifestyles we live over here. But without work you can't party so you've got to put in the hard yards to get up in the morning and be the best you can at work."
It's crawling with Maori over here. There is a loyal community who celebrate Waitangi Day, and other iwi-specific days like Taranaki and Tuwharetoa Day, some speak fluent te reo, and most visible of all are the tattoos (ta moko) worn proudly by many Maori on the Gold Coast.
Jade was 19, and about to leave home, when he got his ta moko done under the guidance of his father.
"My dad knew our background and he wanted me to understand our genealogy before I left and I got my ta moko done with him there. It gave me a newfound understanding of myself."
Being Maori, and their ties back to New Zealand, are important for all of them, even if they are more Australian than Kiwi.
"When I'm missing home I have to go back," says Cole. "My father is always up in the Ureweras, we go for a hunt, and we go get some pigs and stags. And I catch up with my grandma in Mahia too. I love it."
But for now, home is the G.C.
CAST IN BRONZE
Here's the lowdown on the cast of The G.C:
Gorgeous, self-confessed drifter. In the real estate game but about to take her first steps as a glamour model. Jade's girl.
She says: "I go with the flow and do what ever comes my way."
Tried his hand at professional rugby in Italy before getting injured and now the leader of The G.C. property pack.
He says: "My dream was always to be someone."
Straight-talking glamour model and promo girl originally from Whangarei.
She says: "I didn't necessarily move here for money, I moved here for the beaches, the sun, the glamorous life."
Tame's mate, scaffolder and property investor. He's brawny but a romantic at heart and is kept in line by girlfriend Rosie.
He says: "It's a good place to get ahead in life. I'm not a great saver, but you just have so much freedom, and money."
A lovable rogue. His passions are "aunties", tattoos, earning money, and Maoritanga. Just don't call him a Mozzie (a Maori Aussie). "Nah, I don't like it. I'm Maori."
He says: "I wouldn't say I'm the star of the show, but if that's how they have portrayed me then I'll take it."
Fast and feisty talking solo mum and singer who made it to Boot Camp round of X Factor Australia with Nuz.
She says: "I only got wasted once [on the show] and I have no idea what I did during that time. Oh well, it was only once."
Suave, cut, and savvy singer and dancer. Best friends with Jade-Louise.
He says: "A lot of people in Australia don't have a deep culture like the Maori culture. It's something in your blood and it's something to be really proud of - and every Maori on the Gold Coast is pretty proud of it."
Wannabe rapper who talks himself up constantly. But can he walk the talk?
He says: "Girls love me on the G.C."
Sweet natured former model turned personal trainer and mentor to kids.
He says: "I was brought up in my Maori community, knowing my ancestry and where I come from and I just want to represent Maori in a positive light. We are a classy race."
An ex-soldier, martial arts expert and family man with a cute Maori-bro giggle. His goal is to open his own gym.
He says: "I miss home but the opportunities were here for me to do what I want to do."
DJ Tuini (Elyse)
Hard working, on the up superstar DJ.
She says: "I feel very Australian. I was born in New Zealand but I grew up here so I wasn't raised to have a cultural awareness. So from [the show] I have learned a lot about who I am."
What: The G.C., TV3's new reality show about a group of young Maori living, working, and partying hard on the Gold Coast
Where and when: Wednesday, May 2, 8pm, TV3
-TimeOutBy Scott Kara @scottkara Email Scott