NZ Herald editor-at-large Shayne Currie is on a two-week road trip to gauge the mood of the nation and meet everyday and notable Kiwis making a difference in their communities and wider world. Today, he finds out about the revival of small-town Matiere and an astounding hidden story featuring a global superstar. Meanwhile, we have Nine Questions With... businessman, production executive and rugby leader Bailey Mackey (below) and learn more about Jamie Macphail, who spoke to Mitchell Hageman about his quest to reignite NZ’s old rural halls.
What’s the one word to some up your mood right now?
Tired. It’s been a big year - there’s the post-Covid hump that we’re coming out of, and I’ve just spent a couple of months in Europe with the Rugby World Cup.
Before I went to Europe, I had been involved in a couple of forums where they said New Zealand is in a funk, and we need change. We’ve seen that with the election – that’s democracy at work.
But when you go to Europe, you realise we don’t have it so bad… there are some pretty broken countries in Europe. I went to about 12 countries. Have a look at countries like Italy, Greece or Croatia. All are at different stages of finding their feet in a post-Covid environment. The pandemic has changed the world considerably.
What do you wish people knew about where you live?
I have the best of both worlds because I live between the East Coast and Auckland.
On the East Coast, the people are incredible. They are resilient, and that’s been evidenced in terms of the response to the floods, Cyclone Gabrielle, and that programme earlier this year. It is all about the people on the East Coast.
Auckland has always been, for me, a city of opportunity. Someone who comes from a really remote part of the country can attain their dreams. Auckland is a global city; it has everything that other major metropolises have, and a few things more.
I’m an optimist, though. I don’t think you can have the upbringing I’ve had and not have a certain level of optimism and hope. I try to see the good in most scenarios.
What are your passions?
My family and kids. That’s kind of a cliche, but out from that, things to do with Māori, my iwi and trying to influence and inspire better outcomes for young Māori - that’s a biggie.
Also, storytelling - and I’ve been fortunate to make a living with that - and the other one would be rugby.
Not so much rugby from a high-performance point of view - of course, that’s very important - but the role rugby can play in building healthy communities and that ability to move and inspire communities.
And the East Coast!
Which New Zealander (alive or dead) do you most admire – and why?
Āpirana Ngata. He was able to stand effectively in two worlds – he had this deep cultural foundation, but also, when he graduated in 1893, he was the most scholarly individual in NZ. He had a double degree.
He was the first significant Māori participant in Parliament. And he’s also Ngāti Porou and my great-grand-uncle, so his legacy burned bright for me because he was a believer.
He had a saying - “Grow up in your cultural world, but also turn your attention to the ways of world.” Turn your ways to the tools of the world as a means of wellbeing for you and your family.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Seafood and whānau - quite simple - and just time back home on the East Coast.
What is your greatest fear?
I have this inbuilt mechanism of optimism, so I don’t fear a lot, which is probably a bit of a risk, a health hazard.
I fear a country of misunderstanding – where everyone’s different and diverse opinions are not welcomed.
What is it that you most dislike?
Snails, eating snails! I just spent too much time in France. I ate them once and I’m not that keen. Being a Māori from the East Coast, I can eat a lot of things, but snails got the better of me.
What is on your bucket list?
Good quality time with my children; time is the one thing you can never get back.
If I learned anything in Europe, it was from being able to spend some quality time with a couple of my boys. We’ve come back even closer.
The most important role you’ll ever have is being a parent, and sometimes in the pursuit of a career and some other passions, you can put those things aside, or they’re not as big a priority as they should be. That’s the one big takeaway from being in Europe – just that time with my kids.
What do you hope/think NZ will look like in 10 years?
If we go back to my biggest fear, I hope for a country where there is healthy debate; genuine understanding, and where every child can grow up with an equal opportunity to fulfil their dreams. That sounds idealistic, but when you peel it back to its core, those are the fundamentals for a healthy society.
- Bailey Mackey is the founder and owner of Pango Productions which produces a range of shows including Match Fit. He is the deputy chair of New Zealand Rugby.
Shayne Currie is travelling the country on the Herald’s Great New Zealand Road Trip. Read the full series here.