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Elizabeth Davies sees the latest reality TV series as akin to Colosseum fighting, in which poor, desperate souls tear themselves and each other apart for our entertainment

Elizabeth Davies sees the latest reality TV series as akin to Colosseum fighting, in which poor, desperate souls tear themselves and each other apart for our entertainment

By Elizabeth Davies

I’m a sucker for reality TV.

I’d love to say that I choose to watch only educational and informative programming, and my favourite channels are National Geographic and BBC Knowledge but I’m not a good liar, and I’m pretty open about my sick fascination with MTV, the E channel and crime TV.

We all know reality TV is painfully shallow and dramatic. Personally I watch reality shows and embrace their drama because in a weird way it makes me feel better about my own life. I may be feeling a little bit lost, not eating as well as I should be and not doing enough exercise but at least I don’t have two kids and a heroin habit – I’m a veritable success by reality TV standards.

I like reality TV in the same way that I enjoy people-watching on K Rd. It’s like staring through a peep hole into other people’s lives, a one way relationship that’s simultaneously shocking and reassuring.

Last night New Zealand’s latest contribution to the realm of reality TV debuted on channel One.

‘Our First Home’ is a new reality series based on Auckland’s terrifying housing market. Parents use their own money to purchase a home for their adult children, then the older couple and younger couple band together to renovate this house using a budget and materials provided by sponsors. Teams then keep anything over the reserve price when they sell the house, and the team that makes the most wins an extra $100,000 to go towards their first home.

There are some obvious comparisons to other DIY reality shows like ‘The Block’ and ‘Mitre 10 dream home’. Of course producers quickly point out that this show is completely different as it’s about family and there are far fewer rules. Teams can spend as much of their own money as they are willing, they can buy in any area of Auckland, change what they like and choose to take or leave advice. The houses teams purchase are genuine properties for sale on the open market so teams are also having to compete with the general public to buy the house in the first place.

The whole show has this sick sense of Colosseum fighting. Let’s watch these poor, desperate souls tear themselves and each other apart for our entertainment – don’t pretend for a second this show’s top priority is helping its participants.

I think we’re supposed to view this show as a more realistic representation of the home renovation format. They’re right, it is more realistic. You’re only able to participate if you have parents who are willing and able to pay your initial mortgage. The more money you have to spend on your initial property purchase, the better the area you can purchase, and the more likely your renovation/sale will be profitable. Not to mention one member of the team must be a qualified builder as this is the only way you can save enough money on renovations to make the whole process financially viable.

Families will tear each other apart, tears will be shed, taste will be questioned and relationships will be threatened – sounds pretty realistic to me.

How bad has our housing market become that one of TV’s main ways of entertaining us is allowing us to share in the misery and desperation of those trying to scramble onto the first rung of the property ladder? Misery loves company, and this new reality TV show is, perhaps unintentionally, holding a mirror up to our generation and saying: "This is your reality, are you still entertained?"’


Elizabeth Davies is a graduate of the Auckland University of Technology post graduate journalism course. She writes a weekly article for on money matters and financial struggles from a young person's perspective.

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You can get an 'owner builder' consent which means that you don't need to be a qualified builder to do renovations on your own home.  Not sure if this applies to the show though, haven't watched it.

Except if its structural, then I think you have to use a qualified builder? or plumbing then I think you need consents.

If it's your own home, as an owner builder you don't need a qualified builder, not sure about the plumbing.

Is this contray to all the LBP regulations?

They included structural, restricted, weathertightness (ie pretty much all exterior construction), and anything affecting structural, restricted, weathertightness.  

Pretty much if you needed a consent for the work you need a professional.
As well as like for like repairs in those areas.

I watched Running Man (Arnold Schwartzneger) a while back and I was reminded of that sort of show.

I haven't seen this one or any of the recent changing rooms, the block etc. The whole thing makes me sick, why are they always in such a hurry. Instead of a dignified aproach reflecting the fact that the result is intended to be in use for decades - lifetimes even, you have this  demeaning urgency and the associated half arse methods, materials and workmanship. Who would want to buy one of the "efforts".

This is more like a 'Survivor' reality show where only one survives and many perish. 
We have had the tears already, can't be far off before there will be blood. 

The format reflects the silly narrative about property we are now inflicted with. 
Why sell it ?  The young couple should be just moving in, doing it up, and living there.  No rush, quality improvement, and low cost by doing work themselves and careful purchasing.
Viewers might learn something from that.   Houses are to live in.

I just hope the taxman is watching this show and that he gets his cut when they flip these properties.

Oh they do.  And dispite what it looks like on TV, all the consents and planning are done well in advance (often by experts who have a selection of rough outlines ready to go).

.... yes i was wondering if they would bring this up as the intent to make a profit is clearly evident from the start.    I think it would be a disservice not to mention it for fear other people think they can replicate the same profits.

In reality, even before you even get to the joy of renovation you must work yourself to death to pay the local council for their endless permit requirements.

Unless you put wheels on it... then your consent issues might disappear<wink>.

Yes, Ive stopped doing work that needs a consent.  So if I/wife wnats an improvement I look at the Regs and if I need a consent I think, is it worth the hassle for the gain, if not I dont do it and I have not done it in 12 years.

Watching Reality TV actually makes me physically nauseous and a major reason I avoid public broadcasting (same as competition shows).

I did enjoy some of the Building stuff with"Coxie" and the first couple of house competitions because they were exploring ideas and developing positive opertunities.  

I get no schadenfreude.  I get my buzz on watching systems improve, plans come together, and dreams being successfulled pursued.  (Typical Virgo stuff).

I prefer fiction shows that stretch the mind and imagination and grant new insights into how things can be.  Whether it's ancient civilisations and how a culture builds basic essentials from nothing, or usings trade to build glorious temples and art with little more than a level, compasses and a lewis.   So much so that I ask if they can build so much with so little, why do our people struggle to build so little with so much !   It's not like they had a population or technological advantage !

Likewise I tend for comedy or SciFi, because they challenge how ideas could be.  I look at Star Trek, and say how can a "Federation" exist without currency ... and it all points to a Police State !   As Nog on Deep Space 9 says to Jake when Jake wants to borrow some "Gold Plated Latinum" to buy a ultra rare baseball card for his father, "So Federation you don't need money and you're all about "improving yourselves", you won't need my Latinum then"...

To finish, a quote I heard recently:
"Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people." - Eleanor Roosevelt

The sad reality for DIY is that under current regulatory environment it is simply a non-starter in any serious form.
Adding another room, taking out a wall (or even walling in a verandah) will require:

  • Foundations LBP for the - er - founds
  • Weathertightness LBP for the cladding and windows.
  • Structural LBP for the framing and roof support
  • Roofing LBP for the - um - roof
  • Carpenter LBP for everything else.
  • Every electrical mains-powered tool and cable to be recently certified
  • Scaff and fall protection
  • Site fencing
  • Elfin Safety notices, meetings,inspections

And all a this is Before ya gets to the full horror - dealing with your local TLA for consents and permits......
It's called 'chopping rungs off the housing ladder' - because precisely none of the bullet points above existed 20 years ago.
Hence the interest in Tiny Houses.......on wheels.

Yet some of the regs are a result of the no8 bailing wire mentality of NZers and the resulting mayhem.
PS walling in a verrandah needs one?   plonk for that project then.

That's the excuse given but it's not true.

It's revenue and "job creation" as well as an attempt to make home users to pay to have everything computer recorded and archived.

Lined cavities need inspection.
A verrandah improvement over a couple of square meters will require proper structural (wind, earthquake) resistance - and be properly tied to the rest of the house to stop them working apart under load.

the difficulty is not so much the inspections (which can be good) or having a consent process.... it's that like most government programs it's massively inefficient and slow, with no mindfulness of overruling need to get under peoples' budgets.  (sound familiar)