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Matt’s Treasure Island shock ‘things are going to get better’

The popular TV presenter is having to dig deep to find a silver lining after losing something precious

As the year comes to a close, seasoned TV presenter-turned-farmer Matt Chisholm is taking inventory and sums up his 2022 as “one hell of a roller-coaster ride”.

Earlier this month, Matt revealed on social media that he had been let go from his co-hosting role on TVNZ’s popular reality show Celebrity Treasure Island just hours before the show’s hotly anticipated finale went to air.

The revelation was a bombshell for fans, and also for Matt and his wife Ellen when they first found out several months earlier.

It was in July that Matt got a call informing him of the news just a week before he, Ellen and their three children, Bede, six, Finn, four, and daughter Bree, 13 months, moved into their modern farmhouse in Chatto Creek, Central Otago, which took years to build.

The gumboots gang! His wife’s love keeps Matt grounded. “Ellen has always allowed me to do what I want to do.”

“I know exactly why it’s happened,” he pauses, “but I don’t want to play out what went down publicly and I’m a bit sad. Even though I’ve been vocal about how the gig was hard on me and my family, and I’ve sacrificed a lot, I’ve also been well-compensated for it too – don’t get me wrong.”

The broadcaster, who co-presented the show with ZM radio host Bree Tomasel since 2019, has a legion of fans across the country, but it’s his family who are his greatest admirers.

“Call me biased,” says Ellen, 38, “but I think he was bloody good at that job and I’ve seen how much he’s grown in that role. Personally, I think it’s their loss.”

Needless to say, the popular broadcaster now finds himself at a crossroads. (He joked on social media that he is available for children’s birthday parties and bar mitzvahs.)

After working as a journalist filing stories for Seven Sharp, Fair Go and Sunday, and hosting Survivor NZ before Treasure Island, he still wants to work in the industry, but is unsure what that looks like for the future.

“I’ve always rolled with the punches,” muses the 46-year-old. “Someone would say to me, ‘Do you want to audition for this?’ or, ‘Do you want to come and work on this show?’ and I always said ‘Yup!’

“But now I’m thinking it’s a good chance to reset and ask myself what kind of content do I really want to make and who do I want to do it with? I want to take more control rather than bouncing around like a ball in a pinball machine.”

One project he really enjoyed this year was working as a director/producer for local series Nadia’s Farm, with culinary guru Nadia Lim and her husband Carlos Bagrie.

“My neighbour [and cameraman] Scotty Lee and I spent 50-odd days filming at their farm near Arrowtown, and it was such a beautiful thing, workwise.

“Every one of those mornings, I walked into their house and their little boys Bodhi [six] and River [four] would try to steal my cap,” he laughs.

“We’ve all become good friends and have similar journeys of moving from Auckland to go farming while parenting children the same age. Mate, it’s hectic, but this is the life we’ve chosen!”

When we chat, the family’s sheepdog Shade has just been found after going missing, Ellen has fed the lambs and Bree is crying in the background due to accidentally being squashed by big brother Finn.

The gorgeous toddler crawls up on Mum’s lap to have a wee snuggle, as her parents share that going from two to three children hasn’t actually been that difficult.

“Going from zero to one child and having post-natal depression with Bede, that was the hardest time,” shares Ellen. “But because Bree is so cruisy, and I’ve had the support of my sister and parents living around the corner this time, it’s been a huge help and made it the easiest transition.

“I didn’t expect to breastfeed her for this long, but she still wants it and thankfully I work from home.”

Ellen took a year off work and has just begun a “dream job” as itinerary design manager with luxury tourism company Ahipara Travel.

“My job is to look after tourists while they’re here, such as rearranging itineraries if their helicopter can’t fly due to weather conditions,” she tells. “Some days it is a challenge to juggle everything… I might have to skip a shower or a meal!”

“With Bede at school and Finn at daycare, Bree (who also attends daycare two days a week) is at that age where she is into everything! Now she’s standing, she can reach a bit higher and loves getting into the pantry to peel onions or tip cornflour on the floor.”

Matt points out that his little girl simply wants to get involved with her brothers and their activities.

“They’re obviously a whole lot more advanced, so they pick her up, carry her away, and create forts around them so she can’t get in and ruin whatever they’re playing with. “I’m like, ‘Come on, guys. Give her a chance.’ But she gets in the way of what they’re trying to achieve. They do love her to bits, though.”

Big brothers Bede (left) and Finn with Bree. “They love her to bits,” says the proud dad.

He says his sons are playing in the same footy team and are “cunning little buggers” when it comes to helping around the 29-hectare farm.

“A neighbour dropped off a four-wheeler to us that he wasn’t using any more and all of a sudden the boys want to do a whole lot more farming!” Matt laughs. “And they figured that if they help me at night, as the days get longer, they get to stay up later. So they enjoy it when it suits them.”

Their most frequent request is to be taken to play arcade games at Game Over in Queenstown. However, there is one local activity that is proving to be more exciting.

“We were fishing for freshwater crayfish up at the Poolburn Dam and it was freezing cold, but the boys were absolutely champing at the bit seeing these lobsters.

“I said, ‘Sorry, it’s so cold, we’re going to have to go,’ and they went, ‘No, we can’t stop now, Daddy. This is so much fun! It’s even better than Queenstown!’

“They are too young to know how lucky they are. We live in such a cool community.”

These days, the TV star’s getting a buzz out of his bee hives!

After a well-documented struggle with depression, Matt has unintentionally found himself as an advocate for men’s mental health. He’s currently on a nationwide tour as an ambassador for the Rural Support Trust, sharing his personal experiences and talking about remaining mentally resilient through hard times.

“A month ago, I was doing it really tough mentally. Here I was, talking to people about looking after themselves, and I wasn’t doing that well myself. I was honest and told them, ‘I’m in a bit of a hole at the moment.’ I’m never going to be ‘cured’.

“But I know I’ve been in this place before and things are going to get better. I still get really emotional telling my story, actually.

“Then I get an email from somebody saying their husband was going to take their life but they came to my talk, and now they know they’re not the only person thinking these crazy thoughts and want to stick around for their kids.”

While Matt finds great joy being out on the land, getting his hands dirty amongst his sheep and cattle, his recentself-described “bout of the blues” was triggered after losing so many spring lambs.

“I’ve said to a few people lately, ‘I don’t know if I’m cut out for farming,'” he admits. “Because I love the animals so much and want to save every last one of them, and you can’t. For a sensitive man, it’s kind of heartbreaking.

“The thing that’s got me through is choosing gratitude. It’s so easy to focus on the dead lambs lying on the ground, but one day I remember thinking, ‘Come on, look at the living ones though, they look amazing.’ I just needed to shift my focus.”

Ask Matt what’s been the highlight of his farming year and he instantly lights up, talking about delivering his first heifer calf recently.

“That was amazing!” he enthuses. “It was 1.30am in the dark, using the lights from my ute, and I’m by myself when she stopped making progress and I realised I was running out of time.

“So I ran her up in between a gate and a fence, and tried to pull the hooves out and break her waters. But she jumped out of the fence. So I took her into this little sheep shelter I had built. It was touch and go. And then I discovered it was the back feet that were out because I found a tail.

“I’m Googling ‘Can calves be born backwards?’ followed by ‘likelihood of success’. In the end, I wedged myself between the cow and a fence, pulling as hard as I could to pull out this big, black, beautiful heifer. After all of this struggle, I thought she’d be dead, but she was alive.”

Mum and the kids check out the calf Matt delivered.

Filled with adrenaline, the jubilant farmer sat there watching the cow tend to her calf for over an hour, before finally falling into bed at 3am.

“I did ring Ellen at one stage to come and help me, but she had her phone on silent.”

She quips, “And I’m so glad I didn’t see that message or I would’ve felt guilty! Thankfully it was a win-win. Matt delivered on his own and I got my sleep before Bree woke me up.”

As he looks to the future – one that he doesn’t want defined by work success – Matt is most proud of what he and his “shepherdess” have created for their kids down South. It’s the kind of care-free lifestyle they both enjoyed growing up.

He explains, “When I sit at our dining table and look out at the stunning countryside, the hills and at the beautiful faces of my family – I’m tearing up here – I’m instantly reminded of how bloody lucky I am, but also that I deserve it.

“Ellen has always allowed me to do what I want to do. Whether it’s farming or going away to make telly or give a speech, she’s always holding the fort.”

With Ellen by his side, Matt is grateful he’s beginning this next chapter and riding out life’s roller-coaster highs and lows, with his gorgeous family.

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