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Simon Barnett - Living the dream

Simon Barnett predicts plenty of tears during Mitre 10 Dream Home - mostly his own.

By Emma Rawson
It’s been an emotional few weeks for Simon Barnett, host of TV2’s Mitre 10 Dream Home.
First, there was the passionate public backlash surrounding the elimination of four families in the first episode.
Now, he’s also become incredibly close to the two teams still left on the reality show – Sarah and Martyn Giles on Team Orange, and Team Black’s Jay Blair and Amanda Fail – and knows exactly how much victory would mean to all of them.
New Zealand’s reaction to the elimination process didn’t come as a surprise to the presenter, with online criticism of Team Black, who failed to complete a model of their dream home in pre-selection. Simon knows first-hand how earthquakes have battered and bruised the hearts of Cantabrians.
In fact, that fervent response has only strengthened the 46-year-old’s enthusiasm for the hit reality series. Simon knows it can make a difference to the rebuild of a broken city.
“I totally understood, and that’s why I’ve loved being a part of this show. The whole country has felt a huge amount of empathy towards what’s happened here in Christchuch. To me, it says that New Zealand is a village and I’m proud other people care so much,” says Simon.
“It was like the perfect storm – the magnitude of the prize, the intense desires of the families to win. There was such a huge amount of need. I think that is why people felt so passionately. Every one of those families deserved to be there, but unfortunately four very deserving ones had to miss out."
“But, nevertheless, there’s a real undercurrent of hope on a show like Dream Home, because people can see that we’re actually putting buildings up and not knocking things down,” says Simon.
As the show moves forward, with Sarah and Martyn, and Jay and Amanda, going head-to-head building bathrooms this week, Simon hopes the public see how the two teams have opened their hearts to the nation, putting themselves through immense stress to complete their rooms on time.
And, as the tears start rolling, the former What Now? host says he can easily put himself in the contestants’ shoes, after his own family’s experiences, living in a condemned home after the earthquakes.
“I’m a massive cry baby as I get older. I understood their pain and, likewise, I can see the incredible need for both familes."
“Our home was destroyed, but that’s really insignificant, because they’re material things that can be replaced. People need to remember the families that lost loved ones,” says Simon, who now lives in a rental property with his wife of 22 years, Jodi, and their four daughters: Samantha (19), Sophie (17), Isabella (14) and Lily (12).
“The [earthquakes] have been hard, it’s been emotional, but I’m not a guy that dwells on the past. I try to look forward to the future, and with this it’s also important.”
Simon has spent his entire 25 years of broadcasting in the Garden City, and has never considered living elsewhere, likening Christchurch to a pair of comfy track pants. And although he’s focused on helping the city move forward, he says there are little reminders of the past that still leave him choked up.
One is driving past what remains of Shag Rock at Sumner Beach, a geological land feature that turned to rubble after the quakes, now jokingly referred
to by locals as “Shag Pile”. Simon says his biggest role in the rebuild has been keeping people’s spirits up on his More FM breakfast radio show with Gary McCormick, broadcasting from a campervan for six months.
“You had to make light of certain situations. There’s only so much pain people can bear. After a while, it becomes too much for the soul. You have to add levity, and we tried to create a great mix, while still moving forward and being respectful.”
Simon is happy to play the clown on Dream Home. In fact, the self-professed “DIY tragedy” says his wife Jodi is partially to blame for his lack of building know-how.
“I don’t have any tools in the house because I’m not allowed them. The last time I did a home handyman job, [Jodi] said, ‘I think we need to get a man in.’"
“We had a pergola that needed removing, and my wife said my mate could chop it down. When my wife was inside, I said to my friend, ‘Can I just have a quick go with your chainsaw?’ I start chopping, then looked up, and there she was with both hands on her hips, glaring at me.”
Back on the show, there is also plenty of humour on the way, including one trailer-backing challenge that had Simon floored with laughter, and he adds both teams will provide plenty of entertainment.
“Sarah has a huge sense of humour. I suspect she wears the pants and Marty irons them. Meanwhile, on Team Black, Jay is an absolute joker. She loves to tease, but actually it’s Amanda who is the boss in that relationship.”
There are also lots of tears to come, and even Simon admits to getting a bit weepy-eyed.
“It’s excruciating watching the contestants’ faces at judging time. They get very uptight as soon as they see me walk out of the shed."
“In the live final I’m going to be a basket case, because it will be gruelling to watch one family miss out. I’m not looking forward to it. I might just fake a sickie and not come into work that night for the auction.”

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