When Tamati Coffey left TVNZ at the end of last year, many wondered what the popular New Zealand's Got Talent presenter's next move would be. After nine years with the network – he first started on What Now in 2004 – Tamati's cheerful grin is now notably missing from our screens.
But as he and his partner, Tim Smith, tell the Weekly from their newest purchase – a large five-bedroom lakeside do-up property in Rotorua – this isn't the end, but more of a new beginning for them.
"While we were travelling for eight months last year, we talked a lot about what we'd do when we returned to New Zealand, and a big part of that plan was to settle down as a family, and to get into property investment – and we have. Well – we've done one of them, at least," explains Tamati (34) who, along with Tim, has the mantra "Everything is as it's supposed to be... right now" tattooed on the inside of his forearm.
"Over the years we've worked hard, and while our plans are always changing, and we're always thinking up new ideas, we're starting to build our own little empire! There's a lot to do, and we're having to juggle a bit financially, but it's pretty exciting. It's very much a 'privileged problem' – we are very privileged to be in the position we're in."
The couple's "empire" includes a two-bedroom house in Herne Bay that Tamati and Tim completely refurbished in 2011, living there before renting it out last July, when they left the country.
They also own a three-bedroom house in Mangere, which they also rent out, the four-bedroom house in Rotorua that the kind-hearted presenter bought for his parents, Rangi and Gerald, and now a second Rotorua home with a million-dollar view that the couple are keen to make their own one day, but will rent for now.
"We want to live here one day and we've started renovations, but only downstairs for now – we can't quite afford all of it just yet," says Tamati. "We're not natural planners – just the other day we were talking about upping sticks and doing a bit more travelling – but ultimately yes, Rotorua will be home."
It's quite a big statement from the larger-than-life Kiwi, who is known for his extroverted personality. His star-studded civil union in December 2011 to Tim was famously flamboyant, featuring drag queens, showgirl bridesmaids and choreography by dance impresario Candy Lane.
"We are definitely partying less – and that's okay," smiles Tamati. "Nothing will top the amazing nights all over the world we experienced while travelling, but since we've been back, I think we've changed. When we do party, we tend to invite people over rather than go out. I feel like – partying in bars: tick. We've done that."
So is it time to start the family that Tamati and Tim have always said they'd like? "Yes. We just need to find a uterus!" laughs Tamati, who is already uncle to his two sisters' children, all of whom live on the Gold Coast in Australia.
"Having children is something we are definitely thinking about, but it's actually harder than you'd think. Last year, during the marriage amendment bill, we found out there were very few legal adoptions in New Zealand last year. While kids are often taken into care, most are normally placed within their own family. So while we intend to have a look at our options – which will include surrogacy, as well as adoption – it's not something we'll rush into. But we're pretty good with nappies already!"
"We're good candidates to become parents, I think," adds Tim. "Imagine some kid being told they were having Tamati as a dad!"
But while the couple are looking to the future when it comes to parenting, don't ask them about their long-term plans – because, true to form, they have no idea.
"We've never been the planning types, which is a huge frustration for friends who want to know what we're doing in a month's time. Text the day before you want us," laughs Tim.
"For us, life is all about seeing an opportunity and taking it," agrees Tamati. "That's why I love Tim – he's along for the ride. He'll take a deep breath and just go for it."
And that rule applies to most aspects of life for this couple.
"We're 'yes people'," explains Tamati. "I believe there are too many 'no people' in the world, people who shut themselves off from opportunities simply because they are too frightened to try something new. Tim and I are all about keeping our options open."
So does that include remarrying, now the pair can officially marry? "We'd like to, yes – we just need to set a date, and find some head space to think about it," says Tamati thoughtfully. "We had our civil union because we wanted to declare our commitment to each other, and because it gave us rights and privileges.
"But we do want to get married – maybe we'll wait until we've got a couple of kids to share it with, then we'll go for the upgrade!"
No matter what the future has in store, there's one thing of which the pair are certain of – they'll be doing it together.
"Now I'm not at TVNZ any more I feel free to choose my dreams," says Tamati, who has been approached to do more television work and is currently considering his options, which include a stint in radio – something he's never done before.
"I do think about it a lot – I'd love to have a hybrid show that takes the best parts of Ellen, Graham Norton and What Now – a weekend kind of programme. And I'm a huge talkback fan. I love the characters who call in, and I really admire the DJs who have the skill to get people talking. I once asked [Newstalk ZB presenter] Danny Watson, who I worked with on What Now, if he had to 'ring in' his mates to call and create conversations, but he assured me that's not the case. The regulars who call in all do it themselves."
Whether it's TV or radio, it's a sure bet we'll hear that voice or see that infectious grin again.
"We have four houses to keep up – I have to pay the bills!" laughs Tamati. "I'm keen to start a new chapter in the book of my life – the clock is always ticking! But whatever happens, this part of it – Tim and me – that's in stone. Anything and everything else can happen, but this part isn't up for debate. When it comes to my relationship with Tim, I don't question it, ever."
"The truth is, yes, a lot is uncertain at the moment, but we are happy," says Tim, who is juggling part-time teaching work with learning about real estate. "Tamati and I have worked hard to get where we are. "Of course, there are times when we worry about the future. We are both guilty of putting pressure on ourselves – striving to be the best possible humans we can be. But we are happy with the situation, with the houses, with each other."
And will we see Tamati on TV again? "Oh, yes," he says with his trademark huge smile. "My dreams are big! I want to be the absolute best at what I can be. Whatever comes next, the only thing I know about it is that it is going to be damn exciting!"
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