Tāme Iti reveals his game plan for Celebrity Treasure Island

The Māori activist has a few tricks to keep his celebrity rivals off their game!

He may be one of the more senior competitors in this season of Celebrity Treasure Island, but Tāme Iti’s not fazed by the fact that he’s got a few years on most of the others.

The 71-year-old artist and activist admits he did wonder if his age would be an issue when it comes to some of the more physical challenges in the show, but came to the conclusion that he’d be okay.

“I thought, ‘Can I handle that?’ I’m reasonably fit for my age, but it’s more of a mental game. What I like about it is that you’re not working by yourself – you’re working with a team of different people.

“We’ve got to suss out our team, and go through all the things we are capable of and our strengths and weaknesses.”

He jokingly adds that he and fellow cast member Turia Schmidt-Peke have already hatched a plan to teach their teammates te reo. “That’s our secret code so nobody knows what we’re talking about!”

The knowledge and experience Tāme has accumulated over the years are likely to be a bonus when it comes to many of the tasks, not least for finding food. Tāme’s no stranger to living off the land and one of the first things he did after arriving in the South Island to start filming Celebrity Treasure Island was check out the landscape for potential sources of kai.

“You have to see what plants are around, see what we can use and what we can eat. There’s quite a bit here. It’s different than Te Urewera, but I think there could be a lot here.”

And if that’s not the case, then he’ll deal with it.

“It’s going to be a challenge for people who haven’t been in this kind of environment and have been put here with no food. But I’m not too worried – being hungry is okay.”

He adds with a laugh, “Your hungriness forces you to look for something, otherwise you sit there and die!”

Tāme says his son Wairere talked him into doing Celebrity Treasure Island, but it didn’t take too much persuasion. He said yes primarily because of the charity aspect of the reality show.

“I liked the idea of being able raise some funds for a kaupapa [cause] that is dear to my heart – Mike King’s I Am Hope. I’ve supported Mike in the past. I’ve joined with other artists to raise funds. It’s a very worthwhile project.”

I Am Hope aims to promote positive change around mental health, which it does by talking to kids in schools around the country. It also raises money to pay for counselling sessions for young people. Tāme knows people whose mental health issues have led to them taking their lives, and he’s keen to do what he can to help provide services that can make a difference.

“Every person who takes their life impacts someone – brothers, family, their community. It has happened to my family, I’ve lost close whānau. Some of these people didn’t show signs that they were struggling, but sometimes you can see the signs, and you can step in and find someone for them to talk to. That’s what I Am Hope is about, getting the funds so people can have access to those services 24/7, and there’s a huge need for it.”

Another reason he wanted to do Celebrity Treasure Island was because it sounded like it would be fun and he thinks it’s important to inject a bit of fun into life. “I want to enjoy every little bit of it.”

His children and mokopuna (grandchildren) think it’s a great idea that he’s taking part. “They said, ‘You’re sure to have fun, koro [grandad].'”

Tāme loves being a grandad.

“It motivates and inspires me, it makes me very happy. I know that my mokopuna are the new generation who will carry on the magic.”

Tāme plays himself in the movie Muru.

Although he’s best known as an activist and artist, over the years Tāme has also been a radio DJ, a social worker helping people with addictions, and co-producer of the 2022 film Muru, based on the 2007 police raids in Ruatoki. Tāme starred as himself in the movie, which he wasn’t sure about at first.

“I had to think about that and what it meant. But Tearepa [Kahi, the director] convinced me to do it.”

He adds, “It’s important for us to tell our story. It’s not just something that happened in 2007, it’s what’s been happening over the last 300 years that inspired the film.”

Of everything he’s done in his life, Tāme says he’s most proud of getting up and doing something about issues that he feels strongly about, rather than “moaning and groaning” about them. And he says it’s important to not only share experiences from the past, but look to the future.

“How do you tell your story of how you have been marginalised for hundreds of years, but also how do we let go of that to create the space that enables us to do things together? Like what we’re doing here – we’re creating a reality show that brings people together.”

Celebrity Treasure Island premieres Monday, September 18 at 7.30pm on TVNZ 2 and TVNZ+.


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