There's been no shortage of conflict on this year's season of The Block NZ, and blue team's Sophia and Mikaere Gardiner make no apologies for it.
"It's almost like living in a board game where every-one is just really rooting for themselves," says Mikaere, 32. "They're doing their best and if you need to take a couple of people down on the way, I guess that's strategy."
The pair, who married five years ago, have been at the heart of a lot of the drama, including a cheating scandal when they were accused of continuing after "tools down" was called.
Watch: The shocking double-blow that ruined Sophia and Mikaere's room reveal chances. Article continues below.
But they have important reasons to do their absolute best.
"It's for our daughter, for our family and just to make something of ourselves," shares Sophia, 31. "It's really exciting and that's enough motivation to get up each day and to keep trying really, really hard."
And while they both love the vibrancy of Auckland, it's a long way from their home on the outskirts of Turangi, the "trout fishing capital of the world" at the southern end of Lake Taupo.
"Turangi has a lovely peacefulness about the place, but not everything is on your doorstep," says Sophia about the town that has around 3500 inhabitants.
"But it does force you to be a little bit more resourceful. Living in a big city, you probably shop a lot more than you need to, but I found Auckland really exciting and stimulating."
The couple – who met in Whanganui 12 years ago at the Universal College of Learning, where Mikaere was studying fine arts and Sophia a fashion degree – saved hard to purchase a two-bedroom home just over a year ago.
"We look out of our living room windows straight at Mount Pihanga, so it's really beautiful," gushes Sophia. "We have beautiful oak trees all around us and it's quite close to a reserve, so we're lucky."
Their corner property is also where they've dabbled in DIY, painting both inside and out, landscaping the garden and adding a cabin for Mikaere's dad to live in.
It's also an outlet for the pair's irrepressible creativity.
"We're both very visual people," tells Sophia, "so we like our home to look nice and if we can improve something ourselves, then we're definitely going to give it a go."
Fans of Three's hit show have seen Sophia's sewing and crafting skills multiple times and they are something she uses for her own children's clothing line, Frida & Fauna. The busy mum also juggles illustrating, selling candles and beeswax wraps, along with working at a local café!
And just like his wife, teacher Mikaere also has many talents. He's an artist whose works have been showcased around New Zealand and overseas.
"I mainly do paintings," he explains. "Large-scale murals are what I was doing quite a lot of before going into teaching. I've been lucky to travel to different parts of the world and be involved in different exhibitions and festivals, and other cool opportunities."
Having shown his work in Melbourne and with a residency in Austria under his belt, he is part of an upcoming group exhibition at the Taupo Art Gallery in December before it moves to a museum just outside of Shanghai in China.
Mikaere also teaches English, science and art at local Maori immersion school Te Kira o Hirangi, which is just another opportunity for him to use his imagination.
"It's really cool because in science I'm being creative with a lot of the experiments and being more practical," he says with pride. "The kids are loving it. It's a really great experience."
And it comes as little surprise that the duo named their 10-year-old daughter Frida – who is their biggest fan – after Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. "We only had one name picked out, so it's lucky she was a girl!" laughs Sophia. "She's a real sweetheart and really creative as well."
The couple are thrilled with their early win on the DIY series, which enabled them to choose what they believe is the best apartment – the penthouse.
Situated at the top of Kingland's old firehouse, it boasts stunning views and puts them in a good position to succeed at the live auction. They haven't been able to resist dreaming about what they'd do with any winnings.
"Frida is our only child and I want to provide forher education," tells Sophia, whose mum looked after Frida in New Plymouth while they filmed The Block.
"It'll be a little boost for our family and hopefully we can create some memories with some of those funds."
Mikaere agrees. "It's definitely about our family. Whatever we come out with would be something to put forward to make our place a lot better, or maybe take the next step to move to another place."
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