Sharyn Smart talks with Nigel Latta

Nigel Latta Photo by: Jonathan Suckling

Nigel Latta
Photo by: Jonathan Suckling

Nigel Latta’s new TV series is focusing on the big issues currently facing our country and aims to get everyone talking.

The first episode titled “The new haves and have nots” aired on Tuesday 29th July with immense positive feedback from the public.

Sharyn Smart talks to him about the show and life in general.

“I had a sort of interesting university career.  I’ve got a Bachelor of Science in Zoology and a Master of Science in Marine Science.  I went back and got a Master of Philosophy with First Class Honours in Psychology and then did a post graduate Diploma in Clinical Psychology,” says Nigel.

“It was back in the days when education was better than free, I got paid to go so I could afford things that were interesting, that weren’t necessarily tied to a career, and come out of that without a massive debt.  I could never have afforded to do that now.  That’s where it’s difficult for kids today because the generation who go their education for free is now telling them you know what … we can’t afford it, you guys have to pay for it yourselves.”

Nigel says it would be easy to solve this problem by getting some of the multi-national companies to pay their fair share of taxes and then most people could have a free education.

These are the sort of issues that Nigel is investigating in his new series aptly titled “Nigel Latta” with each programme focusing on an important issues like the Haves and have nots, alcohol, education, child abuse and neglect, Prisons and sugar.

“This is one of the most important pieces of television I’ve ever been involved with because this is dealing with some really big issues that are facing our country at the moment.  Things like inequality – which is a big issue and also inequality in child poverty.  Things like alcohol, again a huge issue that we as a country are facing.  We look at child abuse and neglect and then prisons.  It’s looking at issues which are really, really important and I think we don’t talk about them enough.”

Nigel loves learning and finding answers to the BIG questions like “How do we find out useful things about the world? How do we find out about the cost of alcohol on this country and what the real impact of alcohol is on all of our lives?

“For me it’s a really important series and I’m glad that it’s going to be playing now because we were deliberately non-partisan when we made the show.  We didn’t want to be promoting any particular party or running down any particular political party.

“What would be really nice is if after watching the series people were to have some different questions to ask the various candidates who would be asking for their votes.  So when the various political candidates are all talking about their law and order policies, and invariably they will talk about getting tough on crime, it would be nice if after the prisons episode, people have some different questions that they want to put to politicians about that stuff.”

Ironically Nigel doesn’t consider himself a “star” and admits it’s the part of his job he enjoys the least.

“I’m not a star, that part of it’s weird.  The public profile stuff is the stuff I like the least because I love being a pretty private kind of guy and I don’t really enjoy that.

“We, my wife and I, are very clear about the fact that my family is well out of all that.  I talk about them in general terms like in terms of their ages and the fact that I have two boys.  But I’ve never used their names publicly, never used my wife’s name publicly and you will never, ever, ever, ever see me in a woman’s magazine posing with my family because that’s not what we want for them.

“For me the public profile stuff is a cost that I have to kind of endure for all that other stuff, but they didn’t sign up for that.  There’s no way on earth that I would do that to them.”

“Because I have this public profile, my thing is “how can I use that in a way that is useful’ to do something productive with it rather than just get lost in the silliness of it.

“What I always think is, being famous in New Zealand, we are such a tiny country, is like being pretty well-known in part of Sydney.”

Managing to “interweave a little bit of the clinical stuff, a bit of the speaking stuff, a bit of the TV stuff and a bit of book stuff” invigorates Nigel and there most certainly is never a dull moment.

“On one level I have been working with families for 20 plus years so it’s more a continuation of things.

“I guess when I tried to think of what I wanted to do for a job I thought I wanted to do something that was meaningful, where you feel like you are making some kind of contribution and so that’s why I’ve done the clinical stuff for 20 something years.

“With TV it changes things because you can talk to bigger audiences and do bigger things.  I’ve been dealing with the after effects of alcohol and inequality for 20 years at the coal face.  Now I have the chance, through television, to stand back and talk to a much larger audience and I guess, put some questions and information out there for everybody to think about.  For me, it’s just a continuation really, rather than a change.”

Nigel’s in-person presentations come with a “coarse language warning” as he entertains the crowd with tales and tips for family life.

“The ticket comes with a warning about coarse language.  The thing is, to be honest, that is my natural state really.  It’s just that you can’t do that on prime time tele, so I don’t. I think about appearances, is that it is doing people a disservice really if swearing is jarring people need to desensitise themselves to it so it’s not so jarring when their adolescents do it to them.

“I think that the F word has changed in terms of how it’s used in language and how it is perceived.  It’s not as jarring as it kind of used to be.  I think what happens is, some people who don’t like that stuff, they tend to pay attention to that word more that it’s there.”

“I always say to people that I put in on the flier because people need to be forewarned.  I just think what I don’t want to do is try to temper your message so that no-one is ever going to be offended.  It becomes incredibly bland because there is always someone who is offended by some aspect of whatever.

“I made the decision pretty early on that I wasn’t really going to go down that road and I was going to say what I think and say it how I say it.  People can then either choose to listen to that or not.”

In his line of work Nigel has experienced some wonderful opportunities.  When he is asked to label himself as part of his job title he is evasive.

“I’ve never had a label, I’m just me really and I just do what I do.  People are either interested in that or they’re not and that’s not really up to me to decide, that’s up to them.

“It’s the nature of the modern world that everybody wants to give you a label to say you’re a ‘this’ or you’re a ‘that’.  I don’t really think about it in those terms, I just get on with doing what I do.  If people are interested they are and if not I will find something else to do.”

One of his great opportunities has been joining the Hyundai Family Time Project. After finding out about them and checking out their website, Nigel was so impressed he rang them up and said “look you want to do this stuff and I want to make some online content to put more parenting stuff out there, so we should get together and have a chat.”

“They’re a company, so what they’re trying to do is promote their brand, but what I like about them is they’re really serious about producing meaningful content for families.  It’s not just cynical marketing stuff, they are really serious and really do want to use their resources to do some good.

“I guess the big thing that attracted me to them was they were interested in the concept of time.  They weren’t giving away toasters or 67 months interest free.  They wanted to give away time so that people could spend time with their kids.  I really like that.”

Nigel’s inquisitive mind is whirring with ideas and he has recently finished filming a programme on the Antarctic.  He is also working on science series.

“There is a two-part programme about life and science in Antarctic that will be screening before too long.  We were down there in January filming that.

“We have just started work on another series which is currently looking at science but making it kind of interesting.  Science is probably the most exciting game going on in the planet today but we don’t really see it on tele because I think people remember high school science and think it’s boring.

“One of the episodes is on the science of house fires.  This has been really, really interesting to work on because I don’t think people understand how fast a fire consumes.  We kind of think, yea fires are bad, but we don’t just understand how bad they are and how fast they are.”

Nigel’s final message is quite simple.

“I think life is complicated but the solutions don’t necessarily have to be.

“Often I think what happens is, people say it’s too complex, we can’t do anything about that.  I don’t think that is necessarily true.”


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