Celebrating the greatest Kiwi pop culture love stories

To celebrate Valentine’s Day and the launch of DB Export’s new campaign, The Spinoff pays tribute to New Zealand’s most famous love stories.

Love isn’t something that’s always come easily to New Zealanders. Our “man alone” colonial history has often demanded feelings be suppressed, and emotions were traditionally something to be bottled rather than expressed, acknowledged only when the All Blacks score a try.

So as we’ve grown up and learned more about who we are and how to express ourselves, New Zealand’s unique pop culture has been a guiding light for what love looks like. Our love songs, our celebrities, our soap operas and reality TV have mentored us on love, relationships and heartbreak – and how to express that.

In the most recent addition to our cultural canon of love, and in recognition of the most romantic day of all – Valentine’s Day – DB Export has written a love song. To the delicious RnB influenced slow jam, “I’m drinking this for you”, couple Keshia and Tom are genuine stars in the making as they make a hilarious satire of the “love song till midnight” genre. The song and music video parody mixes traditional intimate gestures and couple goals that you’ll find across the country on February 14. It’s one of those rare ads that’s a true earworm, a capital T-tune, and is genuinely funny.

To celebrate Valentine’s Day, and the release of “I’m drinking this for you”, The Spinoff have put together a list of our favourite Kiwi love storiesFrom the progressive weddings of Shortland St to the groundbreaking on-screen love (and tragedy) of Hudson and Hall, these are the stories that have taught us about love and what it means.  

Art and Matilda – “it’s always been you”

Call me Happy the koala, because I’m about to crap out a surprise nugget of information into the unsuspecting belly button of this here internet machine – New Zealand has never, ever seen a love like Art and Matilda’s, aka Mart, aka Artilda, aka Green-Rice.

Brought together by Three’s first season of The Bachelor NZ which I may or may not have basically called way back in episode one, the goofy, impossibly attractive pair set the bar sky high for the franchise. I firmly believe that bar may never be cleared again – not here, not anywhere.

It’s easy to forget the milestones of their televised blooming romance, especially now that they’re all Warkworth chook houses and underwater engagement photos. Remember how Art was calling her ‘Maddy’ by episode two? Remember Meowser, the flirtatious Hamilton cat that we later found out was weirdly called ‘Stalker’? Remember when Matilda fell off a horse named Paris and Art brought her a magazine and a rose? Remember when Art said “it’s always been you” in the final and somehow didn’t get sued by Iron Man 2?

The cosmic timing of Mart’s arrival to New Zealand screens came just as “influencers” were creaking open their Celebration Box coffins and lumbering onto our Instagram feeds. Although the pair were drowning in brand deals – toothpaste, undies, makeup, streaming services – they’ve never stopped cracking each other up in their Insta stories and generally seeming like the most chill celebrities New Zealand has ever had. And don’t even get me started on their famous cats. If their wedding isn’t played live on TV, I will eat my hat and then probably a frozen Plate Up meal which will probably still be delicious and perfect because they can do no wrong.

– Alex Casey

Scotty and Shanti – a very Shortland St wedding

Almost all of New Zealand’s best weddings have happened on Shortland Street. From Lionel and Kirsty’s traditional church affair in the 90s to Maia and Jay’s groundbreaking lesbian civil union in the 00s, it’s almost impossible to pick a favourite or to say whose was objectively the best. But the most romantic? That’s easy: James ‘Scotty’ Scott and Shanti Kumari.

Scotty and Shanti got married in a traditional Indian ceremony in a back garden in Ferndale in the winter of 2008. I remember almost nothing else from that year, but I will never forget watching their wedding.

I was sitting in the La-Z-Boy recliner I’d carried back to my flat from the inorganic collection, eating a packet of cheesy Alfredo pasta, watching with my flatmates on a big square TV with rabbit ears on top. Right at the moment Scotty set eyes on Shanti – she looked so stunning in her sari – there was this perfectly executed lens flare. Sipping a can of Pepsi Max from the dairy downstairs, I was struck by how genuinely beautiful and surprisingly moving it was.

This wedding came at just the right time for Shortland Street fans and Ferndale residents alike. Everybody was still on edge after the Ferndale Strangler saga (I had been firmly convinced Scotty was the killer just months earlier), and this colourful celebration of the love between uptight army man Scotty and sweet but strong-willed Shanti was the breath of fresh air we all needed. All the good characters were there before they died or moved away: Sarah Potts, Yvonne from reception, Kip.

Scotty and Shanti’s romance burned bright, but theirs was a brief candle. Shanti died in 2009, after getting some kind of virus. May her memory live on in all who watched 2007-2009 era Shortland Street, and may it inspire us to love and be loved with all our hearts this Valentine’s Day.

– Calum Henderson

Hudson and Halls – a beautiful, groundbreaking tragedy.

Hudson and Halls is a love story for the ages. It has it all: fame, fighting, booze, bow ties, secrets, scallops in lime mayonnaise. And an ending as heartbreaking as they come.

David Hudson and Peter Halls met and fell in love in 1962, and in the years that followed the couple ran a shoe shop and an ice cream business. They weren’t professional cooks in any sense but were well known for the fabulous dinner parties they hosted at home in Parnell.

Their television careers started in 1975 with a guest spot on an afternoon variety show and by 1975, the couple had their own TV show named, you guessed it, Hudson and Halls. By all accounts it was a hilariously shambolic hour of cooking, arguing and getting pissed.

Viewed through a 2019 lens, it’s little surprise Hudson and Halls was a hit – it had all the makings of compelling reality TV, without the stilted scripting and excessive editing that mar many of today’s offerings. But the 1970s in New Zealand was hardly progressive: this was the era of Muldoon, when real men played rugby and ate veg and three meat, when homosexuality was illegal and would be for another decade yet. So how on earth did a flamboyantly camp gay couple who fight-flirted outrageously and drunkenly on screen become the biggest thing on TV?

Their relationship was officially a secret, of course; though one presumes more perceptive viewers realised they were a couple. “Are we gay?” the Listener quoted them as saying in 1977. “Well, we’re certainly merry.”

The show was dropped in 1986, to the pair’s dismay, and they moved to the UK. In a satisfying ‘up yours’ to TVNZ, it was picked up by the BBC, and Hudson and Halls lived again. Sadly, the show was panned by the critics and in 1992, Hudson died of prostate cancer. The following year, Halls took his own life, reportedly leaving a note that said: “I cannot see a future without Peter”.

It’s a tragic tale, certainly, but I don’t think Peter and David would’ve wanted us to be sad for them. They’d be thrilled that in the 21st century, their romance – flawed, infuriating, but nothing if not genuine – is being remembered as something worth celebrating.

– Alice Neville

Fur Patrol’s ‘Lydia’ – the perfect pop love song

When I interviewed Chelsea Jade last year, a bit that didn’t make the interview was her describing the ‘b-b-baby’ in Fur Patrol’s ‘Lydia’ as a bit of Max Martin pop perfection. She is, of course, correct. ‘Lydia’ (not just that bit) is pop music perfection.

I love a good love story, but the best love stories are what happens after the relationship, when people agree to stop loving each other in the way that they’ve been loving each other. No more kissing, no more fucking, no more having to share each other’s oxygen and carbon dioxide.

Lydia’s about that part of the relationship – the part when you realise the person you love, the person you kiss, doesn’t want to share oxygen with you anymore. And even though Julia Deans, with her flawless vocals, repeatedly asks: “Don’t you want me anymore? Don’t you love me anymore?“, it’s absolutely a rhetorical question. It’s crossing the road when the light is red – you know you’re gonna get hit, but you might make it to the other side anyway.

– Sam Brooks.

Van and Aurora – Outrageous passion

Van and Aurora’s touching, frustrating, and eventually heartbreaking relationship was huge for me as a teenager. It introduced me to the many sides of falling in love and being in a relationship. Lust, forgiveness, friendship, sex, anger, sacrifice and grief.

As a teenage boy trying to figure out relationships for myself, I recall the relationship mostly from Van’s perspective. I admired how he wore his heart on his sleeve and would do anything to win over Aurora. Deep down he knew they were meant to be and he was devoted to making it happen.

If you’re a fan of the show you’ll remember the incredible rescue of Aurora from Tyson and The Horsemen gang headquarters. Van and Munter used a food truck as their decoy, and while slinging the gang dinner Van played prince and snuck his princess to safety. Van then took a beating from Tyson back at his house after Tyson became aware of Aurora’s disappearance, and it was after this beating when Aurora jumped on top of Van, bleeding nose and all, and the two of them were finally free to be together. That was when I was introduced to what true love looks like.

Yes, Jethro slept with Aurora pretending to be Van. Yes, Aurora kind of had two boyfriends during the entire relationship. And yes it ended in absolute tragedy after Van found out Aurora was helping Tyson sell pot and narked on them to the cops which ultimately led to Aurora’s fatal motorcycle accident. But love doesn’t have to be perfect or have a happy ending.

Love has to be real and Van and Aurora, my friends, were the real deal.

– Mark Kelliher

Sam and Frodo – Lord of the Rings

Sam has loved Frodo more than I’ve loved any man in my life. Sam went further than he’d ever been from his house for Frodo, he went through the mines of Moria, he went through the Elven Forest, he hung out with Frodo’s gross old friend who wouldn’t put on any clothes and kept talking about Precious, based on the novel Push by Sapphire (2009).

I won’t even walk down the driveway for my UberEats order.

Sam and Frodo is one of New Zealand’s greatest love stories, and Lord of the Rings remains the only mainstream homosexual love story to be filmed in this country. If you disagree me with, you’re as blind as Shelob the Spider. If you think any straight man would walk across New Zealand’s gorgeous mountain ranges, wander through the forests and boat down our mighty rivers for each other, then you’ve never met a straight dude. Most straight men I know would call any man they’ve held eye contact with for more than three seconds the best man at their wedding.

Sadly, their relationship was not to be one that lasted a long time, because Frodo went to the West with Cate Blanchett, like every gay man would love to do. Also, Frodo Baggins is a lazy top and Samwise Gamgee is a power bottom, and that’s never going to lead to a long-lasting and happy homosexual relationship.

– Sam Brooks

Nicky and Eric Watson, the queen and king of the Auckland gossip scene

The 00s were the brief and flaming heyday of New Zealand’s gossip pages, ruled with an iron fist, bad intentions and supreme style by Bridget Saunders. Satellite TV and the internet meant New Zealand stopped feeling like such a backwater, and we got our first true homegrown celebrities who loved and lived and behaved extravagantly.

The undisputed queen was Nicky Watson, who had the bad luck of dating a string of New Zealand’s most prominent dorks through the period, meaning that had she not existed Saunders would’ve had to invent her.

Before all that came her first great love, Eric Watson. He was an incredibly astute businessman – buying everything from finance companies which eventually exploded, to clothing companies which eventually exploded, to league clubs which never stopped exploding (some also made money). She was ravishingly beautiful in a way which was made for the Ralph magazine era and understood innately how to capture the public’s attention. Together they sprinkled glamour across the city of Auckland, giving it a sense of scale and exclusivity it had never before possessed and never really has since.

For five years they set the city and its gossip pages ablaze, before they too exploded, with Watson heading off to brawl with Russell Crowe and Owen Glenn, and Nicky to date those dorks before she found her forever dork, the greatest dork of all. His name was Paleo Pete, a terrifying celebrity chef who doesn’t believe in sunscreen but does believe staring directly into the sun is good for you.

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They remain, as they say in gossip, an item, and she seems happy and at peace, which is a beautiful thing. But those of us old enough to remember her arrival will always mourn the days when she and Eric prowled our night spots and superyachts and Auckland city felt a little more electric as a result.

– Duncan Greive

This content was created in paid partnership with DB Export. Learn more about our partnerships here


Who are you drinking it for? I’m drinking it for you.

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