Pop CultureSeptember 14, 2023

Remember the very first cast of Celebrity Treasure Island?


Join us as we revisit the very first episode of 2001’s Celebrity Treasure Island and find out what the contestants are up to now.

This is an updated version of a story first published in 2017.

There were nine whole seasons of Treasure Island between 1997 and 2007, but pretty much all anyone remembers is the time Lana Coc-Kroft nearly died after stepping on a bit of coral. The brainchild of New Zealand’s reality television evil genius Julie Christie, Treasure Island belongs to an era before the technological dawn of everything being on the internet forever. Online television archive NZ On Screen has, however, managed to successfully prise open the chest containing the full first episode of 2001’s inaugural edition of Celebrity Treasure Island.

The series took 14 New Zealand celebrities and plonked them on a remote Fijian island to fend for themselves. Unlike modern Celebrity Treasure Island, which busies its contestants with endless games and challenges and intense strategy, the original Treasure Island was more into documenting the tedium of being on a desert island with nothing to eat.

The one challenge in the episode sent the two teams on a frantic search to find a piece of the puzzle which, when complete, would form the clue required for the final two contestants to find the buried treasure.

These Kiwi celebs were split into two camps, blue and red, and made to build their own shelters. Luckily each team was blessed with a celebrity builder – My House My Castle’s Cocksy on the blue team and Changing Rooms’ Handy Andy on the red. Host Pieta Keating (runner-up on the first Treasure Island in 1997) presented the two teams their clues for the episode.

The show was sponsored by Telecom and something called “djuice”. This meant the clues were written in a nascent form of text-speak which the contestants had to decipher – a piece of cake for the blue team’s youngest member, a plucky lad called Dominic Bowden.

By the end of the episode, Danny Morrison had wrung a chicken’s neck and Anthony Ray Parker had uttered the phrase “too many chiefs not enough Indians” a concerning number of times. There was no shortage of tension, but there was drama too, when Keating forced the blue team to reveal the contents of their bags and discovered smuggled items of contraband.

While some of the show’s stars, like Bowden, have gone on bigger and arguably better things, others have faded from view. Where did they come from, and where did they go? Let’s start with the blue team.

Frank Bunce

There were a lot of snazzy sunglasses on the first episode of Celebrity Treasure Island but Frank Bunce takes the cake with this lethal pair of lenses. Surprisingly, the 55-cap All Blacks centre was the only rugby player on Celebrity Treasure Island. Last seen getting back in shape on the first season of Match Fit and in a Woman’s Day story from 2020 about becoming a father at 58.

Nicky Watson

The model formerly known as Nicky Watson could well be the most well-known New Zealander who doesn’t have their own Wikipedia entry. Now living in Australia under her maiden name Nicola Robinson, she remains in the public consciousness as a result of her relationship with controversial celebrity chef “Paleo Pete” Evans.

John ‘Cocksy’ Cocks

Celebrity builder John “Cocksy” Cocks rose to fame in the late 90s as the star of TV2 renovation show My House My Castle. How a humble tradie could become one of the most well-known and beloved figures in the country remains one of New Zealand’s greatest mysteries. The eventual winner of the inaugural Celebrity Treasure Island, Cocksy sadly died in 2019 after a battle with cancer.

Katrina Hobbs

If Buncey had the best sunnies on the island then Katrina Hobbs had the best – or at least most quintessentially “2001” – headwear in this white towelling Paul Frank bucket hat. As an actor, Hobbs holds the rare distinction of having held major roles on both Home and Away and Shortland Street during her long trans-Tasman television career. Now she’s an interior designer and one of the judges on House Rules NZ.

Dominic Bowden

Back in 2001 Dominic Bowden was known for being the fresh-faced presenter of Squirt and wearing a wicked Ferrari cap. He’s now known as the host of basically every reality show New Zealand has ever made, plus a wellness podcast.

Jayne Kiely

A former New Zealand Commonwealth Games athlete, in 2001 Jayne Kiely was one of the most recognisable faces on television as the host of feel-good renovation series Mitre 10 Dream Home. Nowadays she is a real estate agent with Ray White Mission Bay.

Trent Bray

Commonwealth Games silver medallist Trent Bray was nominated by the blue team as their spokesman for crucial trade negotiations with the red team’s “Handy” Andy Dye in the first episode of Celebrity Treasure Island. Handy Andy called his bluff and he came away empty-handed. These days the swimming adonis runs the Trent Bray Swim School in Auckland.

Sally Ridge

Another Celebrity Treasure Island contestant plucked from one of New Zealand’s many, many home renovation shows. In 2001, Sally Ridge was an interior designer on Changing Roomsalthough her defining television moment would come years later alongside her daughter Jaime and a stunt mouse in The Ridges. She now works in residential sales for Bayleys Real Estate.

Danny Morrison

New Zealand’s most gaffe-prone cricket commentator introduced himself to Celebrity Treasure Island viewers by saying his biggest fear on the island was getting no sleep “because you know what women are like… they talk all night!” Later in the episode he killed a chicken and got caught with a contraband muesli bar. These days he is a globe-trotting cricket commentator for hire, specialising in obscure and far-flung T20 competitions.

Nicki Sunderland

A ZM radio host in 2001, Sunderland provided the most shocking moment of Celebrity Treasure Island’s first episode when she was caught with a contraband cigarette in her luggage. The discovery of the durry, along with Danny’s muesli bar, meant the red team had to give the blue team a fish hook as punishment. She is now a Bay of Plenty-based marriage and civil union celebrant.

Anthony Ray Parker

Best known as Suzanne Paul’s limousine driver in the how-did-that-get-made series Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner, US expat Anthony Ray Parker would have been one of the first names on the Celebrity Treasure Island casting wish list. Parker’s celebrity star has dimmed since those halcyon days for New Zealand television. Last seen in 2013, as the face of an “online venture” called “RealStew”.

Stacey Daniels

The popular host of TV2’s Mai Time circa 2001, Stacey Daniels (now Morrison) was the eventual runner up of Celebrity Treasure Island, narrowly losing to Cocksy in an epic race to find the treasure in the final episode. Morrison remains on television, most recently as co-host of the 2023 Matariki coverage.

‘Handy Andy’ Dye

With about 17 different home renovation shows being made in New Zealand in 2001 there was room for more than one celebrity builder on Celebrity Treasure Island. Changing Rooms craftsman Andy Dye was hot on Cocksy’s heels for the title of New Zealand’s favourite tradie and you can sense his burning desperation to get one over his bitter rival in this episode. Like fellow contestants Jayne Kiely and Sally Ridge, Handy Andy now work in real estate as a branch manager for Barfoot & Thompson.

Erika Takacs

The former TrueBliss singer was working as the host of the Coke RTR Top 20 when she answered the call of Celebrity Treasure Island in 2001. Takacs now has arguably the most exciting job of all the contestants, working as a stunt department coordinator around the world.

Keep going!