Moving Houses host Clarke Gayford tells Tara Ward about the many logistical nightmares of the second season of TVNZ’s popular house relocation show.
On paper, Moving Houses shouldn’t work. It’s a television show about rundown old buildings, featuring trucks that move at glacial pace, and most of it is filmed in the dead of night. Host Clarke Gayford is still trying to work out why New Zealanders embraced the first season of the show so heartily, making it the third most watched show across all networks last year (beaten only by 1 News at Six and Country Calendar). “When we made the first season, I kept asking myself that the whole time. I was like, ‘are people going to find this interesting?’” Gayford says.
But after that bumper first season, Moving Houses is back for more slow trucks and chopped up houses. Season two premieres on Anzac Day, and after the show’s initial success, Gayford says he felt the pressure to deliver even more spectacular moves. Over the next few weeks we’ll get to see a huge six bedroom bungalow travel from Auckland to Northland, a historic vicarage relocate to Greytown and a 100-year-old cottage leave the Marlborough Sounds by boat. It’ll journey to some of the most scenic, far-flung corners of Aotearoa, from Ahipara in the Far North to Bythell’s Bay in the South Island.
Moving Houses speaks to the New Zealand attitude of giving everything a go, but Gayford describes filming season two as “tricky” – Covid-19 delays, labour shortages, supply issues and bad weather all caused significant disruptions. It means he will be filming the final house reveals right up until the episodes go to air, but it’s these unexpected obstacles that make Moving Houses such a compelling watch. This is a show that thrives on solving problems, whether it’s sawing through a tree that’s fallen onto a road at three in the morning or making the finest of movements to put a broken house back together again.
One of the most challenging moves was a house in the remote Marlborough Sounds, which faced permit issues and huge storms that shut down road access. “The guys ended up with a truck stuck there that they couldn’t get out. It closed all the roads for months. It was nuts,” Gayford says. He admits there are times when the house moves seem too complicated to succeed, like the two storey bungalow in Ahipara, but he was thrilled to return recently to see the finished product. “It was an absolute labour of love, and the turnaround and the input from local traders in the community was just phenomenal,” he says. “It was amazing to go back.”
It’s inspiring to see the lengths people will go to make their dreams come true, but Moving Houses is a show that requires patience. Gayford thought making a fishing show was tricky, but quickly discovered that filming a TV show about shifting buildings is an entirely different balancing act. “One of the laconic, fantastic movers from down south has seen it all, and he said to me one day, ‘The house moves when the house moves’,” he says. “These great characters are dealing with us going, ‘um, do you think it’ll move on Tuesday at 11 o’clock?’” Relocating a house is a process that can’t be rushed, and the need for such precision adds to the show’s suspense.
If it looks tense on TV, that’s because it is, Gayford says. “When you hear the guys in the back saying ‘you got 150 on that bridge’, that’s 150 millimetres on something that might be up to ten-and-a-half metres wide and five metres high,” he says of those midnight drives. “When you’re dealing with only 15 centimetres of space while barreling across a bridge, it is what it looks like. It’s pretty full on.”
What’s also pretty full on is the all-nighters Gayford had to pull on those long nocturnal journeys. He says he’s yet to find the perfect solution to staying awake to watch the trucks clear every parked car and low-hanging power line, but reckons three in the morning is the dead zone, when the eyelids are heaviest and the gentle rock of the truck has the same effect as a baby’s cradle. “I tried to prop myself up with really terrible food and energy drinks at the start, but the crash on the other side of that was just…oh, it was an experience I don’t want to go through again.”
Despite its title, Moving Houses is a show with people at its heart, and Gayford loves travelling the country to meet the brave New Zealanders embarking on what is always a personal – and extremely stressful – journey. It takes a lot of vulnerability to chop your biggest asset in half and put it on a truck, Gayford reckons, and the show captures both the challenges and celebrations. Gayford wants to do these homes justice, even when the unexpected makes things tricky. “I’d love to have the luxury of Grand Designs where we could give it more time,” he says. “But you know, the people need to see some trucks on the roads, and that can’t wait forever.”
Moving Houses returns to TVNZ1 on Tuesday 25 April at 7.30pm and streams on TVNZ+.