Why John Campbell and Nigel Latta have never worked together - until now

Nigel Latta and John Campbell are fronting What Next? an interactive TV show about New Zealand's future.

Nigel Latta and John Campbell are fronting What Next? an interactive TV show about New Zealand's future.

John Campbell and Nigel Latta are two of the most popular and well-liked figures in New Zealand media.

Latta, a psychologist, author and TV presenter, is known for programmes such as Mind Over Money, Beyond The Darklands, The Politically Incorrect Guide To... and The Hard Stuff, while Campbell, who hosts Radio New Zealand's early evening weeknight show Checkpoint, spent more than 20 years at what was then TV3.

In the latest Reader's Digest Most Trusted People poll, Campbell was in top spot for Most Trusted TV presenter.

Nigel Latta and John Campbell hope What Next? will spark discussion about New Zealand's long-term plans.

Nigel Latta and John Campbell hope What Next? will spark discussion about New Zealand's long-term plans.

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Since the axing of his current affairs show Campbell Live, the broadcaster has concentrated on his radio show, which screens on Face TV. 

But now he is joining forces with Latta to present What Next?, an interactive TV show screening live over five consecutive nights which asks New Zealanders what the nation might look like in 2037.

It is hoped a variety of people will take part in the programme and share views on topics such as technology, the environment and the economy.

Currently New Zealand is facing challenges with its housing, transport woes and pressure on the environment.

It is expected the country's ethnic make-up will change over time, so why are two white, middle-aged men fronting a show about the future?

"When they came to me," says Campbell, "I said, 'Well hold on a sec. Nigel and I are fairly similar really. We're close in age, we're certainly identical in ethnicity and gender...' 

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I said, 'Are you sure you don't want somebody who doesn't look like me?' "

It turns out they didn't. The pairing of Campbell and Latta is considered by some to be a 'dream team'. Both men have a wealth of experience in television but this is the first time they have presented a TV show together.

"I kind of know John," says Latta. "I've met him a couple of times. I did an interview with him years ago but we ended up on different networks. 

"I bump into him from time to time but this is the first time that we're obviously working together which is a huge amount of fun because he's a hell of a nice guy and he's pretty smart."

Campbell says he has enjoyed watching Latta's TV shows over the years and describes the chance to be working alongside him as "fantastic".

This is also the first time Campbell has worked at TVNZ.

"I started as a journalist in 1989 but I'd never made any telly with TVNZ because I was at TV3 for 24 years," he says.

"It will be exciting and fun. The first time I walked in the door I looked around because at TV3 we always used to think that everything there was flasher and grander and more expensive. I walked in the door and thought, 'Wow. Here I am.' "

Campbell believes What Next? is addressing critical issues for New Zealand.

"I think it's really important that we have these discussions. What I hopefully bring to (the show) is broadcasting experience and this is a studio-driven show and it's not my opinion we're after. It's everyone's opinion. We have to be as representative and inclusive and as demographically fair as we can possibly be."

Given that the general election is mere months away (September 23), it is worth asking what, if any, role politics has to play in the series.

"There are no politicians on the show," stresses Latta. "Not a single one because they are just going to say the same thing. There is no up for them coming up with bold plans about the future because they get hammered. 

"What we hope is that politicians see the public has an appetite for big, bold visions and so they start talking about that stuff more." 

Campbell also hopes the show will grab the attention of those in the Beehive.

"The whole point of it is in a way to be separate from the election. The election will be about, 'Am I going to get a tax cut?' " says Campbell.

"The politicians can do all of that stuff but there are other discussions we need to have about long-term planning and what we're going to look like in 20 years' time. It would be really nice if people thought they were able to communicate with their politicians through this programme and say, 'This is what we want'.

"I hope the feedback is resounding enough for them to think, 'Right, well we can't ignore this'."

"At the moment we don't have any vastly forward-thinking policies," says Latta. "We don't have any conversation about that because politicians are focused on the next three years and we need to be focused on the next 20... 

"There are some questions people can answer before the show but over the course of the evening there will be questions on the website What Next? where people can go to and say what they think. 

"So they can vote on what they think and put some comments on what they think and all of that will be part of the show."

Campbell and Latta hope What Next? provokes discussion about planning for the country's long-term future.

"We're talking about 2037 but we don't get ready for 2037 in 2037," says Latta. "There are huge things that we need to think about and make decisions about right now. 

"You make TV shows and you learn stuff but what's been really sobering for me is there is just a whole lot of stuff that we aren't thinking about or talking about that are hugely significant that we absolutely need to talk about and think about it."

He makes some worrisome points about how advances in technology could make some jobs (including mine as a journalist) obsolete. 

"Clever computers with smart algorithms are going to come and do a whole bunch of things humans can do now," says Latta.

"We used to think it was just the low-paid jobs, it's people in factories, and robots will replace them but it's not. It's people who are doing white-collar jobs as well."

Interestingly, the background work Latta has done for What Next? has affected his personal life. 

"I had a niece who was going to go off and become an accountant and I sat down with her and said, 'Don't do that. That's not going to be a thing for very long,' " he says.

Also, it used to bother Latta that his 17-year-old son had no interest in learning to drive but now it doesn't. After talking with an engineer, he believes cars will one day drive themselves.

"I think there will come a time where we will think it's hilarious that we ever let someone as stupid as a person drive a car."

What Next? airs on TVNZ 1, Sunday June 11 - Thursday June 15 at 8.30pm.

 - TV Guide

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