By Sandy Burgham
So we have said our final goodbyes to the beloved family home that we have been grafted to for 18 years, and have reinvented ourselves as inner city dwellers. After the first fairly sleepless evening, getting used to the city sounds of nightclubs, air conditioning hums, random shouts and all-night traffic, I opened my eyes and saw my home town with fresh eyes.
I have always walked in the early mornings, and sometimes the late evenings, to recalibrate and decompress respectively, but doing this in central Auckland has introduced me to what might be, if the Council’s vision is realised, “the world’s most liveable city”. In a few shorts weeks, I have discovered many new city delights – artworks, buildings, follies, cafes, bars, alleys. I see it all so differently as I connect to Auckland central as a resident, and not just a ratepayer.
In my first month, here’s what I noticed:
Auckland loves the arts. On the first Monday, we happened to wander into the festival garden in Aotea Square, had a glass of wine and listened to an amazing jazz band. Meandering past the Pop Up Globe, the Classic Comedy Club and the Civic, all busy, we realised what we had been missing while mowing our lawns in the suburbs.
Auckland is at a multicultural crossroads. I often walk past different trios of older men speaking a different tongue, sitting on a sidewalk bench chatting and laughing. At 9pm, Asian toddlers are scootering happily on a side street as their parents work and play.
Auckland is overwhelmingly young. Coupled with the multi-culturalism, one really gets the sense that the whole vibe is completely different to what my generation may expect. You’ve read the stats, but have you experienced the new Auckland? Walking to the mailbox on the first Friday evening, Queen St was alive with youthful Pacific rappers on one corner, an exquisite group of Indian girls on the other, and tribes of youths looking for action everywhere. One morning we noted queues of young Asian teens who’d slept out, perhaps waiting for the release of a video game? We live along a bit from what is apparently the coolest Chinese nightclub in town. And it pumps! I thought I might go one night, but they have a doorman who selects the cool Chinois types for admission. Being half Japanese, they may mistake me as a mother looking for her kid.
(The street violence that occurs after 1am is not seen by the likes of me, in bed by 10.30pm, but I plan to address the disturbing underbelly that does exist in a later column).
Auckland celebrates things on an ongoing basis. We were too late for the Asian Lantern festival, too tired for White Night, too disorganised for the Arts Festival, but we looked up one night and noticed that the Sky Tower was green. Oh, it was St Patrick’s Day, and indeed there followed a random street parade and streets full of happy drunks, dressed in silly oversized green hats.
Auckland central is residential. One voyeuristic evening, we watched the sunset from our roof, and spied on other apartments. People everywhere. The two metro supermarkets are always full, and dogwalkers not uncommon. I noted flyers for a neighbourhood event in Freyberg Place, exhorting residents to “get out of your apartment”.
Auckland is super-hipster cool. Not in a bearded, man-bun sort of way (that’s the Lynns, Grey and New) but it has the greatest array of little cafes and bars, amidst pockets of urban design gems. My early days’ picks are Scarecrow, the organic fresh food market, (pass the chia seed green smoothie), Remedy (the cutest coffee house/book crossing) and Le Chef, a little French wine bar in Vulcan Lane.
Auckland is convenient. We save hours of pfaffing about on errands. I can nip across the road and get something from Noel Leeming, collect from the Apple repair store and drop my drycleaning off in 10 minutes. My commute is a walking minute, so the mornings now flow, which is more than I can say for the traffic on my former haul along Tamaki Drive.
Auckland city is where my pals will end up living. Already I’ve become reacquainted with old friends living nearby, and bonded with new ones in the hood. I feel a progressive dinner coming on …
In this vein, Auckland almost works for residents. The rubbish is collected every evening but Sunday, and it seems an efficient system. Have-Hopcard-will-travel — we didn’t even use the car for three days.
I have lived most of my life in Auckland, despite a long stint in London, a shortish one in Wellington and a lot of travel. To reinvent at midlife and experience Auckland reinventing as a world-leading city is invigorating. It is having its moment, and I am compelled to share what I notice on Instagram, @aucklandtownie. Join me.
— Sandy Burgham
This post first appeared in The Hobson June, 2017