A new neighbourhood offers the luxury of close proximity to work, plus good coffee right on the corner.
In Papatoetoe, I would fall asleep to the faint rumble of trucks on the Southern Motorway and wake to spend anywhere between 20 minutes and over an hour on that same motorway.
In Mt Eden, my new neighbourhood, the occasional whir of a train passes by just metres away, almost unnoticed. On foot, the train station is five minutes from my doorstep, my work a 25-minute power walk away. It feels like the height of luxury, to have those choices. Especially for someone as perpetually time-challenged as me.
In my old ’hood, a good coffee required that Southern Motorway again, from Papatoetoe to Manukau, or a slightly longer, slower drive to Botany Town Centre. But other times, with varying results, the Hunters Corner McCafè. I tried to frequent Hunters Plaza as often as possible, feeling a kind of responsibility to give it my patronage. At its height, in my early years of high school, it housed one of the best streetwear shops in Auckland.
It’s been through rough times since, but has managed to stay alive, making adjustments along the way. A bookstore morphed into yet another $2 shop after NZ Post removed its services, but the Kmart has endured. There is a busy nail salon and a beauty shop opposite, which I made part of my weekly routine, its staff whipping my brows into shape with threading cheaper than anywhere else I’ve been.
A Zambrero nearby on Great South Rd was what I thought might be the first sign of gentrification in the area, but it closed down just months after its opening.
In my new ’hood, good coffee is found on the corner of our street, as are multi-storied fancy homeware stores, servicing the multitude of fancy new apartments and their occupants.
Imposter syndrome means we half-joke about our new bougie lifestyle. There is no need to carefully plan nights out, or require a designated driver; we can now catch a taxi without it bankrupting us. Friends warn of the glut of choices we’ll find when we open up UberEats. And Dominion Rd is so close by. A shop on our street is open until 9pm. We’re used to the dairies closing up soon after dark. The dairy with the best dollar-bag lolly selection recently erected a metal security cage.
It took years of trial and error to figure out our neighbourhood hacks, which often extended to include the neighbouring suburbs. Finding the best pies, the best lolly selection, the best panikeke, the wisdom that Wendy’s is the most consistent of all the fast-food joints in close proximity. We felt like we’d cracked a code when we discovered a delicious yunnan noodles spot in a quiet Botany food court, or the freshly made roti and chicken curry at the Manukau Food Junction. Locals know, but you don’t read about it anywhere.
Now, it’s all so easy. Places have long been discovered and written about. There are no hacks required, just a lot of money spent on rent.
This piece originally appeared in the September-October 2019 issue of Metro magazine, with the headline "South to central".