I sure enjoyed visiting it but I’m not sure I’d want to live there. Green, maritime, rounded, not obviously scalable. With back story and of course pictures.

Back story · Attentive readers will have deduced from the recent cricket coverage that I’ve been in New Zealand; here’s why. In 1994 I met a nice software geek then living in Germany and we hit it off. I’ve been married to Lauren Wood, a fifth-generation New Zealander, for a long time now, and we have two children who are also NZ citizens.

Lauren’s family had scattered round the globe and connections had frayed; she’d not been home in a long time. In the last couple of years, people got back in touch; there were funeral and wedding visits. And so it was long past time to show the kids their other country. Fortunately, I’d booked the travel before I got the Amazon offer; I don’t normally recommend taking three-week vacations before your new job’s three-month anniversary.

I’d been to New Zealand once, twenty or more years ago, an overnight visit from Australia for a trade show.

Looking down · Here are a couple of Auckland from elevation.

Auckland, looking toward Takapuna
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Auckland, from Mount Victoria

Above, looking toward Takapuna from Birkdale. Below, from Mount Victoria, looking toward (I think) Torpedo Bay.

These views make a few Auckland facts obvious: It’s nice. It’s green. It’s maritime. The ground is up and down, lots of verticals; but the dwellings are spread in a thin layer, almost all horizontal.

Which means you pretty well have to drive everywhere. The public transit is pretty limited, although they’re working on it.

There’s not much of a bicycle support system and frankly I’m not sure it’s worthwhile investing in one. There are just too many hills; you’d need to be not just young but way over the cardiovascular-fitness average to cover ground on a regular basis.

Auckland has less than 1½ million people; it needs a million or so more to become really interesting, and the forecast is for growth. It’s already sprawling like mad, north and south. Rush hour is painful today; my bet is it’ll be worse this time next year, and brutal not too long after that. I think they need to crank up the density and add some man-made verticals to the natural built-ins; which would at least give high-volume public transit a chance.

Ecosystem · It’s impossible not to be charmed by the flowers and trees and universal greenery. Here are a couple of shots just outside my brother-in-law Martin’s place, down a lane near Birkenhead Domain.

Auckland greenery
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Auckland greenery

Martin has lots of kauri trees among the ferns on his property; they’re awfully nice.

The climate is like ours in the Pacific Northwest, just warmer. So there are more different kinds of trees, and more shades of green; some that look like they should be deciduous aren’t. The undergrowth is way different; no need to deal with snow or even frost. Oddly, my eye was not caught by that many brilliant flower gardens.

Anyhow, this is a human ecosystem; one with a higher-than-average “nice” factor. I’ve never seen so drivers so pro-active about letting others through tricky corners, or chattier, more jovial people at tourist sites.

In case it’s not obvious, there’s a lot to like about Auckland.

Devonport · And there’s really a lot to like about this little morsel of Auckland. I’d call it a neighborhood but they say “suburb” no matter how close to downtown. Here’s how close; The ferry runs all the time and it’s a 15-minute ride.

The Devonport ferry terminal
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The downtown Aucklandferry dock

The Devonport and Downtown ferry terminals.

Devonport is waterfront, street-scene, beach, park. Here’s a shot from the park.


The dark mass off to the right is this wonderful banyan tree. Enlarge it and look close; there’s someone climbing it.

Banyan in Devonport

I grew up climbing banyans, practically living in them some summers. I encouraged my kids to climb it, then had to beg the 15-year-old to stop when he got way up into fall-is-certain-death territory. But boy, did they have fun.

One of Lauren’s college friends has a nice little flat a half-block from the Devonport beach and goes swimming most days; doesn’t bother taking a towel or putting on sandals. I have to admit a certain envy-greenness was happening.

So yeah, Auckland. It’s not as though I’m thinking of a move — and if I were, stand by for coverage of where I’d go — but I’m thinking that the people who are there should be glad of it.

Check this out.

Auckland bungalow


Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: Dave (Apr 05 2015, at 20:26)

I guess that those of us who do live here (such as myself) *should* feel lucky. Unfortunately, Auckland is in the midst of a severe housing crisis – and the out-of-control expense of Auckland living is driving an increasing number of folks into permanent rent, or out the city entirely. Number of reasons for this, including successive governments who have sat on their hands and done nothing about it, large swathes of housing being purchased by offshore investors (while the houses themselves sit unoccupied), and so on.

You can think of Auckland as one of the world's most liveable cities – where an increasing number of folks cannot actually afford to live.




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March 28, 2015
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