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.
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.
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.
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.
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.