Speaker by Various Artists


Sprawled out

by Awkward Orchid

I had heard about gentrification, but I never thought that it would happen to the sleepy towns I grew up in.  It was this thing that had happened in the central city suburbs. But of course it would happen there, it made sense that the houses closest to the city – all those beautiful old villas on leafy streets – were expensive. That those neighbourhoods had changed.

Of course apartments and terraced housing would go in closer to the city. But for it to happen 40 minutes out of Auckland, in the places I grew up in, was horrifying. Everything that is going up in Franklin and Rodney breaks my heart. How far must the sprawl go?

I have always lived in the 09 – I call the Rodney and Franklin Districts home.  We moved out south after my parents' separation. Living in south-South Auckland, going to Manukau was a trip to "the city" when I was a kid. My memories of creepy Santa are from when he resided in Manukau.

I grew up in what was a southside semi-rural town and the family (rented) home is in the part of town known locally as the "dark side", because Maori live there. I’ve always been disgusted by racism in this town because it was the white kids who picked on me for being poor and the brown kids who walked home with me.

I didn’t know I was poor until I was teased at a school in this town for wearing hand-me-downs and not having duraseal on my books. The kids I walked home from school with, most didn’t escape the traps of poverty, debt, gangs, and suicide.  The things that broke families when I was a kid are still breaking families today. And comparing government policies of today against those of yesteryear, it feels like the trap is harder to escape.

When John Key told us to google on Trade Me for houses in great Auckland under $500,000, there were houses in the "dark side" of this town I grew up in. And it really fucking bothers me that despite all of our hard work we can’t even afford to buy a house in the part of town that people actively avoided before this housing shit got out of control.   Do these commuters moving to this town even know they’re buying houses a family rented for 20+ years? And kicking them out as a result?

In the current market, we cannot afford to buy, but if prices dropped by 40% [we] would be able to.  Unfortunately, the city is where the work is. It is a depressing reality that outside of the main cities regional New Zealand does not have the infrastructure to support job growth (especially in high tech, or work-from-home situations enabled through IT) to encourage people to live there.

Sometimes I google houses on trade me in places I can afford (all over the country) and I think, "Yes! I could live there", so I look for jobs in that community and there is nothing for my skill set.  And yes, I could work at The Warehouse or even McDonalds.  But there is no work in the field that I have spent the last decade building a career in.  The career that I am now studying to further myself in because that bit of paper will give me options instead of plateauing.

I lived in Grey Lynn for four years up until recently but we had to move from the isthmus because we were priced out of the one-bedroom-unit-with-no-lawn-or-private-space rental market.  I hear all these stories about how Grey Lynn used to be and now I’m witnessing that change happen where I grew up and it’s fucking heartbreaking.

I’d happily move to regional, rural NZ if you could guarantee me a job and financial security but there’s nothing out there.  There is no infrastructure to support growth in these small towns.

I recently read a piece by Greg Pritchard and Stephen Jennings quotes and found myself agreeing with what I thought was common sense.  This requires work from all political parties, but instead it will become a messy and ugly election issue (and looking at Brexit and Trump, I am scared of how ugly NZ has the potential to get).

Gentrification sucks, we need to empower and lift people so they can afford to stay in their communities. That's what I’m about.

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