Bill Ralston says goodbye to Auckland

by Bill Ralston / 23 January, 2019
Auckland City. Photo/Getty Images

Auckland City. Photo/Getty Images

RelatedArticlesModule - Bill Ralston Auckland

Our columnist finally turns his back on the congested, costly city of his birth.

My Auckland neighbour just had a bulldozer drive down his hallway. It was, to be honest, a small dozer that had dug a big hole in the backyard for a pool. It had then been set to work demolishing the back half of the house. The place now looks like a bomb site but, eventually, it will be transformed into a glittering home on the ridge above Freemans Bay.

Outside our house, a truck-mounted machine is noisily sucking gunk out of the drains. Barriers have been put up on the footpath to stop people like me meeting a gooey fate by plunging into the holes.

Further down the street, Auckland Transport (AT) is busily redoing the footpaths, building cycleways, installing fancy new gutters and raising the roadway.

You can see the pleasant cobbled off-street parking areas, new soaring street lights, a roundabout and crisp tar-seal in the parts of the street that have been done. A plethora of orange road cones indicates AT’s progress up the street towards us. As I recall it, the Auckland Council-controlled outfit began this work two years ago. Perhaps it will finish in another year or so.

Meanwhile, as the neighbourhood makeover inches towards completion, my partner Janet and I have decided to sell what has been the family home and cement our move to sunny Hawke’s Bay. Well, that and pay off the bank once and for all. Fingers crossed, we should get enough for the Freemans Bay house to pay off the mortgage and finance the rebuild of our little home on the beach at Te Awanga, by Cape Kidnappers.

This does not mean we have retired. We can earn our living from virtually anywhere in the country and, besides, we would get bored and soon strangle each other if we were left sitting idly in our rocking chairs staring at the distant Mahia Peninsula all day. Air New Zealand and the internet are all we need to do from our peaceful base in the Bay the work that has been occupying us in crowded, congested and costly Auckland for the past decade or two.

Many other Kiwi baby boomers seem to have come to the same conclusion. Whereas Auckland property values appear to have plateaued, those in the provinces would seem to be booming. Hawke’s Bay’s asking prices increased 11% last year to reach an average price of nearly $557,000, which is still about half of what you would be paying for the same kind of house in Auckland.

I was born and raised in Auckland and I love its array of restaurants, bars, theatres and recreational opportunities. But it is a bugger to get around the place and most of us tend to live and play in the village of our own individual suburbs. In terms of lifestyle, Janet and I have simply exchanged one hamlet for another.

The only worry, once our Auckland home is sold and our hard-earned cash has been sunk into the beachside home in the Bay, is the potential “big one”: a colossal earthquake 100km offshore in the Hikurangi subduction zone producing a 5-12m tsunami. That would not be good.

I figure we would have about eight minutes to scarper for high ground.

The nearest designated tsunami escape route runs uphill through a vineyard. I will head straight for the winery bottle store, arm myself, and get back to you on what happened when or if the worst occurs.

This article was first published in the January 26, 2019 issue of the New Zealand Listener.

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