Just struck me yesterday, really. An epiphany if you like. Almost bowled me over, come to think of it. Which isn't a bad effort for a thought. We were standing on a balcony when it happened, gazing out over a stunning Auckland vista made even more perfect by the late afternoon sun. The message? Auckland, not Dunedin, was home. There; I've said it. After the best part of 15 years pining for a return to the deep south, I realise I no longer want to leave.
Yes, it's taken some time, but that's no great surprise. Feelings of antipathy towards Auckland had been well honed by the time we shifted here in 1998. Can still remember covering sports events for the Otago Daily Times not long before the move, when the locals' favourite jokes invariably involved Auckland's water shortages or power shortages, anything that set a cat amongst the jafas. No greater sense of schadenfreude ever existed.
There were kids, too. They had to be coaxed north with bribes of swimming pools and promises of temperatures in excess of 15degC. To suggest they were reluctant is to wildly understate the circumstances. Now? They consider themselves true blue Aucklanders. Swear by the place. They still harbour a soft spot for dear old Dunners but Auckland has completely seduced them. Wild horses could hardly drag them up here. Now wild horses couldn't drag them away.
And I can understand their point. Auckland is a wonderful place to call home. Certainly, it was no surprise this month to hear it ranked in the world's top 10 most liveable cities by the London-based Monocle magazine. From the diverse and spectacularly contrasting west and east coast beaches to the proliferation of reserves, commons, trees and wide berms, Aucklanders must be the luckiest people in the country. I wouldn't want to live anywhere else.
Fine, outsiders like to poke fun at it; scoffing at a perceived superiority complex and an inflated sense of entitlement when it comes to the Government coffers. Some resent the attention it gets from media; others like to deride it on the basis of its traffic congestion and seasonal rainfall. Minor complaints, really, and most of them undeserved (apart from the traffic and the rain). But compared with what Auckland offers, they hardly appear on the radar.
Why do I love Auckland? Let me count the ways. It's small enough to retain a sense of community. Green and spacious enough to give an air of recreation and leisure. Big enough to attract diverse commercial and industrial interests, and events that might otherwise never be seen in New Zealand. And that's not even mentioning the coastline, the leeward bays, the surf beaches, the boating, the fishing. Auckland's not so big that you can't throw out a hook and catch your dinner.
I love Auckland for its ethnic diversity. Its cosmopolitan-ness. Its melting pot. I love that the team list from my son's cricket team used to read like a United Nations XI. That my daughter's school photos show her beaming beside classmates of Chinese, Korean, Pacific Island and Maori backgrounds. I love how politically aware the city is; how it stands up for the rights of minorities, how it embraces change and difference. How it's full of opportunity.
So anyway, there we were, standing on this balcony. Auckland was in its full winter pomp, graced by some of the clearest, and by definition most perfect days in recorded history. Friends were up from Dunners and I was in my element, pointing out and indentifying every volcanic cone in sight. And that's when it came to me, this most unexpected visitation. It was, well - it was almost like pride. Finally had to admit, even to myself: I loved that I could call Auckland home.
» Read more of Richard Boock in the Sunday Star Times.
» Follow Richard on Twitter: @richardboock.
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