Whangarei

The Dog on her old bed on her new deck.
The Dog on her old bed on her new deck.

Would you believe that I’ve moved to a town that I first visited* only several months earlier? It feels like The Goddess‘ Five Year plan pulled a sack over my head and WHOA, here I am in Northland**.

It’s nice and green and open up here. The town city is small without being tiny or compact, it’s to be home to a Hundterwasser Museum, and the overall vibe is of 1970s New Zild — unhurried and she’ll-be-right.

It also seems to have a bit of a rep. I was puzzled and a little concerned by people’s reactions to the announcement of our northward move. “How safe is it?” asked a favoured relation, which I misunderstood to mean the health and safety hazards inherent in a rural property. “Better have eyes in the back of your head,” a colleague emailed, with a link to a recent sudden and violent death in the district. And then there was the Mamea family reaction:

WRITER

(into phone)

We’re moving to Whangarei, Mother.

WRITER’S MOTHER

(V.O.; filter)

To where?

WRITER

(into phone)

Whangarei.

WRITER’S MOTHER

(V.O.; filter)

... Whangarei is full of Maoris, son.

Beat.

WRITER

(into phone)

You do know that more than half of your grandchildren are part Maori?

WRITER’S MOTHER

(V.O.; filter)

Yes, and every day I forgive their parents.

I think we’re as safe here as we would be anywhere else in the world — safer, even, with our natural barriers. The natives are friendly — more than they’ve a right to be since we’re part of a wave of former Auckland residents increasing house and land prices — and there’s no sense of being judged on appearance.

I like how fellow road users use the two-second rule, obey the amber light, and merge like a zip. I like how, in shops and businesses, people are sincere with their howdedo’s, and they sound genuinely sorry for not stocking an item you’re after. I like how winter in Whangarei town looks like a rugged outdoor clothing convention, where mud-encrusted gumboots or jandals complete people’s ensembles.

There’s something about our new town that I can’t quite pin down. It’s friendly but not overbearingly so. It’s rural but not isolated. And there’s a shooting range five kilometres down the road (and ’round the corner, even!) from Fortress Mamea, a far, far cry from Auckland where the ‘local’ range was 50 kilometres away.

Why, yessir, I could get to like this place.

 

* Driving through en route to Cape Reinga or Kerikeri doesn’t count.

** Some dramatic licence there, obviously.

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