Alex Fraser has lived in Merivale for about 11 years and is fiercely proud of the suburb and its people.

She is aware of its bad reputation - but says it's something she's never fully understood.

"My experience has been different than that. It's not just Merivale that has mischief, you have streets like that in every community."

Neighbours stuck together and had each others' backs, she said.

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"We just want to support our own. I've got friends and family in other communities - some of them don't even know their neighbour's names. Here, we know our whole street.

"Many people in the community are selfless. You can be struggling yourself, but will still give someone help who needs it even when you need it yourself.

"I just love it."

She personifies the community spirit the local community centre is hoping to foster in the wake of a report that found that more work needed to be done to bring residents together to counter the challenges some residents faced.

See what other Merivale residents have to say about their suburb below

The report, titled Puahou, by the Merivale Community Centre looked into the suburb's demographics, the issues it faced and the steps taken to address those issues. It found that poverty was stifling life chances and opportunities for many within the community and current approaches to education, social support and economics were falling far short of what was required to really make a difference.

Merivale was among the 10 per cent of most deprived communities in New Zealand, with low levels of income, employment and educational achievement. The report concluded that building connections between people in Merivale was a priority. "Simply put, at a grassroots level we are failing to get people to care and look out for others," it read.

The Merivale Community Centre's vision was one where people in the community looked out for others - a community of good neighbours.

Centre manager Tauha Te Kani said the research talked about how there had been a movement towards "programmes" to alleviate poverty-related issues, but he believed it was building relationships that made a real difference.

The people are hearty and in that resilience, there's a fierce pride in being from Merivale.

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"There's been this trend towards people trying these amazing programmes and they are great, the kids love them, but it's actually relationship building, the rapport, in the programme that makes the difference."

Mr Te Kani said it had been difficult for the centre to move on its aspirations due to funding cuts, but hoped this could be rectified.

He hoped to increase the centre's staffing by hiring a specific youth worker with experience in adventure education.

In 2008, the Merivale Community Centre visited residents with a questionnaire. Of the 859 houses visited, they gathered responses from 316.

One of the key issues that arose from the survey was the lack of cohesive identity for people living in the area - people living next to each other often had opposing views over whether they lived in Merivale, Parkvale, Greerton or Yatton Park, with many people pointing out that Merivale did not exist on a map.

It revealed that while 88 per cent of people said they liked living in the area, it had a bad reputation.

Mr Te Kani said what he loved most about Merivale was the resilience of its people.

"The people are hearty and in that resilience, there's a fierce pride in being from Merivale. If you can say you come from Merivale, then that defines you in terms of you're hearty, you're resilient, you can take a knock."


Street view: What do you like best about Merivale?

''Everyone looks after each other and everyone is like whanau.'' Kimiora Adams-Noda, 13
''Everyone looks after each other and everyone is like whanau.'' Kimiora Adams-Noda, 13
''I like everything about Merivale. Everything is in walking distance - my school, home and the park are all right there.'' Te Wairua Noda, 12
''I like everything about Merivale. Everything is in walking distance - my school, home and the park are all right there.'' Te Wairua Noda, 12
''I like playing rugby on the school field with all the people that live around here.'' Ocrnia Perry, 9
''I like playing rugby on the school field with all the people that live around here.'' Ocrnia Perry, 9
''The convenience of the area - you're right in the middle of everything. The neighbours look after one another and are generally good people, they know each other's names.'' Graham Maslin, 75
''The convenience of the area - you're right in the middle of everything. The neighbours look after one another and are generally good people, they know each other's names.'' Graham Maslin, 75