Simon Collins

Simon Collins is the Herald’s social issues reporter.

Inner-city locals find it hard to feel at home

Student Jennifer Parlane with her garden balcony in inner-city Auckland. Photo / NZ Herald
Student Jennifer Parlane with her garden balcony in inner-city Auckland. Photo / NZ Herald

A pioneering study of Auckland's inner-city apartment dwellers has found that only a quarter feel they belong to a recognisable "community".

The study found only "weak links" among most of what Martin Dunn of City Sales Apartment Realtors says are about 50,000 people living in 26,000 apartments between Newton and the harbour, and from the Auckland Domain to Ponsonby Rd.

Almost half (43 per cent) reported sometimes feeling isolated. Only 24 per cent felt part of the community they lived in.

Parnell Trust, which commissioned the study from Auckland University of Technology, plans to use the report to develop ways to strengthen people's links with one another.

"The call for wanting to be able to meet new people comes out really strongly as a challenge for inner-city residents," said trust service manager Anne Barrowclough.

The trust has started running courses at inner-city venues such as the Pioneer Women's Hall in Freyberg Place and the Chinese church in Vincent St.

Newton landscape architecture student Jennifer Parlane, who attended a balcony gardening course at the women's hall in the first term this year, said she loved living in the city so she could attend other lectures and talks.

"I think you do feel part of a community because you are walking and cycling so much," she said. She bikes to Unitec on the cycle track alongside the Northwestern Motorway.

"It's really quite a small area in which I live - Unitec, Newton and town," she said. "Because I walk and bike I get so much social contact that I don't ever get that feeling of loneliness."

But Ms Parlane is one of only one-third of inner-city residents who were born in New Zealand.

The 2006 Census showed 67 per cent were born overseas. Only 29 per cent were New Zealand European, 29 per cent were Chinese and 42 per cent represented "a very diverse assortment of other ethnicities".

At 26, Ms Parlane is exactly the median age of inner-city residents.

AUT's survey of 414 people in the area found that 43 per cent werefull-time or part-time students, 39per cent were full-time or part-time workers, only 5 per cent were full-time parents or caregivers, 7 per cent were retired and 5 per cent unemployed.

The population is highly transient: 77 per cent have lived in the inner city less than two years.

The report argues that "social connectedness" is important for mental health, positive youth development and for effective democracy.

Lead author Dr Love Chile, a Nigerian-born researcher who lives in Ellerslie but worships with his family at St Matthew-in-the-City, said some people in the survey attended churches not because they were religious but to meet other people - often of the same ethnic group.

He said a growing number were families. Four out of nine people in a Chinese focus group had children, but struggled to find places for them to play.

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a2 at 16 Sep 2014 23:11:22 Processing Time: 1025ms