My Auckland: Otahuhu

By Elisabeth Easther

Video performance artist and gallery educator Jeremy Leatinu'u tells Elisabeth Easther what he loves about the South Auckland suburb he calls home.

Jeremy Leatinu'u in front of the David Lange memorial in Otahuhu. Photo / Richard Robinson
Jeremy Leatinu'u in front of the David Lange memorial in Otahuhu. Photo / Richard Robinson

I've lived in Otahuhu for about 10 years, but I've known the area for 20 years, as I've had lots of family live round here. My grandparents used to stay in the house we live in now. My father thought it would be good for my grandparents to live with us and we thought their house would be perfect for other family to live in too - family from the islands. My father is Samoan and my mother is Samoan and Maori. I've been here since I was seven, and my favourite memories are of the people. There used to be a gas station on the corner of Great South and Portage Rds and we made friends with the attendant. In the mornings we'd stop for gas before school and he'd always crack jokes with me and my younger sister and give us a lollipop, just for laughing at his jokes. That is one of my fondest early memories. Whenever I drive past, even though the gas station has gone, I think of him. At the moment the Otahuhu Recreation Centre is a pretty cool place to be, my brother and I are members. They have a great team there and a good range of programmes. There's a gym, they have fitness classes, as well as netball and basketball matches, holiday programmes and recently there was a Community Day next door that was really cool.

There's quite a bit of development happening by the rec centre, there's going to be a pool and a new library, which is a long time coming, but there used to be a row of houses where that development is happening. It's one of those things, knowing they were there and now they're gone. It opens up the field and it's all positive, but there's also a sense of nostalgia.

Seasides is a pretty good place to go for walks, it's on the eastern side of Otahuhu on the other side of the motorway. There are lovely short walks, when you're walking beside the Tamaki River, if you look across the way you see across to Highbrook. It has a park, a soccer field and club, and it's pretty cool place to fly kites, as it's a bit windy sometimes.

I also have a lot of favourite places to eat and drink, and I've tried them all. One of the things about Otahuhu, we are spoiled for dining out and food in general.

For Vietnamese, Sam Woo is a great restaurant and cafe on Princes St. Try It Out is the other Vietnamese place and I don't know which is better. There's also Food City on National Ave, it's like a food court, but you can tell the food is homemade, it's lovely.

Maharajas, dine in or takeaway, is on Great South Rd, if you're ever looking for Indian food in Otahuhu that's where you go. We also have Secret Thai Gardens on Station Rd, it has great food and an amazing atmosphere, it's beautifully lit. There's The Hangi Shop on Great South Rd towards Mangere Rd, they do all the cuisine you can think of in terms of hangi and fried bread. Then there are the island foods which are world famous round here.

There's Pinapi Store on Queen St - if you want a mean pork bun or any type of island food or dish, go there. There's another place on Mangere Rd opposite Otahuhu College that does pineapple pies, island-style, for just $6 each, in an A3-sized dish. In terms of ingredients if you're into cooking Pacific Island foods, I recommend Otahuhu Fruit Mart on Great South Rd, they have all the essential ingredients for an island-style chop suey. Otahuhu has come a long way in the last 10 years, as a community and as a landscape, a changing landscape. I'd like to do some travelling, but I always think about where I'd want to live when I'm done and, at the moment at least, I'd find it pretty hard to live anywhere else.

Jeremy's picks:

* Otahuhu Recreation Centre: 30 Mason Ave, Otahuhu, ph (09) 276 8207. Number one for working out, sports and socialising.

* Otahuhu Fruit Mart: 307 Great South Rd, Otahuhu. Everything you need to make all your favourite island dishes.

* Secret Thai Gardens: 25 Station Rd, Otahuhu, ph (09) 276 3093. Not so secret any more.

* The Hangi Shop: 583A Great South Rd, Otahuhu, ph (09) 276 2267. Delicious and authentic.

Jeremy Leatinu'u is a video performance artist whose work is appearing in Home AKL at the Auckland City Art Gallery, until October 22. Jeremy is also gallery educator at the Te Tuhi Centre for the Arts in Pakuranga.

- NZ Herald

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