Edith Amituanai tells Elisabeth Easther why she loves calling the young community of Ranui home.
I've lived in Ranui for seven years, I moved here because my husband lived here. Before that I was in Te Atatu and then Massey, so I've always lived in the western suburbs. Ranui's quite a young suburb, so it feels like it's still developing an identity. It's the sort of place you pass through, on the outskirts of Henderson and Massey, before Swanson and on the way to Bethells Beach.
It's a very community-focused area, if you're here long enough you start to learn where that community is. There's the big blue church, the Samoan Ranui Presbyterian Church, which is how I've come to know Ranui. It operates as an alternative community centre. The hall, which is very large, is used for council functions and recently, as part of Youth Week, a community organisation hosted a large concert there. There's a lot of change and development happening here too, a library is being built next to our church - at the moment it's an empty plot of land but not for long.
Next door to the church is the Earth Song Eco Village, which is an urban co-housing development, for communal living, built over an old orchard. People can buy houses in there, it's blocked off to traffic, all the cars are parked out the front, and you live in a co-housing environment. They have lots of communal events. When the tsunami hit in Samoa, they donated money to our relief efforts.
Earth Song are great neighbours, they don't struggle to find people to move in. I guess it's like a retirement village but for people who want to live a certain way, it's almost like a village in Samoa.
There's a great walk along Birdwood Road, past the Pony Club, on a good day you can see horses walking down Redwood or Glen Roads. The walk goes along Birdwood Road, up behind Ranui and you end up near Swanson. It's very scenic, but there's no footpath so you don't want to do it late at night. It's still very rural.
There's a very good park up the Waitemata Drive called Starling Park, with a softball pitch and soccer fields, a big club rooms has recently been built there. They hold zumba classes there in the weekdays. You often see families playing in various parts of Starling Park. I once saw a large family group playing touch rugby on the field in the rain, you could tell they were playing for the first time. You can often go there and find games of touch with about 20 aside; the numbers are getting bigger and bigger as more and more people join in. We live opposite Don Buck Corner Park, which has quite an active life. There's a basic playground, swings and slides which have been recently renovated, there's a nice bush walk behind us too, a short walk near the creek, anything watery is fascinating for children. I think I read in the Western Leader a couple of years ago that a third of the population here is under 18. The series of photos I took from the end of my driveway shows the changing demographic of Auckland.
I'd been doing it for over a year and I'm doing it still, now and then, taking pictures of the people who journey my street. It's a well travelled route, kids from Massey High, Henderson Intermediate, Liston College, Waitakere and Frank Dominic Colleges. When we first moved to the street I wasn't used to so much noise, now I'd find it hard to live without. We have a very good bakery called Ranui Bakery, they do all their baking on site. We get our bread there, and they do a lovely bacon and egg pie. We don't have a lot of shops though, it's a sleepy part of town, but there is development happening. Ranui has a great community project called RAP, or Ranui Action Project, which was part of an initiative to get insulation into houses, free insulation. They also do Friday twilight markets through the summer months from September. The housing in Ranui is still cheap, people can still afford to buy here, you have to look for the charm but I do like the community focus, it feels young, and as if people are interested in having a say in what happens in their community.
* Ranui Bakery: 445 Swanson Rd, Ranui. Ph (09) 833 5007. All the classic bakery treats.
* Starling Park: 30 Glen Rd, Ranui. Ph (09) 839 0400. Home of the Waitakere Bears Softball Club and Ranui-Swanson Football Club, with a lovely new $2.6 million clubhouse and community facility.
* Earth Song Eco Neighbourhood. 457 Swanson Rd, Ranui. A co-housing neighbourhood based on the principles of permaculture, a socially and environmentally sustainable community.
Edith Amituanai teaches photography at Unitec. She has a series of photos called The End of My Driveway in the Auckland Art Gallery's exhibition, Home AKL, on till October 22.By Elisabeth Easther