Singer Richard Green tells Elisabeth Easther why he believes St Johns is a pleasant, revitalised place to live.
We got back to New Zealand in 1985 from Germany, where I'd been working for 12 years. We started off in Meadowbank and we were there for about a year in a house that quickly proved too small, as our three daughters were getting bigger. So we moved to College Road, and we've been there ever since. The girls are all grown up now, and we have 6 grandchildren.
We've been in this house for quite a while, and during that time I have worked hard on our half acre. I've planted it it in zillions of fruit trees and gardens and I also have my studio, where I teach singing. Singing gives me a lot of time to potter. Piano players can sit for eight hours a day, and bang away at the keys but singers can only work in one to one and a half hour spells, the voice can't take the punishment the fingers can, so I'm lucky in that respect. I spend a lot of my time tending trees and gardening, and I also like to invent things and tinker. I have an irrigation project on the go, for a blueberry patch I'm establishing. I'm collecting rainwater from the roof, and using a holding tank and gravity feed to water my 20 blueberry plants. My ultimate dream is to have so much fruit that I have to leave it out on the berm with a 'help yourself' sign, although the picking takes quite a bit of time.
We have got the Sunhill Nursery just down the road, and I very much enjoy the new Mitre 10 Mega down on Lunn Avenue. I like to go there and drool over the technical gizmos that I'd like but don't need, and peruse the latest plants, veges and fruit trees. The cafe there is great too, wonderful service. Not far down from us is the waterfront and Tamaki Drive. I'm a walker, I'd like to be a cyclist but I don't want to be killed. I have two bikes in the shed but I don't use them, I'm too frightened. I'd like something to be done about cycling in Auckland, I really mean it. All of Lunn Ave has recently been redone, all the footpath and curbing, and not a single provision for cyclists, this is an opportunity lost and a great shame. My wife is a wonderful cook, a vegetarian cook, (I'm a non practising vegetarian) and I do enjoy her food, but when we do go out we like Masala in Mission Bay. I think I've worked through their entire menu and I like pretty much everything. It's the curries that lure me back every time. Our favourite patch of sand is Mission Bay, for the lawn and the cafes and the fountain, and the beach has been re-sanded and the boardwalk has been redone by the council.
I do enjoy the revitalised Glenn Innes too, with its extensive variety of shops. Nosh and Huckleberry Farms, the vegetarian health food shop, are wonderful additions to what was otherwise a fairly rundown suburb. The addition of the Stonefields subdivision has lifted things too. It was a dismal quarry when we arrived and it's now very flash housing. The commercial premises are to be built shortly and the school is already up and running.
We are very lucky to have the St Heliers Community Centre, run by the Reverends Pauline and Stan Stewart. They have 1000 people go through each week. They do yoga and quilting, you name it, they do. There are so many groups using that facility, it's huge. There's currently an application before council to rebuild and upgrade. They're going through the permit process now, I hope they get all they need as it's used by such a large cross section of St Heliers people. We also have the wonderful St John's Bush, one of Auckland's greatest secrets, tucked in behind St John's College. There are lovely walks with various off-shoots through mature and regenerating native bush. There's also Tahuna Torea, the aquatic bird sanctuary, and of course the Waitarua Reserve, where there's a lot of regenerating bog land where pukekos and aquatic species now flourish. It was all sheep and cattle when we first moved here, but they got rid of the stock and reflooded parts of it. They've damned it now and the native water plant species are taking hold, it's a wonderful bird sanctuary and habitat. The only thing that would make us move would be a volcano coming up through the bottom of the house, and touch wood that won't happen because it's a very pleasant environment, and I'm at home in a house that suits me.
* Mitre Ten Mega, 72 Lunn Avenue Mt Wellington. Ph (09) 574 0099. Great gizmos, lovely cafe, charming staff.
* St John's Walk, 1a Worcester Road, Meadowbank. A little gem of a walk, you could spend a whole day here.
* Waitarua Reserve, 98 Abbotts Way, Meadowbank. An ecological wonder.
* Masala, 97 Tamaki Drive, Mission Bay. Ph (09) 578 1111. For a curry in a hurry, ideal.
Richard Green lives in St John's with his wife Jeanette Miller. World-renowned bass Richard is starring in NBR New Zealand Opera's The Bartered Bride by Czech composer Bedrich Smetana, 22 -29 September.