I'm 21 now, and I've lived in Manurewa all my life. I went to Manurewa Kindy and Central School but when I was about 12, my mum decided to home school me. She still wanted me to have some social consciousness and be involved in the community. My mum's a bit of an activist, she's a really community-minded person. She took me to a meeting one day and the [then] deputy mayor was there, Anne Candy. Anne said they needed more young people like me on boards, that there needed to be more youth voices and my mum really encouraged me.
For me, Manurewa means connectedness and diversity. It means lots of of vibrant, different cultures all living together. Although there's a lot of poverty here too, which is why I belong to the Manurewa Youth Council. I have been a part of it since I was about 12. We run youth events, youth forums and expos on education and employment. We also do a lot of youth advocacy. There are about 12 elected members, ranging from about 13- to 23-year-olds, I'm the chairperson.
Growing up here, I'm aware of the different social issues, and I've seen the problems get worse, there's a lot of deprivation. Another trust I'm involved with is called the Beacon Fellowship. Our members go out at night on patrols from 10pm to 6am, we see kids walking round in the middle of the night. The youngest we picked up was 5 years old - at 1am just walking round. We asked him where his mum was, and he didn't know, and it's not the only case like that. My worry is, what would happen if we weren't there? The patrols go out every night but I only do Fridays and Saturdays because I work full time. My full-time job is with Genesis Youth Trust where I'm a social worker, and all this stuff connects together.
There's lots of cool stuff here too, some really nice coastal walks. I've got a chihuahua and my mum has two jack russells so we take our dogs for lots of walks. Weymouth Park is almost like a private beach, and you can go fishing there, and walk dogs and play sports on the huge fields. The sun sets on that coast and every night the sky turns this amazing shade of orange. The houses should be worth millions, because of those views, but they're not because they're in Manurewa.
There's also the Manurewa Aquatic Centre. I really like it there and it's free. That's one of the issues our youth council fought for. We want to keep it free, although chances are it won't stay that way, Auckland Council is a bit of a beast like that. Mountford Park is another great place for sports fields, and there's a tennis court there that's free. My little sister plays tennis there a lot. Then there's Totara Park, they've got mountain biking, all these different bike tracks you can go on. They also have a swimming pool there that's free, and a free tennis court, too. There's good running and walking there.
And the Auckland Botanical Gardens are amazing and beautiful. You'd think you were somewhere else, they're really pretty. We go there for picnics, and my family, we had our family photos taken there. There's also a cafe and a kids' nursery and there's a big events facility. There's even a little library, like an information library. The two main libraries are in Manurewa and in Clendon. They're good libraries, although the one in Clendon needs more computers. The Beacon Trust is also in the Clendon Town Centre and we get that place rent-free. The manager gave us the space so we can keep doing what we're doing, we take a lot of pressure off the area. There are too many takeouts and liquor stores in Manurewa, although I do like McDonald's, because they have free wifi.
Despite the problems, people here are generally friendly, if you smile at someone you usually get a smile back. I'd like to raise the quality of people's lives, and to make a difference in the community.
Manurewa Leisure Centre.
10 Sykes Rd Manurewa. Ph (09) 269 0930. manukauleisure.co.nz
Totara Park Pool.
Wairere Rd, Manurewa, Auckland. Ph (09) 267 7497.
Auckland Botanical Gardens.
102 Hill Rd The Gardens. Ph (09) 267 1457. aucklandbotanicalgardens.co.nz
Flora, centre, with siblings, from left, Georavi and Geovanni and Melvin. Pictures / Natalie Slade
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