My Auckland: Okura

Musician Nick Morgan tells Elisabeth Easther what he loves about living in Okura. Not only is it a beautiful locale, but the people there really look out for each other

Nick Morgan says the absence of shops and cafes is a factor in keeping Okura litter-free. Photo / Natalie Slade
Nick Morgan says the absence of shops and cafes is a factor in keeping Okura litter-free. Photo / Natalie Slade

I'm originally from England, from a farming area in East Anglia. Later I was in London with various bands and I met my wife there, a Kiwi, who was also in the music industry. We came to New Zealand for a mutual friend's wedding and moved here soon after. That was 19 years ago.

We've been in Okura 12 years now, and were in Torbay and Browns Bay before that. We knew someone who lived in Okura so we came down for a visit and thought it would be a fantastic place to live.

It's pretty small. In the village there are about 120 people, and in the larger area about 250.

A lot of people in the Bays have never heard of Okura, though. It's above Long Bay, and part of the Long Bay Okura Marine Reserve.

I'm told a pod of orca came right up the estuary a few years ago, probably chasing stingray. The birdlife is amazing. We have godwits and plovers; it's the northwestern corridor for the eastern islands. We also have all the native birds.

One very popular place is Dacre Cottage, which is more than 150 years old. It was quite run down, so there have been lots of working bees, with people planting and trimming grass and painting the picket fence. Pete, a local who has a kayak business, has been instrumental in its restoration.

The Okura Bush Walkway is great. I think DoC spent a quarter of a million there recently and there's an impressive set of steps on the track. Some people run it, others take their bikes. It's quite a workout, going down to Karepiro Beach.

It takes about three quarters of an hour to an hour. It's one of the busiest walkways in Auckland, according to DoC.

Aside from teaching music at two primary schools, I also teach at home in Okura - drums, bass and guitar - and I help bands put shows together at the Community Hall.

Sometimes, in the playground, we'll rig up the drums and three PAs and students turn up and play. Its great for the parents to see what the kids are doing and how they're progressing - the confidence boost they get when they're on stage.

There are a lot of good musicians here and kids will often walk around playing guitar.

The community hall is a great resource, and it leads out to a phenomenal new playground that was built about three years ago.

I've been on the hall committee for about seven or eight years and was recently thrust into the role of chairperson. I thought I'd give it a go and it's very interesting, the knowledge you gain from talking to council, getting the right dialogue.

We have to re-arrange the running of the hall to come into line with the Super City. We're the only hall in the city without a lease, and there are about 400 community halls on the Shore.

The hall is used for lots of things. Last Friday we had a street party as a Neighbours' Day event.

There's the Easter Frolic every Easter Monday, with egg-and-spoon, three-legged and sack races.

And on Easter Saturday [today] there's a fishing competition, the Ewen Rogerson Cup. He was a local guy who died about five years ago.

He was 44 and part of the local community. He was a happy chap and a keen fisherman, so his wife Laura set up the cup and proceeds go to the Heart Foundation.

We'll have Music in the Park alongside that.

The hall also has aikido, badminton, basketball, weddings and parties - although we do have a curfew so don't usually have teenage parties, unless they're locals.

We started a website last August and we'll have a history page soon. The oldest resident here is 102, and used to be a World War II sub commander, among other things. The place is rich in history. We have a boating club and they organise lots of activities, but there are no shops, no cafe and no pub. And because there's no shop, there's no litter. We have our hall and make our own fun; it's very social down here, very "olde worlde".

There's a nice mix of people from various countries, so we get a good mix of interesting stories about anything you care to know.

Last year we set up the emergency response for civil defence. Every other house has a radio for boaties, or four wheel drives. We've got police and fire officers here, nurses, paramedics. We've got water, generators, the hall is the muster station for Civil Defence and the playing field is big enough for a chopper to land. That all brings a community together.

It's a lovely place. I don't know if we're more close-knit than other communities, but we're pretty happy down here.


Nick's Picks

For everything you need to know about Okura, go to the Okura community website: okura.org.nz where you can also click through to a Facebook page.

Dacre Cottage: a charming family day out. dacre.org.nz

Okura Bush Walkway: Takes you through regenerating coastal kauri forest along the Okura River estuary, the edge of Long Bay, Okura Marine Reserve to Karepiro Bay, to historic Dacre Cottage, and on to Stillwater. doc.govt.nz

- NZ Herald

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