My Auckland: Beach Haven

Lisbeth Alley tells Elisabeth Easther what she loves about Beach Haven

Lisbeth Alley in the Beach Haven Community Garden. Photo / Chris Gorman
Lisbeth Alley in the Beach Haven Community Garden. Photo / Chris Gorman

We've been in Beach Haven for 24 years. Fourteen years ago we found this place near the wharf. I grew up in Devonport, but my sister moved to Beach Haven at the time I wanted to have babies (and go to work and have her look after them), so I had to move here too. And I've never regretted it. Beach Haven is like Devonport was when I was a child.

There's a very strong sense of community here because it has such defined boundaries, being a peninsula. And the village centre means there's a real sense of the place having a heart.

We have four dairies, which is a bit outrageous, and everyone has a favourite, which is all about the relationship with the owner. There are lots of takeaway places, a pharmacy, a post shop, a video store, lots of $2 shops, all within walking distance.

Another good thing about Beach Haven is we have a wonderful, effective bus service for getting to the city. I used to work at AUT, and it took me door-to-door.

The ferry service is wonderful, too, but the timing is a bit difficult. It runs only during working hours, and there's no weekend ferry yet, although it seems to get good patronage as it is.

I'm part of the Beach Haven Place Makers Group. The goal was to make Beach Haven more inviting, more welcoming, to make people want to visit and stay. For a while people didn't know they'd arrived, all there was was a sign saying "To Glenfield", so we started with the idea of gateways at each end. We still don't have decent signs, but the gateway on Rangatira Rd is up. The Beach Haven one is still to be constructed. We ran into a few problems with council, but we'll get there.

Another major project is the community garden. It used to be an old post office, and for 20 years it was looking derelict and terrible. In about 2000 and something the North Shore City Council put the money into buying it, then they inspected the place and demolished it. About a year ago we had a community get-together and more than 100 people came, and the result is this garden. It was a bit slow to get going, the ground had been under concrete for 50 years so there were no worms, but now there are flowers and birds, bees and butterflies, and people.

One of the dairies has been letting us take their water for the garden, off their water meter, which is so generous, and all the plants and flowers have been donated. We have big plans for turning it into a real village town square, the living centre of the village.

We have a great designer called Neil Coleman who's done lots of drawings after everyone said what they wanted. It was very clear it needed a place for performances, so there's a little wharf-like stage, to follow the wharf theme we're going with. We have lots of artists and performers in Beach Haven. There's a play area, not a playground but a place where children can play, and we can hold events there. There's also a paved area at the front with tables and chairs and it'll be well lit at night, to help stop anti-social behaviour.

Another thing that's lovely here is the bush. We get loads of tui and wood pigeons and we have lots of lovely parks too. Tui Park down by the water is wonderful, and Shepherd's Park has a boardwalk through native bush. I walk a lot, and this is a great place to live if you want to get fit.

We had only one cafe, Cafe au Bon Coin, but another one has just opened called The House of Chocolate. They do fantastic chocolate desserts.

I also belong to The Birkdale Residents' Association, which is all about looking after our people, our community, taking note of council initiatives, having our say, lobbying for better facilities, better infrastructure. For years I think Beach Haven was underrated, and now it's really on the way up.

When we moved in, a lot of people had lived here all their lives, for 50 or 60 years, real old identities, people who were passionate about the place.

Now there's a changing of the guard, with lots of new people moving in and the ethnic mix is really good, your kids grow up being able to mix with everyone. I think that's a wonderful thing.

I feel very bonded to this community. You feel like you're part of something here.

Lisbeth's Top Picks

Beach Haven has always been a great place to live, and, thanks (in part) to the Place Making group, it's getting better every day.

The Beach Haven Community Garden: On Rangatira Rd between the blue dairy and the Barfoot's office. Blooming wonderful.

The House of Chocolate: 13/19 Sunnyhaven Ave, Beach Haven. Ph (09) 481 9025. Sweet as.

Shepherd's Park: 156 Beach Haven Rd. Huge green space running all the way down to the water with playing fields, tennis, squash, bowling and a boardwalk through native bush.

- NZ Herald

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