Nikki Preston is a Herald reporter based in Hamilton.

500,000th Aucklander set to celebrate her own milestone

Liza Dwyer with her mother Beth Hodge 50 years after her birth marked Auckland's 500,000th citizen.
Liza Dwyer with her mother Beth Hodge 50 years after her birth marked Auckland's 500,000th citizen.

Fifty years ago Liza Dwyer's birth was celebrated as she became Auckland's 500,000th citizen.

A photograph of the newborn cradled in her mother Beth Hodge's arms featured in the Herald to celebrate Auckland's population milestone following her birth on May 31 in 1964.

Now, half a century on as Auckland's population sits at 1.4 million, she is about to celebrate her own milestone - but this one will be in Australia where she has spent most of her life.

Mrs Dwyer, formerly Liza Hodge, will have her 50th birthday party at her Sydney home next Saturday.

She will invite 130 of her closest friends and family to mark the occasion, which is particularly special to her after a health scare last year.

Although born in New Zealand, Mrs Dwyer now considers herself an Australian after moving there with her parents and two sisters when she was 7 years old. She says a highlight of her life has been her closeness with her extended family and spending 10 years backpacking around Europe.

Baby Liza in mother Beth Hodge's arms 50 years ago in the Herald.
Baby Liza in mother Beth Hodge's arms 50 years ago in the Herald.

After graduating as a teacher she spent five years teaching English in Italy and learning the language, and another five as a casual teacher in London. While in London she met her husband Robert and they had their eldest son before the lure of beaches, the outdoors and wanting to be close to family drew her home.

"I wanted him [her son] to have the upbringing that I had, the same as in New Zealand. That Kiwi/Aussie upbringing of getting your hands dirty and camping and making fires and climbing trees and playing in the water and being free. That's why we came back."

Although she still has strong ties to New Zealand and visits cousins and old family friends, she now thinks of herself as an Australian. "I've been really fortunate. I was happy to be born in New Zealand and classed myself as a Kiwi for many years."

Mrs Dwyer has four children - Tane, 19, Kara, 13, Kalen, 9, and Tiffany, 7. She runs a business with her sister called The Apartment Service where they lease fully furnished short-term quality apartments in the city. Being her own boss meant she could focus on the most important thing to her - family. Her sisters and parents live close by in the northern suburbs in Sydney.

Mrs Hodge, 79, said the photo from the Herald brings back precious memories. "She has always been a very engaged lady. She had her eyes wide open and was looking at us even on the first day."

Mr and Mrs Hodge's love of travel has rubbed off on their daughter as the couple drove their Volkswagen Beetle from London to Calcutta in 1961 and shipped it back to London 35 years later to recreate the journey. Mr Hodge now plans to travel from Iran to Germany with his oldest grandson and Mrs Dwyer's son Tane behind the wheel of the old car.

- NZ Herald

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