Bernard Orsman is Super City reporter for the NZ Herald.

New life in old Papatoetoe

The refurbished railway station on St George St is a reminder of Papatoetoe's history. Photo / Greg Bowker
The refurbished railway station on St George St is a reminder of Papatoetoe's history. Photo / Greg Bowker

Townhouses priced from $350,000 are part of an Auckland Council project to revitalise the once bustling middle-class suburb of Papatoetoe.

Papatoetoe was booming in the 1960s and 1970s, offering aspiring home owners a slice of Pavlova Paradise - brick-and-tile houses in new subdivisions on quarter-acre sections.

But since those days the social and economic dynamics of the South Auckland suburb have changed, bringing hard times for the 120 or so businesses in the old town centre on St George St.

The brick-paved main street is a mixture of the old - the Town Hall built in 1917 and refurbished train station - and the new - a Chinese medical centre and ethnic restaurants catering for an immigrant population of mostly Indians and Fiji Indians.

Papatoetoe has a lot of positives, says David Rankin, the head of the council's property arm planning to convert council land into affordable housing near a new railway station on the southern line.

In the next couple of months, Auckland Council Property will release two blocks of land under a new public-private arrangement where private developers will be required to meet design objectives but can stagger payments to avoid holding costs. The blocks, part of 4ha of land owned by the council, will still be sold at market value.

The council hopes the model, being trialled in Papatoetoe, will provide some "skin in the game" to building affordable housing in Auckland, where the average house price is $535,000.

On the 1ha site of the notorious St George Tavern that was demolished as soon as it was bought by the former Manukau City Council in 2005, about 65 two-and three-bedroom terraced houses will be built for between $350,000 and $400,000, or a little more.

Local real estate agents are advertising two-bedroom units in Papatoetoe for about $300,000 and three-bedroom houses on a half site are selling for $330,000 to $350,000. Brick and tile homes on large sections are priced at $450,000 or more.

Otara-Papatoetoe Local Board chairman John McCracken, a former policeman and born and bred Papatoetoe resident, cannot wait for development of the former tavern site, now used for a carpark, plus plans for 12 houses on an L-shaped site further back from the town centre. Despite the suburb's setbacks, he said Papatoetoe still had a strong community spirit, great sporting and recreation facilities, affordable house prices and was only 20 minutes' drive from the city.

"We have seen our town centre really suffer with mall developments. What we are trying to get back is that community feeling with people shopping locally.

"A development like this is really going to invigorate the community. This could be a blueprint for the city to bring shopping centres alive."

Auckland Council Property development manager Allan Young said the tavern site could include some retail space and the council body was in discussions with the owners of the New World supermarket, which backs onto the site, about upgrading one of its oldest stores.

Donna Lee, the manager of the Papatoetoe Central Mainstreet Society, said the shops outside the supermarket and other businesses were unsure about the changes and wanted better communication from Auckland Council Property - something Mr Young promised when more details were known.

All going well, Ms Lee said, the development would bring more business to the town.

- NZ Herald

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