Dwelling on injustices, bad behaviour and modern day dilemmas.

Shelley Bridgeman: Grey Lynn vs Bunnings

Arch Hill residents Anita Aggrey and Sue Lyons, pictured at the proposed site for the new Bunnings Warehouse on Great North Rd, Grey Lynn, Auckland. Photo / NZH
Arch Hill residents Anita Aggrey and Sue Lyons, pictured at the proposed site for the new Bunnings Warehouse on Great North Rd, Grey Lynn, Auckland. Photo / NZH

Grey Lynn locals are kicking up a stink about a proposed three-level Bunnings in their neck of the woods. Despite the fact that keen DIY-ers (including those from the rapidly gentrifying suburb of Grey Lynn) flock to Bunnings for building supplies every weekend, it's thought that having one so handy just might ruin the ambiance of this so called "heritage suburb".

It was reported in Bunnings promises Grey Lynn branch will blend in that the physical impact of this potential blight on the neighbourhood will be limited. But that's cold comfort to the 556 people who signed a petition against this retailer, described disparagingly as an "Australian conglomerate", setting up shop "in the middle of our unique residential neighbourhood".

TV stars tell of safety fears over Bunnings plan says one actor has fears for her personal safety (having to walk past such an imposing building late at night) and concerns about the traffic congestion that would ensue from delivery trucks, courier vans and customer vehicles having to negotiate the community's narrow roads.

It all sounded perfectly reasonable until she added that another worry was that it "will bring in drivers who are not familiar with the area". Clearly it's unthinkable to have outsiders in Grey Lynn. Pull up the drawbridge at once.

But, seriously, you have to wonder if the concerns expressed about safety and traffic are really obscuring the main point: that Grey Lynn people are just fiercely protective of their suburb and want to preserve its prized "village way of life" at all costs.

Scratch the surface of a Grey Lynn resident and you'll often detect a whiff of self-congratulatory smugness that's anathema to inhabitants of the rest of Auckland.

"At the Grey Lynn school fair, the kids had a singalong with one of the Dads, Che Fu. Who could resist living here when Che sings at the local school fair?" wrote one blogger.
And the self-satisfaction evident in the Grey Lynn Residents Association's motto - "Supporting the most vibrant suburb in NZ" - is enough to annoy almost any New Zealander with a fondness for their own 'hood. And when exactly did vibrancy become a competitive pursuit, anyway?

One of the problems with Grey Lynn is that because it's home to more than its fair share of high-profile residents, it receives an excessive amount of media coverage. Thanks to the eclectic array of actors, artists, bloggers, broadcasters, columnists, novelists and photographers which inhabits it, Grey Lynn's public face is one of bohemian creativity.

The people of Grey Lynn are seasoned protestors, too. There was the unsuccessful fight to save the "iconic" Grey Lynn post office where a cafe selling organic coffee and gluten-free bread now operates. There were protests against the sale of kwila furniture and a proposed new liquor store. (It appears there were no protests about the new Farro Fresh, though.)

The "8 Tribes" project described Grey Lynn tribe members as the "highly educated intelligentsia who value ideas above material things and intellectualise every element of their lives. Their most prized possession is a painting by the artist of the moment, they frequent film festivals, feel guilty about discussing property values and deep down are uneasy about their passion for reality television."

Grey Lynn is a conflicted suburb. On one hand it was the unpretentious setting for Sione's Wedding. On the other hand, last year it was reported that a "Grey Lynn bungalow with a QV of $812,000 has changed hands for $1.83 million."

Grey Lynn is slowly but surely losing its alternative, edgy vibe.

As its laidback charm ebbs away, who can blame the occasional celebrity for making a fuss about the next proposed development threatening to compromise its unique character?

It's not about Bunnings per se; it's about big business, consumerism, materialism - a trio of capitalist bogies that any card-carrying citizen of the People's Republic of Grey Lynn is honour bound to fight to the bitter end.

Have your say on the proposed Bunnings in Grey Lynn. Are the locals justified in their opposition? Would you want a three-level Bunnings in your neighbourhood?

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Dwelling on injustices, bad behaviour and modern day dilemmas.

Shelley Bridgeman is a truck-driving, supermarket-going, horse-riding mother-of-one who is still married to her first husband. As a Herald online blogger, she specialises in First World Problems and delves fearlessly into the minutiae of daily life. Twice a week, she shares her perspective on a pressing current issue and invites readers to add their ten cents’ worth to the debate.

Read more by Shelley Bridgeman

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