Little more than a decade ago, Mangere Bridge was hardly a fashionable suburb, especially as one of its major landmarks was a collection of sewage oxidation ponds on the foreshore.
But when Watercare upgraded its treatment plant and removed the ponds, things began to change dramatically. As part of that work, about 13km of Manukau Harbour front was rehabilitated to encourage birdlife, beaches were built and a foreshore walkway was constructed (and has now been incorporated into Te Araroa trail that travels the length of New Zealand).
The $500 million project has made a massive difference to the community and also created desirable waterfront property. The suburb gets its name from the bridge built across the harbour in 1875 to connect the busy port at Onehunga and the thriving community in Mangere, which had fertile soils courtesy of the volcanic Mangere Mountain. These made for ideal crop farming, dairying and eventually market gardening before residential development pushed farmers further south.
A narrow, one-way wooden structure, the first bridge quickly became rickety and was replaced in 1915 by what is now known as Old Mangere Bridge, a reinforced concrete structure that was superseded by a motorway crossing of the harbour in 1983.
The old bridge remains and although it is closed to traffic it is popular with walkers, cyclists and fishermen.
Mangere Bridge is a multicultural area of often large families, dominated by brick-and-tile homes built in the 1960s and 1970s, although there are some earlier homes.
Jared Cooksley of Ray White grew up in Mangere Bridge and he says the suburb is changing fast now that it is becoming more desirable.
"I have seen a big change in the community over the past 20 years," Jared says. "We are seeing strong demand from both ends of the market, with baby boomers releasing equity from their current properties and first-home buyers appreciating excellent value for their money.
"We have sold a number of properties to clients who have downsized from suburbs such as Epsom, Greenlane and Royal Oak. They are able to secure a low-maintenance home with great views and a village vibe for half of what they would have to pay to stay in their current suburb. All the buyers see great value here with easy access to main arterial routes and all their needs catered for locally: great coffee shops, produce stores and a supermarket.
"When we have buyers walk into our office and ask about the neighbourhood in Mangere Bridge we simply ask them to come along to the Sunday morning markets. It is a real showcase of the suburb and when all of the community comes out."
As well as Mangere Mountain and the foreshore, Jared says the area boasts a jewel in Ambury Farm Park, a working farm.
"Ambury Park is an always-popular public attraction and provides a stunning environment for wildlife to thrive. You can often see families walking and biking along the Esplanade towards Ambury Park in the evening as the sun sets."
Pauline Anderson, of Harcourts Mangere Bridge, says, "Over the past two years Mangere Bridge house prices have seen a steady and sustained increase to the point that Mangere Bridge now tracks with prices similar to most inner city suburbs."
She says about 3200 homes are in an area bordered by Mangere Mountain to the south and the Manukau Harbour to the north.
Pauline adds, "Its proximity to the motorway system, airport, large areas of open space, the mountain, Ambury Park, the esplanade foreshore and the atmosphere-filled and busy village with all the amenities you need ensures that the area has much to offer young couples and families looking to own their own home and settle to raise their families.
"The demographic has changed over the past three to four years with older residents, some of whom have lived here for over 50 years, downsizing or moving into retirement villages ... making way for young families with one or two children. The area is multicultural, welcoming and inclusive - a community that can be hard to find in a big city.
"There's a sense of belonging here."