1 BEST TUNNNEL
The Waterview Tunnel. Bill English claimed it as National's masterpiece, and Helen Clark claimed it as Labour's idea. You can't blame them for squabbling over wanting the credit.
The tunnel was the best thing to happen to Auckland in 2017: roading, even more than housing, is the most important subject of life on the isthmus. Getting from A to B in good time matters more than financial security or emotional well-being.
And in six short months the Waterview tunnel has become an icon, a kind of underground equivalent of the Sky Tower.
2 BEST BUS
The route 18 double-decker service, New Lynn. Tunnel, schmunnel.
For many, the biggest transport news in Auckland in 2017 has been the introduction of several fantastic new double-decker bus services. They include the big yellow Northern Express monsters going from the North Shore to the CBD, allowing incredible top-deck views from the harbour bridge, and the even more spectacular route 18 double-decker service between the city and New Lynn.
Sitting up high on that journey is like being strapped to a drone above Auckland's oozing waterways and not-so-private back yards.
3 BEST APARTMENTS
Rose Gardens Apartments, Don McKinnon Drive, Albany. O Albany! O unlovable Albania, that cultural desert, that deeply boring blot on the isthmus, not really on the North Shore and it certainly doesn't belong to West Auckland, more just a stateless, soul-destroying zone of scorched earth in the middle of Auckland nowhere – but all that could change with the coming of the Rose Gardens apartment complex, the largest apartment project under construction in New Zealand.
It's huge. It's high-rise. It's like Hong Kong island has come to visit. One day it will boast 800 apartments, and offer uninterrupted views of Albany's park-and-ride bus station.
4 BEST SECOND HAND BOOKSTORE
Dominion Books, 230 Jervois Rd, Herne Bay. A small, beautifully formed cultual jewel. It has the best shopwindow of any secondhand bookstore - there's always something that catches my eye - and the selection inside is classy, wide-ranging, modestly priced. To spend even five minutes in its narrow lanes is to lift your IQ.
5 BEST WINDMILL
The TR Clow windmill, Station Rd, Papatoetoe. You don't see too many windmills in Auckland, which makes the strange old purely ornamental thing flapping in the wind in Papatoetoe all the more striking.
In the early 20th century, Papatoetoe engineer TR (Tom) Clow invented numerous windmills, and named them after his daughter, Daisy. A newspaper story on December 1, 1912, remarked that Clow had a vision of an immaculate windmill "whose working parts were few and as frictionless as ingenuity could devise"; he then went out and made it.
His frictionless ingenuity twirls in the wind above the Old Station House for all to see.
6 BEST EGALITARIAN KIWI DREAM
Takapuna Beach Holiday Park. O wealthy, right-wing Takapuna! The Takapuna Beach Business Association has tried, and tried, and tried – and failed, and failed, and failed - to get rid of the caravan park on the foreshore.
But the park hangs on in there, and remains a true icon of Auckland life – somewhere scruffy and charming, cheap and cheerful, with families and tourists playing cards in the shade of their caravans, their feet up, keeping the egalitarian Kiwi dream alive.
7 BEST VIEW OF WATER
The view of the Viaduct in that infamous Nicky Wagner tweet. Classic! The National MP put her foot in it when she merrily took to Twitter on June 15 this year, posted a gorgeous grey-green photo taken from an office window overlooking the Waitemata harbour, and wrote, "Busy with disability meetings in Auckland – rather be out on the harbour!"
It didn't go down well. Still, it has to be said that the harbour did look amazing in her photo. Can someone tell me which building it was taken from? I'd like to check it out.
8 BEST HILL
Stockade Hill, Howick. Actually this might be the best view of water in all of Auckland.
I love how the land is so high out east. The rest of the city is in a trough, in valleys and flats, but out east is all ridges and rises, and one of the highest points is Stockade Hill, which guards the entrance to Howick.
The views are incredible – water, water everywhere – and the hill itself is a charming picnic spot. The Unitary Plan proposed sticking some dirty big high-rises in front of it; locals rushed to sign the Stockade Hill petition, which helped persuade Auckland Council to introduce height restrictions to new apartments. 6700 residents signed the petition; they are due 6700 cheers.
9 BEST ISLAND
Ngarango Otainui Island, Manukau harbour. It's that small, beautifully formed jewel floating in the Mangere Inlet, and the best view of it is from the train, between Otahuhu and the former Westfield station on the southern line.
There are a couple of macrocarpas at one end, and the base of it seems quite flat. Everyone who sees it wants to swim out there and sit a while, maybe for years, maybe forever.
No can do, probably: Ngarango Otainui is privately owned. From what I gather, Arzan Hajee and Arif Hajee bought it a couple of years ago. Guys! Can I come over?
10 BEST PUBLICATION
, the Watercare newsletter. Tapped in! No finer pun has ever graced the title of a utility services newsletter.
It's the best quarterly in New Zealand publishing; it's packed with helpful advice ("Don't plant large, fast-growing trees with vigorous root systems near wastewater pipes" – words to live by) and even an agony aunt, "Ask Nisi", who deals with such thorny issues as leak allowances.
The best Tapped In issue of 2017 was Winter, with its graphic, punchy feature, sub-headed, "Be aware of what you put down toilets and sinks. Small items can cause big problems."
It was illustrated with a colour photo of three technicians wearing face masks and CSI protection suits while poring over "wipes, paper, fat and other items that have been improperly disposed of". God almighty. It was like a still from the best horror movie never made.
11 BEST CONCERT
Hare Krishna, every Friday night on Queen St. God knows they dress badly, but their chantings and soft bongo rhythms make irresistible outdoor music in their weekly procession along Queen St.
Their sweet Lord sounds so good. Plus they give away yummy little dessert treats.
12 BEST LIBRARY
Glen Innes. One of my favourite columns in the Herald is the snappily-titled, strangely familiar "The Woman Who Read Auckland", in which Janet McAllister inspects the city's libraries.
Her report on Glen Innes: "The pebble-dash exterior isn't shown to best advantage next to the amazing polished-wood geometric-gem sculpture of Te Oro youth performance centre. But it's one of the bright and airy libraries, pleasant and nicely laid out."
Faint praise, Janet! Let the record state that it's a very lively, very helpful library, a cultural jewel and a huge asset to the community. The staff know what they're doing and they make everyone feel they're in a home that has a lot of books in it.
13 BEST FASTFOOD FRANCHISE
Dunkin Donuts, Auckland domestic airport. You expect McDonalds, and there's a McDonalds. There's also a Tank
But the king of Auckland domestic airport food is Dunkin Donuts, which has the audacity and the gall to have two stalls. Two!
I love their audacity and their gall; there is just no getting away from Dunkin Donuts at the domestic airport, they are west and east, and form a kind of pincer movement. Above all, I love their doughnuts.
14 BEST SHOPS
Ellerslie. Ellerslie is like Avondale gone right, a racetrack town with lovely fittings and tidy footpaths.
The best way to approach is by train. The station overbridge and stairway are built over and around a pine tree; you take the spiral staircase down to the ground, then step into the town centre.
The are two immediate attractions – the awesome Mercy Hospice opshop, on Ladies Mile, and Pastrami and Rye on 112 Main Highway, which serves the best hot pastrami outside Toronto.
The whole centre has a nice, languid feel to it, and there are times when it shares the same phenomenon as the Panmure shops – it feels as it's though by the seaside.
15 BEST MENSWEAR
Te Atatu Menswear, 548 Te Atatu Rd, Te Atatu peninsula. Honourable mention here to Leo O'Malley on K Rd, that long-standing classy joint which has suits from Savile Row and a wide range of felt hats.
But my heart belongs to Te Atatu Menswear. Actually my body belongs to it: most days I'm dressed head to foot in their range of stylish shirts and sensible pants. Mal Buscomb runs the store, like his father Reg before him; men all over West Auckland and beyond owe a debt of thanks to the Buscomb dynasty. Reminds me, I need a new jacket.
16 BEST TABLE TENNIS CLUB
Manurewa Table Tennis Club, 3 McVilly Rd, Manurewa. There's no place I'd rather play the beautiful game of table tennis.
It's opposite the train station at Homai, and around the corner from the Raja Barber Shop, where Nishan Singh will cut your hair and brush your neck with talcum powder. Nice.
As for the clubrooms, they were built in 1967, and kept in great nick thanks in large part to one of the great sporting families in Auckland, the Raus, who have helped to administer the club itself since its very beginnings in 1947.
The playing conditions are regarded by many table tennis connoisseurs as the best in the country. Book a table now (phone 298-1926), and play the beautiful game at a sporting shrine.
17 BEST BAR
Palm Bar 123, 495 Pakuranga Rd, Highland Park. I don't know about you but I could do with a drink, and there is no place I'd rather drink it at than this little miracle out east.
It's so cool. It's got the best garden bar in Auckland. There are all these island-style thatched roofs, and you can sit out there with your cold one and easily imagine you're in Samoa or Fiji or the Cooks when in fact you're quite near the Pakuranga Mall.
18 BEST NAME FOR A RESTAURANT
Smith & Wong, 9 Buck Rd, Massey. Smith and Wong! East meets West. Two worlds meet. Two peoples come together and cook food.
What an inspired name for a takeaway, and the food's good too. It does Chinese and European dishes (the cinnamon doughnuts are recommended, plus the chow mein flavoured with garlic and wine), and I like this Yellow Pages online review by Emma: "Only $20 for a tray."
Honourable best-name mentions to Liquor Galaxy in Morningside (a cosmos of booze) and Peking Swallow in Mt Roskill (does one swallow a Peking make?).
19 BEST TEMPLE
Wat Lao Buddharam, 5 Nixon St, Otahuhu. This is simply one of the most beautiful sights in Auckland. Monks restored an old villa into a combined Laotian and Thai temple, and painted it bright orange.
There's a goddess water feature – her hair is actually a hose! - and a reclining Buddha out the front. Inside, there are rows and rows of shrines, and enormous bouquets of plastic flowers.
Someone is always cooking delicious Laotian dishes, and setting the bowls on low tables. Sawadee, bro.
20 BEST HOSPITAL
Mercy Ascot Hospital, 96 Mountain Rd, Epsom. I've been spending a fair bit of time there this year and in fact I'm due in for A Talk With A Specialist at 2pm today! I just can't stay away!
It's a nice place. It was built in 1900 for the Sisters of Mercy, and still has the original name above the front door: Mater Misericordiae (Mother of Mercy).
The waiting room is like a hotel lobby, sort of, and the cafe does a superb ham and cheese croquette. I get to eat and run. Others are less fortunate. They're confined to quarters.
Think of them – and all the vulnerable of our great, eccentric, watery city – this Xmas.