Auckland is home to more than a million people. But within the Super City are plenty of people passionate about their communities. As Auckland grows, these neighbourhoods are changing. Vaimoana Tapaleao finds out more about Glen Eden in West Auckland

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More than 130 years ago, work on a railway line in Auckland had just been completed and would help to establish one of the city's first-ever settlements.

In 1881, residents in the area knew their home by the name Waikumete. The opening of the then Waikomiti Cemetery shortly afterwards would see special train services which carried the dead, as well as mourners, from the city on Sundays.

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Years later, locals would have the name of their town changed as they did not like the association with it and death.

Glen Eden was what they came up with - a name that paid tribute to the area's orchards and lush landscapes famous in the West.

Greg Presland, Chairman of the Waitākere Ranges Local Board and lawyer in Glen Eden. Photo / Michael Craig
Greg Presland, Chairman of the Waitākere Ranges Local Board and lawyer in Glen Eden. Photo / Michael Craig

Generations later, the old railway line remains and so too does the community that surrounds it; one that is due to see a whole lot of change in the coming years.

Chairman of the Waitākere Ranges Local Board, Greg Presland, is a lawyer and has had a practice in the heart of Glen Eden Town Centre for the last 30 years.

"We're heading towards a time of considerable change," he said.

"We've got the big project to slow the traffic down and we've got two big 10-storey apartment houses being constructed right now - right next door to the railway station.''

The projects he refers to are both due to be completed by next year.

CHANGES AT 6 WAIKUMETE RD:

Probably one of the biggest developments to happen in Glen Eden in decades is being carried out at 6 Waikumete Rd - next to the Southern Hemisphere's biggest cemetery and opposite the local primary school.

Two huge apartment towers are rising from the spot and, when finished next July-August, will have the capacity to house up to 300 new residents.

The towers - one 11 levels high and the other 10 storeys high - will also include six two-level terrace homes and a ground-floor retail space.

Working with CMP Construction Ltd, it is the brainchild of philanthropist Ted Manson, of The Ted Manson Foundation, whose social housing projects are aimed at helping people get into affordable quality homes.

Community housing projects manager Sam Colgan said the new apartment block would be a great example of a high-quality, high-density residential development close to a key transit point.

"The reality is, there's a lot of people who are locked out of the housing market currently in Auckland and there is an urgent need to great amenities,'' she said.

An artist's impression of the Ted Manson Foundation social housing development in Glen Eden. Image / Supplied
An artist's impression of the Ted Manson Foundation social housing development in Glen Eden. Image / Supplied

"This development offers that with schools, train station and a main street all on the doorstep.''

Ask residents about the towers, and there is a pause before an answer comes.

People understand the positive - providing social housing for those who need it - but are also apprehensive about too much change and how it could affect their town.

Presland acknowledged there were differing views, including concern, among locals. But it was the best move in these times.

"We're happy for good quality intensification to happen. Our ward has the Waitākere Ranges heritage area in it and so we're very comfortable with a compact, urban form so that we stop subdivision happening in the ranges.

"That means we have to go up rather than out and it's logical to build next to railway stations and transport corridors.''

Compass Housing Services, a non-government social housing provider based in Australia, will have discretion over the tenant selection process for those wanting to get into one of the 90 social housing units. There are 165 apartments in total.

Colgan said the hope was that the development would be a stimulus for the regeneration of the Glen Eden Town Centre.

"One thing we've noticed is the enthusiasm and energy by the local community in Glen Eden and their desire to improve the town centre.

The Glen Eden Train Station is a key feature in the community. File Photo / Richard Robinson
The Glen Eden Train Station is a key feature in the community. File Photo / Richard Robinson

"With anywhere up to 300 new residents, this will be a strong incentive for this to occur and the influx in population will also bring additional spend in local shops, services and has the potential to be a real boost for the local economy.''

Like all town centres, there are all sorts of shops and businesses in the Glen Eden village - bakeries, cafes, several hair salon/barber establishments, a laundromat, butcher and a big emporium bargain shop.

It is a fairly busy but homely atmosphere during the day and there is even a bit of quirk - the cafe opposite the Waikumete Cemetery has a sign out front: "Coffee to wake the dead.''

When asked to describe their town, residents are quick to use works like "close-knit'', "community'' and "a family''.

One local dubbed it "lucky'' after one of the dairies sold a $25,000 Lotto ticket the week 40 people around the country won that prize.

REDUCED SPEEDS AND BETTER PEDESTRIAN SAFETY:

Sue and Dan Greig, of Sudan Hairdressing, will be among those affected by the other big change due to happen in the next few months - road changes in and around the town centre.

Auckland Transport is due to carry out road safety improvements in the area to reduce speed and provide better pedestrian safety, particularly for people walking to and from the town centre and the railway station.

Pedestrian crossings are to be upgraded at various points of the main drag - West Coast Rd - as well as Glenview Rd, Captain Scott Rd and Bowers Rd. Speed tables will be installed to lower vehicle speeds, for example.

The Greigs are supportive of that, but say the removal of up to 10 car parks on West Coast Rd could be detrimental for small businesses such as theirs.

"I don't understand why they are so concerned about taking car parks off the main road when there are a lot of small businesses that really rely on people being able to pull in and run in - whether it's a chemist, to the bakeries or to look at a real estate window," Sue Greig said.

Sue and Dan Greig, owners of the Sudan Hair in Glen Eden. Photo / Michael Craig
Sue and Dan Greig, owners of the Sudan Hair in Glen Eden. Photo / Michael Craig

"I'm all for slowing down the traffic. I think that's a fantastic idea. But they also haven't considered loading zones or disabled car parks."

Dan Greig said the hope now was that after the road changes, residential roads would not be blocked or have people speeding through them in a bid to sidestep the new speed bumps on the main road.

"In rush-hour traffic, it's bumper to bumper and so I can't see any improvement on that,'' he said.

Feedback on the then proposed changes was sought in August and Auckland Council made an announcement about the new road safety improvements, not just to Glen Eden but around West Auckland, Waitākere in particular, last month.

A PROUD AND GROWING COMMUNITY:

In the 2013 Census, a total of 2511 households were recorded in Glen Eden East.

The median age was 34.6 years old, the average income was $26,700 and the population was 7011 people - up from 6609 in the previous Census in 2006.

Despite the statistically youthful population, the local RSA continues to thrive and remains a significant part of the community - as does the Playhouse Theatre next door and the fairly new library opposite it.

Glen Eden RSA assistant manager Nicole Busher said their entertainment team was very active and held regular themed nights that drew in the community - both young and old.

"We had a 70s night and a Rock'n Roll night, which got everyone dressed up and dancing."

Established in 1932, there are about 1000 members registered and work has been done to refurbish the building. They are now working on fundraising for an entrance upgrade and an alfresco dining area.

Busher said that was something she loved about the locals - everyone looked out for one another.

"Glen Eden is a nice little community and people are really proud of their home.''