Any weekend if you go down to the Māngere Town Centre it is likely to be teeming with life, people singing and dancing and laughing, produce changing hands and friends and families relaxing.

For decades the town centre has been a meeting point, a hub for the majority Pasifika people of Māngere, but since its erection, the suburb and the people have changed immensely and the structure no longer represents Māngere in the 21st century.

Located on the upper reaches of the Manukau Harbour, Māngere-Otahuhu is a young working population.

It's MP and Minister for Pacific Peoples Aupito William Sio proudly touts the suburb as the gateway to the nation and home of the young, the beautiful, the gifted and world champions.

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He knows of the centre's importance, so much so he moved his electorate office to the centre so he could be more available to his constituents.

"[The centre] is where we launch a number of things year in and year out. And so this is not fit for purpose now in the new millennium and ideally, I'd like to see Auckland City Council consider buying the whole facility here.

Minister for Pacific Peoples Aupito William Sio at the Mangere Town Centre. He wants the town centre town torn down and rebuilt to reflect the Mangere of the 21st century. Photo / Jason Oxenham
Minister for Pacific Peoples Aupito William Sio at the Mangere Town Centre. He wants the town centre town torn down and rebuilt to reflect the Mangere of the 21st century. Photo / Jason Oxenham

"Rebuild it and get our young people to participate in the new design. Which should be fit for purpose in this day and age. "

"This is the face of the future."

The area is young with a median age of 28 years with an average income of $59,900.

Māngere-Otahuhu presents 5 per cent of the population for the Auckland region and 51 per cent of the population is employed.

The suburb's biggest strength was also a weakness, the youth, Māngere-Otahuhu community board deputy chairman Walter Togiamua said.

"The strength of Māngere is the diversity and the talented and gifted young people. Māngere has one of the highest under 25 populations in Auckland.

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"Some of the challenges that we have had would have been our youth, we have had some issues with our young people, but we have gone out to our community and seen what we have done to get help young people.

"We are fortunate to have the arts centre right next door. That has managed to alleviate some of the pressure we had."

Togiamua was born in Niue but moved to Auckland when he was eight or nine.

The town centre when he was a boy, just as it is now, was a focal point, a meeting area and a melting pot for the Pasifika community.

Māngere-Otahuhu local board offices were also located in the town centre.

The canopy protecting the centre from the weather had long been a subject of discussion, he said.

When it rained heavily or with wind water would creep into the centre through openings causing hazards and headaches for business owners and shoppers.

The board was currently looking at how they could raise funds to get a new canopy, he said.

Minister for Employment Willy Jackson also called the suburb home and agreed things had certainly changed since he had first come to the suburb from the capital.

He grew up in Porirua and Māngere, and attended Māngere College through his teenage years.

When he was growing up in Māngere during the 60s the majority population was Maori, it was not until the 70s the area saw an influx of Pasifika people flocking to the suburb for housing or employment during the property boom, he said.

"it was mainly Maori when I came here. We came up from Porirua to Māngere. From the churches to the maraes it was Maori coming into the area."

Between the 70s and 80s, during which the town centre was built, more Pasifika came in and there was some tension between ethnicities for a time, Jackson said.

The town centre remains a focal point for the community where events are held. A Zumba class for the elderly takes place at the town centre most days. Photo / Jason Oxenham
The town centre remains a focal point for the community where events are held. A Zumba class for the elderly takes place at the town centre most days. Photo / Jason Oxenham

"We had the pubs around here right where the Pak'nSave is. It was a bit wild, there were gangs, there was too much fighting between Tongan, Samoan and Maori.

"I think things have settled now."

He saw great comradery between the ethnicities between then with inter-marriages between people of different ethnicities becoming more and more common.

The instalment of the Samoan Consulate, a multi-million dollar development, in 2016 was not just a win for the Samoan people of Māngere, but for all of the Pasifika people.

It was a building that suited the suburb in 2018 and an example of an important resource that was utilised by all.

"It's a big thing to have a Pasifika thing like that, even the fale itself, it engrains more of that Pacific flavour in the community not only for the Samoan community.

"We have had activities and conferences that all Pasifika people attend. It has given the Pasifika as a whole something, whether you are Samoan or not."

Consul-general Faolotoi Reupena Pogi said during the opening that it was a milestone that the Government decided to build in Mangere.

"Most of our people are now residing in the southern part of Auckland, mainly around this area and the nearby suburbs," he said.