Auckland consistently ranks highly in lists of the world's best cities but is never number one. So what would it take to turn Auckland into a first-class city? This week the Herald continues its 10-day series examining some of the biggest hurdles Auckland faces, from housing and transport to entertainment and education. We look at what we are doing, what we need to do, and why Auckland's success matters to the rest of the country . In part nine of the series we look at what Auckland community members are doing to improve the city.
In the Auckland suburb of Mangere, a small village is growing. The cluster of 22 homes has formed the foundation of what will eventually become a thriving family community, complete with a central social hub.
The Matanikolo housing project, set on 2.6ha of land, has been built by the local community - for the local community.
The once flat expanse of land, filled with lush kumara tops, cabbage patches and a range of other tasty organic vegetables, was cleared to make way for the modern village that offers low-cost rental housing for the community.
Thanks to the unique partnership between Lotofale'ia Mangere Tongan Methodist parish and the Airedale Property Trust, and with some government funding, the first phase of the project was completed last year.
It is hoped, once more funding is found, that stage two will see the building of a community centre that will host a health clinic, youth centre and a place for people to gather and "have a cuppa". In addition, they hope to build apartments to house the elderly members of the community.
Already-established facilities near the housing project include early childhood centres, schools, shops and businesses.
The minister of the Lotofale'ia congregation, Goll Manukia, said the village was a dream come true for the parish.
"They wanted to provide ministry targeted towards low-income families to help them grow."
Paula Taumoepeau, financial adviser for the Tongan church, said there was an oversupply of people wanting to get into the homes. Currently all 22 of the warm, spacious, three-, four- and five-bedroomed dwellings were filled.
Mr Taumoepeau said they were rented to families in the area at 80 per cent of the market value.
He said the families living there had become quite a tight-knit community. In the summer the remaining, undeveloped, green area was used as a garden and outside area where the families could gather.
Mr Taumoepeau said the vegetables grown in the area were harvested after summer and given to families and other charities in need.
"It's a really happy community; they thrive knowing each other," he said. "We encourage them to get together for kai at each other's homes. That's why we are keen for a common area where they can gather and have a coffee."
• Researchers have identified that our growing urban sprawl has had a detrimental impact on our community connections and sense of wellbeing.
• The Matanikolo housing project is an example of how communities can work together to provide for each other and develop a stronger sense of social connectedness.