Key Points:

Te Atatu Peninsula is swiftly changing from a solid working-class suburb to a prime site for luxury apartments.

Leading the charge is a six-storey block of apartments which is sprouting up at the West Auckland shopping centre and more could follow along the Te Atatu Rd ridge.

Prices for the 37 units in the Bella Vista project start at $350,000 for the first floor and rise to $850,000 for a penthouse.

"Starting at the third floor, the views east to the Waitemata Harbour, city, bridge and Rangitoto Island are spectacular, as are the views west to the Waitakere Ranges," said sales consultant Norma Chambers, who works for developer Southside Group.

Views and a drive of only 8km to central Auckland along the Northwestern Motorway have attracted buyers for all but 12 of the units.

A feature of the building is a central glass atrium to bring natural light and fresh air to each apartment.

Bella Vista developers had to go through a public hearing to get their resource consent application and any further apartment projects will have to do the same.

Henderson Community Board chairman Elizabeth Grimmer said the project was initially opposed by near neighbours, who were concerned about their homes being shaded.

Mrs Grimmer said houses on the peninsula, once called Te Atatu North, are more expensive than those in Te Atatu South.

The area was lifted in the 1990s by the huge Harbourview project carried out by Waitakere City Council's development arm, Waitakere Properties, and Hopper Developments.

At the same time, a subsidiary of the CDL hotel chain developed sections at Waimanu Bay.

The council had to take the lead in creating a model for urban development, with a high proportion of parks and walkways and a mix of medium density housing up to three storeys.

Market-driven developers were unwilling to deviate from conventional plans and sales were slow to take off.

A peninsula resident for 47 years, Melba Wellington, said she shared concerns about high-rise apartments in the area.

"We thought we would have looked across the water and seen something like this going up at Pt Chevalier before it did here."

City councillor Ewen Gilmour said putting apartments in the town centre was a brilliant idea, though he wanted no more than three or four of them and no higher than Bella Vista.

"I think these apartments will add to the efforts to make a village atmosphere along with a revamp of the library and community centre. But who will live there?

"The peninsula has traditionally been a working-class area. Harbourview was a double-edged sword. It turned out to be fantastic, but young West Aucklanders coming through can't afford to live on the peninsula any more.

"The urbanisation is leaving the people behind."

Mr Gilmour said only five houses were for sale for under $300,000 in Waitakere.

The number of owner-occupiers of homes in nearby Massey has dropped from 80 per cent to 50 per cent in just a few years.