Onehunga is one of the most eccentric suburbs in the supercity. Josie Adams got a tour of the beating heart of Auckland from its inventive locals.
Onehunga sits at the very centre of Auckland, nestled between Mangere and Cornwall Park. Major transport arteries flow through and around the suburb centre of Auckland, nestled between Mangere and Cornwall Park. Major transport arteries flow through and around the suburb connecting east to west and north to south. Visit for the day and you’ll find a joyful community that represents every part of Auckland. The streets are full of humble history, colour, and eccentric locals. There’s growth and development coming – and it’s been welcomed as an opportunity. All at once, Onehunga is artsy, grimy, and family-friendly.
My first guide is Francesca Rudkin, Newstalk ZB host and film critic. She has an air of being permanently rushed off her feet and happy about it. Her house, an art-deco design with a steeply-sloping but lemon-heavy backyard, is on one of Onehunga’s heritage streets. She’s been here for 12 years. She and her husband moved to the suburb when they started a family, and can’t imagine raising their two kids anywhere else in Auckland. Their kids get to grow up surrounded by what Francesca sees as a valuable community. “I think living here will keep them grounded,” she says. “It’s all rugged. It’s real. That’s the best thing about it.”
Only five minutes from her house is the waterfront. I didn’t think of Onehunga as coastal, but it was only cut off from the ocean by the South Western motorway in 1977. Four years ago the council gave Onehunga back its beach when it built a bridge over the motorway and turned the land into a park called Taumanu (‘reclamation’). Here, the suburb’s natural and urban environments happily collide. New Zealand’s first cable-towed wakeboarding park pulls riders over jumps and rails in the middle of a man-made lake. Dogs chase balls in its shallows. Children ride bikes, scooters and skateboards on the halfpipe. This organised chaos is a perfect representation of the suburb she loves.