Chloe Swarbrick: Auckland Central MP

Rolling out the picnic blanket under the trees at Victoria Park this past weekend, Grafton United on the cricket pitch and Aucklanders sprawled among the greenery, we had a glimpse of what’s not gonna be our average Kiwi summer.

I’ve never seen urban Auckland spaces used like this. A friend commented that it was reminiscent of London’s Hyde Park. We’d been in our bubbles for so long that we all were now coming out of our shells, and into the open air safety of our public spaces.

This is something that will become more important as we start to live our lives in ‘Red’.

Working with councillors and officials, I’ve been stoked to support progress to fast-track outdoor dining as we move out of lockdown and to fill our outdoor spaces with laughter and life, experiences and investment in our local hospitality.

When we make spaces for people, what follows is wellbeing, safety and economic activity. As we tick closer to al fresco dining, retailers have begun asking about whether there’s any appetite to support their movement outdoors too: to blossom from their destination shops and mingle with the day-to- day life of our neighbourhood. For this reason, I’m actively investigating what taking back some of the streets for people might look like during our warmer months.

We’ve not before really wrapped our head around the idea of an urban summer in Aotearoa. New Zealanders who want their fix tended to head across to Sydney or Melbourne, lamenting the laneways, vibrancy and innovation that we, apparently, did not have. But we’ve always had it – we just haven’t given it the limelight, the spot in the sun to thrive. That limelight is readily being prepared though, as discussions with

our local business associations, the Britomarts, Commercial Bays and Wynyard Quarters of our neighbourhood reveal. Imagine the colour and curiosity of people-watching while street-front dining. The city will be our summer playground.

These ideas are not so far-flung, nor so ‘European’ as some have suggested. A few weeks ago, our hui on the future of Ponsonby and the Bays, featuring New Zealanders of the Year, Jennifer Ward-Lealand and Dr Siouxsie Wiles and (future New Zealander of the Year, surely) Metro Personality of the Year nominee, Diva Giles of Beau Restaurant, unpacked exactly these possibilities. While Jennifer noted the loss of viable live theatre as-we-know-it until ‘Orange’ of the Covid-19 Protection Framework (Traffic Light system), she revelled in the idea of the kinds of performance we could bring to the streets. Hyde Park, alright.

Dr Wiles offered what might otherwise be a grieving process for what once was, could now be a phenomenal opportunity to usher in the ideas we’ve never had the political willpower to commit to. Three Lamps, right next to Diva’s Beau, felt a brilliant opportunity to test the hypothesis.

As the Auckland border is officially due to open on Wednesday 15th December, we’ve a moment to plan the kinds of summers we’ll be launching into. And boy, do Aucklanders deserve a summer. But unlike the holidays of yesteryear, we’ve a special opportunity to explore our own backyard, all dressed up and ready to party in a way we’ve never seen it before. Happy holidays Ponsonby! (CHLÖE SWARBRICK)

CHLÖE SWARBRICK, T: 09 378 4810, E:

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Published 3 December 2021