South Auckland/Aukilani Saute is the southern urban region of the greater Auckland regional city. It includes the western suburbs of the Manukau City Council: Mangere, Papatoetoe, Otara and Manurewa; the southern suburb of the Auckland City Council: Otahuhu, and the small city of Papakura.
The nations gate way to the world, the Auckland International Airport sits on the semi-rural land of Mangere (Ihumatao). The Mangere sewage treatment plant caters for the greater Auckland region which totals 1.4million people. The largest industrial park in the southern hemisphere is located on the Tamaki River in Otara (Highbrook). The largest student cultural festival: ASB PolyFest, is held in central Manukau every year.
It is home to boxer heavy weight David Tua, the late Sir Edmund Hillary (first to reach the top of Mt Everst with Norgay Tenzing), the late former Prime Minister David Lange, Gold medallists Valerie Vili, Barbara Kendall, rugby players such as Jonah Lomu and Eric Rush, kick boxer Mark Hunt, hip hop artists such as Savage, and many more.
South Auckland is the fastest growing area in New Zealand/Niu Sila. It has the highest proportion of under 18 year olds. It has the most diverse number of ethnicities. It also holds the highest proportion of Pacific Islanders.
South Auckland has become synonymous with crime and poverty to many New Zealanders (read Palagi). It is the ‘ghetto’, the eye-sore that middle New Zealand (read Palagis) can drive past on the highway and not think about. It’s that part of town that people (read Palagis) are too scared to venture through. It becomes the political scapegoat at every national election. It is held up as the consequences of lawlessness and moral corruption. It’s where there are never enough cops and never enough prisons. It’s the “bad” side of town, the other side of the tracks that parent’s fear to let their children go.
Yet hardly any (if any at all) of these New Zealanders who espouse these perceptions of South Auckland, have ever stayed in South Auckland. Parachute reporting does injustice to the real South Auckland. Talk back radio is full of people who have ‘friends’ who have been to South Auckland, but never themselves.
The real South Auckland is vibrant and oozing with talent and potential. It is a beautiful story of families with great aspirations, leaving their paradise homelands, in search for better opportunities for their children. The story does not gloss over reality; it is fresh and raw about the struggles of working class immigrants. And by no means is it a story that is finished. South Auckland has produced and will continue to produce the future leaders of Niu Sila and the Pacific region. The capacity and potential wealth yet to be fully realised is simmering away in the futures of the youthful population.
Every time I encounter a New Zealander who has a misconstrued idea of South Auckland, I invite them home for a meal with my family. I invite them to come and breathe South Auckland, see what a real South Auckland home is like. I invite them to a world that turns out to be so similar to their own, but uniquely different at the same time.
Don’t be scared about venturing into our side of the tracks, because the longer you worry and concern yourself about what might happen to you, the more probability you get hit by the bloody train!