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February 24, 2014 | by  | in Features Homepage |
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Welcome to Suburbia!


The spiritual home of the Green Party, Aro Valley is a little liberal, artsy enclave within the liberal, artsy enclave of Central Wellington. Predictably, it’s full of cool stuff, like Garage Project – a brewery set up in an abandoned garage – great cafés, and AroVideo, which has far and away the best movie rentals in Wellington. Beware, though: the flats can be dark, dank and surprisingly expensive, and although Aro is this liberal, artsy enclave, it is also very aware of this reputation. Which essentially means: there are lots of really cool people there, and also a load of wankers.


AKA town, because who really calls it Te Aro. While there are some nice parts (Cuba St), in Wellington everything is essentially on three streets, so a lot of Te Aro is dead space, which can be depressing and/or seriously dodgy. Rent can be expensive; you’re definitely paying for the convenience of living in town. And you’re living in town, so this is pretty fucking convenient. On the flipside, you’re also paying for the convenience of listening to drunk first-years march through town on their way to Hope Bros, so have fun with that.


In the 1880s, for some weird and unknowable reason, the dairy land above Wellington was subdivided, named after a New York borough, and it was decided that its streets would bear the names of American presidents. The only reason I can think of for this was that it was an attempt at connection, because, even in 2014, Brooklyn feels oddly cut off from the rest of Wellington. It’s the sort of suburb that, if you live there, regularly provides excuses for missing class: it’s just too far away for anything. But venturing up into the heart of Brooklyn does provide some rewards: Penthouse Cinema is great, and there’s a wind turbine, which is always exciting.


Newtown is everything. Large, noisy, diverse, it feels like a city distilled. With a large immigrant community, state housing, and the recent influx of wealthier students, artists, and YoPros, it’s incredibly heterogeneous. Almost all the eastbound bus routes run to Newtown, the food is cheap and delicious, and there are two supermarkets. It’s super-convenient, and it’s fun, but it’s not a quiet suburb. You’ve got the Wellington Hospital, the Newtown Fire Station, the zoo, and a population which is often pretty nocturnal, so there can be some loud nights. But this is part of what Newtown is: it’s like living in town, if town had better vibes.


Kelburn, unlike other Wellington suburbs, has the benefit of being both on a hill (views!) and incredibly close to Uni. It is also close to town, but it’s not quite as accessible as other suburbs, since climbing back up that hill is a fucking mission. Demographically, it’s a weird mix of upper-middle-class families and students: the juxtaposition of signs outside the Deli advertising caviar and overflowing recycling bins from scummy student flats is slightly disconcerting. But, if you hang around for long enough, you’ll find that Kelburn’s abundance of really great dogs more than makes up for it.


Mount Victoria is one of the oldest Wellington suburbs, and you can tell. It’s everything that Wellington is loved for/mocked about: rickety wooden houses up hundreds of steps, roads too narrow to drive a single car down which are still inexplicably two-way, and, up in the green belt, a historic Lord of the Rings Filming Site. It’s lovely, but maybe not the best place to live. I’ve known Mt Vic flats in renovated dairies with only curtains demarcating bedrooms, it’s a bit far from uni, and the presence of the sublime Mt Vic Chippery (bottom of Majoribanks St) will play havoc with your bank balance and waistline.


Mount Cook’s only tourist destination is a piece of graffiti, and that is all you need to know about this place. Home to Massey Wellington, the War Memorial, and not much else, Mount Cook is less of a suburb than a gateway to other suburbs. While its boundaries are murky and ill-defined (anywhere a bit dreary around the top of Te Aro seems to be counted as Mount Cook), up on the ‘mountain’ proper you do get some views and, if you live far enough south, you can get away with saying you’re in Newtown. Close to town, and rent is okay.


In 2004, the council spent $7.5 million on importing sand from Golden Bay and dumping it on Oriental Bay beach. Ten years later, the once thin, grey patch of sand looking out over the CBD is still essentially a thin, grey patch of sand looking out over the CBD. While it is nice having a beach so close to town, in summer it’s vastly overpopulated by 17-year-olds talking loudly about RTDs, and in winter there’s very little reason to venture down there unless you want to gaze out to sea and look mysterious. Salient does not endorse this activity.


Lyall Bay isn’t Wellington’s best beach: for sand, swimming and general vibes, I’m going to have to go for Scorching Bay. But it is Wellington’s best beach which is easily accessible by a regular bus (the #3), and that counts for something. It’s also a great surfing beach, and is home to the Maranui Surf Lifesaving Club and corresponding Maranui Cafe. The iconic building was almost destroyed in a fire in 2009, but it was rebuilt and, despite suffering from fire damage again in 2012, Maranui Cafe is one of the best brunch spots in Wellington. Go for the sand, stay for the sandwiches.


With Parliament, Premier House, a whole bunch of embassies, the National Library, and Archives New Zealand (containing the original Treaty), Thorndon is easily New Zealand’s most politically important suburb. While this is surely great fun for baby Law students, Thorndon doesn’t really work as a proper suburb; it’s bisected by a massive motorway, which serves to crush any sense of community spirit the residents of Thorndon might’ve hoped to have with neighbour J Key. Side note: I’ve lived in Wellington for 20 years and I’ve seen sun in Thorndon twice. That place is grey as fuck.


The biggest suburb in Wellington, New Zealand, and – this is probably apocryphal but it’d be cool if it was true – the Southern Hemisphere, Karori is really only one thing: big. If you’re into walking, the skyline track which loops right around the suburb takes about four hours and has great views of the South Island, but, if not, there is very little reason for you to come. The Vic Teaching campus is up there, but I think even Teaching students forget about it. Other highlights include: a sports park which used to be a dump, and the Karori Cemetery.

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