See you later, Auckland! Why columnist Bill Ralston is outta here

by Bill Ralston / 13 February, 2017

Photo/Getty Images/Listener illustration

We’re doing our bit to ease the city’s housing crisis and heading for a gentler, sunnier life in the country.

We’ve done it. I was born and raised in Auckland, spent about 15 years in ­Wellington, then returned north for the next quarter century. But it’s time for a change, if I can borrow an old Labour slogan. We are joining the baby-boomer diaspora and making a quick exodus to the country.

Not that we will sell our Freemans Bay house. The idea is to lease a small place near the sea in Hawke’s Bay, hold on to the Auckland property, rent it to friends and retain an upstairs bedroom and bathroom for ourselves for when we’re back in Auckland for work. And it is done. We’re shifting a fair chunk of our belongings in the next day or two.

I blame the summer for the move. It has not been one of the best and I could see the Bay ­sweltering in 30-degree temperatures almost every day. It was unbearable to be missing it. Weirdly, as soon as we decided to shift, we picked up much more work in Auckland and Wellington, so if you’ve got a few spare bucks, invest in Air New Zealand, as we seem to be booked to hit both cities at least once a week for the next few months.

Still, we were living in Auckland and commuting regularly to Hawke’s Bay to our beach bach. Now, we will simply reverse that process.

Yes, the Ponsonby hospitality industry may fear a blow to its revenues, but our frequent returns should offset some of its losses, and the vineyards and restaurants of Havelock North, Hastings and Napier will get a nice boost.

The decision to lease a place down there came because we decided if we lived at our bach, it would no longer be a holiday house but a place of residence and therefore lose some of its romanticism. No, we’ll lease elsewhere and head off 20 minutes away to the bach for almost every weekend, instead.

You need to know an area well before putting some money down on a place, so we decided to rent for a year or so while ­looking around for land or a house to buy. Hawke’s Bay property prices are booming, mainly because of ­Aucklanders and ­Wellingtonians fleeing there for a ­gentler, sunnier life. With their fat wallets, they are ­fuelling the price surge.

I can fix that. Knowing my luck, Hawke’s Bay will soon ­experience wall-to-wall rain, freezing ­temperatures, floods, earthquakes and a sudden tsunami or two, which will send the recent migrants ­scurrying back to where they came from, ­resulting in property-price falls back to saner levels.

Pending the occurrence of that apocalypse, I can catch up with a load of former friends and neighbours from Wellington and Auckland who have decided to resettle there.

Auckland’s housing crisis could be solved overnight if everyone aged 60-plus simply did what we’ve done. Sell or rent the house, move to a quieter town with better weather, do your bit for regional development by spending up large in the new ­township and free up Auckland ­property for other people to live in.

Auckland is a lovely city, but ­eventually you reach an age where you realise you are simply living in your own little village of your suburb and not really enjoying the benefits of our biggest city. Better to move somewhere else and have a good life in or near a real village. Even if you’re still working, you’re only an hour away by air at the most.

This article was first published in the February 18, 2017 issue of the New Zealand Listener. Follow the Listener on Twitter, Facebook and sign up to the weekly newsletter.

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