The walls between usby Susannah Walker
Above: A photo taken from Verity Johnson's story on Cash King, a South Auckland pawnshop. Photo by Alex Burton.
As Aucklanders, we share the same city but live in increasingly disparate worlds.
Is the land on which this city sprawls soon to become the only common ground its residents share? Reading the September issue of Metro, you might just start to wonder.
Published amid the growing clamour of anger about poverty, property prices, the cost of living in Auckland, and the crushing consequences of each of these, this issue of the magazine provides a particularly stark study of the contrasts with which we live.
One of things Metro seeks to do is hold up a mirror to what’s going on in Auckland, and reflect some of that back to its inhabitants. It’s a selective and curated picture and what it reveals — to a shocking degree — is how increasingly disparate and fragmented the city is becoming. I’ll show you some snapshots.
As our Cheap Eats guide attests, one of the best things about living in Auckland is that we can eat out remarkably well for under $20. And plenty of us do, often, and without much thought.
But writer Verity Johnson, who’s from “the Rich Side” of the supercity, came face to face with the reality that this would be a rare treat, if not an impossibility, for many other citizens. For her story The Great Divide, she went to work in Cash King, a South Auckland pawnshop next door to a Winz office. There, she discovered the store’s owner has set up a food bank. Yes, a food bank. In a pawnshop.
Johnson didn’t get it at first — she’d assumed people pawned their belongings for alcohol, cigarettes and drugs, the kinds of things you might also think the poor spend their money on. But the longer she spent there, the more she realised what was really going on: people were pawning stuff to feed their families.
The idea behind Cash King’s food bank, writes Johnson, is that if you’re pawning possessions to buy food, then the store gives you a couple of bags of food for free. If you’re buying something from the shop, you can donate cans and get a discount on your item.
Meanwhile, writer Frances Morton got a glimpse of life as a “real Auckland housewife” when she visited Michelle Blanchard at her Coatesville home.
Blanchard, now on our screens as one of The Real Housewives of Auckland, modelled favourite items from her wardrobe, including a skull necklace by the late Alexander McQueen and a silver Gucci jacket which, according to her husband, makes her look like a piece of beef about to be roasted.
Yes, this issue is alive with beauty and madness and heart-breaking contradictions. Just like Auckland.
This editorial is published in the September issue of Metro, on sale in Auckland from 25 August.
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