Great South Stories: Manurewa

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With the help of NZ On-air filmmaker Rupert Mackenzie under the working title 'Great South Stories' has taken cameras out to film 10 insightful and at time's confronting stories of those who live on the famed Great South Road.

This is his third story.

My plan had been to film a series of short interviews with business owners and locals on a particular stretch of Great South Road, Manurewa.

That changed very quickly when some locals took serious umbrage at a film crew shooting on their home patch. I knew this because they told me so. They didn't mince words or withhold any aggressive subtext. 

Less than 75 metres from where I had encountered an uncomfortable reception, I met ‘Te Rata Hikairo’, a local educator. Raised in the area Te Rata passionately explained Manurewa as an eclectic mix of social struggle, business, the middle class, and middle-upper class, but which was most often portrayed as a place of hardship.

I felt a pang of guilt, that my perception of Manurewa was very much the stereotype. I had not for a second considered that perhaps the response by some locals was in fact their response to outsiders only seeing their home suburb framed as a place of criminality and dysfunction. 

After meeting Te Rata we met Louis and his wife Shiloh, a couple living on the street after losing their State House in Otara. Louis candidly stating he used to pass the homeless and say “‘look at those jokers sitting out there bumming, sleeping on the street”, only to find himself in the same position.

What was remarkable about Louis and Shiloh is they remained upbeat, even grateful for the experience in what it has taught them.

For me, it was a sobering and thought-provoking day on Great South Road.

Great South Road is New Zealand’s longest road, starting in Auckland’s swanky shopping quarter of Newmarket and ending in Ohaupo, Waikato Dairy country. 

Used by or home to car dealers, churches, residences, food outlets, farmers, the homeless, street rappers, volunteers, and schools, it is a road that intersects and connects our past, the present, and future.  

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