My partner and I recently bought our first home in Whangārei. Northland is where I spent my childhood, being born in the rural beach town of Matapōuri and going to primary school in a nearby town, Ngunguru.
Whangārei was always the big smoke to me growing up but that changed in the late 90s when we moved to Auckland, which really was big and smoky. Being back here and seeing Mount Parihaka from my back window means a lot to me. It’s extremely grounding to have a back yard and garden to care for and eat from, as well as fruit trees. Our Auckland home was an apartment and I don’t think we knew how much we were missing having land to look after and enjoy until we found our house up here.
I’ve moved my business, Papa Clothing, up here too and have found living here has completely changed my practice and strongly influenced my design and process. I now go for swims at the “school beach” where I went to primary and first learnt to swim in the Ngunguru estuary. My partner Deirdre fries us some steaks and makes a salad and we eat on the sand then get in the cold water after busy days in the store, washing away any stress of that day.
The Strand mall where I’ve opened my summer pop-up store is in the centre of Whangārei. It has glass ceilings, so I still have sunlight hitting my store – in the middle of a mall in the big smoke, where it all started.