Re:news has released a four-episode docu-series that tells the story of the strong but diminished Pacific populace within central Auckland. A population that has since diminished due to widespread gentrification. The series tells the story of the city boys reigniting a central Pacific identity, a Samoan family’s resolve to keep their family home, reflections of a Tongan Herne Bay family with a recently passed matriarch, and the continuation of tatau within central Auckland by Tyla Vaeau. It is storytelling at its finest.
Pasifika had laid their roots in much of central Auckland. Pacific Islanders made up the majority of the central urban workforce during the 50s and 60s. The businesses of central Auckland needed workers, and the influx of immigrating Pacific people filled that void.
Once the land these families lived on was seen as valuable, many sought to take it. Through coordinated and organised efforts, Pasifika were driven from their homes. Examples of declining Pacific populations can be seen in many central suburbs by merely looking at the architecture within Ponsonby, Orakei, Grey Lynn, and nowadays suburbs like Avondale and Glen Innes, to name a few. Ponsonby’s once diverse and varied housing has been replaced by lacklustre western suburban architecture with no character or culture. The bustling streets of central Auckland that fostered so much pacific love and community has been replaced by quiet suburban monotony. Once a place where we took care of each other, where everyone got fed, and everyone kept the family close. The socially mobile affluent gentrifies replaces this sense of community with a rat race mentality.
The whole process of gentrification is fucked. It results in the displacement of individuals who do not have the same social mobility as the wealthy upper class. Affluent families have more financial freedom to move into urban neighbourhoods, while poorer families are forced to relocate from the homes they’ve laid their roots within.
The series conveys Pacific love and resilience. The first episode, titled “City Boys”, focuses on a group of young Pacific men and their experiences with gentrification within their central Auckland neighbourhoods of Ponsonby and Grey Lynn. We follow hip-hop artist Diggy Dupe and the City Boys as they use music, fashion, and entrepreneurship to reclaim and rebirth the inner-city Pacific identity. The first title screen displays the text, “In 1971, 45 percent of Auckland’s Pasifika population lived in the inner city. Now, they’re fewer than 2 per cent”. It’s shocking and shows the powerful outcomes of gentrification. But this only encourages these boys to push harder. “When there’s less of you, you have to go twice as hard”. Dupe comments on realtors who continually wish to evaluate his family’s property’s value. This is met with a response that displays the value of culture and home over money “We already know the value, but there’s a difference between your value and OUR value”. It is a fantastic look into the loss of Pacific culture within Auckland. Luckily, Pacific excellence shines as these boys look to manifest and work towards a central Auckland Pacific identity renaissance.
Episode 2 showcases a Samoan family’s resolve as they tell us of white Ponsonby’s brown history. A past that fortifies their resolve to hold onto their family home no matter what. Moevasa Leali’ifano declares, “We don’t care if you offered us a billion dollars; that’s nothing to us… we are rich in heart, rich in family, rich in culture. That’s more than enough for us”.
I’ll let you watch the next two episodes and let you enjoy it for yourselves. There isn’t enough room to convey how important and powerful a series like this is. It’s a must-watch. It is A1 content. It’s a 10/10 and a reminder to everyone in Tāmaki Makaurau that we remain and that:
We’re Still Here.