Living in Northland

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Views from half way up
the Tinakori Hill.

We’ve now lived in Northland for almost a month, and it’s great. Stacey likes it because she can get to the university without having to go downhill and uphill. I like it because I get to walk over the Tinakori Hill twice a day. The lease deal is a lot nicer than the one we had in Brooklyn, and for once we’re not in someone’s run-down investment property.

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Wildlife around the Tinakori Hill.

Anyway, I think we’re mostly settled in to life in Northland now which is good. I’ve decided that I’m quite enjoying living here. It’s about the same distance from everywhere important as Brooklyn was, and the walk to work and back is more interesting. There’s less traffic, less people, less concrete, more trees and bush to walk through, more wildlife, and a lot more vertical variation. I went out to survey the Tinakori Hill a couple of days after we moved in, and there are a lot of places to potentially get lost between the network of tracks, on both sides of the hill.

I started off by using the Northern Walkway to get over the hill, but very quickly decided that it switches back and forth so much that it takes donkey’s years to get anywhere. Fortunately there are lots of other tracks, many of which are more direct. The one that I’ve settled on for getting home from work most days begins from a small side-street off Tinakori Road called St Mary Street, over the road from the Botanic Gardens. It begins as an entrance to the Northern Walkway, but within a couple of minutes there’s a sharp turn-off up the hill which probably gets about a quarter of the entire climb out of the way in the space of a couple of minutes. I’ve only been down it once so far, which was very slow because there wasn’t much stable ground, but going up appears to be fine. After getting to the top of this bit, the track is fairly direct up to the ridge-line at the top.

Getting down the Northland side of the hill towards home was an interesting experience, particularly at first. Much of the scrub on the western side is very thick, and on my first attempt I got lost in it for 15 minutes when I thought I’d be smart and try to push a more direct route through. This was kind of embarrassing, given there would have been tracks within 50 metres in all directions — it was just far too thick to get through to it after I’d lost track of where I got in. The main track down to Huntingdon Street, to where I’m usually trying to get, switches a lot on that side. After a week, though, I figured out there are three definite short-cuts which combine to make the route almost direct, and that’s useful. They even seem to have become less overgrown in the last few weeks since I’ve been using them.

As for the new flat, it’s always nice to be able to deal directly with an owner rather than a property manager. In general, owners tend to actually care about the property further than satisfying their legal obligations as landlords. An exception is property managers who’ve decided to buy their own investment properties on the side, and manage them with the same ethics they use in their day-job. A lot of property managers have a tendency to treat tenants as criminals if there’s any doubt whatsoever. This may be justified with some tenants, but it’s frustrating to be grouped in with such tenants because a typical property manager doesn’t spend effort bothering to distinguish the difference. There’s not a lot of incentive for them to do so, either. This can make it really hard to get on with them.

Moving out of the previous place a week after their pipes started profusely leaking exemplified this, and resulted in some quite high tension with the property manager refused to actually check the situation after we’d pleaded to them a week earlier. (They told us that because it was Brooklyn it was an airing issue and we should open the windows, despite Stacey’s urgent claims that the whole thing was dripping.) She then tried to blame us when they turned up for the inspection, and attempted to with-hold the bond. In the end, we were relieved just to get the bond back after proving it was their fault, and didn’t bother trying to re-claim the rent for the last 2 weeks during which the place was uninhabitable.

I think either of us could go on about the apparent incompetence of this particular property manager… including the episode where she claimed that some mould was our fault (outright denying that it was a recurring problem coming from behind the wallpaper). She then proceeded to tell us to use Jif (not to be used on porous surfaces , except for our case apparently!) to get it off before wiping it down with a wet cloth! Really, neither of us could imagine where her mould might have come from if she tells all her tenants to take that sort of care of the places she manages.

I don’t want to demonise all property managers and I’m sure there are good ones out there, but right now we’re just very glad to get away from them. The new place is a million times better than this, and the owners are much more responsive and actually care about the place. They live far enough away to not be a bother, but not too far away for it to feel awkward to invite them over to ask their advice on things, and they both take an active interest in maintaining the place themselves when things break. Yay for us.

Our flat gets good afternoon sun and has an awesome panoramic view of the entire Skyline Walkway from Karori to Kaukau. It’s also a house rather than one of those annoying converted houses that isn’t properly insulated from the neighbours. We no longer have to be concerned about students playing noisy thumping bass below us or above us or through the walls. In short though, I guess I’ve decided that living in Northland is great for a lot of reasons other than just the property.

That’s enough for now, I guess. The next tramping I have planned should hopefully be in the Ruahines a couple of weekends from now.

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