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NZDA Case Report: “Working in Auckland City”

Clarence Tam, HBSc, DDS

For those of you who don’t know me, I am historically a Torontonian, that is, a person who hails from Toronto, Canada. The decision to move to New Zealand was influenced by numerous factors, amongst which was the desire to thrive and grow in a foreign environment, one which would push me outside my comfort zone. I am not an outdoors person nor a thrill seeker; in fact, I am quite a picky, sheltered, poshed-up princess who is used to the usual comforts of city life.

The application to come to New Zealand landed me in my target destination, Auckland, and I thought “great”. The location that I found myself was as much Auckland as Whenuapai is – well, perhaps with a little more character. I was successful in getting myself to Pukekohe. When I arrived in Auckland and was picked up by the Canadian husband of Dr. Susan Clow, I thought, “Man, this outside my comfort zone thing is a piece of cake.” This is going to be great. Then he started driving. I was like, “Dude, you’re going in the wrong direction.” Subthought, “Where the hell are all the buildings and population?” After I nodded off for seemingly 2 hours, we took an offramp and proceeded to venture across the countryside. The radio was on crooning some 1960’s artist, and whilst I can appreciate old tunes, I thought I had truly gone back in time. “Excuse me, I think you’ve made a mistake – are you lost? I have a GPS.” “No, we’re almost at Pukekohe, don’t worry. Are you hungry?” Was I hungry? I was worried I was going to be sold to a hick, fattened in his shack and boiled in a pot for his dinner. Nonetheless… the view outside was absolutely stunning – green grass everywhere, enough green to calm all the mental illness of the world.

We finally pulled into what seemed like a sleepy country town, and progressed up the main thoroughfare to the practice, “Ahh, King Street.” I looked left and right – shops looked like they had been frozen in a delicious, past decade; truly a quaint, lovely town. And Susan Clow’s practice was right in the middle of it! I thought – “Wow, I traded Yonge Street (Toronto) for King Street.” What a great deal. As the weeks progressed, I grew to understand that this was the southernmost “suburb” of Auckland City, which if true holds Auckland as one of the largest, most sprawling metropolis areas in the world. Over time, I came to know and love many of the diverse suburbs that Auckland has to offer, everything from Capitol Cinemas in “Chinatown” on Dominion Road to having a soy chai latte and cake at Fraser’s in Mt. Eden. If it tickles your fancy, check out the French market at La Cigale in Parnell for an unsurpassed almond croissant. Auckland was different from Toronto in that it oozed old world charm, with many establishments having been in priceless buildings that have been around for more than half a dozen generations. I like how each borough has its own town centre – Onehunga, Howick, Ellerslie and even Papakura. Each of these towns have a bustling, character-filled main street that tells a story; and generations of people have been forever walking the streets and frequenting the shops and cafes.

Auckland is a cool city: it truly is a “Big Little City”. My definition of a big city is when it has a proper subway system. I love the subway, for it makes me feel like I am home. One of the next jobs I had in Auckland was briefly in the CBD. I was living in Kingsland at the time (again, a stunning town centre with loads of shops, quirky and colourful). I really enjoyed taking the train and ending up at Britomart, a cavernous, historical subway station with cold-faced week workers taking determined steps to get to the office. I felt like I was home. Work was enjoyable, and I was really enjoying getting downtown and feeling in-and-amongst it all.

I recently purchased my first practice in Newmarket, Auckland at 18 Morrow Street. For those of you who are familiar with the area, Newmarket is the area for casual shopping. When the NZDA Headquarters was on St. Marks Road closeby, this was my first experience of Auckland proper. It appealed to me because I recognized many of the shops and businesses in the area. I particularly like Teed Street and Osborne Street – these streets feature shared pedestrian zones which allow for the plantation of decorative greenery and carefully-selected pieces of city art complement well the eclectic and wonderful fashion houses and cafes that are ubiquitous.

Newmarket is an area for me that satisfies my need for busyness, both professionally and personally. From a patient-convenience standpoint in general, Auckland City has a good distribution of medical and dental specialists. For example, my cosmetic and restorative dental practice is just a stone’s throw down the road from practices like David Parkins and Harish Lala on Medical Mile in Remuera, and thus this closeness really allows for a “one-stop-shopping” feel. It is important to have the accessibililty of local dentists, both for their advice when you are stuck on a case, and also for nurturing collegiality at local study clubs and association meetings.

I now live in the CBD, and am watching Auckland City grow week by week. Grow not so large as to lose the value in maintaining its character and heritage, but with careful changes, made one drop at a time. Britomart is now a bustling, urban pedestrian retreat, with reams of clothing and makeup shops, restaurants, bars and cafes opening up at a frantic pace. The development of Wynyard Quarter saw the placement of new waterfront restaurants, and provided a walkability to this area from Auckland City. Silo Park is a free-use-for-all venue where movies and documentaries, old and new are broadcast weekly onto the giant Silo walls for all to enjoy. Food trailers and markets give this venue the perfect touch of childhood meets cool.

So Auckland is cool. Not just for its slightly eclectic suburbs like Grey Lynn and myriad music festivals. It is a destination for those who want a city that will embrace them yet allow enough diversity for even the strangest mouse to find a corner to call home. I am proud to say that Auckland is now my home and I am JAFA.

Clarence Tam, HBSc, DDS