ARTICLE Patricia Moore

Westward Ho!  

From the black sands and pounding surf of the rugged west coast to the stunning Waitakere Ranges with their giant kauri trees, to the upper reaches of the Waitemata Harbour and the family-friendly beaches of the Manukau, this is Waitakere. But there’s more! bustling city suburbs, retail hubs and industrial areas; western Auckland, best known perhaps as Waitakere, is truly a region of contrasts.

It’s an area Zones Landscaping specialist Matt Wilkinson knows well through “covering projects from Titirangi up to Bethells, over to Hobsonville and back down to Te Atatu. But I’m still surprised by the great spots there are to discover. There’s a lot of growth here in the West. It’s impressive how quickly areas such as Westgate and Hobsonville are developing. With further developments underway, including cycle-ways and plans for a light rail system into the city, it’s exciting to see the diversity and energy this is bringing to the area.”

Originally known for its farmlands, orchards and vineyards, as travel by rail and road to the city improved, the suburbs to the west were also a source of workers for the offices and factories of central Auckland. Today the West provides its own employment opportunities across a wide range of trades and services ranging from light and heavy industry, to retail, hospitality, horticulture and, famously, viticulture; some of New Zealand’s earliest vineyards were established in the area by settlers from what was then Dalmatia.  More recently Henderson has become an important player in New Zealand’s burgeoning television and film industry attracting both local and international projects. And, as Auckland has expanded, the population in the west has grown, with the urban zone recording 206,244 people in the 2013 census.

Waitakere comes under the same sub-tropical umbrella as the whole of the greater Auckland region, although the weather blowing in from the Tasman is an important influence on exposed parts of the area with salt-laden winds still a factor further inland. Landscapers contend with a range of soil types, including the clay that predominates in Auckland, but given the right amount of shelter, drainage and irrigation, almost anything will grow there. Demand has grown for low maintenance planting options, says Matt and there’s greater interest in using native trees and shrubs many of which are ideally suited to the west; Hebes and colourful flaxes which add texture and attract tui, and trees such as Titoki and the large-leafed, quick growing Puka, are popular. And, even where space is limited there can still be room for a feijoa or two!

The extreme weather Auckland experiences occasionally is a growing concern for some clients, says Matt. “But proper drainage and well-placed retaining walls can help prevent property damage during high rainfall events.”

While a diverse area like Waitakere presents challenges for landscapers, the variety makes it satisfying, says Matt. “We cover projects from scenic apartment balconies in New Lynn to mature green sections in Massey, sloping sections in Henderson, and the limited outdoor spaces of higher density homes in Hobsonville. It’s a rewarding feeling to problem-solve and identify how the unique characteristics of a property can be enhanced with some simple yet creative landscape improvements.”

And while every project is unique, Matt says “a good deck for entertaining is always high on the priority list!”

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