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Aucklander opens home and heart in the city centre

Life in Auckland's central city

Published: 11 July 2019

Auckland’s city centre is the beating heart of the region's economy and is rapidly increasing with the number of residents growing to more than 55,000.

Our Auckland talks to residents about what it’s like to live in the central city.

There’s a 30-year age gap between Auckland’s Kathy Ross and Ilia Galperin but the central city flatmates have an enviable friendship.

Chatting over a smoothie during lunchtime, the Prince Albert Apartment flatmates laugh and joke with each other. Both say they love inner-city living for a multitude of reasons. 

Kathy, 65, says she loves being around people and never has to worry about being “isolated”.

“Family and friends always have something to come into the city for,” she smiles. “Whether its sales, events or shows – all buses lead to Rome.”

Born in Toronto, Kathy moved to New Zealand with her family when she was six.

Missing life in a metropolitan city, she relocated to Auckland from Nelson in the mid-1980s. She says she also wanted her son to be educated in Auckland.

Kathy also returned to the classroom 15 years ago too, completing a Bachelor and Masters in Fine Arts, and a Bachelor in Arts.

With a passion for travelling and learning about different and cultures and religions, Kathy found herself in Korea, teaching English.

Returning to Auckland in 2011, she knew exactly where she wanted to live – and it wasn’t in the suburbs. 

“I always wanted to move into the city. Commuting, and finding parking was always so difficult.”

She found her ideal city pad – a spacious top-floor apartment in a Beaux-Arts style building on Albert Street.

While it doesn’t have a carpark, it’s close to all her favourite amenities and enables her to walk most places.

“The best amenities are all nearby… the university, library and the art gallery. It’s ideal.”

Kathy spends a lot of time at her favourite cafes, like Heaven Scent and Vulcan Lane's Raw Power Café.

Now working as a ward clerk at Auckland Hospital, being able to walk to work is just another upside of living so central.

Kathy says living downtown helps her indulge her passion for helping people, including the homeless. She regularly volunteers at Sunday Blessings outside the Auckland Central Library, helping to distribute food to the city’s homeless.

“It’s something that’s dear to my heart. I like helping people, it’s very important to me.”

With Auckland’s homeless crisis growing, Kathy believes it’s not too late to turn the situation around.

“We need to help and cater for the homeless. Instead of giving them money we need to give them food and somewhere to call home. We need to become a city who cares for its homeless. We can make a difference and set a precedent for other countries.”

With more residents living in the central city than ever before, Kathy says it’s imperative to create “people friendly” places.

“It’s about putting people first, creating more green spaces and shared spaces. Having a car-friendly city is no benefit to anyone.”

Chairman of Prince Albert Apartments, Kathy is also a member of the City Centre Residents Group (CCRG).

The group was formed to represent and advocate for all Auckland city centre residents to Auckland Council and other relevant agencies/organisation.

Kathy embraces the council’s downtown development plan, saying she welcomes the transformation taking place.

With plans for more pedestrian-friendly streets, a modern and efficient public transport network, more public open space and better connections to the waterfront, Kathy says she’s staying put.

“The best thing about apartment living is the simplicity of it. I have so many options living in the city, and I’ll never have an empty room.”

Over the years she's had flatmates from all over the world.

One of her former flatmates only moved out to get married in India – which Kathy even went to.

“She loved living here so much, she’s even asked to move back,” she laughs.

Her current 33-year-old flatmate, Ilia is from Russia.

With a big personality, Ilia’s voice can “fill a room,” she says fondly.

“He tells me a lot of things I don’t know. I think it’s just great… everybody should get a Russian,” she jokes.

According to Ilia, who moved in eight months ago, Kathy is the perfect flatmate.

“When I came the first time to see the place, I was very excited. It was a nice place and a nice person,” he says. “She’s a very caring and friendly person.”

Working in IT, Ilia loves his home and the fact it’s only a three-minute walk to his work.

With different work schedules, Kathy says her flatmate often has the house to himself.

“There’s times when we don’t see each other as I go away a lot. I’m going away soon on holiday so he’s going to get a kick-boxing bag for the lounge… a toy for him to play with,” she laughs.

As lunchtime draws to an end, the flatmates come to the conclusion Kathy's mobile prayer altar can make way for Ilia's kick-boxing bag.

“I'm all for staying fit and healthy... that’s something we have in common,” she points out.

“In fact, my doctor told me I’m younger than my biological age.”

Read more: Future Auckland

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