30 years of Ponsonby News

Ponsonby News is 30-years-old this month and we couldn’t help feeling a little sentimental about the years gone by.

John Elliott started Ponsonby News in 1989. He was involved with the local business association and decided to create a newsletter to promote local happenings. So began the Ponsonby Community Newsletter – forerunner of Ponsonby News. “Ponsonby was more multi-cultured back then,” says John. “Arty, musical, Polynesian. The Gluepot pub was still in its hey day.”

The Ponsonby Community Centre re-opened in 1990 after a fire the previous year. Dedicated to the people of Ponsonby, the centre expanded its services to include pre-school as well as being a venue for hire.

Keeping the babies happy since the 90s, the Ponsonby Toy Library opened its doors at 3 Dedwood Terrace in 1991 – and it keeps the mothers happy too.

In 1992, SPQR opened in what was once a mechanic’s garage at 150 Ponsonby Road. The word ‘iconic’ is often misused – but not in this case. The iconic restaurant is synonymous with the Ponsonby strip.

1993 was a quiet year for greater Ponsonby it would seem. But two friendly local businesses opened their doors for the first time that year: One Step Ahead Shoe Repairs and Barry Clarke Automotive. Barry Clarke later relocated to a more suitable commercial area in Burns Street.

Many service industries like electricians and plumbers have departed the Ponsonby retail scene for more suitable industrial locations.

When the Gluepot closed it was truly the end of an era. The late 70s saw the Gluepot as a premier music venue packed with bands and patrons. The final days of the Gluepot in 1994 were marked by a three-day party with more than 100 acts playing all the bars. The Vista Bar was demolished by a gang wielding baseball bats on the last night of the festivities.

It’s 1996 when the queens leg it up the road from Queen Street and the first Ponsonby Road Hero Parade is held. The parade was purportedly the biggest cultural event in New Zealand during its early years, with huge numbers attending – up to 25,000 people. The parade was an annual event in Ponsonby until 2001. Although homosexuality has generally become more accepted, the parade has come and gone since then.

Local music and street culture TV station Max TV’s final transmission fades out to the strains of Chris Knox’s ‘Not Given Lightly’ from the studio above the Ponsonby Post Office on 3 December 1997.

Now a familiar sight, the buried building sculptures in Western Park were installed in 1998. Artist John Radford re-created buildings that once stood in Auckland.

Carole Beu opened one of the best independent bookstores in New Zealand – the Women’s Bookshop – and it moved to 105 Ponsonby Road in 1999. Its top-notch catalogue has been keeping readers’ minds open and delighting their imaginations ever since. “Dozens of my customers brought their vans, trailers and trucks and moved the entire shop (from Dominion Road to Ponsonby) one Saturday morning. That was the revelatory moment when I understood that the shop had a ‘community’ and that my customers had a sense of ownership of the shop.”

Joe’s Bargain House closed in the year 2000. The former Letholite luggage factory at 239 Ponsonby Road was the final home of Joe Adam’s secondhand wonderland. In those days some people referred to him as the ‘unofficial mayor of Ponsonby’.

The Ponsonby Business Association was established in 2001 and has been looking out for the interests of our business community ever since. The association came up with the idea for the legendary Ponsonby Long Lunch and the regular Ponsonby Market Days.

It’s 2004 and originator of the Ponsonby Community Newsletter, John Elliott, received a good citizen’s award for his work.

When Martin Leach acquired Ponsonby News, he transformed it from a neighbourhood newsletter to a community magazine loved by the locals.

The Alhambra closed in 2006. The Ponsonby institution was opened by Jan and Russell Hughes in 1982 in the old Britannia Cinema building at Three Lamps. It was the hang out for musicians of every genre and one of the few music venues without a cover charge. Live music was played nearly every night of the week and Wednesday nights were Polynesian nights – it was the only place in Auckland where Samoan classical and jazz music could be heard.

The Open Late Café closed in 2007. On the corner of Richmond and Ponsonby Roads, Open Late was relaxed, unpretentious and always humming with people talking – whether they knew each other or not! The owner of the Open Late Café, Victor Talyanich, also started Ponsonby Pies, which was for a time located in the shop next door.

The infamous ‘So-hole beach party’ was held in the construction site of the ill-fated Soho development on Crummer Road in 2009. An anonymous source told Ponsonby News, “I guess ‘reclaiming of the city’ could be an interpretation of our afternoon, but it was more about just having fun and making a bit of a unique, unsanctioned, unsponsored event for our friends... A kind of living, breathing, brief artwork.”

In September 2009 the Ponsonby Road speed limit was changed to 40km/hr and the first Grey Lynn Farmers Market was held at the Grey Lynn Community Centre. Because of the increase in the safety of pedestrians on Ponsonby Road, Auckland Transport is currently proposing to lower speed limits on a number of inner-city streets.

The inaugural ‘Art in the Dark’ event took place in Ponsonby’s Western Park in 2010. Sadly it was only run for a few years and was hugely popular despite wet weather.

Auckland hosted the Rugby World Cup in 2011. With every suburb of Auckland celebrating a visiting team’s country of origin, Ponsonby adopted England and we were jolly good Anglophiles. As we go to print we are looking forward to the next RWC – being held in Japan.

Ponsonby Central opened in November 2012, and was an instant and raging success.

The Hero Parade made a glittering and glorious return in 2013 as the Pride Parade after an 11-year absence. The festival brings back old memories, yet it’s not the same Ponsonby neighbourhood as it was in the 90s; a two-bedroom unit, dubbed the ‘half house’, sells for nearly $1 million.

Five years ago, Ponsonby Central’s Dante’s Pizza was declared ‘Best Pizza in New Zealand’ by judges who know their pizza.

With admirable community spirit, Arch Hill residents raise $40,000 to fight against ‘big box’ developments on Great North Road.

Curran Street’s red wooden bench was restored in 2010 to become Herne Bay’s love bench – inviting locals to take a rest.

Countdown Ponsonby was the area’s newest supermarket and was officially opened in 2016 by Hon Nikki Kaye. With 2200 new products on offer, this is Countdown’s first premium store.

Great North Road has changed beyond all recognition and in the past 10 years there have been eight new builds – creating new apartment buildings with more to come.

There has been incredibly shortsighted removal of thousands of trees and many more will go if no further protection is put in place. We also need to plant lots more.

Future planning of our gridlocked city streets is going to be critical if we are serious about making Auckland one of the world’s most liveable cities. We need to fix the gridlock on our roads by encouraging people to walk, scoot, cycle or take public transport. Sure, we need fewer cars on the road, but let’s make sure we have really good public transport, as well as cycleable and walkable streets.

Public transport has improved. The most recent bus no. 20 is a good addition. But more cross-town buses are needed so people can cross suburbs instead of most buses heading in and out of the city.

It’s been a busy 30 years Ponsonby, we probably all deserve a rest, but if readers would like to share their favourite Ponsonby memories, start posting on our Facebook page, we’d love to hear them. Here’s to the next 30! (MARTIN LEACH & JOHN ELLIOTT)

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