Dunedin’s suburbs are teeming with culture – and we don’t just mean microbially. Unfortunately, most students don’t venture out of their bubble of safety until graduation comes, aside from an occasional hoon to St Clair or a mish out to a dealer. From the absurd rent prices to the constant doof-doofing that plagues innocent ears, there isn’t a whole lot to love in this black mould infested segment of town.
We all know and agree that studentville is fundamentally shit, but we never seem to leave it and explore Dunedin. No wonder we’re so miserable. It’s like asking someone to piss on you and then complaining that you got wet. Get up, towel off, and go do something about it. Take a (discounted!) bus ride somewhere new and get out there, with the help of Critic Te Ārohi’s guide to Dunedin’s suburbs and their political inclinations based on the science of “just trust me, bro”. Our vibe check may not mean much, but it means a shitload more than a Twitter blue check. Yeah, we’re pretty quirky. This is for those people who have hit their “fuck North D” phase. Soon enough, you could be in a “fuck Roslyn” phase.
It’s impossible to talk about any university students without saying “Marxism”, so: studentville? Marxism-influenced. The system is fucked, after all. The average student doesn’t meander much further left than that, because no one really knows what anarchism is and communism means dressing the same and wearing silly hats, and who wants to do that? For now, it’s just raging against the system like your parents against the machine. Which system, exactly? “The.” It makes you look cool, but it might get old very quickly once you find yourself wallowing in the pit of your own inaction and anxiety.
A wee way down the track you hit Port Chalmers, the biggest haven of greenies in any major New Zealand city. It could even have more well-established green coverage than our remaining primary forests. If you’re looking to be a humble art hermit like Hotere, Port Chalmers is a must-visit. You can live on a diet of purely fish and cannabis, all the while preaching about a capital gains tax and the complete greenification of the state. Kinda like Gollum, but suuuper vibey.
Taking a peek at the other side of the harbour you have Macandrew Bay, a suburb still firmly rooted on the left of the political spectrum but in a slightly different fashion. Like, if you asked a Macandrew local about leftism, they’d say all the woke social media words and add a “but…”. Living here, you’d become accustomed to seeing the grisly sights of the Nissan Leaf, open-toed shoes and sourdough bread. With almost as many holes in their bread and sandals as in their politics, though well-intentioned, Mac Bay is of the wealthy middle class despite its leftist persuasions. If you want to save the planet one keep cup at a time, here’s your place. Just, like, know your place.
Further down the peninsula lies Tomahawk, the most divisive political landscape in the country. Possibly more divisive than its namesake, even, which can literally split heads. It’s a bit of a mystery though, because dominating this scene are the jovial anarchists of the Smaills Beach Society. Planting days, bonfires, and collective cleanups are all on the cards in this DIY bunch, lovingly fashioned for all to enjoy. Estranged from Marxist melancholy whilst still being firmly rooted on the left, Critic Te Ārohi recommends.
Making our way past St Kilda (doesn’t vote) we reach St Clair, the home of yoga mums who don’t mind what happens as long as they can continue sipping on their iced coffees from The Esplanade. In summary: extremely centrist, swaying to whichever party keeps things exactly as they are. They like their coffee strong and brown, but they like their men weak and… well, don’t ask that, actually. Yes, it’s paradise – but at what cost? Move here if you’re a regular Beam Me Up Bagels girlie.
Then there is the infamous middle bloc, encompassing Caversham, Corstorphine, and the mighty South D. Sure, we cheated and grouped multiple suburbs together, but we’re all united as proletariats anyway. In this area lies the working class: the true blue of Dunedin society, making the wheels of the city run seamlessly towards glory. Or away from Gore, whatever’s easiest. Ideology is far from the minds of these noble folks. Grant Robertson was also born here and that man is a pure GC. Live here if you back yourself in a game of pool, fiend a pub crawl, and love shitting on company time.
We crawl over the motorway and reach Mosgiel, where true blue retirees who have voted National all their lives live. Yeah… probably don’t live here, purely for the fact that there’s about three under-40-year-olds in the entire suburb. You’d be cougar bait, which sounds great until you realise they’re all called Margaret or Terry and always smell like damp towels. Nonetheless they’re a good sort in Mosgiel, barring the fact that they’ll chew your ear off about Three Waters and all sorts of bizarre theories that they’ve been cooking up on the golf course – which is also the most contact they’ve ever had with a green.
Moving along, we have Roslyn and Māori Hill. Very rich and very right, leaning heavily into the National/ACT paradox. They might not remember who the National candidate is, but they think he’s a very decent man, thank you. It’s a nice life up in the Hollywood hills and the residents wield a lot of influence within the city. Whenever it starts to rain but stops after a few seconds, that’s actually the Māori Hill residents spitting on us from above. Rumour has it that a secret business roundtable exists within this suburb, lurking in the dark only to strike when a DCC decision becomes business-orientated. Live here at your own peril! Or at least duck into Kaikorai for some bowling, ‘cos it’s actually full of normal people.
Almost at the end of the suburb loop, we reach George Street: the area of indecision where idealism finds its shallow grave. Potentially an inevitable for forlorn young students, here is where the gradual growth to conservatism occurs. Something something “road works with MY tax dollar?!” Fooled by the glitz and glam of the city, students become drawn to the dollar like moths to the roof of Doll’s House in Re-O. This is the realm of the soft right, fools who chase success without concern for their withering morality which lies slowly dying in the festering rivers of the Leith. You do not want to be here. A place where you realise your values are transient and can be bought at the drop of a dollar, George Street is a demanding but likely place for you to be living.
And then we return, back into the defeationist but socially comfortable Marxist thought that originally drove you away. Yes, there’s a lot to discover out there in the suburbs of Dunedin.