Tag Archives: grey lynn

Youthline – working with young people in need

This month’s column in Ponsonby News is not about food or my normal content. This month it’s about the fantastic work that Youthline do for our young people in need. And they’re based in Maidstone Street in Ponsonby.

I was aware of their existence and recall driving past their building. I now know a lot more about what they do as I have the good fortune to be working for Youthline at the moment – so there’s my declaration of interest.

But in a way this article is not only about Youthline per se, it’s about young people in need and about how we can help.

I knew Youthline provided telephone counselling for young people but was amazed to find out about the wide range of other support services they provide. In effect they are a youth development organisation. They offer a wrap-around service that includes covers early intervention, counselling, youth work and training and development. Much of this is under the radar for most of us who live in Ponsonby.

Just checking out some of the statistics relating to youth activities and services is hugely revealing.

According to the Auckland Council there are 27,000 young people in Auckland who are not involved in education, employment or training – they’re called NEETS! And it’s likely that this figure does not include the 1,500 young people who are currently homeless within Auckland!

Scary figures for sure. I had no idea of the scale of this problem. And it is a problem, and it’s our problem. Maybe it’s not enough for us to donate $5 to the street appeal collectors, not enough to text donate $3. Maybe we have to assist in a more practical way, lending our experience and wisdom in support of young people who need a break!

Back to Youthline for a moment. Established in Auckland in 1970 (45 years ago!) Youthline works with young people, their families and those supporting young people. They are made up of volunteer and paid staff members – and there are centres across the country. They are a fantastic bunch of caring and dedicated young people helping other young people.

Here are some more poignant and sobering figures.

In the last year Youthline worked with 38,000 individual young people and its volunteers contributed over 58,000 hours. As well there were 277,000 digital connections by phone, email and text with text being the predominant form of contact. I was surprised that texting was so predominant but of course it stands to reason – texting is an easy, anonymous, safe form of contact that can be made from anywhere and you can’t be heard!

Making contact with Youthline can be the first step to a programme of personal development that benefits the individual and society generally.

There are two wonderful programmes that I wanted to mention that reflect the diversity of youth support activities.

Action Education is a youth development organisation with an edge. They use creative and action-based methods (spoken word, drama, music and poetry) to engage young people in youth development processes that improve self-confidence, resilience and social interactions and behaviours. In the first 6 months of 2015 they have presented 40 Spoken Word Poetry Workshops to 993 young people at schools across Auckland.

Action Education also runs an inter-secondary schools poetry competition (called WORD – The Front Line) that has ignited significant interest across Auckland secondary schools. The 2015 competition attracted entries from 22 schools from around Auckland with 32 teams and 144 young people participating in the auditions. Twelve teams made it through to the Grand Final to be held at the Aotea Centre in Auckland on October 24th 2015. This is amazing stuff.

In May of this year Youthline launched a free, confidential and friendly Youth Health Service where testing, prescriptions and general checkups are available for anyone under 25. There’s no grumpy doctor’s receptionist to navigate your way past in this process! Of course it wouldn’t occur to most of us that young people don’t get medical attention when they should.

Remember those 27,000 NEETS. Many young people don’t have the benefit of being supported by their parents or whanau, many don’t have the money to pay for the doctor’s bill.

So what’s my point?

Well two points actually.

Firstly there is a large group of young people out there who need support and help and wonderful organisations like Youthline are providing support that is part of a journey to personal development and contributing positively to society.

Secondly, we as individuals can help more than just putting $5 into the collection bucket. We can volunteer.

There are many not for profit organisations out there looking for volunteers. This year’s theme for the recently held National Volunteer Week 2015 was ‘There is a Place for You to Volunteer!’.

A good place to start would be Volunteering Auckland at www.volunteeringauckland.org.nz . They have heaps of opportunities to volunteer with upcoming appeals including for Cystic Fibrosis, Multiple Sclerosis, CanTeen and Pink Ribbon.

As I said earlier maybe we have to assist in a more practical way, lending our experience and wisdom in support of young people who need a break!

Take up the challenge!

And if you know of a young person who would benefit from engaging with Youthline please encourage them to free call 0800 376 633; Free txt 234; Email talk@youthline.co.nz ; or Live Chat at GoChat.


Amateur reviewers – Parasites or Propagators

Hello Poncentricsters. This is my June Column for Ponsonby News. I hope you enjoy reading it.

I am a serial reviewer of cafés and restaurants. Trip Advisor, Yelp, Zomato, Urbanspoon, Menus. You name them, I’ve posted reviews on them.

So I noted with some interest a number of articles and stories recently about the role of “amateur” restaurant reviewers. Yes that’s me, and anyone else who has dared to post a review online!

My columnist colleague Lauraine Jacobs got the ball rolling when she declined an invitation to speak at an event organised by online review site Zomato.

In an article by Simon Plumb in the Herald on Sunday titled ‘When it comes to reviews, the ability to eat is not enough’ Lauraine is quoted as saying “In all conscience I cannot attend as I do not agree with commercial sites like [Zomato] that rely on unqualified and unpaid restaurant reviewers.” Oops that’s me she’s talking about!

I wouldn’t say the article, and Lauraine’s reported comments, got my hackles up, but it did pique my interest and get me thinking about the roles and responsibilities around reviewing eateries in particular.

Well it wasn’t long before the subject erupted in the media again when Mt Eden restaurant Molten hit back at a group of disgruntled diners who had given Molten a very low rating.

Molten owner Sven Nielsen labeled the review “unfair, unjust and a little bit vindictive” and responded to the disgruntled group with a vehement review of their own suggesting that the diners were “rather rude to the people that worked at our restaurant”.

As if the Molten meltdown was not enough, lo and behold the next day Jonny Rudduck from favoured Ponsonby eatery Il Buco chucked a hot chilli into the pot. He said we were parasites. Ouch!  Well actually that comment might have been directed at the review site but ouch anyway.

The New Zealand Herald joined in the act by running a poll in which it asked readers “Should restaurants have the right to fight back to online reviews?” Over 5,000 readers responded with a resounding 91% yes. Of course they should.

And just when I thought the matter was at an end Wellington’s Ekim Burger owner Mike Duffy as reported by Stuff’s Robert Kitchin “sparked a social media uproar with a vitriolic rant on the Wellington business’ Facebook page after a customer accused the burger bar of giving her son food poisoning”. A complete over reaction by Mike Duffy? I would have thought so.

But wait there’s more.

No sooner had we digested Mike Duffy’s burger bomb then respected reviewer Peter Calder joined the fray. Actually I think the burger bomb was more a case of indigestion! Anyway the Herald’s Calder, in a thoughtful story headlined “Waiter, these ‘parasites’ [are] not to my liking”, conducted a sympathetic symphony of support for restaurants in which he said it was “easy to feel for restaurants angered by bad reviews written by ill-informed diners in the safety of cyberspace”. Ouch again.

So what are we to make of all this?

Well to re-cap. Lauraine Jacobs suggested that ‘When it comes to reviews, the ability to eat is not enough’ and “I do not agree with commercial sites like [Zomato] that rely on unqualified and unpaid restaurant reviewers”.

Molten’s Sven Nielsen labeled a review “unfair, unjust and a little bit vindictive” and hit back with a stinging review of the disgruntled group.

Jonny Rudduck of Il Buco fame suggested “angry diners should boycott, not rant online”.

Ekim Burgers’ Mike Duffy had a death wish. Enough said.

And Peter Calder concluded by saying “it takes a good deal more curiosity and persistence than most casual browsers and surfers employ to separate the wheat from the chaff”. Fair point. Sort of.

Well I may well be an “unqualified” restaurant reviewer and I’m certainly unpaid but we amateurs have a role to play and are entitled to our (reasonable) opinion and to express it responsibly.

So how are we doing? Out of interest I checked on Zomato what customers are saying about Molten. Still averaging 4 out of 5. More interesting is Trip Advisor where 77 reviews yielded 82% excellent or very good and 1 terrible.

Interesting that the legendary Prego scores 4.3 out of 5 on Zomato and 245 reviews on Trip Advisor produce a score of 4.5, an 86% excellent or very good rating and there were 3 terribles. Quelle horreur!

So I checked out the big daddy of them all, The French Café, and found a Zomato rating of an excellent 4.7 and a Trip Advisor score of 4.5, with a 93.4% excellent or very good rating and 6 terribles. Sacre bleu!

My point?

You can’t please all of the punters all of the time. Not very original I know – but true nonetheless. Once in a while even the best are going to get it wrong. C’est la vie.

And negative reviews? See them in context; they represent less than 5% of opinion!

So what are the “professionals” getting all hot and bothered about? Beats me! But one things for sure, we “amateur” reviewers are here to stay.

Bon appetit. And by the way you can check out what Poncentric is up to at www.poncentric.com and https://www.facebook.com/poncentric

The Great Grey Lynn Sustainable Business Walk

Hello everyone. This is my first post for 2015 and, surprise, surprise, it’s not all about food!! And it’s a VOP (Venturing Outside Ponsonby). And as it turns out it was the most interesting and inspiring two hours I spent in a long time!

The invitation from Martin Leach from Ponsonby News said “be inspired and visit sustainable businesses in the Grey Lynn community”. And it was hugely inspiring.

The Grey Lynn Business Association organised a walking tour yesterday aimed at showcasing successful and like-minded Grey Lynn businesses who embrace sustainable business practices.

So I arrived at Bread & Butter Café (34 Westmoreland Street next to Farro Fresh) at 4.30pm not quite sure what to expect. A group 50 fellow travelers was treated to an interesting presentation from Isobel from Bread & Butter and so the journey began.


With a reputation for being at the forefront of sustainability and organics Bread & Butter only use certified organic ingredients; unbleached flours, wholemeal flours, nuts and seeds that have not been chemically aged or heavily sprayed with insecticides or fertilisers. They do not use additives, premixes, stabilisers and other artificially altered ingredients.

For those of us not completely tuned in to the sustainability/organic ethos it was a bit of an eye opener!

Next stop on the walk was Nature Baby at 433 Richmond Rd in the West Lynn village. They specialise in natural & organic products which nurture both parent and baby.

Nature Baby is a family business established in 1998 by Jacob and Georgia who had a vision where their children could grow up in a pure, beautiful, chemical-free community. More inspiration for us all. Just love the passion.

IMG_7416 A slight detour off Richmond Rd to the Wilton Picnic Patch (formerly the Wilton Street Community Garden) had the group absorbed in the history of the garden and able to sight the fruits (and veges!) of the labour of a dedicated group of volunteers led by well-known gardener and author Fionna Hill (“How To Grow Microgreens, Nature’s own Superfood” and “A Green Granny’s Garden – the Confessions of a Novice Urban Gardener”.


Much needed refreshments at this stop were provided by Simon from All Good Organics whose Karma Cola, Lemmy Lemonade and Gingerella really hit the spot.

From the garden to the roaster, our next stop was at Kokako Coffee Roastery located at 606 Great North Road, Grey Lynn. Eight years ago owner Mike Murphy purchased a rundown coffee roastery and turned it into a hugely successful business that has sustainability as its primary focus. Mike and his team are strong advocates for Fairtrade and the ethical procurement of their green beans, cocoa and sugar. All Kokako Coffee and Drinking Chocolate has ‘third party verification’ from both Fairtrade and Biogro NZ, to ensure it meets stringent Fairtrade and organic certification standards.

The bonus at this, our last stop, was the food and refreshments – much needed, especially by Martin Leach from Ponsonby News and I, after the uphill walk! Thank you to Kokako Café (just across the road in the old Grey Lynn Post Office building) for providing the fantastic dips and bread – the basil pesto was awesome. Interesting how the numbers on the walk grew significantly at the fueling stop!


At this stop we heard from Mike about the history of Kokako and the philosophy behind his business. Next up was Simon from All Good Organics who have completely embraced the Fairtrade ethos.

Wendyl Nissen, well-known magazine editor in a previous life talked about “Wendyl’s” range of products which are all handmade at their Grey Lynn shop and 100% natural. They have all their ingredients listed and contain no fillers, chemicals or synthetics. They all use simple ingredients like baking soda, soda ash, borax, vinegar and oxygen bleach.

Finally Grey Lynn Business Association Chair Jennifer Northover thanked everyone for attending what was for me the most interesting two hours I have spent in a long time.

So in two hours I went from novice to convert. Inspired by the commitment and passion of the individuals and businesses that have embraced the ethos of sustainability, organic ingredients and fairtrade principles I will have a very different view in future of what I buy, where I buy it and what’s in it.

These businesses are making a real difference. You can too by buying right.

This bubble won’t burst

There’s a hot new iPhone app in town. Created by Grey Lynn-based Jenna Hewitt, it’s called “the bubble” and it’s going to make going out a whole lot easier and a lot more fun.

What is it exactly?  Well in Jenna’s words “the bubble unlocks a collective of restaurants. bars. shops. cafes.  our hand picked list is created by a team of kiwis on a mission to be your concierge, so when you do know or don’t know what you want it’s like having a local guru in your pocket that has the answers”.

It’s a great app. Check out the website and download it now.