December 12, 2016 | PROPERTY REPORT
SPOTLIGHT ON… ST MARYS BAY
One of St Marys Bay’s great assets is the lack of through traffic, making it a quiet, north-facing area.
PHOTOS / DOUG SHERRING, SUPPLIED
Bay is jewel in the crown One of the city’s oldest suburbs has undergone radical changes since Auckland’s early days, writes Graham Hepburn
t Marys Bay is a perfect example of the changing face of Auckland from Maori settlement through colonial times to modern city. As one of Auckland’s oldest suburbs it has undergone radical changes since Maori first had pa there for the same reason that the shoreline was attractive to European settlers — transport and proximity to what can be harvested from the sea. The land around St Marys Bay was farmed by settlers in the 1840s before Catholic Bishop Pompallier bought 19ha of land in the 1850s between Three Lamps and the coastline, and named it Mount St Mary. Over the following decades he established a church, schools and orphanage. One of his lasting legacies is St Marys College, these days a hugely popular girls’ school. As the church sold off more of its land, subdivision for residential development began to take place in the 1860s and in the 1870s when a farm was sold off. The early 1900s saw the construction of some of the suburb’s iconic buildings — the Ponsonby Fire Station (now home to Mary’s cafe), the Leys Institute (still functioning as a library) and the Ponsonby Post Office (recently refitted for new bistro Augustus on the ground floor). While the suburb has held on to a lot of its historic buildings, including its character villas, it was cut off from the shoreline when a motorway was put through to connect with the Auckland Harbour Bridge in the 1950s. Shipyards and slipways were closed, and Westhaven was under threat of being filled in until residents banded together to donate their services to create Westhaven Marina. In 2012, Jacob’s Ladder, which was used to connect the suburb with the shoreline down the cliffs, was revamped to connect with a footbridge over the motorway to provide a better connection with Westhaven.
These days, one of St Marys Bay’s great assets is the lack of through traffic, making it a quiet, north-facing area but with easy access to the hospitality and shopping scene along Ponsonby Rd and Jervois Rd. And it is only 3km from downtown Auckland. As Jack Atherton, of Barfoot & Thompson says: “St Marys Bay is considered to be the ‘jewel in the crown’ of the soughtafter northern slopes of the Herne Bay/Ponsonby area. “It’s a relatively small area of only about 280 houses and has some of the best views Auckland has to offer. Part of its appeal is possibly because it’s reminiscent of the villas and setting of the ones on the hills in San Francisco, and can either be looking back over the harbour bridge, Westhaven and/or the city.”
Bernadette Morrison, of Bayleys, says people value St Marys Bay for its central location, harbour views and historic character. “Being one of Auckland’s oldest and more exclusive residential areas, property in St Marys Bay is tightly held,” she says. “There are generally fewer numbers of sales compared to some of the neighbouring suburbs. “This can be attributed to not only the geographical size of the suburb but also, I believe, that once people are here they tend to stay. “Stunning colonial period architecture still stands throughout the community, from local landmark buildings to private residences . . . all adding to the turn of the last century charm.”