I've been living in Napier a month. Here's six thoughts either way on the town so far:
Six of the Best
#1: Cycling. Apart from the waterfront paving that the local Rotary Club had installed, most arterial streets have cycle lanes. Sure, it's only paint, but the drivers are generally courteous enough to compensate. The cops are also not arseholes on people riding on the footpaths where practicable, nor on cyclists not wearing helmets.
#2: Climate. The weather is not half as shit as the Greater Wellington region. The Southerly still bites, but rarely with such gusto as the Wellington ones. Nor does it get smacked with sub-tropical downpours from the prevailing Westerly, as Auckland does.
#3: Landscape view. Combine #1 and #2 and you get stunning views across the Hawke's Bay as well as egalitarian public commons. The view is for everyone.
#4: Dense. Napier only became a city in 1950, a lifetime after Palmy was licenced as one, and it shows. The CBD is contained in a 4x2 block riddled with For Lease signs. Two Countdown supermarkets sit side by side across the road from a Pak n Save. Stand on Carlyle and Tennyson, you're a stone's throw from around a dozen fast food franchises. What nightlife is to be had has shuffled off to the wharves of Ahuriri, which reminds me of early days Courtenay Place after the '87 sharemarket crash freed up some land. The GFC of 2008 still weighs heavily here.
#5: Bus Service. Monday to Friday, the buses linking Napier to Hastings and everything in between runs time spans similar to Wellington, 6:30 am to last run at 11:30pm. GoBus also offers discounts for tertiary students and Community Services card holders, as well as the SuperGold Card set.
#6: He Tangata. The people. I haven't been mugged once, but have met a tolerant and kind cross-section of people.
Six of the Worst
#1: The Vanilla People. The other he tangata. Churchiness looms large on Napier's landscape. Art Deco is still a marketing buzzword. The RSA is the busiest place in town on a Tuesday night. Like Christchurch, all the power-brokers are conservatives living in the past.
#2: The Invisible Inequalities. The Christchurch vibe lingers. The pearls and twin set gentry live on the hills, the poor on the flats. Never the twain shall meet. At least, not in person.
#3: Unemployment. Napier appears on the cusp of recession. It isn't so reliant on dairy, and its pip-fruit industry is apparently going gangbusters, but it's essentially a rural support town for farmers. Seasonal work at minimum wage for commodity produce. Judging from the building signage, the thrivers are lawyers, accountants, land valuers, insurers, banks and other forms of dodgier lending.
#4: The second most hateful WINZ office in NZ, narrowly beaten by Auckland's Queen Street branch for the title.
#5: The statue dedicated to Len Snee next to the NZ Police building. Don't get get me started on the Molenaar tragedy. It didn't have to happen. Same old same old.
#6: There is no Number Six. On balance of probabilities, Napier isn't quite as shit as it could be.