The early Māori settlers called Auckland "Tāmaki Makaurau", or, "a place desired by many", and it's easy to see why. This is an area of abundant natural resources, from its fertile soils to its harbours full of seafood – anyone interested in good food and high-quality natural produce would want to be here.
And so it goes in modern-day Auckland, with a slew of restaurateurs making names for themselves by utilising the area's natural bounty. This is sustainability at its finest, the use of seasonal, native, local ingredients to produce world-class cuisine. Auckland on a plate.
And as those cooks and entrepreneurs explain, it's a concept that's taking off.
Alison Dyson, co-owner, Scarecrow
"'Sustainable' was a founding principle for us," says Alison Dyson, the co-owner of Auckland café-cum-deli-cum-florist Scarecrow. "It started with the idea that a good, functional city needs some fundamental services to support a sustainable lifestyle. Auckland now boasts over 45,000 inner city residents, and our ambition was to give our community a place to shop in an 'urban farmers market', to meet each other around shared tables and to enjoy organic and locally sourced produce right in the heart of the city."
In achieving that aim, Alison and her husband Paul have opened up a whole new style of shopping and eating to their clientele. "We serve primarily organic foods, locally grown and sourced," Alison says. "We work as much as possible with small artisan producers who are as passionate about their products as we are about contributing towards building a connected, sustainable community."
Those local artisans supply products as varied as chocolate made with native New Zealand ingredients; a "felted rock soap" scented with essential oils, made on Great Barrier Island, off the Auckland coast; a spread made with wild herbs from Waiheke Island; honey sourced from the Auckland region; and locally grown flowers for the floristry side of the business. This support for locals is all about building a community, Alison says.
"We believe sustainability is more than just provenance of products. It's about how we live in urban environments. If you can shop for goods and services on foot, in your neighbourhood, and you can develop a relationship with your local supplier, we are on the way to creating a healthier urban experience."
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Laura Verne, co-owner, Pasture
Before opening Pasture with her husband, Ed, Laura Verne was a vegan for 12 years, which meant that if the pair were going to serve meat at their boutique Auckland restaurant, they were going to do it right.
"We had to do it in an honourable and sustainable way," she says. "So we work with whole animals and fish. There's an expectation that a restaurant like ours would only serve the prime cuts of meat, but we really wanted to flip that on its head. We bring in whole animals, Ed practices all his own butchery, we age meat, and then for things that aren't prime cuts we make charcuterie, and we use the bones to make broths and stocks. Ed works very creatively to design dishes that showcase the fact we're using the whole animals."
Pasture is about as intimate and community-focused as a restaurant can be: there are only six seats in the dining room, with two sittings each night, and one set menu. Much of the food is cooked on an open fire, and the ingredients are locally sourced. "We prepare our food fresh every day," Laura says, "and we're produce driven, so we're working with what's in season, with local producers, which is one of the core ethics of sustainability."
Everything that's served at Pasture has been carefully considered, and lovingly prepared. "Because we're owner-operators," Laura says, "there's nothing that happens at Pasture that's not important to us."
Kirsty McKay, co-owner, Sawmill Brewery
"For us, being environmentally responsible is about a hundred small decisions that you make every day," says Kirsty McKay, the co-owner of Auckland brewery and restaurant Sawmill. And those small decisions have begun to add up to big achievements.
"There's no plastic in any of our packaging, and no plastic bags," Kirsty explains. "We use as much recycled card as possible and non-toxic inks. Sawmill was the first New Zealand craft brewery to can beer – cans being endlessly recyclable, lighter to transport and quicker to chill. We encourage and reward the idea of filling glass flagons at the brewery and reusing those. We also capture nearly a million litres of rainwater a year from our roof, which makes great beer; in September we are installing a massive solar power system which will meet the bulk of our daytime needs; we have reduced our waste to landfill by 85 per cent this year; and all our spent grain from the brewery goes to feed local cattle, the kitchen waste feeds local pigs, and we compost on site as well."
That's some record. At the brewery's "Smoko Room", the onsite eatery, there's also a strong focus on sustainability. "There is incredible produce and artisans in this area," Kirsty says. "Local products we use include fish, olives, olive oil, bread, vegetables, fruit, cheese, yogurt, ice-cream and honey. We are especially proud to work with Lee Fish – they are 10 minutes up the road and are the most progressive and sustainable fishing company in New Zealand. We use under-utilised species which have healthier stocks, fish like pilchard and mullet."
See also: Where to find the spirit of New Zealand
See also: Discover Auckland's Island Life
This article has been produced in association with Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development.
Auckland, New Zealand, is an exhilarating mix of natural wonders and urban adventures. From world-class food and wine to beautiful beaches and islands, amazing shopping to outdoor adventures, you'll find the best of both worlds here.
Only a short 3-hour flight from Australia's eastern seaboard, it's the perfect short break. Start planning now.