Vineyard valley to convenience food alley

4:55 AM Saturday May 28, 2016 True Commercial

Lincoln Road as it is today

When Auckland’s northwestern motorway began creeping out towards Henderson in the mid-1950s, winemaker Tony Soljan’s father climbed the radio mast at the end of Lincoln Rd overlooking the motorway to take some photos.

“There’s not even a car on Lincoln Rd,” recalls Soljan of the shots from the aerial — which is still there today.

“Massey was just all farms, Te Atatu was far . . . so the changes are ‘Ginormous’,” he added.

Of the 50-odd wineries that once studded West Auckland emanating out from Lincoln Rd, only a couple remain. On Lincoln Rd itself Lincoln Vineyards and Mazuran’s are the sole survivors — and of those, Lincoln Vineyards has sold its grape growing land, so while vines remain for now, their future is limited as commercial property activity expands.

The world-famous-in-Auckland “Mother’s Cellars Winery” closed its doors in 2008.

(Although the family, including brother and sister team Anita Butkovic and Nick Farac — plus father Michael Farac — then ran a successful deli business “Euro-Dell”, on thesite).

Further up Lincoln Rd Mazuran’s director Rado Hladilo is still on the original plot purchased by his father-in-law George Mazuran in 1938.

Hladilo, who lives on-site in the family home, says nothing has changed since the vineyard was established.

The Mazuran product is still produced from the vines around the winery, “just enough to keep this door open.”

“I have vines here, everything from earth to bottle, the lot.”

Tony Soljan’s grandfather Bartul was one of a wave of immigrant families, mainly Croatian like him, who fled troubles in Europe to make a better life for themselves in West Auckland, although the history of commercial development in the area goes back more than 40 years before Bartul’s arrival.

In the latter part of the 19th Century developers bought was then an 898-acre (363-ha) block, dubbed Pomaria, and surveyed it up into 10 and 15 acre blocks suitable for orchards.

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An historic aerial photo of Lincoln Rd. 

It was around this time that the Lebanese-born patriarch of the Corban family, Assid Abraham, put down roots in Henderson, buying a 10-acre block on which he planted grapes to establish Mt Lebanon Vineyards.

It was the same model used by Josip Babich when he and his three brothers purchased land in Henderson in 1919, and continued by his Croatian compatriots when they settled in the area during the first half of the 20th century.

Income from the winery was supplemented with orchards and market gardens.

The vineyards planted by George Mazuran and Auckland’s other European arrivals helped established a wine industry in New Zealand, with some of the names — Selak, Yukich (Montana), Nobilo and Delegat — still a major presence today . . . at least from a brand perspective.

Although not on the same scale, families including Talijanich, Fredatovich, Balich, Mazuran, Brajkovich, Sapich, Vodanovich, Jelas and Soljan also formed the backbone of the West Auckland wine scene.

Bayleys national director commercial real estate, John Church, says that in recent years, many of the original residential dwellings along Lincoln Rd — built on once ground-breaking market gardens and vineyards — have been converted into small company offices.

However, Church thinks that trend could soon be reversed, with demand for housing in Auckland at an all-time-high, and changes to land-use zones allowing for higher-density developments in the area.

According to the Auckland Council Unitary Plan, residential zoning is concentrated at the southern end of Lincoln Rd towards Waitakere Hospital, allowing for terraced housing and apartments of up to six-storeys, and some single housing.

Much of the former housing stock now contains professional service companies such as lawyers’ chambers and accounting firms.

Most though, are in the health care sector — serving as premises for acupuncture, dental, audiology, radiology, herbal, chiropractor and physiotherapy practitioners.

Church says that with two hospitals on the route — Waitakere and Carnarvon — combined with a high traffic flow, Lincoln Rd is a natural choice for establishing private health care premises.

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Antony Hladilo and his father Rado walk through Mazuran’s vineyard on Lincoln Rd, (Picture/Jason Dorday).

Lincoln Rd is one of the busiest arterial roads in Auckland — carrying around 46,000 cars daily.

The high traffic volume has attracted intensive retail development, earning Lincoln Rd a reputation as the retail and convenience food hub of the West . . . now nicknamed ‘Heart Attack Alley’.

Many branded fast-food chains have set up on Lincoln Rd, in addition to scores of stand-alone bakeries, and ethnic dine-in/takeaway outlets, spanning Chinese, Thai, and Indian cuisines.

Also, now muscling into the action are the branded café operations.

“Lincoln Rd is the ideal place for convenience food outlets to intercept hungry commuters on their way to and from work; it has occurred as a snowball effect: once one big franchise moved in, it attracted competition,” Church says.

Its location, adjacent to the North Western Motorway, means it serves as more of a transit route, rather than as a destination.

“Convenience and amenity is driving the tenant-mix along this arterial route, with those who can offer readily available products and services to commuters staking their claim, particularly at the northern end nearest the motorway,” Church says.

Examples include ASB Bank which offers a drive-through lane, enabling customers to do their banking from the driver’s seat of their car, and drive-through coffee booths — meaning people can get their morning caffeine fix without losing too many spaces in the traffic.

Big box retailers have also taken up tenancies on the Lincoln Rd strip, anchoring a handful of individual smaller retail hubs peppered throughout the area.

Ownership of these sites has been largely spread between smaller, independent property investors, Church points out.

However, there are a handful of larger players with interests in the area.

“Oyster Group owns the 14,000sq m Mitre 10 Mega site that was once the home of Penfolds Wines and an additional 5638sq m plot split into nine tenancies at 131 Lincoln Rd,” he says.

“Foodstuffs has a holding, and the Waitakere Licensing Trust owns a large chunk of around 16,700 sq m valued at around $12.8 million.