Opinion: The new Westfield Newmarket sucks

By Josie Adams for The Spinoff

Auckland's latest mall development, Westfield Newmarket, had its first stage opening yesterday. Josie Adams went to see what all the fuss was about.

OPINION: The long-awaited Westfield Newmarket, on the site of the iconic 277 and now the largest shopping centre in the country, has opened some of its eventual 200-plus doors. Consumers across the super city are flocking in droves to check out the freshly-renovated building and the 'deals' the 40 open stores are offering.

Don't bother.

My first taste of Westfield Newmarket was a dark-varnished, cream-floored hallway echoing with Beyonce's best song, 'Blow'. Tiny ice-cream carts filled with packets of jellybeans lined a very wide hallway that leads to Coco Republic, which is an espresso bar? Furniture store? It's hard to say, but I don't feel comfortable going in. Where the hell is Factorie?

A DJ pumped out tunes from a silver box placed in the middle of the corridor. "I'm only here for the weekend," she said. Upstairs, an acoustic performer serenaded some empty garden chairs. A mocktail bar operated next the chairs, and a massive line led up to get to it, but a bouncer was making them wait for it. A bouncer, at a mocktail bar, was creating false demand for these empty seats that were in plain view of the queue.

I walked all three levels of the mall, side to side, looking for a redeeming feature. A Daiso, a JB Hi-Fi, a Higgins. None to be found. If you're interesting in Havaianas or a year-round Christmas decoration store, you're in luck. I was not. I found one store in the entire building that I would ever return to: Chemist Warehouse. A full shelf of the crème de la crème of celebrity-endorsed perfumes - Kim K, Michael Bublé, Delta Goodrem - sits next to a fridge full of gut flora. Giant tubs of bleach sit, waiting for a soul-starved mall-lover like me to mix them with Vitamin Water and have a chugalug.

I bought some dental floss (30 percent off!) and got a free Chemist Warehouse drink bottle, which comes with a pill container built into its side. 

Purchase complete, I began my hunt for the food court. The food court is central to every mall. There should be at least two: one with an Indian place serving the exact same bright orange butter chicken recipe as every other mall Indian place, a Mickey Ds, and a dodgy buffet with both fried rice and fries (both of which I will douse in sweet'n'sour). The other "food court" should consist of a Coffee Club and a Starbucks opposite each other at the end of a long hall.

These are the meeting places. These are cornerstones of the mall experience. How am I supposed to enjoy my trip to Cotton On without stopping for terrible sushi?

Artist's impression of how the mall will look when it's complete.
Artist's impression of how the mall will look when it's complete. Photo credit: Scentre Group

Well, no worries there - there's no Cotton On at the Newmarket Westfield. There's just a Dangerfield and a sectioned-off escalator that leads to 'Auckland's first Rooftop Dining' (this is bullshit, I eat on my roof all the time). The mysterious upstairs dining area will, allegedly, be home to eateries like White + Wong's, Island Gelato, and Bodrum Kitchen. I love a bit of Bodrum Kitchen, but only when I can see the algae-ridden waves of Mission Bay lapping at pink tourist feet.

This is a gastronomic farce. The whole mall is a farce. "This mall isn't for you," said my classist co-workers. "You don't belong in Newmarket." The other half and the sky bridge might one day redeem it, but for now... 

Verdict: no stars, suggest Westfield consider tearing it down and starting again.

The Spinoff