New Auckland-loving website gather & hunt is all about the love – and has design at the forefront of its mission.
A "series of moments" stemming from frustration at the lack of knowledge around the good stuff in Auckland was what set Courteney Peters on the journey to found Jafa-style website gather & hunt.
She’d returned home after living in Melbourne for six years, a city filled with people who were downright proud to be there, and being away from the anti-Auckland mentality meant it was all the more obvious when she encountered it once more.
Designer and developer Allan Walker got on board after they met through friends (Walker, Peters and investor Linda Carlin are now equal shareholders) and the site became a reality.
“I think our first proper ‘moment’ was in a Turkish BYO restaurant on Victoria Street in late 2010,” Peters says. “I was explaining how I wanted to create an online cultural hub for Auckland and Allan said, Yes! It’s amazing how one word can turn an idea into a reality.
“We saw that there were so many amazing and unique things about Auckland, and yet the Aucklanders we knew spent all their time bagging the place. We wanted local knowledge, but no-one was proud to be a local. So we decided to build a site that not only championed neighbourhood wisdom, but revealed how great living in this city could be. You could say we are trying to prove that the grass is actually pretty damn green right here, and it’s getting greener.”
Peters runs the day-to-day editorial on the site alongside business development manager and writer Dominique Fourie – “our first official (and much loved) employee” – and the pair produce the majority of the content at the moment, along with a collective of contributors. The site focuses on places, faces and events in Auckland, and while there isn’t a huge amount in terms of advertising yet, Peters recognises the need to take a harder line on cash.
“In these early stages we’ve spent a lot of time re-working our advertising model. The fundamental problem has been that there’s a fine line for us between maintaining our editorial integrity and acknowledging the need to monetise. Our audience and our independent unbiased voice are very important to us, so we've had to think laterally about how to make advertising work best – for our advertisers and our readers, but for us as well – our model has to be a three-fold win."
Walker, who’s been freelancing as a web developer and designer since he was 20, did the site design, as he and Peters knew that design would be one of their major points of difference from the start. They wanted it to be simple, approachable and easy to navigate.
On the photography front, there’s what Peters calls “the gather & hunt collective”, a team of photographers and writers who contribute to the site, but since it launched last September she’s been doing a good chunk of the photography herself.
“I’ve had plenty of advice and help along the way though, particularly from our photo editor Emma Smales, who’s a talented freelance photographer and old friend, and also my aunt Jocelyn Carlin, a photojournalist who runs Minnie Street Hire Studio in Eden Terrace and has years and years of experience. She’s been a massive supporter of gather & hunt from the start actually – Minnie Street was our headquarters in the early days.”
So where to from here? Auckland is growing up, Peters reckons, and the old Auckland and the new Auckland are two totally different things. Gone is the “painfully parochial” cultural history of Auckland being the so-called big smoke. We’re living in a global village and when you look at it from that perspective, the city is actually tiny.
“It’s a wee secret waiting to be discovered, it’s not big or over-the-top or snobby in the least. There are plenty of other cities in the world that wear that crown.
“We like Auckland and we’re proud to be living here. We’re not in a rush to move to New York or Melbourne or London because we like going to the beach after work and hiking in the Waitakeres on Sundays, but we also like drinking truly amazing coffee and eating world-class food. Is that something to be ashamed of? I don’t think so.”