Hi, Otara is easilyaccessible from the Southern motorway which will allow you a lot of leeway. Traffic is mainly going towards the city in the morning, so you would be against the traffic if you live nearer the city which I would advise. Going south is more suburban. Definitely stick south of the harbour bridge though- it is a nightmare in the morning.
Depending on your budget, and if you are happy with apartment living, I would advise Newmarket or even the City for night-life. Ponsonby,Kingsland, Mt Eden also close to city night life with bigger selection of property types. Eastern beaches Mission Bay, Kohi etc also good - not too far from motorway.
Wouldn't recommend Otara itself for living - but lots of nice suburbs close to Otara - Howick , Botany etc but much more suburban style of living
All these are under 30 mins drive. Google map is great - just type in the suburb and Otara in 'get directions' - this will give the driving time.
Flat hunting: Trademe.co.nz, Gumtree.com - change to NZ page, www.auckland-suburb-guide.co.nz
PS expats of every colour and creed live all over Auckland