Sunday, September 28, 2008

Ugly, ugly, ugly!!!

No, I don't mean the reality of Uncle Helen, or Liarbour's campaign tactics.

But the state of new/modern housing in New Zealand.

Last weekend, after hearing about the bankruptcy of Kensington Park, an upmarket 'community' housing development in Orewa, I decided to have a look.

I like Orewa, very pretty by the sea, with reasonable shopping, nice countryside, not too busy and not too far from Auckland. Could I pick up a bargain?

But driving around the new subvision, a masterplanned community, I thought, 'how ugly, how artificial'. The houses reminded me of the town in that movie with Jim Carrey and the world watches his every move like some soap opera. But worse than that, the houses were so packed together. It could have been Eden Terrace, rather than some leafy subdivision 40kms or so from Auckland city.

Why do we have to be so close together? Why can't new houses have privacy from their neighbours anymore, especially if you are paying $700,000 plus for a house, or less for a flat.

This afternoon, I was driving around Greenhithe and Albany, both pretty places about 30mins from the CBD. But again, high density housing seems to be spoiling them. There was some McMansions close to the new North Harbour Motorway with gardens little bigger than teatowels.

Shortly after, I was in Albany and while there is the pretty mainstreet, that too is being marred by some of the most ugly apartment development imaginable. One is called Central One or something, which seems apt as it looks like a characterless urban underground railway station.

Come on! Can't we do better? The hills and the bushland around Albany is beautiful. Cannot the developers and architects come up with something that adds value to the countryside, homes that that lovely to look at. Or do developers face such heavy charges from local councils that packing them in to be ugly boxes is the only way to make developments pay?

Or high-density housing is what local bodies want? But do the public? Certainly I don't. When I finally get a place, I want somewhere with a garden and a bit of peace and privacy, not having neighbours breathing down your neck, or sharing your driveway.

Why can't we as New Zealanders demand the right to a decent garden once more? It's not like we are short of land. We have a landmass equivalent to the size of the British Islames with about one-fifteenth of the population. There is room to spare, room to breathe.

I haven't gone through the Weekend Herald yet. But have you seen the ad for those apartments above the Stamford Plaza hotel in central Auckland? There's a little girl holding a balloon and talking about her new home. But should children live 15 floors up? Shouldn't they have gardens instead to play on. It would be cruel to keep a dog in an apartment, never mind a child. And what if the child decided to climb over the balcony? Would it go splat onto the road below? What parent could have children in such a place?

So why are the planners, the developers, etc, pushing the concept of high density living? Is it solely to satisfy the great God Gaia, get us all living along main roads served by buses when really what we do want is a front and back yard and the freedom to drive. There has been talk that the days of the quarter-acre section are over, but why should it be?

Like I say, New Zealand has land to spare, room to breathe. Whoever wins the Election, I only hope that the new government can make a proper home and garden affordable again. Freeing up the land supply seems the way, along with cuitting developer contributions. Surely as Kiwis , it is our inalienable right, what supposedly gives us our 'quality of life.'

By the way, if anyone is passing through Albany and fancies a treat, the Wine Box restaurant comes highly recommended (DineOut agrees), as does an Entertainment Book to make it affordable. The chocolate mousse is to die for.


Ackers said...

Interesting post FFM. Having lived in Auckland and inner Sydney where high density housing is the reality I've come to the conclusion it doesn't really matter that much. My last abode was 35 floors up in a 52 floor apartment building in central Sydney, 90% asian and a good smattering of families with kids none of whom seemed in any way deprived. I've spent quite a bit of time in Shanghai where this type of living is obviously the norm and again no one seems to suffer too much. The sense of community is actually quite high.....the parks of Shanghai are wondrous places where all generations come out in the early evening from little kids to grandparents. Something you typiclly don't see in NZ.

I love apartment living. You
have more privacy than you do with neighbours on a typical kiwi block, you can live next door to someone for years and never really get to know them.....if anything the problem is the opposite to the situation you describe.

Psycho Milt said...

Forget the density of it - NZ housing is cheap, ugly, poorly-insulated, poorly-heated, generally inefficient and often leaky. And yet we keep buying them, me included. I remember winters in Hamburg where the daytime maximum was getting up to 10 below zero and it was never colder than 20 in my apartment. Heating costs weren included in the rent, so keeping it down to 20 was out of personal preference, not necessity. Jerries would ask me if I didn't miss the warmth of NZ, stuck in such a freezing environment. Fuck, no - I was living way warmer in that ice and snow than I would in an ordinary wet NZ winter.

Don't blame Helen Clark and don't blame environmentalists for that.Only increased govt regulation would improve those things - freeing things up would only make things worse, as National amply demonstrated the last time it was in power.

Re the density of houseing, sure it's stupid for people to pack themselves into high-density housing in the outer suburbs. But NZers seem to also demand houses and gardens in the inner city, something which is reserved for the fantastically rich in most urban environments. I've lived in high-density housing or apartments in England, Germany and Kuwait, and in all cases it was unproblematic. It's called living in a city, not the jumble of hick towns shoved together that is Auckland.

KG said...

Move out to a regional city, FFM!
We commute a whole sixteen minutes to work along an almost empty road, and as I type this I'm looking out at the spring lambs in the paddocks over the fence and a blissful rural scene.
And it's cheaper.

Oswald Bastable said...

it's a well known fact that if you keep an animal in an enclosure that is too small it will go mad.

Only man does this to himself voluntarily...

Redbaiter said...

We must be like Sweden you know.


Thanks for your comments everyone.
I can see Sydney running out of room for what, 5 million people in that narrow strip of land between the moun tains and the sea, so there maybe a case for apartment living in the biggest of cities.
And some decent , well designed apartments in central Aucklan d wouldn't go amiss, but instead we got cheap shoddy boddy.
Have a look at those Scene apartments for ugliness too.
I once lived on the 13th floor in central Auckland, it wasn't too bad. I liked the pool and the gym, even if I never got round to using the gym, and it was close for work.
Not having a car was no big drawback either.
Now, I'm in Silverdale, basically saying in the granny flat of the owner's house. They live in the part of the bungalow at the other side of their double garage.
I too look out to green fields and other lifestyle blocks and can see and hear the sheep with their newborn lambs.
The problem is, work. I am keen for full-time that for journalists the jobs tend to be in the big bad city.
I prefer the provincial life but Wellington could beckon should their be a change of government.
I think PM has a good point about building standards here. Thouses are shoddy and cold and I cannot see them lasting centuries like in the UK. Would proper construction be cheaper in the long run?
I see there is still too much of a mentality of doing things on the cheap in NZ, where even I can see some flaw in free market thinking as there is too much of a tendency for short-term thinking.
I guess as I get older, I realise how lucky I have to have had fairly prosperous self-employed parents who worked their butts off so I grew up living in small villages where you had a decent garden, and later on a lifestyle block, which sadly was on the wrong side of the motorway between myself and my friends.

Anonymous said...

Ahh, what's the problem?

there are lots of great places, quarter acre sections, gardens, 4br+3bath etc in central Auckland - Epsom, St Mary's Bay, Freeman's Bay etc.

Choose to live there if you want a garden - you don't have to live on Queen St!

but for the rest - well its just smore lefty commie whinging on No Minister!

You get what you pay for; if you choose to bludge, don't expect us to fix you up in a nice house you haven't earned!

Developers build houses in Orewa. Developers couldn't sell them.
Developers go bankrupt.
Some investors/buyers lose.

It's called the free market.
Hell, the houses were only worth 700,000 - what's the big deal anyway?

Why can't we as New Zealanders demand the right to a decent garden once more?

Because we gave up being socialist in 1991. And no matter how hard Helen has tried - NZ is about to get rid of the socialists forever, and hopefully the corruption commission will finish what dregs the electorate leaves behind!

So no: you can't demand a decent garden or a decent house!

You can work for one.