When the familiar disappears

Photo 13-03-19, 11 15 08 PM

Early morning mist, Collins Park Greenhithe. Image: Su Leslie 2019

I love the way that morning mist renders even the most familiar landscape a little bit unknown and mysterious.

I’ve lived in the same place for 19 years, and although much has changed in that time, physical alterations have been gradual, each settling more or less gently into the neighbourhood.

Photo 13-03-19, 11 13 14 PM

Still a pleasant place to sit. War Memorial Park Greenhithe, Auckland. Image: Su Leslie 2019

Until recently.

In the last year or so, a large number of modest houses have been demolished to be make way for McMansions. In the latest case, there was sufficient land around the old house to be subdivided into seven lots, each priced at just over a million dollars.

That’s right. For a NZ$1,050,000 (1) you can own 600m2 of bare suburban land upon which to build your dream home. As long as your dream complies with the (usually quite restrictive) building covenants on such developments.

Photo 13-03-19, 11 14 31 PM

Scraped bare. Gone is the modest house, garden and small orchard. Image: Su Leslie 2019

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Installing services for seven new houses that will be built on this site. Image: Su Leslie 2019

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On the left, an old-school renovation. On the right, bin for construction waste for a complete re-build; the previous house having been demolished. Image: Su Leslie 2019

I hardly know where to start with my list of concerns about this trend. The increasing homogenization of an already elite neighbourhood? The massive environmental footprints of the new houses? The obscenity of building mansions when there are families only a few miles away living in their cars?

Photo 13-03-19, 11 14 08 PM

Old Greenhithe. How long before the area’s original cottages (with environmentally friendly rainwater tanks) are just a distant memory? Image: Su Leslie 2019

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No room for eccentricity. Quirky and unique letterboxes aren’t allowed in covenanted developments. Image: Su Leslie 2019

When I noticed this week’s Lens-Artists Challenge theme was “around the neigbourhood”, I set out for a walk intending to capture some of the beauty and charm of the place where I live.

What worries me is that so much of that charm is being destroyed, and what’s left will only be accessible to the wealthy few.

(1) $1,050,000 = around US$719,000, approx £541,500, just over 1,000,000 Australian dollars, or €635,000.

35 thoughts on “When the familiar disappears

  1. It seems then that this disturbing trend is occurring everywhere. I’ve watched the creeping sprawl around Toronto in the past 15 years, disturbed that we have to drive further and further away to ‘get away from it all’.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Mansionitis. The worst of it is, the people who buy these big houses, often already seem to have several others. How much house does a person need to lead a fruitful life? But lovely photos, and especially the final one.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. ouch, this really, really hurts. We saw a similar development already now well over 18yrs ago in England when we thought we might move to another place. As fancy as those buildings (to be, then!) were, it was all so soulless, ‘many times the same’ and built on formerly ‘normal’ land for normal, not wealthy nor fancy people – they were mostly family-sized new homes but you probably couldn’t afford to have a family when owning one of these palaces. The company building them was all over the place, so you had more of the same in every up-and-coming or already-there town & city. So, so sad. It’s in OUR hands never to give in to the temptations of such builders, to hang on to our modest homes, as long as we can. I am looking for a rental for the time we will be back living in our native Switzerland, and even the most basic flats are out of reach and ‘more-of-the-same-type’ (and quite lovely to look at, but pure concrete, corners and hard lines) appartments are being erected everywhere at costs the mind boggles!

    Liked by 1 person

    • It is much the same here — new builds are so often, despite their huge budgets, soulless and indistinguishable from all the others. It’s seems like there will be a building style of material that is fashionable and denotes “wealth” — like a particular cladding, or building huge stone walls — and all the McMansions of the period have those things. It would be funny if it wasn’t so tragic.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Ugh, this is horrible. Here in my town, scores of trees are being taken down….and then the land is left vacant, for what? Someone saw it as ‘valuable’ and hasn’t decided what to do with it yet. There is some silly city ordinance that for ‘x’ amount of trees taken down, you have to plant a tree. Let’s don’t even try to understand the idiocy of that statement.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. So over £500k for the land and then you still have to build the house? I guess living close to Auckland has its downside. I suppose you can’t blame someone living in a modest home that probably cost peanuts many years ago being tempted to sell their plot of land if offered that sort of money. It will fund a comfortable retirement. But, I agree that these large houses on small plots change the whole ambience of the neighbourhood. And people need houses that they can afford to buy! Not everyone earns a banker’s salary!

    BTW – love the photos and especially the final one.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t blame the owners for selling either. You’re right that many are older and the proceeds will fund their retirement. That’s got to be a relief for the families. I’d be very happy if someone wanted to pay that much per square metre for our land.

      And yes, after the land comes the house. I don’t know if you have the same thing in the UK, but here housing developments often have covenants specifying mininim build size, material use, etc. These drive up the size and price of the houses, and prevent things like using recycled materials or installing water tanks — even solar panels are discouraged. The houses occupy so much of the plots that there is little space for gardens, and rainwater runnoff is a huge problem.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. A very compelling response this week Su. We all agree I think about the McMansions (or mansionitis as Tish named it – I plan to re-use that one!). Same is true here but at the same time we have the additional problem that many, many moderately priced, higher density homes are being built not far from us as well so the population is growing exponentially but the services are not. And of course the additional concrete and destruction of vegetation is definitely affecting our ability to manage flooding during the storms that are sure to come. Not sure what the answer is but I suppose the first step is recognizing the problem.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Tina. I love “mansionitis” too. 😀
      We also have huge areas of the city’s former agricultural land being bulldozed for high density housing developments, and the lack of infrastructure to cope with this has become critical.
      I only wish our decision-makers did recognise the problem.


  7. I share your concerns Su. The same thing is happening here in Canada. We have a rising number of homeless and our food banks are also increasing in numbers. That is a true measure of the health of the economy – not the GDP.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Interesting – and sad. In Sweden they buy our finest farmland to build houses, and it seems impossible to stop. Are we going to import food instead of growing it ourselves? I agree with you on every point…the soullessness is spreading its gloom. No creativity or fantasy allowed, every new area so predictable and planned. Who wants to live there? I will stick to my house as long as I can – but there is always a need for new houses and apartments. love your photos too – even if they are bringing on a tear or two.


  9. It looks like this post made many folks sad. I guess people who read blogs know this is disturbing. I know a McMansion person. Shallow and showy. Poor land and trees. I am sorry this is going on in NZ also.


  10. Yep, happening here as well. My nephew lives in a million dollar house that was built where once stood a gracious mansion; the lot was divided into six or seven small lots, each holding a house too big for its lot.


  11. Thank you for adding Euro, Su, saves me doing the maths myself. 😉
    That’s such a sad development, that it can be observed nearly everywhere doesn’t make it less hurtful. 😯
    There’s a similar development in Berlin where neighbourhoods that used to be affordable – like mine – become hip and trendy and rents are going skyhigh. 😯

    Liked by 1 person

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