Opinion: Whinging homeowners wilfully dense on density

OPINION: Once again, nimbyism has reared its ugly head in Auckland's unaffordable leafy surburbia.

The latest battle in the war over Auckland's development has erupted in my home suburb of Mt Albert, where the plan to build five three-storey terraced homes on a section on Seaview Tce has been given the go-ahead.

Neighbours had been fighting the proposal, and have now expressed their disappointment on the Mt Albert community Facebook page at Auckland Council's decision.

(NIMBY: Acronym for 'not in my backyard'. A person who objects to something in their neighbourhood, eg. housing development, according to dictionary.com)

For younger locals like me, struggling to figure out how to buy my first home, the situation is conflicted. I don't want to see trees cut down across the city, but I am constantly frustrated at seeing the same narrow-minded nimbyism from the same (mostly Baby Boomer) demographic of Auckland homeowners.

Their main argument against the Seaview Tce development is it would cause congestion on the narrow street. Too many cars, they say.

But this development is about five minutes' walk from the Baldwin Ave train station and about five minutes' walk to New North Rd's buses. It's also very close to the Northwestern cycle track. All these transport options will get you into the CBD in about 20 minutes.

And these sorts of houses are desperately wanted by people like my wife and me, looking for our first home.

We have been watching the market for apartments and small townhouses close to central Auckland because we don't want a sprawling private property to maintain.

We don't want to live far away from our family, friends and workplaces. We don't want to spend hours looking for carparks. We love cycling, walking, taking trains and catching Ubers.

We would rather live in a compact, low-maintenance place. We don't want to be mowing our own private lawns every weekend. We'd rather go for a walk up Mt Albert.

And the money we'd save from buying a lawn-mower, we could spend in our communities - at our local cafe, pub or restaurant.

This generational divide that has erupted in the housing crisis is a divide of economic experiences. Baby boomers don't seem to understand that we want something different, or they refuse to understand.

"It will also set a precedent for ugly, monolithic monstrosities to be built on any site in our neighbourhood," one commenter said on the Mt Albert community Facebook page.

Facebook post
One of the posts by a Seaview Tce neighbour. Photo credit: Facebook

This highlights the very narrow-mindedness that frustrates us younger citizens. We are seeing Auckland's housing options become a sprawl of stupidly large McMansions up to Orewa or soulless shoebox apartments in CBD high-rises.

Meanwhile in Europe's main cities, residents live in compact but spacious apartments, in blocks of a very reasonable four-storey height. They walk to pedestrian-friendly supermarkets and spend their weekends in public parks. Why can't we have that here?

"I am bitterly disappointed that the civil servants whose salaries we pay and whose management we elect feel it is acceptable to ignore what the residents affected by this situation have to say," the same commenter said on the Mt Albert community Facebook page.

The problem with this is nimbys are shouting so loud for their leafy suburbs while ignoring a whole population of younger residents being punished for wanting to live within an hour of where they work.

They're also ignoring families living in cars and emergency housing in places like south Auckland, who deserve a home too.

We Milliennials, or 'snowflakes' as some have dubbed us, would hate to see Auckland's green areas overrun with more concrete and steel. While the nimbys shout incomprehensibly about trees being cut down, they're ignoring the fact that modern compact housing is actually better for the environment.

This week there's been controversy over east Auckland's Pt England Reserve development, where endangered dotterel birds' nests would be destroyed by construction, conservationists say.

Environments like this would not need to be destroyed, if we were smarter with our land use closer to the city, and built sensibly upwards rather than outwards

We don't want to see roads covering market gardens, farmland or natural habitats on the city fringes.

We want compact houses, close to where we work, and we want efficient public transport.

Viva Seaview Tce's five new houses.

Matthew Hutching is a Millennial, prospective first-home buyer, and a Newshub digital producer.