Hang on Puke! We’re teetering at the top of a roll coaster ride called ‘progress’. On the downhill slope we’ll see our town irrevocably changed and our lifestyle changing too. In some areas, back yards and tree lined streets become a thing of the past with increasing density of housing permitted.
Pukekohe has been packaged and sold as an attractive little country town, complete with heritage buildings, plenty of green spaces and tree lined streets. But ironically these features are the very things being threatened by development in order to accommodate new residents.
Unitary plan zoning for areas near the town centre enable character villas on generous sections to be exchanged for cheek-by-jowl three storey builds, whilst 4 to 6 storey buildings (13 to 18 meters) could soon loom over our heritage main street shopping area – or replace it altogether.
Familiar landmarks may disappear in a rush of development. On the corner of West Street a charming early 20th century house, framed by a large Pohutukawa, sits on a piece of land zoned for up to 4 storey development. Once the residence of local doctor Hugh Stewart Douglas, it seems after a century of occupation it is unlikely to overlook the street for much longer.
Along Wesley street the ‘fence of doom’ has appeared around the trio of brick houses. Soon 3 and 5 storey Kāinga Ora apartment blocks will dominate the street, providing 20 one bedroom and 11 two bedroom homes. A similar sized build will take place on the corner of Victoria and Seddon, providing 25 additional homes, although only five will have 3 bedrooms. Although no one disputes the need for more housing, will this cater for families when the majority are one or two bedrooms?
A little house snuggled in behind Roulston Park, owned by one family for 70 years, is now zoned for multi storey builds, while in Hall Street through to Edinburgh Street, a handful of mostly character homes and their leafy backyards seem destined to meet a similar fate. One of the houses, 101 Edinburgh Street was reputed to have been built for Frances “Fanny” Fausett, who was born in Pukekohe in 1868 and died here aged 91. Fanny and her sister Mary Anne ran the place as a boarding house for businessmen, washing the boarder’s clothes and cooking meals for them.
In 2021 as the council scrabbles for extra cash to balance the Covid-ravaged budget, the various little green spaces around the town will vanish as Panuku attempts to extract every last bit of cash from the area. Revenue from land sales could possibly be used within the district but there are no guarantees they will.
Franklin district is in a sort of limbo, not autonomous as it used to be, but not a valued part of the Super City either. We’re now a repository for Auckland’s huge population growth. Ignoring the recommended ‘compact’ city design, council has let the district become a casualty of urban sprawl. At huge expense, massive new arterial roads will plough for miles through farmland and bush from Drury to Pukekohe and within the township itself, another ring road is proposed to cut a swath through more private properties.
As the conversion of fertile market gardens and productive pastures to housing continues unabated, reports and meetings have failed to put the brakes on the loss of our elite soils. Our purpose for over a century has been to feed the people of Auckland and beyond. What will it be in the future – is Pukekohe’s new identity to be just another suburb of Auckland?