Urban sprawl breaks rural peace

MATT BOWEN
Last updated 05:00 24/11/2012

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A time-lapse photograph from the Tunnicliffe's hilltop home over the past 38 years would show an unstoppable tide of suburbia surging toward it.

Now, when Steve Tunnicliffe looks through the lounge's big window at night there's a sea of yellow street lights glowing just a farm away.

Back in 1974, the clean, homogenous streets of Rototuna and Flagstaff were productive farmland that turned to total darkness at night.

"You could just see farmland," Mr Tunnicliffe said.

"You couldn't see any of the city. Not back then."

Mr Tunnicliffe grew up on his family's Horsham Downs property northeast of Hamilton.

The engineer described it as a nice, quiet community where people know each other and help one another when they can.

Mr Tunnicliffe has lived there on and off over the years but now owns 1.5 acres and lives in a new home with wife Leigh and school-age children Cailin, Megan and Shontal, and Stripey the cat.

His mother lives next door too.

She owns about 10 acres surrounding their property where sheep and beef cattle graze.

The change in the city since Mr Tunnicliffe was a boy has been "interesting".

"It's certainly handy to have the supermarket and garage just down the road," he said.

But their property was lassoed inside the Hamilton City limits more than a decade ago, a move he objected to - but it didn't help.

Now he's aware that within 20 years the rising tide of suburbia would have arrived at his doorstep.

When that happens, and the Hamilton bypass goes in, he wants to move.

"The guys that own the big farm next to us, they're developers so they're just waiting to get going.

"Us and the neighbour don't really want to be in the city but you can't really stop it happening, I guess."

Although that may be true, he still thinks city planners are making poor decisions when it comes to the residential sprawl to the northeast.

Firstly, it's taking up once-productive farmland. Secondly, there's a burgeoning population on one side of the river while Te Awa, the Base and Te Rapa's business district is on the other.

Mr Tunnicliffe said those daily migrations, morning and evening, have caused worsening traffic jams at bottlenecks across the river.

He thinks there should be a focus on higher population density instead of low-rise expansion.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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