Auckland is a hilly place, and property values tend to go up and down with the terrain.
Take One Tree Hill, for instance. Its peak - the spiritual heart of the city - is surrounded by Cornwall Park, a ravishingly beautiful slice of tamed nature in the city, a favourite spot for family outings and picnics. The park itself is lined with picturesque cottages whose owners enjoy the doubtful privilege of paying ground rent, which (as far as I can make out) is spent on maintaining the park - which explains why these beautiful houses, which should be priced in the $1-2 million range, in fact tend to go for about one-fifth as much. The ground rent keeps the area pretty exclusive, despite the bargains.
Then comes the sharply sloping "suburb" of One Tree Hill itself. Within easy walking distance of the park, it's a well established, leafy residential area where new building is rare - the subdivision here was done decades ago. Which is good, because it makes for a quieter neighbourhood and puts off landlords on the make. But as you go further down the slope, the scene changes rapidly. By the time you reach Waitangi Road to the south, boy-racer cars, graffiti and quite un-neighbourly wire fences are increasingly in evidence. Head eastward, towards the gruesome commercial zoning around Great South Road, and the picture takes a turn for the grimy.
To the south, it's not far before you hit the huge, sprawling suburb of Onehunga. Overlooking Manukau Harbour to the south, this was once the domain of ships' officers; and again the best houses are on the tops of the hills.
Yesterday we'd picked out 3 Quadrant Road, Onehunga as a possible target. It might have stood a chance. Looks nice enough. Unfortunately it's at the foot of a hill, and the road there took us past this gratuitous palace, just as it was holding its open home. Having half an hour to kill, we thought we might as well stop by.
It was a bit like touring a stately home.
Then we went on down to the house we could afford. It was a steep hill, and it took its toll. By the time we got to the foot, it hardly needed the packing factory across the road to put us off the house - which was probably pleasant enough, in itself, before - the old story - someone built another house in its back garden.
The Maoris, it strikes me now, were right. It was a mistake to let these pakeha buggers buy land. Let them live on it by all means, but once they started buying and selling it they got ambitious, and that's been the ruin of it.