I stood on the edge of the hole the workers had dug that day, with my book clutched tightly under my arm. As I peered into the hole trying to work out why it had been dug, the muddy water seemed to draw me forward. I toppled into the hole and went completely underwater.
I was three years old and I couldn’t swim. As I struggled underwater, my foot found an object on the bottom of the hole. Standing on that, I managed to get my head above water and then climb out.
I walked into the kitchen and stood next to mum. Dirty water dripped onto the floor from my soaked clothing. I was wearing a home-made knitted brown cardigan and leather shoes. My chubby fingers were still wrapped around my book. It was dripping wet as well.
Fascinated with the building works going on around our newly-built home, it was my habit to go and see what the workers were doing each day, then talk with Dad about it when he came home. Seeing me standing there dripping wet, it came as a shock to my parents. Looking back, it’s amazing to think that I could have drowned over 50 years ago at the family home in Lynfield.
With both my parents now gone, the property – Tropicana – is to be developed by Rymans as a retirement village, specialising in the end of our life cycle. I had almost reached that stage prematurely!
Rymans are seeking resource consent for the development and the plans show that Tropicana will basically become a greenfields site from bare land. They have a reputation for doing things well, and this development, priced at $120m, will be the biggest project ever seen in the area.
The footprint of the eight buildings extends across the entire site, excluding most of the regenerating bush. The most visible part to neighbours, the 10 acre farm, will be changed forever.
It was developed from steep, gorse filled valleys in 1967. Tropicana Drive was created as a subdivision to pay for the extensive earthworks and civil engineering. The original farmhouse was moved to Commodore Drive and sold.
That was the start of my 47 years farming. Over the years we had other farms totalling 3,300 acres, but Tropicana was special in its urban environment. For years, we struggled with stray dogs attacking the sheep. At these times, tending to the dead, dying and wounded sheep and lambs was heart-breaking; animals were seldom eaten – stock worrying seemed more of a game. Then the leash laws changed and dog attacks on sheep became a fading memory.
The farm was top-dressed by a ground spread contractor. One year a new driver turned up. The young guy said that when his boss told him he had a 10 acre block to do in Hillsborough the driver thought that he was pulling his leg.
Tropicana was an anachronism; the largest privately owned property in the former Auckland City area. It was unsustainable as a private residence in times of increasing land pressure in the city. The next phase of becoming a top-class retirement village will cater for hundreds of local residents in their ‘third age’ stage of life.
Change often brings sadness – certainly, with the sheep already absent for two years, the strange sight of a little bit of country in the city is missed. Now it is time to embrace the future. This massive project by Rymans will be an asset for the community – retirement villages by their nature are low impact and well-managed.
You are welcome to share your memories of the sheep in the city with me at www.bhb.nz.